A Detailed History of Liverpool Football Club
To help you find the era you are interested in we have divided our history of Liverpool Football Club into different sections, starting with the clubs formation and ending with the modern era.
The Clubs Formation
The Early Years
The 20's and 30's
The Shankly and Paisley era
The 80's and 90's
The Modern Era
The Clubs Formation
It might surprise many fans to learn that the creation of Liverpool FC is closely linked to our fiercest rivals and closest neighbours, Everton. In 1891, John Houlding, who was the lease holder of Anfield, purchased the ground outright. At the time, Liverpool FC did not exist and it was Everton, formed in 1878, who played their games at Anfield. After purchasing Anfield, John Houlding proceeded to increase the rent charged to Everton, causing a rift between the two parties.
That rift would ultimately lead to Everton members voting to leave Anfield and John Houlding, and play on a new ground at Goodison Park. This left Houlding with an empty stadium, a handful of supporters and only 3 players. Showing a tenacity and determination that Liverpool would become famous for over the next 100 years, Houlding defied the odds and created a new team to play at his Anfield Stadium. On the 15th March 1892 Liverpool Football Club was born.
Houlding quickly appointed John McKenna as Club Director and W. E Barclay as General Manager. McKenna's first piece of business was to travel to Scotland, where he signed 13 professional players to play for Liverpool. The team became known as the "team of the Macs", with eight of the thirteen players having a "Mc" prefix. The newly formed team played its first game on 1st September 1982, beating Rotherham Town 7-1 in a friendly game.
The Early Years
The newly formed Liverpool FC applied to join the Football League in time for the 1892-93 season, however, their application was rejected, with the team therefore joining the Lancashire League instead. The clubs first official game was on 23rd September 1892, where they beat Higher Walton 8-0. Malcolm McVean had the honour of scoring the first ever competitive goal for the club. Liverpool ended their first season as Lancashire League Champions and beat local rivals Everton 1-0 in the 1893 Liverpool Seniors Cup Final. The games was to be the first ever Merseyside Derby. Following their success the club was duly promoted to the Football League Second Division.
Liverpool finished the 1893-94 season unbeaten, winning the Second Division title in the process. McVean again had the honour of being the first player to score in a league match for the club. At the end of the season Liverpool won a test match against Newton Heath (soon to be called Manchester Utd) 2-0, and with it, promotion to the First Division.
In 1896 Liverpool appointed Tom Watson as their Manager. It was to be an inspired choice as the team would go on to win their first Football League Championship in 1901, with Scotsman Alex Raisbeck collecting the trophy as club captain. The club would repeat the success again in 1906. In the same season the world famous Kop stand was created, significantly increasing the capacity at Anfield. Under the influence of Watson, the club would also play in its first FA Cup Final, losing 1-0 to Burnley in 1914.
At the outbreak of World War I all league football was suspended. When the League returned in 1920 Liverpool were under new management, with Englishman David Ashworth in charge.
The 20's and 30's
The 1920's started in spectacular fashion for Liverpool as the club won back to back Football League titles in 1921-22 and 1922-23. The team was lead by inspirational captain, Ephraim Longworth, who enjoyed 18 years and over 370 appearances for the club. However, after their early successes the club struggled in the later part of the decade, as a succession of managers came and went without adding any silverware to the Anfield Trophy Cabinet. By the outbreak of World War II Liverpool were still looking for a winning formula, although the appointment of George Kay as manager in June 1936 had seen an upturn in the clubs fortunes. Of particular importance during his early years as manager were Kay's captures of future legends Bob Paisley and Billy Liddell.
