Highlights From the Last Time Liverpool Won the Title - 30 Years Ago

Andrew Headspeath
Liverpool Player Manager Kenny Dalglish Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans Celebrate 1990 Division One
Liverpool Player Manager Kenny Dalglish Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans Celebrate 1990 Division One / Getty Images/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

28 April marks exactly 30 years since Liverpool last won the top flight in English men's football.

Goals from club legends Ian Rush and John Barnes sealed a 2-1 home win over mid-table Queen's Park Rangers to secure a then-record 18th league title, with two games to spare in the 1989/90 season. It marked the Reds' eighth league triumph in just 12 years.

Though there has been a fair amount of cup success and reasons to cheer since, it has been a long, long old wait for Liverpool fans to see their club record number 19. Meanwhile, Man Utd have since overtaken them as English football's most successful club - a turn of events that would've seemed beyond improbable as Barnes' second-half penalty confirmed the win over QPR.

While that wait goes on at least a little longer in the pandemic-enforced footballing stasis, the current crop remain sort of Schrödinger's Champions - 25 points clear but still unsure if they will be officially crowned, voided or asterisked, as a result of events beyond anyone's control.

Liverpool FC v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Liverpool FC v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

While the hiatus continues, here's a look back at the last ever Liverpool team that could call themselves the best in the country on the anniversary of their coronation...


The Players

Plenty of legends from the all-conquering 70s and 80s sides still remained, bolstered by exciting younger talents.

A resurgent Rush (in his second spell) and Kenny Dalglish (player-manager) were supported by England favourites Peter Beardsley and Barnes (who top-scored with 28 in all competitions), while mid-season Israeli signing Ronny Rosenthal chipped in with seven goals in eight.

In midfield, Jan Mølby collected his third league title at Anfield, while veterans Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon were among the finest engine room operators on the continent.

Jelly-legged Zimbabwe international Bruce Grobbelaar picked up his sixth title as Liverpool keeper, while Alan Hansen (a three-time European Cup winner) would play his final season for the club supported by Gary Gillespie and new signing Glenn Hysen.


The Manager

'King Kenny' officially bowed out as a player at the end of the 1989/90 season (he had only made one appearance on the pitch in the campaign), but stayed on as manager for nearly another year, resigning in February of 1991 - with the Reds in a mini-slump but still top of the First Division.

Though Liverpool's ban from European competition post-Heysel stopped him from collecting any European honours as a coach, Dalglish - lauded for his charity and community work as much as his ludicrously decorated playing and managing career - ended his reign with three First Divisions and two FA Cups, while he never finished a season outside the top flight's top two.

After navigating a slightly iffy patch in late autumn of the 1989/90 campaign, Dalglish oversaw a run in which his side lost just once, drew seven and won 15 from December through to May.


The Kit

FA Cup 6th Round
FA Cup 6th Round / Dan Smith/Getty Images

One of - quite possibly the - most iconic strips in the history of Liverpool Football Club was sported for the last title-winning campaign.

30 years on the bold geometric design is wavier/drippier/saucier [delete as appropriate] than ever, while the Candy and old-school adidas logos bring an always welcome sense of nostalgia.

Candy made domestic appliances by the way, and did not simply mean 'eye candy'. Who knew?


Key Moments

Liverpool defensive wall reacts 1990
Liverpool defensive wall reacts 1990 / Getty Images/Getty Images

Crystal Palace, who would (weirdly) later defeat Liverpool in the FA Cup semis, got a 9-0 thumping in September - with eight different scorers.

The Reds saw off the previous season's winners Arsenal (who famously won at Anfield on the final day), with a 2-1 win in late November, while Barnes scored a late equaliser at Highbury to land a vital point a few weeks before the title was confirmed.

Late shows against Millwall (1-0) and Southampton (3-2) proved pivotal in the run-in too, while rivals Everton - on a fast downward slide after their eighties success - were beaten home and away.


The League

John Barnes and Peter Beardsley with First Division Trophy 1990
John Barnes and Peter Beardsley with First Division Trophy 1990 / Getty Images/Getty Images

In the end, Liverpool on 79 points (three fewer than the 2019/20 team so far) finished nine points clear of second-placed Aston Villa, who had PFA Player of the Year David Platt.

Tottenham claimed third with top scorer and future Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, and Arsenal completed the top four.

Everton, who lost 13 times, could only achieve fifth while Sir Alex Ferguson's United won the FA Cup but actually ended the league campaign way down in 13th with a goal difference of -1.

Millwall, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday were relegated, while Luton Town avoided the drop by just two goals.


The World

Paul Gascoigne 1990 FIFA World Cup Semi Final England v West Germany
Paul Gascoigne 1990 FIFA World Cup Semi Final England v West Germany / Getty Images/Getty Images

Madonna's Vogue topped the UK Charts in April 1990, while (slightly more significantly) East and West Germany agreed to re-merge and the Hubble Space Telescope was launched the same week as Liverpool's triumph.

In sport that year, Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson to become the unified World Heavyweight champion in one of boxing's biggest ever shocks, while Phil 'the Power' Taylor won the first of his darts world titles. Tennis legend Martina Navratilova won the last of her slam titles at Wimbledon.

Oh and obviously England (featuring Barnes, McMahon and Beardsley) made it to the semi-finals of Italia 1990, before...you know what happened.


What Happened Next?

""I just can't believe it [has been 30 years]. If you'd have said on this day 30 years ago that we wouldn't see another league title, I'd never have believed it. It's amazing.""

Phil Thompson

What goes up must come down, but few in 1990 would have expected such a slide for Liverpool in the 1990s after kicking off the decade with another trophy.

The FA Cup (1992) and League Cup (1995) were the only other bits of silverware claimed in the 90s, as Man Utd and Arsenal dominated the new Premier League era.

New managers Graeme Souness and Roy Evans followed the old 'Boot Room' philosophy but were unable to replicate previous success, while ageing legends were replaced with underperforming stars (see: Dean Saunders, Torben Piechnik, Neil Ruddock and many more), lowering the winning standards at Anfield.

After finishing second in 1991, the Reds failed to even make the top two again until 2002, while the times they have been serious title contenders between Dalglish's era and Klopp's can just about be counted on one hand.

This week reflecting on the Reds' last ever league triumph, pundit Phil Thompson - part of the coaching setup in 1990 - told Sky Sports: "I just can't believe it [has been 30 years]. If you'd have said on this day 30 years ago that we wouldn't see another league title, I'd never have believed it. It's amazing."


facebooktwitterreddit