'In '91 it seemed like failure coming second. We thought it would be a wake-up call'
Liverpool legends Dalglish, Rush and Evans talk to Chris Bascombe about the club's last title win and the 24-year wait for another
When Liverpool secured their 18th title in 1990, the familiarity of the occasion made it seem low key. Ex-manager Kenny Dalglish, striker Ian Rush and former manager Roy Evans, then an assistant to Dalglish, recall the club's last title triumph and a 24 year wait.
What was the secret to so much success in that era?
EVANS: Good players. Go through the managers – Shankly, Paisley, Fagan, Kenny, – and they were all different types. So, it is about having the best players and selecting great players. That is what they were good at.
Does the idea 'you don't know what you've got till its gone' apply here?
EVANS: That is where Ronnie Moran was so good. At times he was a pain in the backside, we've just won the league and you are knocking us down. But it was a reality check and sometimes you need that. Of course, we would celebrate and there was a time to celebrate and you had a few days on the beer with the boys, but you have to come back to reality and start again.
Did you feel the tension to win it like there is today?
DALGLISH: I think the tension lies within other places. The boys don't look tense, they look like they are in control of what they want to do. Is it harder on the players if they had won it so many times before than if you don't win it, you are a failure? Or is it better for them to be the first ones to win it for 24 years? I think they are handling it really well.
EVANS: The anticipation in those days was that we were expected to win it, obviously this season we didn't expect to win the title. We we're aiming for the Champions League, but that has all changed now and it's gone into a different mode. That is down to Brendan. He has man-managed the situation really well.
RUSH: The fans want it so much now. You see them outside the ground when the coach arrives for the last couple of games. The players love all that. When we were going for the title, we did everything exactly the same.
You think the players are showing no sign of pressure, then?
DALGLISH: The humility of the players has a lot to do with it. That's come back to the club in the last few years. They have not been running about lighting fires, saying 'we're going to do this.'
EVANS: They all look as if they are enjoying their football. That takes the pressure off straight away. So many players in the modern game, you would think it was a chore sometimes.
RUSH: There seems to be a lot of team spirit and that comes from the manager and coaching staff. They know that if they work hard enough, they can win games and anything is achievable.
Roy came so close as manager between 1995-97. You must relate to this?
EVANS: There are comparisons between this team and my team because of where we were, but we fell at a couple of hurdles. The big games sometimes weren't the problem. I remember twice we came unstuck against Coventry.
If you don't take the same attitude into every game you can slip up. The next game is huge now. Not Chelsea. Norwich are a strange team. Sometimes you can beat them 5-0 or 6-0 and sometimes they can be a little bit of nemesis. But if we keep the same attitude and start the games well, then we would hope to win.
How do you look back on your title bids now, Roy?
EVANS: I have regrets. Could we have done better? Could I have done better? Did I make mistakes? Probably, overall, you do. I would say the lesson to take from that is you have to take your chance, because you don't know when you will get another one. If Liverpool win it this year, it takes that monkey off their back. But it is going to be tough, four more games and four tough games, no matter who you are playing. The nice thing is they have got the belief they can win it. Maybe somewhere along the line, I slipped up.
How many title victories have you been involved in as player and coach, Roy?
EVANS: I joined Liverpool in 1964. So every title since then.
Are there parallels with 1964 under Shankly when the club was reviving itself?
EVANS: We went from the second division in 1958 to get to the title in 1964. To do it so quickly was fantastic.
Once you won it, whether it was Bill or Bob or Joe, they all had the same sort of mentality. It was about being honest in your job. OK, you have won it and you take the credit and benefits of that, but make sure you try and do it again next year.
In 1991 you came second to Arsenal. Did you think it was a blip at the time?
RUSH: Back then it seemed like failure coming second. People see second now as success. We thought that would act as a wake-up call, but I left in '96 and we still hadn't won it. Even then you would have laughed if someone had said that we would still be waiting in 2014 for it. The more you go without it, the more frustrating it gets and the harder it gets to get it back.
EVANS: When you fall out of the Champions League as well, it takes away some of your buying power and some of the top players in the world won't come. Once you are out, it's difficult to get back in.
Was it also bad timing? Liverpool falling off their perch as League and Champions League kicked in. United took over?
EVANS: You have to give them credit, they did what we had done. They bought the best players and played the best football. We had a great spell, they had a great spell and now maybe it's time for someone else to start dictating it. Hopefully, us.
What about Brendan Rodgers?
DALGLISH: Fantastic. The results and the performances have been brilliant. Brendan is the one who leads the club and the players. The players are the disciples. They have followed on and they have believed in what he has told them. They believe in the team ethic. When you do get success it is important to maintain that and Liverpool have always been very humble winners. The way they have conducted themselves has been fantastic.
Will they do it?
DALGLISH: They get to the top of the league and then people start to doubt it. Why? Rather than ask for a reason why they will do it, you give me a reason why they won't.
EVANS: I think they will do it, but there's no room for any slip-ups.
DALGLISH: They are feeling a lot better than the other two, I'll tell you that. There are also parallels with the 1986 team that won 11 and drew one of their last 12 games.
RUSH: Kenny came back for the last 10 games that season. Paul Walsh had been playing well, something like 18 goals in the same games, but when Kenny came back in he could not really argue. We were a squad above everything else. The team spirit then was like it is today. People are fighting for each other.
Can you compare the atmosphere now to then?
EVANS: It is different. There is even more tension now because they haven't won it for so long and the atmosphere was magnificent against City.
DALGLISH: There were games we would play when Anfield wasn't full. We'd be coming in on the coach and guessing how many were going to be in there.
EVANS: It is great to see the way the supporters have reacted and the way they have all come together. Now everyone believes. The players showed tremendous desire to win against City even when it was going against them.
What would it mean to win it?
RUSH: It is amazing the amount of people who come up to you and want to speak about Liverpool. It would be amazing for the city, especially with Everton doing so well, too. It does remind me of the Eighties when it was normal. Everton and Liverpool dominated.
The city is getting known as a football city again. (©Daily Telegraph, London)