XXXXXX TEAM NEWS
IT is hard to believe, given the manner in which Liverpool’s fortunes have been transformed in the past three months or so, but not everything Kenny Dalglish touches turns to gold.
Newcastle fans would probably tell you that, anyway.
Tomorrow, the King of Anfield comes face to face with one of his former clubs, as the Toon Army descend on Merseyside looking for their first league win at Anfield since an Andy Cole-inspired triumph back in 1994.
And whilst Newcastle supporters tend to view Dalglish, who managed their club for 18 months between 1997 and 1998, with something approaching indifference – his one full season at St James’ Park saw the club slide from second to 13th in the Premier League table – the Reds boss insists he has nothing but fond memories of his time on Tyneside.
“I won’t forget my time at Newcastle,” says Dalglish. “If other people want to forget it, that’s up to them but it is no problem to me. Each one to their own. But I enjoyed it.
“It’s a fantastic place to be involved in football. I enjoyed my time up there and have some very fond memories of working there.”
Rightly so. Dalglish’s reign at Newcastle may have ended prematurely, and he did unarguably fail to build on the platform created at St James’ by Kevin Keegan, but there were mitigating circumstances. Keegan’s departure in January 1997 left supporters and players devastated, and when chairman Sir John Hall handed the reins to the controversial Freddy Shepherd, the kind of financial muscle that had been afforded to Keegan was suddenly diluted.
Nonetheless, Dalglish left behind an underrated legacy on Tyneside – Shay Given, Gary Speed, Dietmar Hamann and Nolberto Solano were all signed under his watch – and took the club to their first FA Cup final for 24 years.
The previous one, in 1974, of course, ended in a heavy defeat at Wembley to Liverpool, in what was to prove to be Bill Shankly’s last competitive game as manager of the Reds.
And if any game proves the strong historical ties that exist between these two football-mad cities, it is that 1974 final.
Liverpool and Newcastle’s histories have been spookily interwoven ever since.
The Reds hero that day was Keegan, who netted twice in the most comfortable of 3-0 wins.
Eight years later, however, “Mighty Mouse” would arrive at St James’ in a shock transfer. He would spend two hugely successful years on Tyneside, leading the club to promotion before announcing his retirement in 1984, at the age of 33.
And another eight years on, he would return to Newcastle as manager, guiding the club from the foot of the old Second Division to the upper reaches of the Premier League within a couple of years. A further stint in charge, in 2008, may have ended acrimoniously, but Keegan is one of a number of players whose achievements are revered at both Liverpool and Newcastle.
A couple of others also featured at Wembley in 1974.
Both Terry McDermott and Alan Kennedy would go on to score crucial goals for Liverpool in European Cup finals, and are regularly mentioned amongst the all-time Anfield greats, but both were part of that Newcastle side so comprehensively outplayed that day. They would go on to make more than 650 appearances between them at Anfield, with McDermott eventually returning to Newcastle as both a player and, latterly, an assistant manager under Keegan.
Other players to have starred for both include Albert Stubbins – a Wallsend-born striker who would become a Reds goalscoring legend in the years following World War II – Peter Beardsley, who sandwiched a hugely successful four-year spell at Anfield between two stints at Newcastle, and is now a youth team coach at St James’ Park, and Didi Hamann, who swapped Tyneside for Merseyside in 1999, and went on to become a modern-day Liverpool legend during seven trophy-laden years at the club.
But it is not just in the transfer market that these two clubs have crossed swords. On the field, the fixture rarely fails to impress.
Ask any supporter to name the greatest ever Premier League match, and chances are the words “Liverpool 4 Newcastle 3” will crop up. Keegan was in the Newcastle dugout that day in April 1996, and watched in agony as his title-chasing side succumbed at the death to Stan Collymore’s strike. The sight of him slumped beneath the advertising hoardings in the aftermath of that goal is one of the most poignant in recent years.
A year later, Dalglish himself was in the hot-seat as the two sides dished up an incredible repeat. Liverpool, themselves chasing the title this time around, raced into a 3-0 half-time lead, but surrendered three soft goals, before Robbie Fowler’s stoppage-time header rescued the points for Roy Evans’ side.
Eighteen months on, the Reds overturned a 2-0 deficit to win 4-2 at Anfield, whilst more recently there have been a series of heavy wins for Liverpool, including a memorable 5-1 success in December 2009.
The last meeting between the sides, at St James’ in December, finished in a 3-1 win for Newcastle.
It was a game memorable for the performance of a certain Andy Carroll, who scored one goal and created two that day.
Tomorrow, Gateshead-born Carroll will – provided he can shake off a knee injury in time – line up against his boyhood club for the first time, following his £35m move to Anfield in January. And if history is anything to go by, Reds fans can expect fireworks with their Sunday lunch.