Growing up, my best mate was a United fan. I was never envious of his club, god no, but I was envious of his large collection of season reviews on VHS/DVD. He grew up with countless league title victories, cup wins and *shudders* even the treble, plenty of options to sit back and reminisce over seasons full of glory in the school holidays. Up until 2005 I had one cherished season review and that, of course, was our very own version of the treble in 2001. I loved that video, I remember so many little snippets from it. Gerrard “arrowing” one into the net against West Ham, that Southampton come back at the Dell (Pahars. they’ve done it! They have done it!), Hou let the dogs out? The awesome Barry Davies commentating on the UEFA Cup final; “that’s boys own stuff!” I still don’t actually know what that means, but I used it plenty in the playground commentating on our school games. Ah, memories...
I must’ve played the highlights of that FA Cup final a million times. What a day in the sweltering heat. Paddy Berger’s beautiful pass and vintage Michael Owen! “That, that is just fantastic. He has won the cup for Liverpool, all by himself!” Alas, other than 2005, no other season review has made it into my pitiful collection and it’s safe to say the 15/16 one won’t either.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been full of talking points, and while not worthy of paying money for and watching over and over I felt compelled to at least honour this momentous season with a write up. It’s been a truly mad season for this football club, and for the league in general. We started with Rodgers, finished with Klopp, played in two cup finals, had a player banned for using illegal substances, had some mammoth European nights and watched on as Leicester flipping City won the title. Leicester flipping City winning the title
For me at least, the season began with genuine excitement and anticipation. I’m not the type to always believe we’re going to win the league each season but I genuinely thought that we might be able to rekindle some of the spirit of 13/14 and push all the way. Helped by our seemingly good work in the transfer window.The first big summer signing was Roberto Firmino who managed to get RAWK into a state of frenzy bettered only a few months later when a certain plane carrying a certain German was tracked all the way to Liverpool JLA. I didn’t know much about Firmino but got swept away with the excitement and hoped he might be that Suarez-lite player that we were all crying out for. insert bear gif here
Also in came a young and highly rated Joe Gomez, James Milner, a previously on-loan Divock Origi, Danny Ings, Nathaniel Clyne and of course the irreplaceable Adam Bogdan. Bolton were relegated this season, coincidence?
Amongst the outgoings of course was Raheem Sterling, a boy who had us all behind him until he decided that he was too big for little old Liverpool. A bitter saga concluded that started months before, and I think we can all agree that it was of no sadness to any of us to see the little shit heading for Manchester City.
We seemed to get our business done very quickly and there was a lot of positivity around that maybe there’d be one or two big signings still to come to help push us on. Benteke was always on the radar but certainly wasn’t the fans favourite with the majority preferring the tentative links to Lacazette, Pedro, Vietto and even Rondon who went on to sign for West Brom. However, in came Benteke for £32 million to a mixed reception, the final piece of the jigsaw or another expensive piece that wouldn’t quite fit?
The opening day of the season came around, a return to Stoke who thumped us 6-1 on the final day of the last season, giving Steven Gerrard a rotten end to a wonderful career. A dangerous game against a bogey team; could it kickstart our season or continue the rot that had set in from the season before? I was on holiday in Ibiza and managed to sneak off and watch the game outside on a big screen at an Irish bar. With the sun beating down and the sound of the waves crashing in the background I really could not have been further from Stoke. Phil Coutinho smashed in a beauty to wrap up the points in an otherwise forgettable game and the sound of said waves crashing was replaced by the sound of a plastic seat crashing as a young boy watching with his Dad went flying and ended up on the floor in celebration. He came up smiling, of course. Good lad.
We then went on to record another hard fought win (this time on my birthday) against Bournemouth, a Christian Benteke goal getting the big man off the mark nice and early. A big performance at the Emirates followed and we all wondered if that performance signalled the start of something big. We battered them for the first half but were denied twice by the post in a performance that did hark back to the awesome fluid attacking football displayed in Spring 2014. Perhaps the biggest thing about that day though was how we defended in the second half; Joe Gomez put in a terrific performance and we finally seemed to show some defensive organisation and solidity. A turning point, maybe?
On a high after a solid start to the season, things quickly unravelled. If the 6-1 at Stoke wasn’t the moment that the tide turned against Brendan Rodgers amongst the masses then the 3-0 home defeat to West Ham followed up with surrender at Old Trafford most certainly was. We went on to pick up 4 points from the next two games, scraped our way past Carlisle on penalties at Anfield in the League Cup and secured a couple of okay on paper but grim on the eye points from our opening Europa League fixtures. grim
By the time the derby at Goodison came around I think we all knew Brendan’s time was up sooner rather than later. Rumours flew that a defeat would mark the end for him. I was staunch in his defence but even I was growing concerned with the weakness of the team particularly at Old Trafford. Seeing this lad Firmino we were all so excited about playing left wing back, the old defensive calamities coming back to haunt us yet again, it was inescapably going downhill. However, I didn’t want it to end like this, a man so close to becoming a club legend dismissed a few games into a season. A good performance ensued, Danny Ings putting us ahead before a defensive fuck up (this will be a theme in this write up) cost us. Shortly after the final whistle it was confirmed that Brendan’s time with us was up. It’s a cruel game. Thanks for the memories Brendan.
