“Make no mistake, what happened was a real kick in the teeth for us, yet it served to spell out just how fierce the competition has become in the top flight.”
The words from a Liverpool manager came as the defence of their title unravelled in dramatic fashion, as their tag as invincible champions was ripped away, and their weakness exposed.
But they are not the thoughts of Jurgen Klopp this season, they are the reflections from Kenny Dalglish from the start of the 1989-90 campaign – and they are detailed in a new book covering that glorious season.
Back then, Liverpool were still trying to digest the loss of their crown in the most brutal manner. It wasn’t a collapse of the kind Klopp’s men have experienced this season, but a gut-wrenching finale back in May 1989, when Arsenal scored with virtually the last kick at Anfield to wrest the title from them.
“This season the challenge promises to be stronger and more varied for a long time, and while I cannot guarantee success I can promise our fans we will not shirk from repairing this setback.”
Dalglish wrote those notes on the opening day of the 89-90 season, as Liverpool faced Manchester City at Anfield. It was his promise of a reaction to those events in May, when their title defence was exposed.
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It echoes a promise Klopp made only this week, after the defeat by Chelsea threatened even a top-four finish this season. “We cannot change the past, but we can fight to change the near future, and I guarantee that is what we will do,” he said.
It didn’t work out too badly in the end for Dalglish. After losing the title to Arsenal, many people questioned his Liverpool team’s desire and wondered if they were equipped to win honours any more.
The response was to win the league on April 28 1990 with two games to spare, and in the next game at Anfield, when they received the trophy, Dalglish’s notes were again illuminating.
“If there is one word used more than any other when it comes to players’ qualities, then it is character – and looking back, that word certainly sums up this team. It took real character to come back like we did,” he wrote.
They are words which Klopp hope can still apply to his team, in the Champions League this season perhaps.
Kenny Dalglish: Notes on a Season 1989-90 is published by Reach Sport and available now.
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