Author Topic: Joe Fagan was more than a glorified copilot. He validated the Liverpool Way  (Read 36717 times)

Offline koolkamal

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Joe Fagan was more than a glorified copilot. He validated the Liverpool Way

On the 10th anniversary of his death, Gregg Roughley argues that Liverpool's second European Cup-winning manager should be more widely appreciated



Joe Fagan celebrates Liverpool's 4-2 penalty victory over Roma in the 1984 European Cup final at Rome's Olympic Stadium. Photograph: Popperfoto.com

It's 10 years to the day since the former Liverpool manager Joe Fagan died aged 80. And while the brief but brilliant contribution of winning the League Cup, the league title and the European Cup in his first of only two seasons might be forgotten outside Merseyside, on the Kop it is cherished, affording him the hallowed status of the club's more famous fathers.

When Bob Paisley retired in 1983 the then Liverpool chairman, John Smith, had enough confidence in the burgeoning bootroom ethos to give Fagan the job. Despite having absorbed the managerial genius of Paisley, to whom he was assistant manager and Bill Shankly, whom he worked with as a coach in almost 30 years at the club, Fagan's only previous experience as a manager was long behind him at non-league Nelson in the 1950s.

That Fagan accepted the job is something for which Liverpool fans should be eternally grateful. The straightforward 59-year-old Scouser may have appeared to be the natural successor, but he was a reluctant one, saying of the Anfield job: "It's lonely up there." At only two years Paisley's junior, he was hardly a long-term option and admitted to feeling more at home enjoying the banter with players in training at Melwood than the rigours of succeeding a manager who had just won six league titles and three European Cups in only nine years, a record not even Mr. Ferguson has matched.

A 31-year-old Kenny Dalglish may have had the innate ability to cope with managing Liverpool but, in 1983, he was still busy terrorising defences with Ian Rush. Whether Smith ever considered the possibility of recruiting an outsider is not known, but that Fagan understood it was his duty to "wearily climb the steps", as Dalglish once said of Fagan's promotion, is. His remarkable success in his first season (1983-84) would do more than justify Smith's faith, it would also play a huge role in validating what has since become known as the Liverpool Way.

To his detractors Fagan was nothing more than a glorified co-pilot keeping an unstoppable machine pointed in the right direction. But that does the man a disservice. Liverpool's dressing-room was a strong one, with the experience of Graeme Souness, Phil Neal and Dalglish accompanied by some old-headed younger players such as Alan Hansen, Steve Nicol and Ronnie Whelan. Fagan was not merely brought in as a cheerleader, he was appointed because he was respected by a group of players of whom many had been used to getting what they wanted on and off the field for the best part of a decade. To walk into such a situation and have the strength of character to make telling decisions was not easy. The league campaign was a fiercely contested one. Manchester United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton and QPR ran Fagan's side close.

An embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Coventry City in the first half of the season could have sewn the seeds of doubt in Fagan's mind that he was a nothing more than a No2 and not up to the task, but by the turn of the year Liverpool were top by two points and heading towards a 15th league title. Using the much-maligned Michael Robinson as a third attacker was a shrewd move too, keeping the formation fresh and giving the young striker the experience he would need to deputise for Dalglish who missed nine weeks of the run-in with a shattered cheekbone caused by the elbow of Manchester United's Kevin Moran.

Fagan also dropped Dalglish in his two-year spell. Perhaps it is this painful memory that prompts the Scot more than any other Liverpool player or manager to recite the old adage that no player is bigger than the club, another vital component of the Liverpool Way. Liverpool's remarkable run in the European Cup, in which they did the rarest of things at the time and tore apart the Portuguese champions Benfica at the Stadium of Light, winning 4-1, culminated in a final against Roma at their home ground, the Stadio Olimpico .