The show, however, goes on. How i'll remember Brendan Rodgers' time at the club
A lot of the early talk was around Ancelotti and Klopp but cynical old me thought there’d be no way in hell. Dreading a Gary Monk type appointment suddenly the rumours around Klopp were becoming more than rumours. All our journos were on the bandwagon and suddenly I didn’t have to merely rely on some twitter ITKs to keep my spirits up? Gifs were flying around left, right and centre, clips emerged of Klopp’s goal celebrations and interviews. Clips off him flying off a swing and slam dunking a mini basketball through a hoop (Was that even him?!) surely we weren’t going to land this man?
What a coup. A not so gentle reminder to the rest of football that we may be having a baron spell, we might be playing poor football, but we’re still Liverpool Football Club and we can attract the world’s best. Indeed, as happy as we were to welcome Herr Klopp he was privileged to take the role. A match made in heaven. he even got the pilot to spell "5 times"
Much excitement surrounded his arrival and after a steady start of a few draws against tough opponents we absolutely exploded into life in late October/November. A trip to Stamford Bridge saw us go behind courtesy of a defensive fuck up (another one) within a few minutes of kick off and it seemed like we might help Mourinho dig himself out of an almighty hole. Phil Coutinho, our new go-to man, equalised brilliantly on the brink of halftime and we never looked back, scoring another two in the second half and pulling away. See you next season, shitcoat. Shortly after that we went to the Etihad and thumped Man City 4-1, our Brazilian duo of Coutinho and Firmino showing us what they were capable of. Our second goal that day was one of the highlights of the season, starting in their penalty area with a great block, a fantastic challenge then by Milner, a fast attack forward and a little bit of genius in the box. Martin Skrtel, a man who’s had a forgettable season himself, got his highlight of the campaign with a brilliant strike in front of the travelling supporters late on to cap it off.
Later we continued a good run with a tight home victory over Swansea and off we went to Southampton for a League Cup tie. A start for Daniel Sturridge whose return to action was being carefully managed and we all hoped this would be a new start for him. Any plans of that were briefly cast aside when we fell behind before I even had a chance to say “fucking hell, are any of these streams going to work?” Then for some classic Daniel Sturridge. No, he didn’t limp off back down the tunnel, he equalised with a beautiful strike into the bottom corner and then put us ahead after an outrageous side foot pass from Emre Can. A reminder to us all of just what a massive difference it makes to have a lethal striker on the pitch.
That night, Sturridge wasn’t the only one. Despite his young age it had been a disappointing start for Divock Origi. A lot of fans/nobheads were writing him off already on account of his lack of any goals and the fact he was apparently named in a ligue 1 worst performing 11 the year before while on loan at Lille. What do the French know about football? Revitalised under a new manager, the boy Origi slammed in a second half hat-trick. 6-1. gerrin
At this stage, with other sides misfiring, suddenly we wandered into a title challenge. At this point we were 9 points behind the leaders Leicester with a game in hand. But we were basically 7 points off of the leaders Arsenal, because Leicester would inevitably fall away so we could forget about them. A chance to move within 6 points approaching the halfway point was squandered with a dismal showing at Newcastle and a reminder that Jurgen Klopp had a pretty major job to do. Moreno was onside though.
West Brom at Anfield followed that up and although we failed to win, it was something of an early landmark for our new wonderful gaffer. In an earlier defeat to Crystal Palace, Klopp watched on as hundreds of fans left the ground early, effectively surrendering any belief that our team was capable of scoring to an Alan Pardew side. A lack of belief. Belief that Jurgen vowed to bring back, to turn doubters into believers. He said he “felt alone” in that moment. We the fans let him down that day. But we didn’t let him down against Albion. The crowd roared the team on as we had to battle from behind to secure a point. Origi cementing himself as a new crowd favourite with a late, deflected effort. A couple of minutes of injury time still remained and Anfield reached peak noise but sadly there wasn’t quite enough time to score a winner. But it did lead to gratitude from Klopp and the players alike, who came to the Kop to say thank you. Not for the last time this season. together
From that point on the league campaign became the type of wildly inconsistent string of matches that you expect when you bring in a new manager part of the way through a season. Some matches we were electric and there was hope a challenge for Champions League football might yet be on the cards. But those games were usually followed up by dismal performances. The huge scrap to get a point against Arsenal that saw our first Klopp iconic goal celebration in the rain, the astonishing 5-4 at Norwich where Lallana sent us wild and Klopp lost his glasses, the 6-0 at Villa, as great as they all were they were matched in the disappointment of the 3-0 capitulation at Watford in December, the 2-0 surrender at West Ham in early January and the 2-0 defeat by Leicester, who were still set to surely fall away soon.
