The mid to late '90s didn’t seem like a stellar period for Liverpool at the time, but looking back on them now will leave many Reds fans feeling more than a little nostalgic.
Consecutive league finishes of fourth, third, fourth, third and then seventh in the five seasons before the 1999/2000 campaign would be broadly accepted as somewhat of a success in these days of multi-team Champions League qualification, but back then Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier’s teams were largely looked upon as also-rans.
They did, however, contain top-class players such as the prolific Robbie Fowler, an extremely young and even more promising Michael Owen and an exciting wide player by the name of Steve McManaman, who blossomed in those five aforementioned seasons before moving on a free transfer to Real Madrid.
Fast-forward to the here and now, and whilst the names of Evans, Houllier, Fowler and Owen don’t look like returning to Anfield any time soon, could we soon be seeing a McManaman back in the famous red shirt?
Wigan Athletic’s Callum McManaman―a distant relative of Steve’s and the man of the match in the relegated Latics’ remarkable FA Cup final victory over Manchester City at Wembley earlier this month―is interesting current Reds boss Brendan Rodgers as reported by the Daily Express. The Northern Irishman could do a lot worse as he seeks to ramp up his remodelling of the squad during the summer transfer window.
Liverpool’s transfer policy has largely been based around young, promising and more often than not British players during the regime put in place by owners Fenway Sports Group, and there is no doubt that McManaman ticks all of those boxes.
The youngster had been called into the England under-21 squad for the summer’s European Championship finals in Israel, but will miss the tournament due to an ankle injury. Nevertheless, the call-up was a just reward following a breakthrough season which featured him scoring three times on Wigan’s ultimately successful run to the FA Cup final.
The flip side of that remarkable Wembley success was of course relegation to the Championship for Wigan, and with that raising question marks over several of their prized assets―including manager Roberto Martinez of course―Liverpool might have to move quickly in order to wrap up a transfer should Rodgers want to add the wide man to the squad.
Although initially infamous this season for that challenge which so endangered the health of Newcastle United’s Massadio Haidara, it is unfair to simply tarnish the Liverpool-born McManaman with that mistake throughout his fledgling career.
He’s proven himself to be promising Premier League performer, and Liverpool need as many of those as they can get their hands on.
Whilst Reds fans will of course be desperate to see plenty of the world’s biggest names queuing up outside Liverpool’s Melwood training ground this summer, the club simply have to accept that without Champions League football they can’t attract them.
Right now they are in a position where they need to take a few calculated gambles on young players who can go on and achieve much for them in the future, and whilst some of those gambles have proven to be expensive mistakes―i.e. Andy Carroll―others certainly look like paying off―i.e. Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson.
The 22-year-old McManaman surely wouldn’t command a transfer fee as big as the ones that Liverpool paid for those players, but viewed as a lively squad addition he certainly makes some appeal.
With young players such as Raheem Sterling and the club’s newest first-team debutant Jordon Ibe likely to impress in those wide positions next season you could say that McManaman isn’t needed, but he’d fit in well in a rapidly evolving squad.
Just as his namesake did in the mid to late '90s, when Liverpool reached highs that they’d love to sample again next season.