Trophies are key for Klopp
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on February 27, 2016
In a footballing landscape where monetary gain is often perceived as a priority, the simple things are often neglected.
Extra TV money that a Champions League place awards clubs would be preferred by owners, directors and even some fans, when compared to winning what some would call a ‘minor’ trophy. However, for all the things that a top four finish can help you buy, winning trophies gives you something that your TV money cannot – a habit of winning.
The League Cup has suffered some indignity over the years under various aliases, with second and even third-string sides being fielded by managers with their eyes fixed on more coveted prizes and league finishes. Worthington Cups, Carling Cups and Capital One Cups have been handed to various clubs, but to no club more so than Liverpool. On eight occasions the Reds have lifted the trophy, not all of which were followed by further trophy-laden success. 2012’s penalty shootout is the most recent example of this, illustrating how although lovely on the day, a League Cup win is often not much more useful than to simply improve the answer to the question; ‘when was the last time your club won a trophy?’ Yet, looking back a little further than that Charlie Adam-era, the boost a League Cup win has given the club before is remarkable.
The year is 2001, Gerard Houllier’s Reds have just beaten Birmingham City in the Worthington Cup final, making future-Toffee Andy Johnson cry in the process. It was to be the first trophy in an incredible spell where Liverpool won six trophies in two years, with a belief that the squad would pick up silverware clearly present from the moment Sander Westerveld saved Johnson’s decisive penalty.
A dipping half-volley from Robbie Fowler also marked the occasion which signified the start of that group of players’ lust for silverware. The ‘Michael Owen’ FA Cup final came a few months later, as the Reds, wearing gold, saw off Arsenal in another magical afternoon in Cardiff. A Gary McAllister inspired UEFA Cup final victory over Alaves completed a cup-treble in that season which, has to surely go down as one of Liverpool’s best since the turn of the millennium.
The storylines and plots of the finals is something that has to be noted. In all three, Liverpool experienced moments that would demotivate many, but fought back to huge rewards in the manner that Rafa’s side had to in years not long after. They conjured up a never-say-die attitude that became a trait of future sides, just like it was of sides from years gone by.
In the League Cup win, Birmingham City equalised with minutes left of extra-time, making their opponents who were overwhelming favourites, do it the hard and darn-right nerve-wracking way on penalties. In the FA Cup, a fine Arsenal outfit peppered Liverpool’s defence for 83 minutes and were leading one-nil, before two Michael Owen strikes turned the game round when a runners’ up medal looked the more likely outcome. And finally, a 5-4 thriller in Dortmund secured the treble, in a match where Liverpool squandered a comfortable lead on two occasions, conceding a last minute equaliser from Jordi Cruyff. The previously mentioned heroics from Gary Macca which clinched victory on that night made him, amongst the many other members of that squad, a cult hero among fans – an accolade surely more noteworthy than a top-four finish and lucrative sponsorship deal.
That League Cup win was the first trophy for the majority of that squad. The likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Didi Hamann and Sami Hyypia picked up their first winners’ medals as Reds, all of whom would play their part in a much more famous cup final in Istanbul four years later.
A victory against Manchester City at Wembley would secure the first winners’ medals for all but three of the current playing squad (‘playing’ being the key word, as Jose Enrique would technically make it four), making the clash an opportunity for Klopp’s players to sample trophy success and get a taste for it in the way Houllier’s side did.
The Frenchman’s guidance of that team which won possibly the most wonderful and weirdest treble combination, left somewhat of an understated legacy at the modern Liverpool Football Club, with many players from that crop going on to bigger and better things than that hard-fought League Cup final of 2001. If Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool is to achieve the heights we all hope, Sunday’s League Cup final may just be the perfect place start.