There was a late availability sale for today’s first game of the season just days before you read this. I would think it would have lasted all of 2/3 minutes before the sold out signs were up, such is the demand to see the reds in action. The decision to up the criteria of CAT A and B games to 14 instead of 13 (which had been in place for 5 years) caused quite a stir and took a lot by surprise. But it’s the drop from 14 to zero for games such as Everton, Man City, and Arsenal that continues to cause angst amongst reds. Surely 14 to say 10 or 7 games recorded on cards from the previous season would be a fairer system, and of course rewards loyalty. We all know that the club has to make money and attracting new “members” is a large part of that – and the success of last season has generated thousands of new members in the clamour for a match ticket this season – basically Liverpool are box office at the moment and the free for all sales are really pot luck nowadays. Hardly a fair system.
I recall last season’s sales in July were pretty easily navigated, November’s slightly less so, but the side were beginning to show signs of a top 4 challenge at that stage so the interest was there. Nevertheless, match tickets for games such as Sunderland last March were readily available before the realisation hit that we could go on and win the league. So what happens should we slide ever so slightly this coming season? Let’s hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, I can’t see us getting as low as 35,000 as we did for Bolton in 2011, Joe Cole bundling the ball over the line in the 90th minute for a 2-1 win in what was a freezing day. But the chances are that the “super-fan” will turn their attention to something else in which to spend their money on and leaving the loyal supporter to once more fill the gap left by the part-time fan. The increased capacity can’t come quick enough.
Southampton have been the butt of many jokes this summer as they seemed to off-load half their team to Liverpool and Manchester United but gaining upwards on £80 million in the process. Whether its good business remains to be seen as Ronald Koeman tries to stamp his own mark on a side that have been a joy to watch since their return to the top flight.
The two clubs have had many battles and the south coast side were serious title contenders to the reds the year Joe Fagan won the treble. Danny Wallace was always a thorn in the side of the Liverpool rear-guard and his two goals in the home fixture at The Dell in March 84 opened the title race wide open for a time, with the saints eventually finishing second to Liverpool. It was a fine side that Lawrie McMenemy assembled, with Shilton, Mills, Moran, a young Mark Wright and an ageing Frank Worthington pulling the strings. Frank was one of the entertainers of the game, and in 1972 Bill Shankly tried to sign for the reds. The recent failed medical involving Loic Remy reminded me of this. Worthington was a notorious womaniser; the breakdown of his move to Liverpool is one of the game’s enduring urban legends. Having all but signed, the deal fell through because he failed a medical. The rumour was that he had a dose of the clap. In fact he had high blood pressure – but that was brought on by excessive sexual activity. Bill Shankly told him to have a break, and return for a second medical. Worthington went to Majorca, continued his lifestyle and duly failed the medical again. It just wasn’t to be.
The Fields around Anfield Road are certainly different this season with the demolition of houses to make space for the long awaited stadium expansion. It doesn’t seem like that long ago since we were marching in protest against G&H after their broken promises, remember, “The spade has to be in the ground within 60 days”. A few months before the end of last season we were marching down the Anfield Road for other reasons, as thousands gathered to welcome the team bus before the lads entered the ground. It was unique to Liverpool FC and it’s something that will hopefully continue on into this season.
The below article was written after Brendan Rodgers first home league game in charge. The game in question was against the then champions, Manchester City. Even the most optimistic red could not envisage the dramatic turnaround in fortunes that this season has produced as Liverpool Football Club chase the ultimate prize once more.
August 2012 and it’s the first game home league game of the season and the champions of England run out at Anfield. How many times has that happened? Quite a few as it happens. But this time it’s not the redmen running out as league champions but those in the sky blue kit that take the plaudits from the away end. The super-rich Manchester City finally claimed the top prize in English football in dramatic circumstances last May on what can only be described as SKY TV’s ultimate wet dream. The citizen men of Manchester hadn’t won the top prize in 44 years and now boast some of the worlds top players. How times have changed. We once put 10 goals past city in three days back in October 1995. But I’m not bitter or jealous, how could I be. They have a long way to go.