A baying atmosphere made it feel like an away match for Liverpool, but they were 1-0 up after only 13 minutes when Phil Neal pounced on a fumbled cross by Franco Tancredi. Roberto Pruzzo's equaliser before half-time led to a cagey second-half and extra time, finally culminating in penalties. Despite 70,000 hostile Romans willing Liverpool to miss every kick, it was the 'home' side who suffered. Fagan's quiet word with Bruce Grobbelaar, instructing him to do what he could to put off Roma's penalty-takers, worked a treat. The eccentric goalkeeper's spaghetti legs routine gave Francesco Graziani the wobbles, forcing him to shank Roma's fourth penalty hurtling over the bar to secure Liverpool a fourth European Cup.

Fagan did not allow Liverpool's players to celebrate for long. "Here are the Championship medals. If you qualified for one, take one," he told his squad after their short summer break. "The trophies we won last season, the European Cup, League Championship and League Cup are gone. In the past. We start again. We're European champions. We have to defend our title."

He quietly replaced Graeme Souness with Jan Molby, arguably the finest passer of a football to wear a red shirt (Xabi Alonso included). It was a signing that would benefit Dalglish as manager more than Fagan, but showed that he had a keen eye for a footballer and was more than just a coach.

Perhaps it was because Fagan, who never actually played for the club, was so steeped in the Liverpool Way that he resigned in May 1985. "Second is nowhere", was Shankly's motto. That's where Liverpool finished in the league following his treble-winning season. His decision was taken in the days leading up to the horrors of Heysel, in which 39 Juventus fans died after Liverpool fans caused a wall to collapse during fighting before the match. Liverpool lost the final in Brussels 1-0. Not that it mattered after what had gone before.

While the red half of the city was paralysed by guilt, Fagan showed his strength of character, It was he who spoke for the football club at a memorial service at Liverpool's catholic cathedral when others could not. "We pray for their families and friends who have suffered through bereavement," he said in his warm Liverpudlian lilt. "We pray that the sporting spirit, so treasured on Merseyside, may never be lost to violence or bitterness." Perhaps it is because Dalglish learned from Fagan that the responsibility of

being a football manager sometimes goes beyond making football decisions that he was able to hold the club together so bravely in the aftermath of Hillsborough.

That Fagan's glorious cameo should end on such a sombre note is a crying shame. But his work at Liverpool was done. His success emboldened the board to once again recruit from within: a decision that is still benefiting the club to this day.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2011/jun/30/joe-fagan-liverpool-manager-remembering?CMP=twt_gu
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Offline redrockydennis

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Boss article. Joe Fagan is the manager i remember most growing up as a kid, back when every season's end i seemed to be stood by the esso garage on queens drive waiting to see Liverpool FC bring back trophies. Happy days.
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Offline ABJ

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Great article, 2 european cup finals in 2 seasons as a manager says it all really plus a treble as well.
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Offline youll never walk alone it

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lovely man, an did a great job the short time he was here, think heysel took a big toll on him.
Im drunk  but i havent had  a drink!  bob paisley after rome 77                The times i had here wernt all great, we only  finished 2nd one  season....the great  bob paisley

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Offline Malaysian Kopite

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Great article. Fagan's achievements are too often glossed over by the achievements of Shanks, Bob, Kenny, Ged and Rafa.
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We've won 18 titles, 5 European Cups, 7 FA Cups, but today must be the greatest victory of all.

Offline i_wun_bite

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Fagan is boss.

Offline MiserableP15

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Quality write up.

Incidentally, there's a nice little summary of each of our managers in the publication sent out with the membership renewals. Makes for an informative, pleasant and easy read.
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Offline redleyther

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Quality Read .. i too seem to remember to Fagan days more as i was born in the early 70's  ..  ;D

Offline Spirit_of_Istanbul

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Great read.. RIP Joe
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Offline Hazell

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Gread read. Thanks for posting.
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Offline timmyonions

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Good article.Joe was a fine football man and like all in the bootroom,knew the game very well and bravely took on the job following Bob Paisley.His achievements are glossed over and that is a big injustice to him.He never got the credit he deserved for the treble.It was some achievement.