Following the end of WWII and with the Football League preparing to return, Liverpool took the unusual decision to tour the USA and Canada. Although this is a common occurrence today, at the time it was most unusual for a club to tour a foreign country. The tour was manager George Kay's idea, who believed the climate and diet in North America, as well as a punishing schedule of 10 matches in a month, would see the players return for the start of the League campaign in much better physical shape than their opponents. Although Liverpool started the season slowly, Kay's decision began to pay off, with the club recorded impressive victories, including a 7-4 victory over Chelsea on 7th September 1946. The match also saw the debut of Bob Paisley and Billy Liddell scored his first ever goal for the club. As the season wore on Liverpool recorded 7 straight victories in February and March and when the team travelled to Wolverhampton Wanderers on 31st May 1947 they knew a victory would see them crowned as League Champions. Liverpool duly won the game 2-1 to win their fifth League Title. The club finished the 46-47 season with the League Title, Lancashire Senior Cup, Lancashire County Combination Championship Cup and the Liverpool Senior Cup. It was to be George Kay's finest hour as manager. Despite reaching the FA Cup Final in 1950, where the club lost 2-0 to Arsenal, Kay was not in good health, and in 1951 he was forced to retire.
Following the retirement of George Kay, the club appointed Don Welsh as Manager. Unfortunately for Welsh he was to inherit a team of players coming to the end of their careers. Despite investing in some new players, Welsh was unable to prevent the team from falling down the table, until they were eventually relegated for the first time in over 50 years. Despite a spirited attempt to gain promotion in the 1955-56 season, Welsh was not given another chance to impress, and was sacked in 1956.
With Don Welsh removed the club quickly appointed Phil Taylor as manager, with the singular task of leading Liverpool back to the First Division. Despite top four finishes in both 57 and 58, Taylor quickly found the pressure of taking Liverpool back into the top flight too much. When the club suffered one of their worst defeats in history to non League Worcester City in the FA Cup in January 1959 the writing was on the wall and Phil Taylor left the club in November of that year.
The Shankly and Paisley Era
With the departure of Phil Taylor Liverpool needed to find a manager capable of returning the club to the top flight. In December 1959 the job was handed to Bill Shankly. It was to be the most important appointment the club ever made. Within a year of joining the club Shankly had released twenty players and brought in new young talent such as Ian Callaghan and Ian St john. By the beginning of the 1961-62 season Shankly had created the nucleus of his new team and by the end of the season Liverpool had won promotion back to the First Division. The club has remained in the top division ever since, never finishing lower than 8th place.
In 1964 Shankly won his first League Championship. The year also saw Liverpool adopt their now famous all red strip. The club had previously played in red and white. Although Liverpool could not retain the title the following season they did claim their first ever FA Cup title, beating Leeds Utd 2-1 in the final. The 64-65 season also saw Liverpool enter European competition for the first time. They reached the semi-final of the European Cup, where despite beating Inter Milan 3-1 in the home leg, they lost 3-0 in Italy to go out 4-3.
The following season Liverpool again won the League Championship and this time they reached the final of the European Cup winners Cup competition, losing 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund in the final. By this stage Bill Shankly was widely regarded as one of the best managers in the game, and was considered by many of the clubs fans to be the best manager in the history of the club. Despite his successes, Shankly was still not happy with his team, and over the next few years he added up and coming talents from the lowers leagues in the form of Emlyn Hughes, Ray Clemence and Kevin Keegan. All three players were to go on to become household names not just in Liverpool, but in world Football.
By 1973 Shankly had amassed one of the best squads in Europe, and Liverpool duly one their first European trophy that year, beating Borrussia Moenchengladbach 3-2 on aggregate in the final of the UEFA Cup. They also won the League title, completing a memorable double.
Shankly's final trophy in charge of Liverpool came with a convincing 3-0 victory over Newcastle in the FA Cup Final a year later. Despite being at the pinnacle of his career, Shankly stunned the footballing world by announcing his retirement at the end of the 1974 season.
Shankly's decision to leave Liverpool shocked fans all over the country. Although club officials, players and fans all tried to persuade him to change his mind, Shankly was adamant that he was ready to take his place amongst the fans on the famous Kop.