18 League titles, 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, 5 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups
Midday down at the Albert Dock and the sun is beaming down. Another new era at Anfield has begun with the appointment of Brendan Rodgers. His first competitive game at Anfield couldn’t have gone any better with the defeat of FC Gomel in the Europa League. In league terms the new regime has had a rocky start. An opening day 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion is up there with the 1-0 shock defeat to fellow Black Country side Wolverhampton Wanderers on the opening day of the 1981-82 campaign. It was a season that ended with a League championship and League Cup success. We can only dream of league glory these days. But still, Brendan will get the time and hopefully the finance to enable us to compete once more.
18 League titles, 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, 5 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups
I feel like one of the players on an early morning stroll – getting the pre-match nerves out of my system if you will. It’s great to have the footy back again. Euro 2012 was a welcome distraction, even if it does play havoc with pre-season plans. Then the Olympics stole the limelight, it was easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all as well. But let’s face it, whether it’s Beth Twiddle or Katie Taylor grabbing the headlines, all I really wanted to know was the Charlie Adam tackle on Gareth Bale THAT bad. Bale did himself no favours at all in crying to the press about big bad Charlie. But Tony Pulis and Stoke must have been impressed with Charlie’s enthusiasm, so much so, that they paid £4 million for more of the same.
As usual there was a good crowd around the docks soaking up the last rays of the summer and as I walked across the road towards Liverpool One I could see a commotion outside the Hilton Hotel at Liverpool One. As I get closer I can make out the Ellison’s coach outside the hotel and a large group surrounding the coach. Closer again, and the majority are decked out in our new home kit. Even closer again, and it’s the Manchester City coach and our supporters are at the ready, the clicking has begun, the phones are out. How did it come to this?
18 League titles, 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, 5 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups
Frankly, I was embarrassed at what I was seeing, maybe I’m also overreacting? It’s the modern game isn’t it? Football celebrities everywhere, believing the hype, pumped up by the SKY machine. Bullshit. I don’t have a big problem with parents and kids, well maybe the parents should know better. But groups of grown men were standing around in LFC gear waiting for god knows how long in the hope that they might just catch a snap of Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez’s arse in a photo? No, sorry, but I’m out. I was brought up in the era when visiting teams were scared out of their wits to come to Anfield – the game was over before it even started. It worked as well; we nearly always came out on top, particularly against sides like city. Even when they did turn us over, a Boxing Day 3-1 victory in 1981, we went on to win 20 of our last 25 games to win the title once more.
18 League titles, 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, 5 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups
I swiftly move on towards the centre of Liverpool One and meet up with a few reds and as we are standing there in the middle of the main shopping area we become engulfed by a crowd of people, not kids, but grown ups and they are all in pursuit of the city squad who are having a pre-match walkabout. It was one of the most bizarre sights I have ever seen – one man stops and proudly tells me he got a picture with Mancini, and wait for it, Brian Kidd. Brian fucking Kidd, the man who nearly leapt as far as Bob Beaman onto the Old Trafford turf when Steve Bruce scored that goal to send Man Ure on their way to the title in 1993. Still, it’s something to post on facebook isn’t it. “Me and Brian Kidd on the day the champions came to Anfield”. Nice.
It’s not right is it? It’s certainly not Liverpool Football Club. I’m not saying abuse teams; just don’t treat them as if they are some sort of gods. It’s the support we give our team that unnerves the opposition – it always did.
Look what it delivered.
18 League titles, 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, 5 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups
Fast forward to April 2014 and what a transformation – City come to town but this time not as Champions of England but still in the shake up for top honours. Vying for the title with City are Chelsea and one Liverpool Football Club who are currently playing some of the best football their supporters have ever witnessed. The feel-good factor around the club is infectious. The atmosphere in and around the ground these last few home games has reached fever pitch as Brendan Rodgers and his team chase the big prize, breaking records as they go about their business. The penny has dropped. Something tells me that City won’t be met with such a welcome party this time as they leave their hotel for this shoot-out, a walk around Liverpool One? Not a hope.
This is different. This is Liverpool. We are Liverpool. And it won’t be long before we add to our remarkable;
18 League titles, 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, 5 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups
It’s been too long a wait since the Southampton game – in truth we football supporters have little patience anyway. We are always looking forward. In June when the fixtures come out the potential end of season points tally are already being totted up – “Ah Hull away in December, 3 points there will set us up nicely for the very tricky Spurs game coming up, and we have a great run-in and should win the last six”. I do it every season.