R.I.P. Uncle Joe.
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Offline rafathegaffa83

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Great piece. An often overlooked and unheralded figure. Deserves more credit than he often receives.

Offline El Diablos

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That is a lovely, touching and respectful artcle paying due regard to one of Anfield's greats. The writer is Gregg Roughley, not heard of him before, but good on him.

Joe was a humble man of warmth and wit but also a magnificent coach and manager. I doubt anyone will achieve again what he did in his debut season as manager.

The bootroom was fundamental to our success, its principles of modest dedication, expertise and collective responsibility are inherent in the dna of the Liverpool Way. We're very fortunate that we have Kenny back so that magnificent inheritance of the bootroom is alive and kicking.

RIP Joe, you'll never walk alone.

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I remember thinking that the world would end when Bob retired....then along came Joe and the show rolled on.

Not only a great football man but a genuine nice guy.

Offline Del_c

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great article and a great man....

true reds don't forget our own

Why did Souness want to destroy a legacy? Hopefully Kenny will re-introduce the old values with involving Carra & Stevie G into a new generation of boot room philosophies.

Was it not quoted that football is an easy game - but people make it complicated?

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Will always remember the win in Rome. One of those great nights in front of the tv when I was a kid.

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Offline its cold in the stands

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joe was vital to the success of this club, joe was the talker, he was the man the players went to when they had a problem.
he was very level headed and didnt get carried away, after a bad defeat and the harsh words were flying around joe was the one who got everyone pulling in the same direction again, and on the other side of the coin after a great win he made sure the players didnt believe their own press.
shankly and bob needed joe.
joe was the epitome of the liverpool way, when the going got tough he was at front sorting everything out, when the prizes and plaudits were being handed out joe put his cap on and slipped quietly out the back door.
i remember a story one of our players told about when we drew with bayern munich at their ground to get to the european cup final, after the game all the players and bob paisley were in the players lounge celebrating and having a drink and a chinwag with the bayern players and staff when someone noticed that joe was nowhere to be seen, bob sent a couple of players to find him and they found him outside the cleaners cupboard putting the mop and mop bucket back into the cupboard, he`d just brushed and mopped the corridors where the players had walked with their muddy boots.
when they asked him why he did it he just said `we are guests here lads, it costs nothing to be repectful`
we were the best club in europe at the time and he was our assistant manager.


Offline fowler9_god

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joe was vital to the success of this club, joe was the talker, he was the man the players went to when they had a problem.
he was very level headed and didnt get carried away, after a bad defeat and the harsh words were flying around joe was the one who got everyone pulling in the same direction again, and on the other side of the coin after a great win he made sure the players didnt believe their own press.
shankly and bob needed joe.
joe was the epitome of the liverpool way, when the going got tough he was at front sorting everything out, when the prizes and plaudits were being handed out joe put his cap on and slipped quietly out the back door.
i remember a story one of our players told about when we drew with bayern munich at their ground to get to the european cup final, after the game all the players and bob paisley were in the players lounge celebrating and having a drink and a chinwag with the bayern players and staff when someone noticed that joe was nowhere to be seen, bob sent a couple of players to find him and they found him outside the cleaners cupboard putting the mop and mop bucket back into the cupboard, he`d just brushed and mopped the corridors where the players had walked with their muddy boots.
when they asked him why he did it he just said `we are guests here lads, it costs nothing to be repectful`
we were the best club in europe at the time and he was our assistant manager.



Great story. Thanks for sharing.
Justice for the 96

Offline xerxes1

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I don't know who doesn't rate him?

