The formalities are over, the points won, the title duly collected by Liverpool. There can be no question about them being deserving winners for they have simply shredded the competition across the season and have shown themselves to be conclusively the best. But now what?
By Dave Bowler
Liverpool have had a marvellous season, two in a row really, though the first still wasn’t enough to beat Manchester City to the prize. But as any battle hardened observer of football will tell you, winning one title is not enough. If you want to achieve real greatness, you’ve got to win again and again and again, as Liverpool did in the past, as Manchester United have done more recently.
The tales you hear of Shankly, Paisley and Ferguson are remarkably similar in that respect. Win, enjoy the moment, literally the moment, then discard it. Because you have to start all over again, you have to start scaling the next mountain as soon as possible. And that’s why repeating the feat is going to be that little bit harder for this Liverpool, because they are going to find it more difficult to put this season behind them in these unique circumstances created by the pandemic.
Ordinarily, a team wins a title, they enjoy the civic parade, then they go their separate ways, off to join up with their countries for a tournament or qualifiers or simply to go off on holiday.
Even in these compressed footballing times, they could normally count on something like five, six weeks of being away from their club. Time for the success to sink in, to be savoured and then for the appetite for the fight to be gradually restored.
Liverpool won’t have that luxury, not this time. Once this season ends, it’ll be pretty much straight into a pre-season of sorts for the next one, so there won’t be that chance to get away and freshen the mind for a new challenge. Nor will they be allowed to escape the enormity of what they’ve done in finally ending that 30 year wait, for they will be reminded of that on a daily basis. And then there is the civic parade to think about. The city of Liverpool has promised that when conditions allow, the open top bus drive through the city will happen.
But the way things are, that might be months away, certainly pushing into the preparations for the new season, maybe even after it’s started. Imagine carrying the Premier League through the streets in November.
With all that going on, it’s very hard to mentally break free of the feeling that you’ve achieved something. But that’s what great sides have to do, consign it to the history books. Ray Clemence once told me that after winning the league and UEFA Cup double in 1973, when they came back for pre-season the following July, Bill Shankly called everyone together for a meeting before the first session.
“Boys, thanks for last year. Your medals are in the cardboard box in the corner, sort them out yourselves after training. Now, we start from the bottom again.”
For this Liverpool, giving the players that very necessary cold shower might be much harder. Finding the way to do it will be Jurgen Klopp’s biggest test over the next few weeks.
Dave Bowler is the author of “The Magic of the Cup 1973/74”, telling the story of Liverpool’s FA Cup win in 1974. Available here: https://www.curtis-sport.com/books