14 December 1959 is a day that will forever be etched into the history books of Liverpool Football Club. The day Bill Shankly joined the club as manager.
Over the span of 15 years, Shankly transformed the club from a team in the English second division to one of the best clubs in Europe, and in the process won 3 first division league titles, 2 FA Cups, 4 Charity Shields and 1 EUFA Cup.
As Shankly retired from football at the age of 60, it was a member of his backroom staff that took over his job – Bob Paisely.
In the nine years that Paisley managed Liverpool, he proved himself to be one of the best managers in England. Such was the success of Paisley with Liverpool, who won six of the nine league titles they contested for during his management, that the manager himself once quoted: Mind you, I've been here during the bad times too – one year we came second. The only season under Paisley in which Liverpool did not win a trophy was his first – the 1974-75 season. Under Paisley, a new era of stars such as Graeme Souness, Ian Rush, Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalgish emerged.
Paisley’s successors didn’t fare much worse either, with Joe Fagan and “King” Kenny Dalglish bringing 13 trophies to the red half of Merseyside between 1983 and 1991.
The departure of Dalglish caused the club to fall into decline – despite having the likes of Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen in their ranks - and in an indifferent 13 year spell, Liverpool only won six major trophies.
The arrival of Rafa Benitez in the summer of 2004 appeared to be something that could have changed the Reds’ fortunes. Although they finished a dismal 5th in the League, Liverpool surprisingly beat Milan in the final at Istanbul to win their 5th European Cup, completing one of the greatest comebacks to win the game on penalties, having trailed the Italian club 3-0 at half time. The following season under Rafa, the club went on to win the FA Cup and the EUFA Super Cup, as well as the Community Shield a year later.
After a couple of unremarkable seasons, Liverpool had one of their finest league performances since the 80s in the 2008-09 season, finishing second – four points off winners Manchester United. The departures of key players Sami Hyypiä and Xabi Alonso, as well as Alvaro Arbeloa the following summer proved to be the reason for yet another decline, with Liverpool finishing in 7th place, causing Benitez to be sacked.
In the following two seasons, Liverpool failed to spark any sort of revival, and even though King Kenny returned, the club only managed 6th and 8th placed finishes in the Premier League. In spite of lifting the Capital One Cup and finishing runners up in the FA Cup, the board thought that it was time to end Dalglish’s second spell as manager.
And only time will tell who Liverpool's next manager will be.
The story of Liverpool is one long history lesson. They seem to be a club stuck in the past. But they need to wake up and realize that the future is in their hands.
These are dark times for Liverpool Football Club. But as the saying goes – It’s always darkest before the dawn.