The league campaign was effectively over in terms of genuinely competing for anything. It was now all about trying to get the system right and to prepare for next season. The cup competitions, however, were hotting up. By February we were into the last 32 of the Europa League and stuttered our way past Augsburg over two legs, a club that depending on where you stand either showed a lot of class and respect or were downright cringeworthy over the course of the tie. I enjoyed it all myself, a nice reminder of how famous this great club of ours is. Then came the League Cup final against Manchester City, within a few months of taking over Klopp had guided us to a final at Wembley courtesy of an extremely nervy evening at Anfield against Stoke, who we eventually saw off on penalties.
Lots of questions remained over the mentality of our team, highlighted not only by their inconsistent performances throughout the season but the manner in which they seemingly collapsed throughout the season before (most famously in the semi against Villa). This was a test of mentality. We went one nil down (yes, courtesy of a defensive fuck up) but battled hard and got ourselves level through Coutinho. Big game player. Big game mentality. Wembley went absolutely mad and we had them on the ropes but couldn't beat them in the extra time period. Penalties ensued. Liverpool don't lose penalty shootouts? We went 1-0 up and they missed their first penalty and for a brief, wonderful moment I thought it was ours. 3 missed penalties later and it was all over. A shattering defeat but one we hoped would make us stronger. Indeed, Klopp said afterwards that you have to lose one to make sure you don't lose another.
That defeat felt like the end of our cup exploits for the season but an even mightier run towards glory ensued. Within a few weeks of the cup final we had two legs of European competition against our fiercest foe to look forward to/dread depending on whether or not Klopp had convinced us to turn from doubter to believer yet. At Anfield they turned up and do what they normally do and make twats of themselves by singing despicable songs and we did what we do best by not rising to it and giving them a good hiding on the pitch instead. An early Sturridge penalty and a great goal finished off by Firmino at the Kop End put us in a commanding position going into the second leg. This time, more of a fight from United. A defensive fuck up (TM) gave them a penalty which Martial promptly stuck away, meaning that for a short while the game was alive. United believed. Believed so much that all they could was sing about us. Until they stopped singing altogether after a moment of pure inspiration from that man Coutinho. A beautiful goal that lead to a second half procession, the away end bounced gleefully and the players looked as comfortable as a Liverpool side ever has at that horrible ground. heroes
The draw was announced and they might as well not have bothered picking the balls out of the pot, it was always going to be Liverpool vs Borussia Dortmund. What a story. And despite our up and down form in the league, what an indicator of how far we were already coming under Klopp. I really liked Brendan Rodgers but I don't think we'd have been in that tie without the experience and management of our new boss. I certainly wouldn't have thought for a second that we might win it. The main aim was to get in and out of Germany with as little amount of fuss as possible, take an away goal and at least give ourselves a chance at Anfield. And then Divock Origi put us 1-0 up. Dreamland. A defensive fuck up, tm, lead to a Dortmund equaliser but we held firm. 1-1 going back to Anfield, what an opportunity.
And what a night. Harking back the run in of 2013-14 the fans met the players on their way in, filling Anfield Road and scaling scaffolding to get a sight of the coaches arriving. Klopp may have felt alone after Palace but he didn't feel alone then. The anticipation built into a crescendo, a brilliant rendition of our anthem had barely stopped being clapped a chorus too soon when we went one nil down. That wasn't in the script. Within minutes we were another goal down. "That was fun while it lasted" I thought to myself. Part of me prepared for the onslaught of rival fans mocking us for making so much effort and noise into the build up only to get pummeled. But we fought, and we fought in a manner worthy of any Liverpool team, any special night of old. The questions over mentality subsided as we dug in, and just after half time Can played a beautiful ball through to Origi who slid it under the keeper. Anfield erupts, game on. 2 goals required. ALL ROUND THE FIELDS, OF ANF- oh for fuck sake. Almost immediately another great Dortmund goal really did seem to kill it.