Filling the huge gap left by Shanky's departure was not going to be easy. Luckily, Liverpool had a ready made replacement in the form of Bob Paisley, Shankly's Assistant Manager. Paisley took control in July 1974 and remained with the club for nine years, in which time he became one of the most successful managers in the history of English football. Although his first season in charge would fail to deliver a title, it would be the only season during his reign in which Liverpool did not win a major trophy. In his second season Paisley led Liverpool to the first of six League Championships. The following year Liverpool would retain the League title and would also win the European Cup for the first time in its history, beating old foes Borussia Moenchengladbach 3-1 in Rome. The European Cup was then retained the following year as FC Bruges were beaten 2-1, with the winning goal scored by future legend Kenny Dalglish.
By the end of the 1982-83 campaign Paisley had won an incredible 21 trophies including three European Cups, a UEFA Cup, six League titles and three consecutive League Cups. He was also responsible for recruiting and developing a new set of star players that would continue to bring trophies to Anfield throughout the 1980's. Of these the most famous players were Graeme Souness, Ian Rush, Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish.
The 80's and 90's
When Bob Paisley retired at the end of the 1983 season Liverpool were once again left with the problem of replacing one of the game’s greatest managers. Once again the club decided to continue the tradition of promoting from within the club, with the next of the "Boot room boys", Joe Fagan, taking control for the 83-84 season. In his very first season Fagan led Liverpool to an historic treble, the first by an English club, as Liverpool won the League, League Cup and European Cup.
Sadly Fagan's second season would be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Liverpool narrowly lost the League title to local rivals Everton and although the club reached the European Cup final for the second season running, the game would be overshadowed by the death of 39 Juventus fans who were crushed to death after a wall collapsed. The Heysel Stadium tragedy would send shockwaves around the footballing world and would see English clubs banned from European competition until 1990. It was also to be Fagan's last game in charge, as he retired shortly afterwards.
The second half of the 1980's saw the emergence of Kenny Dalglish as a world class manager. Already a famous player with the club, Dalglish was to become the clubs first player / manager in the 85-86 season. His first season in charge could not have gone better, as Liverpool became only the third team in the twentieth century to win the League / FA Cup double. Over the next 5 years Dalglish would lead the team to two more League titles and two FA Cups.
Sadly, Liverpool Football Club would be hit by another tragedy before the end of the decade. On 15 April 1989 Liverpool played Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup Semi Final at Hillsborough. By the end of the day 94 Liverpool fans would be dead, crushed against perimeter fencing as Police and officials failed to control thousands of fans trying to enter the stadium. A 95th fan would die in hospital 4 days later and a 96th would die in hospital nearly 4 years later, having never regained consciousness. The Hillsborough Tragedy marks the darkest period in the clubs history. The 96 fans who died that day are remembered with memorials at both Anfield and Hillsborough, and the club holds a one minute silence as a mark of respect on the game that falls closest to April 15 each year.
By 1991 the stress of managing Liverpool had become to much for Kenny Dalglish, who duly resigned on 22nd February. First team coach Ronnie Moran briefly took charge for several weeks, before another former player, Graeme Souness took charge for the 91-92 season.
Although Souness made a good start to his managerial career, ending his first season as FA Cup winners, his reign was to be remembered for reckless spending and the sale of star players. At no stage during his reign did Liverpool challenge for the League title, and although the European ban was lifted, the club failed to reach the heights of the previous decade.
Not surprisingly Souness was removed in 1994 and was replaced with the last of the "Boot room boys", Roy Evans, who had been at Liverpool since the late 1950's. Despite the emergence of star players like Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp and Michael Owen, Evans failed to lead Liverpool to the League title, as the club finished the newly formed Premier League 3rd on two occasions. Evans only success came in the 1995 League Cup, where Liverpool beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1.
The glory days of the 70's and 80's were now a distant memory, with Liverpool's last League triumph coming in 1990. Drastic changes were needed if the club was to return to the top of the English game. That change arrived in the form of French manager Gerard Houllier.
