Kings of the Cup
Bill Shankly took the potential Liverpool clearly had and turned them into the greatest team on the planet. It was always inevitable that trophies would arrive at the club and they did just that.
In 59-60 and 60-61, Liverpool finished third in the Second Division, losing out in terms of promotion as only the top two teams were promoted back then. The breakthrough came in 61-62, when the Second Division Championship was won, with Roger Hunt plundering 41 goal along the way.
The 1962-63 season saw consolidation, with an impressive eighth place finish in their first season back in the top flight. Shankly didn’t keep Liverpool fans waiting long however to see them crowned Champions of the elite. In 1963-64, the club won the First Division title for the 6th time in their history and gaining entry into the European Cup as England’s top side.
1964-65 saw the intensity of an extended cup run both domestically and in Europe take its toll on Liverpool. They finished 7th in the league but the season was certainly not without its rewards. The Reds made it all the way to the European Cup Semi-Final, taking a 3-1 first leg aggregate score to defend at the San Siro, home of Inter Milan. They went down 3-0 on the night and out of the competition 4-3 on aggregate, but Shankly and observers of the match still dispute the result to this day, with credible claims that two of the three Inter goals on the night should have been disallowed and that Liverpool were denied a perfectly legitimate goal. Observers at the time including Shankly and his Liverpool players amongst others, always claimed that the referee on the night, Spaniard Jose Maria Ortiz de Mendibil was corrupt, so much so that an investigation was opened into bribery; and the dirty tricks leading up to the game did little to dispel the feeling of foul play afoot. Church bells rung all night at a church 50 yards from the Liverpool team hotel, despite Shanks and Bob Paisley going to see the Priest to ask that they be stopped. On the night of the game; Inter’s first goal came from an indirect free kick, which Mario Corso took it upon himself to chip home, the ball not touching any other player. Liverpool remonstrated. The goal was given! The second was just as bad, Tommy Lawrence bouncing the ball to kick it clear; whereby Joaquim Peiro nudged it away from him and slotted home. To confound Liverpool’s misery, St John thought he scored a crucial reply for the Reds only for the referee to claim it was offside when the goal looked legit. So annoyed was Tommy Smith at the final whistle, (Inter had scored a third by this point) that he chased the official from the pitch and aimed a kick at him. The Spaniard co-incidentally disappeared from high profile games following the game!
The season was to have however, a happy ending. Liverpool at this point had never won the FA Cup, something Shankly deeply hated, but something he rectified in May 65. Leeds were beaten 2-1 at Wembley after extra time to bring the cup to Liverpool for the first time in their history. Roger Hunt had given Liverpool the lead only for Billy Bremner to haul Leeds level soon after. Liverpool were not to be denied however and Ian St John’s diving header sealed victory.
1965-66 saw Liverpool regain their league title trophy; but they once again tasted bitter defeat on the European stage, losing in the final of the Cup Winners Cup to Borussia Dortmund at Hampden Park. 1966-67 saw the Charity Shield won at the cost of local rivals Everton, with the Reds finishing fifth in the league that year, third in 67-68 and second in 68-69. The 1969-70 season saw another fifth placed finish and Shankly was realising his team needed an overhaul. That season brought the curtain down on the careers at Liverpool of the likes of St John, Hunt, Byrne, Lawrence, and Yeats, as a raft of new blood was introduced in the guise of Clemence, Lindsay, Lloyd, Toshack, Hall and Heighway who were added to the likes of Hughes, Smith Callaghan and Lawler. It was the dawn of Shankly’s second great team.
1970-71 saw a good solid start for Shankly’s new side, they finished fifth in the league, made it to the semi-final of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup and made it to Wembley for the FA Cup Final where they narrowly lost 2-1 to Arsenal, the game significantly watched by new signing, a young Kevin Keegan.
The 71-72 season was Keegan’s first at the club, and Liverpool narrowly missed out on the title by one point to Brian Clough’s Derby, whom Shanks maintains Liverpool were denied a definite penalty against in their crucial visit to the Midlands club.
Disappointment would soon be forgotten the following season however; as Shankly’s Liverpool won the league title once more, their third under the Scot and their eighth in total. Shankly also added the UEFA Cup to his CV and to that of the clubs, making them the first English team to ever win a league title domestically and a European title in the same season. Borussia Monchengladbach were beaten 3-2 over two legs to secure the cup and end the 72-73 season on a high.
The 1973-74 season proved to be, somewhat surprisingly Shankly’s last at the club, the Scot electing to step down post 73-74. He went out on a high however, securing his second FA Cup for the club, turning in an impressive performance of total football to thump Newcastle 3-0. He was also in attendance to see his side beat Leeds to the 1974 Charity Shield to bring to an end a 15 year period at the club that was not only laden with trophies, but saw the birth of Liverpool Football Club as a dynasty and one of the best football teams on the planet.