After winning our first three games this campaign, I was told that we should be winning the next six as they were all very winnable. That would have been 27 points on the board after 9 games! It would have been very nice indeed. Of course it wasn’t to be. It’s impossible to predict the twists and turns throughout a 38 game season, but even the most optimistic red would not have dreamt how close this side are to the summit of the table when pouring over the fixture list last June. It’s just great to be even looking ahead to what are vital games in the race for top honours and we are well and truly part of it.
Going to print we don’t know the outcome of the Man United game but no matter what the result the redmen will still be in a strong position to return to Europe’s top table once again next season. This coming week we face two teams in a relegation battle and another with their eyes still firmly fixed on a top 4 finish. Cardiff are fighting for their lives and after looking like their appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjær was going to be a mistake on the tanned ones part, the victory over the already doomed Fulham may well have kick-started their fight for survival and the game against Cardiff is unlikely to be done and dusted before the end of the first half as it was last December at Anfield. But it’s certainly a game we should be winning.
Sunderland have been involved in a cup final and a cup semi-final in the last few weeks and won neither of them. The semi-final defeat at Hull bared no resemblance to their decent performance in the League Cup final reverse to Man City. They won’t have Fabio Borini available for selection at Anfield of course, the Italian has had a productive loan spell in the North-East and should report back to pre-season training at Melwood with renewed hope that he has a future at the club. Speaking of Sunderland, I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Doig recently. Eric is the grandson of the famous Sunderland and Liverpool goalkeeper, Ned Doig. Born in Arbroath Ned was actually on the books of the club when they beat Bon Accord 36-0 in the Scottish cup, and to this day is still the clubs most capped international with two caps for Scotland. Moving to Sunderland via Blackburn, Ned made his name under the guidance of Tom Watson at Sunderland, winning an incredible four league titles before joining Watson at Anfield and winning a second division title. Buried in an unmarked grave Eric finally erected a headstone in honour of his grandfather last December, situated just a few feet away from his manager Tom Watson.
The home game against Tottenham Hotspurs will bring the month to an end and a victory here would surely see us create a big enough gap between ourselves and the North Londoners. It’s been a strange few months for Tim Sherwood. Winning at Old Trafford and impressive victories at Newcastle and qualifying for the last 16 of the Europa League. On the other hand, they can ship goals at an alarming rate as we reds know only too well. But what we will know by the end of this month is whether us reds can still dream of league glory – Over to you lads.
The final whistle goes at the Liberty Stadium and we finish the season with another defeat, the week after our 35 minute cameo in the FA Cup final against Chelsea and just five days since we dismantled the same opposition in what was to be Kenny Dalglish’s last home game as Liverpool manager. What now? Well we had the European Championships to look forward to at least. But not after another few stressful weeks of Liverpool Football Club being dragged around the public domain. Kenny gets called over to the states to deliver his end of season report and leaves no longer the manager of his beloved Liverpool, seemingly oblivious to what was coming. Not good. So arise Brendan Rodgers, best of luck to the second Ulster man to take charge of our club. He’s certainly talking a good game and roll on August, but I had a date with the Boys in Green to get over with first and my first major football championships, it’s been a while in coming.
I’m in the age bracket where it never looked like we would qualify for a major tournament, just one would do, and we had great sides in the past, but always seemed to fall at the final hurdle. Then along comes the giraffe that is Jack Charlton and all of a sudden football is in vouge again across the Irish sea, and even better we had a side containing the likes of Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, Jim Beglin, Mark Lawrenson and John Aldridge. Suddenly we are one of the best sides in the world, or should I say one of the hardest to beat in the world. Our last away victory of note was against Scotland in 1987, a goal made in Liverpool, a quick free from Aldo sends ‘midfielder’ Lawrenson away and he finishes to the net. Ronnie Whelan played right back that night! We have had some more notable away ‘victories’ that will go down in Irish folklore. We have ‘beaten’ Spain 0-0, England 1-1 and Italy also 1-1 in their back yards, so it’s not all bad.
