Sunday afternoon and it’s the FA Cup 4th round draw and we hadn’t even kicked off in the 3rd round yet. But it was quite nerve-wrecking in the public houses around Anfield Road before the Oldham game as Paul Allen juggled with one ball and fellow draw man, Martin Allen, had everyone squinting at the screen with his technicolored waistcoat effort. Paul Allen hasn’t changed much since he ran through on goal in the 1980 Cup final only to be scythed down by that big bully Willie Young of Arsenal – a yellow card! I think every red was a hammer for the day after the 4-game semi-final marathon against the Arsenal. Back to Paul Allens ball juggling skills, surely it’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong and the draw will be declared null and void. Fabrice Muamba called out a wrong number last season. Let’s go back to the Monday midday draw on the radio with the blazers and the velvet bag, now that was tension.
Anyway a lot of big sides and Everton were left in the errrr VESSEL is all I can describe it as and it was looking like a derby or one of the Manchester sides in the next round of the FA Cup. A fellow red beside me just kept saying “I want a trip to the seaside” and WALLAH, out pops AFC Bournemouth or Burton Albion. By the time you read this, we will know whether the panic buying for the bucket and spade was worthwhile. If it is Bournemouth it’s a long trip for the redmen for a 12.45 kick off on the south coast, as usual fans are an afterthought. Look at Coventry City, already in the mire this season having to play their home games at Northampton – get a dream draw at Arsenal – only to have their game taking place on the Friday night, meaning at least 2,000 sky blues won’t be able to travel! Another note on the possible Bournemouth tie is that those of us watching the box will probably have to endure an afternoon watching how Harry Redknapp masterminded Bournemouth’s victory over the then holders ( And Smith must (didn’t) score) Man United. Is it really 30 years! Thankfully QPR are playing on the same day so we will be spared a studio appearance by Harry.
Aston Villa arrive today in a similar position to last season’s visit to Anfield when they ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in what was a forgettable afternoon for the reds. Brendan Rodgers men dropped as low as 12th that afternoon – 13 months on and the redmen are riding high and in real contention for a Champions League place. Hard to believe it’s nearly 5 years since the 5-0 thrashing at Anfield as Rafa’s Liverpool were running Manchester United close at the top of the table. Sadly it wasn’t to be.
Personal memories of games against Villa at Anfield brings me back to our 11th title win in 1979 – a Tuesday night meant listening to the second half commentary on BBC Radio 2. In those days you had no idea what happened in the first 45 minutes – no ceefax or teletext in those days, well not in my house. So I had to endure the torture of the presenter saying “and there’s been some action in the 1st half”. Thankfully Peter Jones or Bryan Butler mentioned a Liverpool player first and you knew we had scored. More than one as it turned out, Alan Kennedy and Kenny Dalglish sending the reds into the break two goals to the good. The second half was a joyous affair, the airwaves transporting the songs from the KOP, who were in fine voice, across the Irish Sea. Terry McDermott killed off any chance of a Villa comeback as the reds reclaimed the championship crown that emerging rivals Nottingham Forest had surprisingly won the previous year.
One year on and Villa were present for another Liverpool coronation. The game took place on a Saturday afternoon, and just two days after Arsenal overcame the reds in the 4th game of their FA Cup semi-final marathon. No sign of weariness however as the reds raced into an early lead. We were then treated to one of the most bizarre Liverpool moments as defender, the late Avi Cohan, sliced the ball into his own net only for him to put the reds 2-1 up with a fine shot at the start of the second half. A memorable afternoon for the Israeli was complete when Johnston added another before Aston Villa defender Noel Blake joined in on the own goal act to send the home fans on their way with a 12th league title in the bag.
As for Aston Villa, well they must have gained some valuable experience from the two title winning displays as they went on to win the biggest prize the following year and followed that up with a memorable European Cup win over Bayern Munich the following May.
Villa has enjoyed title success at the expense of the reds. Brilliantly described in Jonathan Wilsons book Anatomy of Liverpool the climax of the 1899 season was played out at Villa Park. The home side only needing a draw to clinch the title were up against a club that was only in existence for seven years. Former title winning manager at Sunderland, Tom Watson was in charge of the reds as they attempted to win the title for the very first time. However it was to be a day to forget as the home side fired in five goals without reply in the first half to clinch the league title.
It didn’t take too long for the reds to finally claim league glory. Tom Watson masterminding the 1901 side at the expense of his old club Sunderland and in the process starting the love affair with the league championship at Anfield Road.