He is one of only three managers in the English game ever to have won a senior treble. Only Houllier has matched him in one season with a junior treble.A legend.
« Last Edit: July 1, 2011, 09:01:31 am by xerxes1 »
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Never underated by me, a true Legend, and gentleman.  God bless you Joe.   R.I.P.  Y.N.W.A.
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Offline micksmith

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Fantastic piece. Very insightful for those who only know care to remember Shankly, Paisley and Dalglish.

Blood Red till he died that man.

RIP Joe.

Offline RedinExile

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Total legend, don't know anyone who says otherwise, though it was a different era then.

The idea of some of the thick cnts on here wanting him out cos sky wanted him replaced for doing things the liverpool way makes you glad he's from a time gone by. Great broom story, thanks for that icits.

Also, said it many times, how do we ever replace John Smith/Peter Robinson? What legends.
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Offline keyo

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reading dalglish's autobiography and alot of that article is reflected in there.....great coach and assistant to paisley, reluctantly stepped up because he believed it was his duty and that the club was more important than himself, and did a fantastic job whilst he was there, 2 years 3 trophies, 2 european cup finals, transitioning the squad too to replace souness in 84....one of the most important people in our history and devastating that his last game was such a tragedy, a man who cared about the club so deeply.....favourite picture of joe is him on a sun lounger with the european cup, think it was 84 in rome, looked so proud!!!
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Offline Danny_

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joe was vital to the success of this club, joe was the talker, he was the man the players went to when they had a problem.
he was very level headed and didnt get carried away, after a bad defeat and the harsh words were flying around joe was the one who got everyone pulling in the same direction again, and on the other side of the coin after a great win he made sure the players didnt believe their own press.
shankly and bob needed joe.
joe was the epitome of the liverpool way, when the going got tough he was at front sorting everything out, when the prizes and plaudits were being handed out joe put his cap on and slipped quietly out the back door.
i remember a story one of our players told about when we drew with bayern munich at their ground to get to the european cup final, after the game all the players and bob paisley were in the players lounge celebrating and having a drink and a chinwag with the bayern players and staff when someone noticed that joe was nowhere to be seen, bob sent a couple of players to find him and they found him outside the cleaners cupboard putting the mop and mop bucket back into the cupboard, he`d just brushed and mopped the corridors where the players had walked with their muddy boots.
when they asked him why he did it he just said `we are guests here lads, it costs nothing to be repectful`
we were the best club in europe at the time and he was our assistant manager.



It was a different era back then, wasn't it! Football hadn't sold its soul yet and the Sky generation did not exist.  I remember Joe Fagan because he was the manager when I began supporting the club (I was five years old).  Back then, we were expected to win the league every year and we hadn't done it in (I think it was 1985) so there was talk of Joe being replaced by some in the media.  But we were still in the European cup final.  I remember the scenes, watching the Juventus fans rampage after our fans had done what they did.  And then (I think it was Schilachi..er spelling) diving into the penalty box at the start of the game from about a yard outside it and being awarded that penalty.  It was a sad way for Fagan to depart but if he hadn't, we might not have gotten Kenny.  He sounds like he was a man with great character.  You would struggle to find a similar story in the modern era.

Offline alfonso

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I don't know who doesn't rate him?

He is one of only three managers in the English game ever to have won a domestic treble. Only Houllier has matched him in one season with a junior treble.A legend.

No manager has ever won a 'domestic treble'.

A new book is coming out - authorized biography with his grandson involved.
I played with one of his sons, who was at Liverpool in his younger days. But I can't remember his name first name.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Joe-Fagan-Authorised-Biography-Andrew/dp/1845135504
« Last Edit: July 1, 2011, 07:35:29 am by alfonso »
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  I remember the scenes, watching the Juventus fans rampage after our fans had done what they did.  And then (I think it was Schilachi..er spelling) diving into the penalty box at the start of the game from about a yard outside it and being awarded that penalty. 
Two things,firstly the Juventus fans were at least as guilty of ours of the violence that took place,secondly,it was Zbigniew Boniek the Polish cheat extraordinaire that dived two yards outside of the box-Schillaci signed for Juventus four years later.
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Offline keyo

