I’m still waiting for my first grandchild and when they arrive I’m not sure how interested they will be in LFC minutiae, but just on the off chance they are I would say this.
Standing at the back are Phil Thompson (Thommo, LFC legend from the all-conquering 70s and early 80s), assistant manager and Gerard Houllier, manager. I didn’t have much faith in this partnership when it was first announced but they proved me wrong and took us on a trophy spree in this season.
In front are a selection of some of the pre-season signings. Back then we used to buy a lot of players and probably had about a 1 in 3 hit rate. On the left is Markus Babbel, a genuine ‘big name’ signing we got from Bayern on a Bosman. Next to him is Bernard Diomede. I had high hopes for him. I remember him as having scored on his debut for us with an overhead kick, but I’ve just looked it up and it was disallowed, apparently. Anyway, he didn’t last long. I think that’s Pegguy Arphexad (?), back up goalie. Then Nicky Barmby, bought from Everton, and finally Gary Mac, passmaster supreme, all-round good guy and scorer of one of the most iconic Merseyside Derby goals ever. A 40 yard free kick to win in the last seconds of the game later in this very season.
When I see this photo I see hope and expectation. Houllier had steadied the ship after the ‘Spice Boys’ era and I remember really looking forward to this season. It ended up being the year we won our very own ‘treble’ and qualified for that new-fangled Champions League thing for the first time.
We had a fair amount of luck in all 3 finals. Beat Birmingham City on penalties to win the League Cup. Then absolutely mugged Arsenal to win the FA Cup 2-1 after Stephane Henchoz had twice blatantly handled the ball to stop goal bound efforts going in. Thank god there was no VAR back then. It was a very hot sunny day and my son, who was 3 years old, and a few of his little pals were playing in the back garden. I had the patio doors open and had been completely silent throughout the entire game because we were being so outplayed. When Owen equalised I let out a scream so loud that all the kids in the garden stopped playing, looked at each other in terror, then burst out crying. Good job the patio door got shut after that because I was fucking delirious when he scored the winner 5 minutes later. Think some items of furniture may have been damaged in the aftermath so I was definitely in the dog house that night.
The UEFA final against Alaves was even more dramatic. Won it 5-4 with an own goal, a ‘golden goal’. At last we were winning things again. It was a really good, fun season that we needed after the drudgery of most of the 90s and will always be one of my favorites.