Liverpool’s transfer policy this season – reportedly to stick with what they’ve got, essentially – may be a wrong one.
That’s what history tells us, anyway. The last truly elite Liverpool sides, going back to the 70’s and 80’s, show the rewards in ‘refreshing’ your team.
Bill Shankly, in particular, battled with this. He stuck with his first great team, that had earned promotion and won the First Division title, for too long. Having won the title in ’66, Shankly didn’t refresh the side at all and wouldn’t win another trophy until ’73, two years after he finally began to change things.
Liverpool under Bob Paisley
Bob Paisley learned from this. Less sentimental than Shankly, Paisley didn’t hesitate moving players on from even his greatest sides.
Paisley sold Ray Clemence after the 1981 European Cup win, for instance, to make way for Bruce Grobbelaar. He had stripped Phil Thompson of the captaincy in favour of Graeme Souness by the end of the following season. Thompson would be out of the team within another year – Mark Lawrenson preferred alongside Alan Hansen.
Terry McDermott started the 1981 European Cup final but he too was gone by the end of 1982.
It’s that kind of ruthlessness and professionalism that brought Paisley such incredible success. The team never stood still, always improving, always hungry.
Kenny Dalglish’s era
It’s interesting to contrast it with the next great side: Kenny Dalglish’s. Dalglish had completely reinvented the team by 1988, transforming it with new players and creating, arguably, the greatest ever Liverpool team.
But then he stopped. The key players of 1991 were the same as in 1988 (plus a returning Ian Rush) and Liverpool’s lack of refreshing left Souness with an enormous job – one he wasn’t up to.
This is only one summer, of course, and Jurgen Klopp and co may change Liverpool’s transfer policy next year. But it’s important to remember the past success Liverpool had. They never stood still, even with some of their all-time greats.
It’s vital Klopp doesn’t stand still, either.