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It was a different era back then, wasn't it! Football hadn't sold its soul yet and the Sky generation did not exist.  I remember Joe Fagan because he was the manager when I began supporting the club (I was five years old).  Back then, we were expected to win the league every year and we hadn't done it in (I think it was 1985) so there was talk of Joe being replaced by some in the media.  But we were still in the European cup final.  I remember the scenes, watching the Juventus fans rampage after our fans had done what they did.  And then (I think it was Schilachi..er spelling) diving into the penalty box at the start of the game from about a yard outside it and being awarded that penalty.  It was a sad way for Fagan to depart but if he hadn't, we might not have gotten Kenny.  He sounds like he was a man with great character.  You would struggle to find a similar story in the modern era.

joe resigned before heysel, and the board met with dalglish before heysel to appoint a successor, so replacement was because of je retiring...that is one thing.....and the second thing is that in that final juve were not to faulted...boniek was fouled by thompson for a foul,,,outside  the are, not inside, ref give it inside, shit decision, suited uefa, as did other decisions

the celebrations, awarding the cup etc. look distasteful but at the end of the day, we say we knew nothing of deaths/damages as was said at the time....uefa have no excuse but both lfc and juve need to be considered in similar light
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Offline xerxes1

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No manager has ever won a 'domestic treble'.

A lazy and inaccurate description on my part which you were right to correct.

The "senior" trebles won only by Fagan, Houllier and Whiskeynose stand as huge achievements in thier own right, as evidenced by their rarity.
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joe resigned before heysel, and the board met with dalglish before heysel to appoint a successor, so replacement was because of je retiring...that is one thing.....and the second thing is that in that final juve were not to faulted...boniek was fouled by thompson for a foul,,,outside  the are, not inside, ref give it inside, shit decision, suited uefa, as did other decisions

the celebrations, awarding the cup etc. look distasteful but at the end of the day, we say we knew nothing of deaths/damages as was said at the time....uefa have no excuse but both lfc and juve need to be considered in similar light
think it was gary gillespie who gave it away. thommo didnt play that night

im not too pissed about not winning that, partly cos it was years before i followed us and i think we know the other reasons why.

i dont think the players were too bothered about it either and i couldnt blame them. i saw a documentary a few years back. Ronnie Whelan was creamed out of it in the box, stone wall penalty. ref said to him "theres no way im letting this go into extra time". whelan said he didnt bother arguing.

football was the loser than night
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A lazy and inaccurate description on my part which you were right to correct.

The "senior" trebles won only by Fagan, Houllier and Whiskeynose stand as huge achievements in thier own right, as evidenced by their rarity.

I seem to remember you made this mistake a few weeks ago in another thread. Cant be arsed digging it out though as its not important.

Dont remember Joe being in charge but I've never underestimated his contribution as a manager. To take over from Paisley then lead a team to the treble in the first season is fucking unbelievable. Back when the Milk Cup was a trophy that people wanted to win(even though people call it a mickey mouse cup now, apart from last season, when is the last time a top 4 team didnt win it?) We won it beating Everton in the final, Won the European Cup in Rome against Roma, and won the league. It absolutely pisses me off when people, and I'm talking about Liverpool fans, dismiss this achievement as it's not the Sky Sports Mr Alex treble. Brian Reade is a culprit of this too.
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now folks lets not go on about heysel cos joe fagan doesnt deserve to be remembered for that.

so some of my favorites about joe. allegedly after a cup defeat against Brighton the story goes that Fagan was very quiet going home when all of a sudden he pulled the team bus over at a pub and asked the players to come in. the players were confused and even more so when fagan bought the first round for everyone. a hush continued when fagan orders another round. the players gather around. fagan takes a gulp of his drink "now lads. this isnt going to happen again is it"

point was taken, we lost twice in the remaining 27 games winning 3 trophies.

another one was a weird one. in rafas first season i think my brother was getting disillusioned following us. but he soon copped on. he said he was asleep one night and next of all joe appeared in his dream telling him he had to keep going. he had to keep following the club. he just had to and hed soon know why. shortly after we won the european cup.

heres a few pics of Joe. I in particular love the ones with the european cup by the pool.
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heres a few pics of Joe. I in particular love the ones with the european cup by the pool.