The Modern Era
The appointment of French manager Gerard Houllier in 1998 brought to an end the tradition of the 'boot room boys' and the idea of promoting managers and staff from within the club. Although this tradition had served the club well in the past, football was changing into a multi-national sport with foreign imports replacing the home grown heroes of yester-year. It was no longer enough to be a local lad with local knowledge, in order to manage a high profile team like Liverpool, the manager needed to have an understanding of both the domestic and European game, be savvy in the transfer market and understand the technical, physical and psychological aspects of the game.
Although Houllier had been brought in to work alongside current manager Roy Evans, Evans found the arrangement untenable, and quit his position half way through the 98-99 season, leaving Houllier in sole charge. His first season was to end in disappointment as the club finished 7th, missing out on a European place. But gradual improvement over the next couple of years coupled with quality purchases such as Sami Hyypia and the emergence of young talents such as Steven Gerrard would see the club returning to winning ways in 2000-01.
At the start of the 2000-01 campaign no-one could have foreseen the glory that awaited the club come the end of the season. By May 2001 Liverpool had secured 3rd place in the Premier League (and thus Champions League qualification) as well as completing a unique treble of League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup. It was Liverpool's best season for nearly a decade and fans and critics alike rightly heaped praise on manager Gerard Houllier for turning the clubs fortunes around. Further success would follow at the start of the next season as Liverpool won the Community Shield and European Super Cup. Five trophies in one calendar year represents one of the clubs best ever periods, and led to the club being officially classed as the best club in the world for a short period, according to FIFA statistics.
Despite the positives of the 00-01 season, Houllier was seen by many as being too conservative and defensive to ever really challenge for the Premier League title. When he suffered a heart problem mid way through the 01-02 season few expected him to return to full time management. Thankfully he made a full recovery from the condition and returned to lead Liverpool to further League Cup success in 2003, beating arch rivals Man Utd in the final. However, it was now obvious that he was not capable of delivering the League title which Liverpool so desperately craved. After a disappointing 03-04 season which saw the club again fail to deliver a title challenge Houllier left the club by mutual consent.
His replacement, Rafa Benitez, had just helped guide Valencia to the Spanish League title and UEFA Cup, and in the previous season had caught the imagination of the Anfield faithful when his Valencia team comprehensively outplayed Liverpool during two Champions League games. Benitez brought with him a collection of high profile players from Spain, and with it the expectation that Liverpool would finally be in a position to really challenge for the title.
Unfortunately, Benitez's first League campaign mirrored that of previous manager Gerard Houllier, as the team finished way behind the top three. In Europe though it was a different story. Benitez's mastery of European football helped him lead Liverpool to the 2005 Champions League Final, beating more fancied teams such as Juventus and Chelsea along the way. The final itself will go down in history as one of the greatest finals of all time. Run ragged by an A C Milan team in the prime of its life and 3-0 down at half time, Liverpool looked dead and buried. But 3 goals in 6 minutes at the start of the second half saw Liverpool come back to tie the game, ultimately winning the trophy on penalties. It was Liverpool's fifth European Cup triumph, meaning they would get to keep the famous trophy. It was also one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history, and quickly earned Benitez a place in the hearts of Liverpool fans everywhere.
His second season in charge again saw the team falter in the League, but the team ended the season on a high as they won the FA Cup beating West Ham in another dramatic penalty shoot-out.
The start of the 2006-07 campaign saw Benitez under pressure to deliver better results in the Premier League. Although Liverpool failed to really challenge come the end of the season, they at last began to show the quality and commitment needed to win a league campaign. The 06-07 season also saw Benitez take the team to another Champions League Final, again beating Chelsea in the Semi Final (much to the resentment of outspoken Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho). Sadly Liverpool were unable to repeat their success of 2005, losing in a repeat of the final to an A C Milan side looking to avenge that fateful night.
2007 also saw the club pass into Foreign ownership for the first time in its history, as David Moores sold his shares to the American duo of Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jnr.