The crowd went understandably flat, and even when Coutinho made it 3-2 the celebrations were relatively muted in the stands. Coutinho on the other hand issued a rallying call synonymous with Stevie in Istanbul, geeing everybody up, come on lads, we can still do this. And next thing you know, we actually deliver a semi decent corner and Sakho's heading it in for 3-3. Nothing muted about these celebrations, it's fucking on. Surely we're not going to do this? Dortmund seemed reluctant to time waste at all but we just couldn't seem to create anything after 3-3, stoppage time arrived and I almost resented us for getting back into it; it's the hope that kills you. We got a freekick, taken quickly to Sturridge who momentarily went from technically brilliant to full Andy Carroll and you waited for the ball to bobble to a Dortmund player. But no, nutmegs through to Milner, beautiful chipped cross and who else but a fully rejuvenated Dejan Lovren to head home. Absolute fucking bedlam. What a night. Is our name on this trophy? a man vindicated
Still with a semi final to play, all our efforts turned to the Europa League. Weakened sides were named in the league and the likes of Ojo and Stewart were given chances to impress whilst the big boys got a rest for the midweek games. Villarreal were seen as the "easier" of the opponents and I think everyone was happy with the draw. Although xxavi in general sport tried his best to make us believe they were the greatest team ever, we saw them off in style after coming from behind in the away leg and beating them 3-0 at Anfield. Their manager reminded that a 1-0 lead taken to Anfield is barely a headstart at all. Unlackee
And so, our season boiled down to one final game. A European final, the type of night Liverpool FC exists for. There is something so definitively Liverpool as seeing that neutral venue abroad filled to the rafters with red. The sun beating down on the pitch, our banners everywhere. It just felt right. None of us underestimated Sevilla but I think we all felt confident. Winners twice in a row a third would be unprecedented, and this was to be the game that proved this team was good enough to represent this club. It was to represent how far we have come under Klopp. It was to book our ticket into the European Cup proper but most importantly it was to stick another of those beautiful trophies into our already bursting trophy cabinet.
The game was scrappy from the start as a lot of our players seemed frightened to pass the ball as well as we know they can. The tempo wasn't there and we resorted to some long balls. Sevilla were offering nothing though and it always felt like if we could turn our game on, this was there for the taking. A moment of magic from Daniel Sturridge worthy of winning any final put us 1-0 up, outside of the foot, just inside the far post, what a goal. Unfortunately for us, there just wasn't enough time in the half to put it to bed. A Lovren goal disallowed, a cross dying for a touch into the back of the net, another Sturridge chance, but we just couldn't find the second. Half time. Well and truly in control.
I don't know what happened at half time, other than a class rendition of There She Goes by the La's, but what happened next wasn't pretty. We sauntered out onto the pitch and the Sevilla players arrived with purpose, a quick, intense looking huddle ended and the second half kicked off. You know the rest by now. Defensive fuck up, 1-1. From then on, we were completely out of the game. Sturridge was on his own, the midfield had disappeared, we barely strung a pass together in their half. 1-2. 1-3. I wish I could leave this game out of this review.
It was an utter shambles and honestly I don't think a defeat in a final has hurt as much as that one, for me. Athens was a bigger occasion but at least we gave that a good go. Basel 2016 will be remembered for that time we had a UEFA Cup in our hands and we just didn't show up. The nights against United and particularly Dortmund join the Man City 3-2 in 13/14 in the category of games I wish I could look back on and enjoy but they'll only now be associated with how those seasons ended. A painful end to a remarkable season. A season on a knife edge; it could've ended with two trophies and a champions league place, ultimately it ended with two painful cup final defeats and an 8th placed finish in the league.
Ultimately, the story of the season has been of bright new beginnings, amazing potential counteracted by some equally amazing collapses. It is hard to tell what the legacy of this side is until the next few years have happened. Now the dust has settled somewhat on the Europa League defeat it is important to remember that the wins over United, Dortmund and Villarreal weren't really "for nothing", as much as it feels like it. They were signs of life in this football club, in this team, in our supporters. We showed Klopp what the fans can offer him and what extra they can give the team. We showed Europe that nobody should come to Anfield expecting an easy ride. We would never have won those ties a year ago.
Some of these players will be moved on and others have worked so hard and earned their places for next season. The likes of Lovren, Origi and Lallana have been the good news stories from the season. We've also seen Sturridge have a sustained spell back in the side which is a huge plus. Coutinho has stepped it up and while he was unable to impact on the Sevilla game, he has seemed to make a massive contribution in pretty much every other big game we've played. Certain individuals on the other hand have clearly not worked out and not for a lack of trying. We seem to have a very committed bunch, capable of great things, but just missing something
to add some consistency and drag us over the line on the big occasions.
It's been a season of progress. Progress that ended with hurt, but it's progress all the same. We have a manager that any club in the world would take off of our hands. He's now got a summer to bring in his own players. And I have utmost confidence that better nights are ahead, with better endings, and that pretty soon I'll be adding a new season review DVD to my collection. After all, we do have this man.