But we don’t get to many major tournaments, I was too young to travel to Euro ’88, at Italia ’90 we were stuck on an island, and it was pre Ryanair/Easyjet days, whilst USA ’94 and Japan/Korea 2002 were just too expensive. I just had to get to one before it was too late or should I say before we aren’t good enough to compete anymore. It was looking dodgy this time as well, but Zbigniew Boniek owed me one after that dive at Heysel and pulled out the Estonia ball against Ireland. A 5-1 aggregate score later and we were on our way.
My plan was to head to Brazil in 2014 whether or not Ireland were going to make it or not. L4 has it’s own special magic for me, but second to that would be a visit to Brazil, Rio and it’s beach and that massive Christ the King statue looking down for the city below, and the Maracana Stadium of course. But a look into the financial future of 2014 left me with no choice but to abandon the Brazil dream for now, and it was full steam ahead to Poland. I must stress that no way was I going to traipse across to the Ukraine, so it all depended on what way the balls came out in December. Poland it was, and a group with the last two World Cup winners and a talented Croatian side, no problem for messrs Dunne, Duff, Given and ahem Green.
I and fellow regular Kopites, Chris, Clare and Sarah decided to base ourselves in Berlin for the majority of the tournament whilst heading into Poland for two games on the day of the match and spending three days in the host country for the Spanish match. It was purely for economic reasons, although in hindsight the liver was spared quite a bit of abuse also. Never been to Berlin, and it was everything we had hoped for. We attended the Germany V Portugal game at the Brandenburg Gate on the night before the Croatian game, 500,000 people having a great time; it was rude not to join in.
The next morning we travelled to Poznan for our first game against a pretty decent Croatia team. We were on a mini-bus with three other Irish followers from Belfast, turned out one of them was a founder member of FC United, the chat moved on to our new boss and he was seething that we had got him before purple face had retired. One up to the reds I hope.
Nothing could prepare you for the sight in Poznan, thousands upon thousands of Irish and Croatians drinking merrily around the many squares the town had to offer. I don’t think the Polish were ready for this and sure enough the trams on the way out were overcrowded to the extreme. Hopefully they would get this sorted before the last game of the group. It was clear the stadium wasn’t completely finished either, the wire fences and heaps of sand were a dead giveaway. Many hundreds of fans were also bemused by the total lack of signage around the stadium, the stewards just shrugged their shoulders and apologised for the lack of organisation. The night had started badly; we finally got in before the national anthems. A few minutes in and one slow motion header and an unusually static Shay Given dive later and we are one down. Crap. Duff floats one into the box and St Ledger scores but the whistle had gone, well, A whistle had gone, but not the referees, it was from the crowd and I wasn’t the only one not to be going crazy when the ball hit the net. The phantom whistler continued all night as well, twat. It got worse as Croatia added more goals, one before and just after the break. Not the start we wanted. Bluenose Jelavic got plenty of abuse as well from the Irish end, not for his Everton connections of course but for his Rangers ones, that’s the problem following Ireland at times, best fans in the world my arse.
We didn’t land back in Berlin until the small hours but it was a good day, lets face it we have a limited enough side, we didn’t play well, and our hard to beat mantra went out the window tonight. It was unlike us; really need a set of Brendan Rodgers beads for the Spanish onslaught in a few days.
What was I saying about the lure of Rio, the Christ the King statue etc. We had Inter-rail tickets for our trip into Poland for the Spanish game and basically we could go where we wanted, well in the general direction of Gdansk where the Spanish game was held would be a help. A few internet searches later for a town to land in and we had hit a bit of Brazil in Poland. The small town of Swiebodzin was on our route and unbelievably the town of just over 21,000 inhabitants had raised enough money to erect their very own Christ the King statue, and what’s more, it was bigger than the one in Rio! I’m not the religious sort, but this had to be seen. So off we went to Gdansk via Swiebodzin. The train station was something out of the Wild West, but the town itself was a joy to behold, and peering around a corner was this monstrosity of a monument, nothing could prepare you for it, it was spectacular. It’s a canny move from the townsfolk as I’m sure it will become a tourist attraction for many years, the presence of a spanking new hotel right across from the statue was evidence enough, but the oversized Tesco’s supermarket beside it confirmed it. Good luck to them. It wasn’t the only surprise in store for us in the town.
