In the mid-1990s Kevin Keegan did the unthinkable at Newcastle United. He took a side with the help of new ownership to the brink of winning the Premier League title. He spent wisely in midfield and attack and even had enough room for some flair players at the back.
Undoubtedly the football under Keegan was at it’s beautiful best. Newcastle were often compared to the great Brazil sides of the past in the media and at one point in January of 1996 they were 12 points clear of second placed Manchester United. What happened next is well known but is it history that is about to be repeated.
When you compare Brendan Rogers side with Keegans there are some visible similarities. The 95-96 Newcastle squad was comprised mainly of British talent with a mixture of youth and experience. Newcastle had their own hot headed but brilliant South American forward in the shape of Colombian Faustino Asprilla. He played alongside a Les Ferdinand who was in his prime and scoring freely. They also had their share of continental talent and if you mention the name Philippe Albert to a Newcastle fan, they will undoubtedly regale you with the story of “that chip” against Manchester United.
But for all of their talent going forward it was to be their defensive frailties that lead to a collapse and that would ultimately cost them the Premier League crown.
Under Brendan Rogers this season Liverpool have arguably played the most attractive football in the league. They have also guaranteed themselves Champions League football after a five year absence. Both fantastic achievements but both would pale into insignificance if they were to achieve their first league title in over 24 years. An achievement now seemingly unlikely after a mini collapse and Manchester City’s strong finish.
It must be said that Liverpool at no point this season had a lead anything like Newcastles in the 95-96 season but that being said they have had the same defencive frailties all year. Time and time again pundits questioned Liverpool’s ability to keep a clean sheet and for the last couple of Monday nights Jamie Carragher has struggled to keep his anger bottled up when analysing their fixtures on Sky Sports.
Brendan Rogers face after the three all draw at Crystal Palace had many people reminiscing about those 4-3 fixtures played between Liverpool and Newcastle in 96 and 97 respectively. Whilst surrendering a 12 point lead was unforgivable for Newcastle back then, so was giving away a three goal lead against a side seemingly with nothing to play for on Monday for Liverpool.
Liverpool fans can be pleased overall with the progress made this season but know next year will be a much tougher assignment with Champions League football for the squad to contend with. Just as Newcastle will have felt all those years ago this may have been Liverpool’s best ever chance at securing a Premier League title. They will hope that they do not fade away as Keegan’s Newcastle did.
(This post was submitted prior to the final game of the season)