|Crazy: Wimbledon’s Dave Beasant lifts the FA Cup for Wimbledon in 1988 against all odds. — File Photo|
by Paul Kennedy
May 14 1988 started out as a really good day. The sun was shining, I was 15-years-old and on my way to Wembley Stadium to watch Liverpool win the FA Cup.
The result was a no brainer. Liverpool, the crème de la crème of English football versus Wimbledon. The Crazy Gang.
Liverpool was a team packed with talent. Barnes, Beardsley, Houghton and Hansen. Wimbledon was a team packed with thugs, Vinnie Jones, Andy Thorn, Dennis Wise and some other players no one had ever heard of.
Liverpool would win. They had to win, they were the better team. They could not possible lose.
They lost. By one goal to nil.
My dream day turned into a nightmare. The train journey back north was solemn to say the least.
But you know what? Thirty plus years later, this final will still be remembered as one of the greatest in FA Cup history. Not because of the game itself, that was awful, but because it reminded the world of the beauty of the FA Cup.
Fast forward to 2019 and the strange curse of the letter ‘W’ hit Liverpool once more. It wasn’t Wimbledon that killed their FA Cup hopes this year, it was Wolves.
Last season West Brom knocked Liverpool out of the competition, the year before Wolves again. And the season before that, West Ham. Spotting a pattern here? I just praise the Lord Wycombe Wanders are not in the Champions League nor are any teams managed by Willy Wonka.
But the reason Liverpool were not in the hat for the fourth round draw wasn’t because of some ridiculous superstition or fear of Ws. Far from it. The reason was simple. They were not good enough.
Jurgen Klopp obviously didn’t want to risk his first team players are Liverpool go for league glory so he played a second string. But let’s take a closer look at that so-called second string.
James Milner and Dejan Lovren are regulars in the first team. It wasn’t that long ago Simon Mignolet was number one in the nets. Alberto Moreno has been linked to a big money move to Arsenal and Naby Keita and Fabinho cost Liverpool zillions of đồng in the summer. Up front Daniel Sturridge was the first name on the team sheet for club and country in the not too distant past and when Liverpool signed Divock Origi a few seasons ago he was thought of as one of the brightest young talents in European football.
In fact the only real newbies in the Liverpool line-up were Curtis Jones, Rafael Camacho and Ki-Jana Hoever. And they were probably the best three players on the pitch.
Just to add a little more insult to injury, Liverpool brought on Mohammed Salah and Roberto Firmino, probably the two best strikers in the entire squad.
If Liverpool are crowned champions at the end of the season no one, me included, will give two hoots about getting knocked out of the FA Cup to Wolverhampton Wanderers, but if they don’t, pressure will mount on their German manager.
I understand totally where his priorities lie. There was no way he was going too, or should have, risked his superstars in the Cup.
And I don’t think that it’s disrespecting the competition by any stretch of the imagination to play a second string. But maybe what Klopp would have been better doing was not play a second string, but a third. Or even a fourth string.
Right now those players on the edge of the first eleven don’t seem happy. In fact they seem to me, if last night’s performance was anything to go by, like a bunch of sulking prima donna’s who have hurled their rattles out of their gold plated, diamond encrusted, top-of-the-range, turbo-charged prams.
If Liverpool do win the league this season it won’t be down to just 11 players. It will be because of the likes of Sturridge, Moreno et all who step-up when they are most needed.
And judging by their performances in the FA Cup, there’s more chance of Hoàn Kiếm Lake freezing over in the week the Premier League title is decided. — VNS