Poland were playing Russia that night so a quick wash and down to explore the town before the game, walking around the squares and down a side street we go and there it was right in front of us, a quick rub of the eyes confirmed it. A pub maybe or was it a house, I wasn’t sure, but it had the Shankly Gates above it, with You’ll Never Walk Alone emblazoned across, it was a joy to see. Was it a pub but, a knock on the door later and nothing, then the door opened, a peer behind the unsuspecting person who answered confirmed it wasn’t a pub. A few points of the sign later and thumbs up signs etc also confirmed that he hadn’t a clue what we were so excited about. A DBTS sticker later and he seemed to know why we were there, but us having no Polish and the man himself no English made it impossible. So we just stuck a few more stickers on his door and took a few pictures to send home and to fellow reds in Liverpool who were delighted to see it. We drank merrily as Poland drew the match and onwards we went to the small town of Torun the next morning before hitting Gdansk for match day two.
I think it only rained twice when we were over and both were on Ireland match days, Gdansk is full of history, and the Scouse Solidarity tee would be very apt here. My word, what a lesson we were given by a Spanish side playing well within themselves I have to say, its hard to be critical when you come up against that. But another early goal again! We have to stop that, the game was over after a few minutes. Seeing Alonso run the show just breaks your heart as well. The ‘Fields’ got a great rendition towards the end of the Spanish match, the drunk lad in front of me was sitting beside two bemused Spanish supporters, he nudges them,
“Hear that, he slurred, that’s what you call support” . I’m sure the two lads who have seen their country win the last two major championships and soon to be a third couldn’t give a fuck. Me, I couldn’t sing it, and if I tried it would be “Stevie Heighway on the wing” every time. Maybe I have serious questions to ask of myself as well.
So a 4-0 hammering and we also had to stay up the whole night before catching a train to Berlin at 6.30am – nothing for it but to drown our sorrows in the shadow of the Spanish hotel in the hope Pepe might wander over, he was probably rehearsing for the homecoming even at that early stage. Back to Berlin to catch up on sleep and to prepare for the last game V Italy, we were out but we had a decent record against the Azzurri. Things can only get better on the playing side of things; off the pitch we had plenty to occupy ourselves with in Berlin. I’ll definitely be back to both countries, hopefully following the reds as well.
The Italian game was back in Poznan and it was notable that there wasn’t as many ‘fans’ there for the last game. I would go to all home Ireland games and a smattering of aways and the trips are great, as there would be only four to five thousand travelling maximum. You also get to meet good football people from across the island and look forward to renewing acquaintances on the following trip. But 30,000 had come to Poland and it has to be said thousands were that drunk that I’m sure they never made the matches at all. I know I’m sounding like an ‘Oul Arse’ but all my pet hates in the modern game were in full view, Jester Hats, Green Wigs, Morph suits, singing ‘Who are ya’, ‘He fell Over’ (in an English accent???) basically the viewing population of Soccer AM were there and it must have been hard for the regulars to bear at times. We can’t even sell out the Aviva Stadium for qualifying games.
Well the good news was that we held on against the Italians for over five minutes, we were better organised, no doubt about it, but they were too good and needed the points desperately. Ballotelli came on to a chorus of boos, embarrassing, and duly answered them by scoring a great second goal for a deserved Italian victory. Three games played and no points, but we did expect far too much from a limited team, they did well to get to the tournament in the first place. We just don’t have the players of the calibre of Whelan, Houghton, Aldo, McGrath, O’Leary anymore, the influx of SKY TV money has seen clubs looking further afield, across continents for talent instead of players on their own doorstep and that’s not going to stop any time soon.
Our adventure was almost over and we left the next morning to return to the North West of Ireland to prepare for another season with the Redmen. August can’t come quick enough and lets hope Rodgers will get the time to work his way into Liverpool folklore, early indications suggest he will get the time.
As for Euro 2012, it was good overall. The ‘boring’ Spain side won their third major competition in a row and sit proudly amongst the great sides of all time, the Brazil side of 1958,62 and 70 and the Uruguay side, Olympic Games winners in 1924, ’28 and World Cup winners in 1930. They are going to be hard to stop but with Brazil 2014 on the horizon we may well be in for a treat and you never know we may come across another “You’ll Never Walk Alone” house in Brazil yet.
