Picking a Best XI for Every Liverpool Decade Since the 1960s
Football supporters often debate over their team's best XI from their current squad, a difficult enough task in the "game of opinions".
Meanwhile, musing over your team's greatest-ever XI is almost impossible—this is especially the case with Liverpool, whose supporters have been blessed to see such an array of talented players bring success to their club.
Even choosing a "best XI" from each decade proves difficult enough—making you realise just how good we've had it down the years.
For the sake of clarity, players whose careers spanned across one decade into another are chosen in the decade in which they enjoyed greatest success. For instance, Ian Rush played for six years of the '90s but enjoyed his most prolific years during the eighties.
Similarly, a player whose contributions to Liverpool FC were greater is picked over a player whose contributions were less, but their abilities were similar. For instance, Markus Babbel was an outstanding right-back for Liverpool, but Steve Finnan made three times as many appearances and appeared in the Champions League final.
Introducing Liverpool's "best XI" from each of the past five decades...
The decade that saw Bill Shankly's Liverpool revolution, winning the club's first FA Cup in 1965, and two League titles (1964 and 1966).
A team with Ian St. John and Roger Hunt up front certainly wouldn't be short of goals—Hunt scored 42 in 1961-62 campaign, while St. John also chipped in with 20-plus goals in three consecutive campaigns.
The signings of St. John and fellow Scotsman Ron Yeats led the club to success. Shankly later saying "They were the greatest signings and they were the beginning of Liverpool."
In order to have another Liverpool legend—Billy Liddell—in the XI, this side features three forwards, and Ian Callaghan is used from the right rather than his more natural left side. It was the '60s after all, when teams would regularly play with four "forwards."
GK: Tommy Lawrence
RB: Chris Lawler
CB: Ron Yeats
CB: Geoff Strong
LB: Gerry Byrne
RM: Ian Callaghan
CM: Willie Stevenson
LM: Peter Thompson
ST: Billy Liddell
ST: Ian St. John
ST: Roger Hunt
Manager: Bill Shankly
My idea was to build Liverpool into a bastion of invincibility. Napoleon had that idea and he conquered the bloody world! And that's what I wanted; for Liverpool to be untouchable. My idea was to build Liverpool up and up and up until eventually everyone would have to submit and give in.
Bill Shankly's vision began to come to fruition as the club dominated the '70s domestically with four League titles and conquered Europe, winning consecutive European Cups in 1977 and 1978.
This XI features some of the greatest players ever to pull on the famous red shirt for Liverpool. The 1978-79 season saw goalkeeper Ray Clemence concede just 16 goals all season—keeping 28 clean sheets in the process!
The front two of Kevin Keegan and John Toshack, Liverpool's "Batman and Robin" was one of the club's greatest-ever partnerships.
GK: Ray Clemence
RB: Phil Neal
CB: Tommy Smith
CB: Phil Thompson
LB: Emlyn Hughes
RM: Steve Heighway
CM: Terry McDermott
CM: Jimmy Case
LM: Ray Kennedy
ST: Kevin Keegan
ST: John Toshack
Manager: Bob Paisley
If the '70s were the start of Shankly's vision of dominance, the '80s was the decade it was achieved—six League titles, two European Cups, two FA Cups and four League Cups in succession.
Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan were the men who led the club to such unrivalled success, signing some of the most talented names to ever grace Anfield. Entertainment was high, and goals galore were on the agenda.
John Barnes, Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish were all named inside the top five of Liverpool's "100 Players Who Shook The Kop" series.
At the back, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson is rightly regarded as one of the best centre-back partnerships in the club's history, if not the best.
GK: Bruce Grobbelaar
RB: Steve Nicol
CB: Alan Hansen
CB: Mark Lawrenson
LB: Alan Kennedy
RM: Ronnie Whelan
CM: Graeme Souness
CM: Jan Molby
LM: John Barnes
ST: Kenny Dalglish
ST: Ian Rush
Manager: Joe Fagan
Dominated by the "Spice Boys era," the '90s were the least successful years for Liverpool since the 1950s—although, there was plenty of entertaining and attacking football on display as Roy Evans sought to repair the damage done by Graeme Souness' short managerial reign.
Academy graduates Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman in particular were the two who often terrorised opposition defences.
The decade will always be remembered for the two consecutive "4-3 thrillers" against Newcastle United in 1996 and 1997.
Dietmar Hamann gets the nod in midfield alongside Jamie Redknapp despite only arriving late in the decade—meaning there's no place in the side for Danny Murphy. The former England man could perhaps have contended with Patrik Berger on the left of midfield.
FA Cup-winning captain Mark Wright marshals the defence, while Rob Jones was one of the finest full-backs the club has seen but was cruelly plagued by injury.
This isn't the strongest XI of the five, but it certainly would have produced goals and entertainment.
GK: David James
RB: Rob Jones
CB: Mark Wright
CB: Dominic Matteo
LB: Stig Inge Bjornebye
RM: Steve McManaman
CM: Dietmar Hamann
CM: Jamie Redknapp
LM: Patrik Berger
ST: Stan Collymore
ST: Robbie Fowler
Manager: Roy Evans
The decade began with treble cup success under Gerard Houllier's reign and continued with the club's fifth European Cup victory under Rafa Benitez in 2005.
This XI is made up predominantly of Benitez players from the club's best Premier League points total campaign in 2008-09.
That side, featuring the "best midfield in the world" of Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Steven Gerrard, with Fernando Torres up front, should have enjoyed much greater success before Benitez's era came crashing down amid the political turmoil of the George Gillett/Tom Hicks ownership.
GK: Pepe Reina
RB: Steve Finnan
CB: Sami Hyypia
CB: Jamie Carragher
LB: John Arne Riise
RM: Dirk Kuyt
CM: Xabi Alonso
CM: Javier Mascherano
LM: Luis Garcia
AM: Steven Gerrard
ST: Fernando Torres
Manager: Rafa Benitez
There you are; five teams, five decades. Fifty five wonderful footballers who, collectively, won five European Cups, 13 League titles, seven FA Cups and eight League Cups.
Those years saw triumph and tragedy, entertainment and euphoria. Can any football club claim such a storied history?
So which decade was best? Which team would win if they were to play each other? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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