One of my all time favourite Liverpool pics
Craig Burnley V West Ham - WEST HAM WIN - INCORRECT

Offline paulrazor

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One of my all time favourite Liverpool pics
nothing says awesome like sitting by a pool with a european cup
yer ma should have called you Paolo Zico Gerry Socrates HELLRAZOR

Offline Alex Raisbeck

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boniek was not a cheat, he was fouled when clean through on goal, outside the bos yes, but fouled and to be honest deserved a penalty
How? He was outside the box!
Back on topic,Fagan isn't recognised simply due to the fact he only managed us for two years and probably escapes the mind of supporters of other teams-he's remembered fondly by our supporters which is all that counts.
"How many lives has Liverpool skipper? 'Tis a puzzle that's hard to unravel; Each game he plays is the game of his life''....

Offline The Red artist.

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boniek was not a cheat, he was fouled when clean through on goal, outside the bos yes, but fouled and to be honest deserved a penalty

Wasnt a pen lad, simple. But we had to lose.
Y.N.W.A....J.F.T.96.

Offline scatman

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rip Joe

Great article, hopefully we return to those ways
Would sacrifice Fordy in a sacred Mayan ritual to have him as the next Liverpool manager
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Offline keyo

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think it was gary gillespie who gave it away. thommo didnt play that night

im not too pissed about not winning that, partly cos it was years before i followed us and i think we know the other reasons why.

i dont think the players were too bothered about it either and i couldnt blame them. i saw a documentary a few years back. Ronnie Whelan was creamed out of it in the box, stone wall penalty. ref said to him "theres no way im letting this go into extra time". whelan said he didnt bother arguing.

football was the loser than night

my mistake....and agree entirely about the rest of it........shame for fagan that his last game was heysel, he deserved so much more....love the pics too, the one by the pool was always a favourite
« Last Edit: July 2, 2011, 06:06:14 am by keyo »
Joey's ate the frogs legs, made the swiss roll, now he's munchin' gladbach!!

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The boot room was a machine. It wouldn't have ran properly without all the cogs.
"A peasant you are. A peasant you will remain. And we shall use all our wealth and power, to make your lot even worse and keep you exactly where you are, Bondage!"    The Boy King, Richard II, after  putting down the The Peasants Revolt in 1381.

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The boot room was a machine. It wouldn't have ran properly without all the cogs.
This

OP great read Joe was simply a huge part of TLW RIP fella

Offline Haemoglobin

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Ever since I got my much-cherished (and presumably lost forever :'() massive red illustrated history of LFC book for my 13th birthday, and then just a bit later read Dalglish's autobiography, I've held Fagan in very high esteem, definitely in there amongst Shankly, Paisley and Dalglish as the true greats who shaped and helped maintain our supremacy for so long.

There are fans I've spoken to who, although they claim to appreciate his stint in charge, consider him as something of a footnote in our most successful period, as if inheriting that side from Bob somehow diminishes his acheivements for the quite brief time he was at the helm. I've never understood that attitude, as it's so easy to fuck things up if you aren't highly capable for the role you're thrust into; e.g. Souness.
Joe ran as strong a leg as anyone could ever've hoped for before passing the baton to Kenny. I respected the efforts of Evans and Houllier, but for me only Rafa really looked like potentially coming anywhere within reach of our own 'Big Four'.
« Last Edit: July 3, 2011, 10:11:07 am by Haemoglobin »
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