Saturday July 13th – it’s a special date in modern history – For it was in 1985, for those old enough to remember (I guess most buying this fanzine are in that age group) that the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium and across the Atlantic at the JFK stadium Philadelphia took place. I’d say there is a few reading this that would also love to aim a Geldof “Give us your f**king money” at FSG as we try to compete with the megabuck clubs currently occupying the Four Top(s) spots at the moment. (Turns out Geldof never uttered those words at all – another myth that puts even SKY’S transfer deadline day rumours to shame – well those with Simple Minds etc)
It goes without saying that 2013-14 is a big season for Brendan Rodgers and his men. Last season, mistakes were certainly made in the August transfer window and the clubs transfer policy seemed to be in Dire Straits. Andy Carroll was let go by the club with no suitable replacement forthcoming. In January we fared much better as the Liverpool FC transfer committee delivered Daniel Sturridge and the outstanding Philippe Coutinho as the club enjoyed a solid second half to the season. Apart that is from the Oldham debacle in the FA Cup, The Who, I hear you say, yes indeed Oldham, and the lowest point in the season surely, even one of The Smiths weighed in with two goals for the home side.
Saturday July 13th 2013 and it’s the start of pre-season action and no better place to begin than at Deepdale and a game against Bill Shanklys old side Preston North End. It’s an early start for the Motley Crue from the North-West of Ireland to catch the 7am flight from Dublin – but the excitement of the first game of the season meant sleep was at a minimum anyway. After landing at John Lennon it was straight to the city and the train to Preston. Everyone was in fine fettle even with the news that rail-works meant a detour through Ormskirk. But it didn’t dampen what was Beach Boys weather. The reds are out in full force and it’s great to see so many kids making the journey with their families – at least it’s affordable.
It’s always great to meet up with fellow reds after the summer break and today is no exception as stories are swapped and requests for the Celtic friendly dealt with. A few too many pints near the ground and the carnival atmosphere inside the stadium reminds me of the Wigan game last season. New Preston signing Kevin Davis gets introduced to the home crowd; they could have done with him today as Preston didn’t offer anything to trouble our new Number One Simon Mignolet in the away goal. Didn’t hear the Mignolet song, no doubt the KOP’S very own Style Council choir will come up with something even better than the Sunderland ditty. At the time of press it’s looking like Pepe has taken his leave and re-joined Rafa who’s taken over at Napoli. Best of luck Pepe, thanks for the great memories and the equally great goal celebrations but the writing was on the wall the moment Mignolet signed on the dotted line. Welcome Simon, our first Belgian redman!
The old chants get an airing as ex red John Welsh helps us on our way with a trip on Coutinho and he dispatches the penno with a cheekiness we are becoming so used to. Give him a contract extension quick! The Preston hordes join in on the ‘Shankly’ chant before the familiar ‘Dalglish’ and not to make him feel left out in any way; ‘There’s only one Brendan Rodgers’ gets a blast from the away end. Jordon Ibe fires in from long range as he impresses the red mass. Further goals from Sterling (set up by new signing Alberto) and a shot from Iago Aspas settles the issue. A nice first day out for all as the great man’s grand-daughter Karen Gill presents the Shankly Shield to Daniel Agger. First trophy of the season – i used to count the Charity Shield as one in the bag when we were Kings – it’s laughed at now of course. What Brendan would do for a cup this season, it’s certainly something we should and will be aiming for with no European football to contend with this season. Kind draws please. Roll on August 17th
The tour of Indonesia and Australia is on as I write – the scenes in both places have been magnificent and very humbling for the players as well I hope. Please can we get that Anne Williams Iron Lady waver over to Anfield, well done to all concerned.
For the second season in a row a tie against Oldham Athletic awaits the reds in the FA Cup, but this time it’s a tricky trip to Boundary Park is the reward for Brendan Rodgers men. And the match throws up memories of a bygone era when David Ashworth the then manager of reigning league champions Liverpool inexplicably left the club at Christmas to take over bottom of the table Oldham Athletic. At the time it was a real shock to the system for all Liverpool supporters as the club were riding the crest of a wave, both on and off the pitch.
An improvement in results was immediate as the reds went on a fine run of form winning eight on the trot as they finished a creditable 4th position at seasons end. The following season with the help of twenty-two goals from Harry Chambers the club finished in 4th position once more and an assault on the major prize loomed the following season.
The 1921-22 season wasn’t to disappoint, as David Ashworths men claimed top spot, six points ahead of nearest challengers Tottenham to claim Liverpool’s third league title as the man from *County Waterford in Ireland became the first reds boss to deliver the holy grail since Tom Watson in 1906. The reds clinched the title with a win against champions Burnley on a 2-1 score-line as news filtered through that nearest rivals Spurs lost leaving Ashworths men seven points ahead with just three games to play. Harry Chambers once more had a fine season and was ably supported by Dick Forshaw as the two combined for a total of 36 league goals from 63 in total.
The club’s great form continued into the following season as Liverpool retained their league title in style, hitting top spot in October and never relinquishing it all season, but the manager in charge at season’s end was not to be David Ashworth but one of John McKenna’s ‘Team of Macs’ Matt McQueen. In a move that could be rivalled to Bill Shankly’s shock retirement many years later, Ashworth upped sticks at Anfield and returned to Oldham Athletic, who were bottom of the First Division table. Just prior to the shock departure the rumour mill in Oldham was rife that Ashworth would return to Oldham in time for the Christmas double-header against of all teams, Liverpool. The Echo tracked down the man in question and in the Echo of 19th December the following statement seemed to ease the worries of the red half of the city. “Mr Ashworth, manager of the Liverpool Football Club asks me to deny the story that is all over Oldham that he is about to become their manager.”
You can only imagine the media of today’s reaction to such a story and it was to get even more ‘sensational’ when the just the day after Ashworth denied he was leaving the club, the Echo relayed the shock news to their readers that David Ashworth was indeed to become the new manager of Oldham Athletic. “The Echo learns today that there was smoke where there was fire. It will be remembered that we stated yesterday that the Liverpool Football Club manager, Mr. David Ashworth, denied that he was to made successor of Charlie Roberts, the ex-Manchester United captain, who has been acting as manager for Oldham Athletic for two years. To-day we learn by special wire that Mr. Ashworth has signed as manager for Oldham, a side that he spent so many years with and with which he was connected when they finished second in the Football League in 1915. Mr. Ashworth’s earliest managerial work was with Stockport County and he joined Liverpool three years ago. These have been Liverpool’s most successful years, financially and in a playing sense, therefore it will come as a severe shock to all football supporters that Mr. Ashworth has seen fit to leave Liverpool at their zenith and join Oldham in the depths. At any rate all Liverpool will be surprised that a change has been made, for there had been no suggestion of any movement in connection with the Liverpool Football Club for some time.”
It is believed that Mr Ashworth wanted to be near his wife and daughter who were both invalids and lived in Stockport, a mere 11 miles from Oldham. Whether this was the case or not, it was still a shock to football fans across the land. The campaign continued and under the temporary guidance of Matt McQueen the club finished 6 points ahead of Tom Watson’s old club Sunderland to reclaim the title.
What became of Ashworth? Well Oldham never recovered and finished bottom of the division and he took over the hot-seat at Manchester City in July 1924 where he lasted just over one season before joining Walsall. In his latter years he joined Blackpool as a scout and he lived his final days in the seaside town until his death in 1947 at the age of 79.
David Ashworth seemed to have the world at his feet at Liverpool FC, an exciting team which he knew inside out, a board of directors that he got on with and supporters coming through the turnstiles to witness a champion side. Whatever the reason, to walk away from his job and life in Liverpool must have been a huge wrench for Ashworth. He was already a title-winning manager with the club and on the way to another, in different circumstances and even a different era David Ashworth would have achieved so much more in L4.
*Many LFC books and sites understand that David Ashworth was born in Co Waterford in Ireland but Manchester City researcher Gary James believes this is not the case, on the website www.bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk he states:
According to most reports he was born at Waterford in Ireland around 1868, but the 1881 census claims he was actually born in Blackpool. It does appear the Waterford line is incorrect; however the story is a little confusing as by 1881, when he was 13, David was living with his grandmother, Elizabeth Ashworth, at Newchurch, near Rawtenstall in Lancashire. The only other person living at that address was 24-year-old Elizabeth Alice Ashworth who was described as Elizabeth’s daughter. As the surname of all three residents are the same, and the two ladies were both born in Newchurch, it seems likely that David was living with his paternal grandmother and auntie.