Review: I Don't Know What it is but I love it- Tony Evans

Posted by The 92A on July 22, 2014, 07:33:31 PM

Review- I don't know what it is but I love it- Liverpool's Unforgettable 1983-84 Season by Tony Evans

In his first season as Liverpool manager a reluctant Joe Fagan won a treble that included winning the League, and the European Cup and the League Cup, yet Fagin's achievement, both today and at the time, are rarely lauded by the sporting press and little credit is given to Fagan and the players. Even amongst Liverpool fans there is a tendency to forget the magnitude of what Fagan did and how he achieved it.

This was a time after Liverpool's initial success at home and in Europe and questions were being asked, could an inexperienced, sixty-three)) year old manger with an aging side follow on from Paisley? Gerald Sinstadt had broadcast his famous programme about Liverpool 'The Party's Over' and the vultures were gathering waiting to dine on scraps from this 'declining' giant.

Football hadn't yet be discovered by Laurence and Livinia and Liverpool was in the doldrums with storm clouds gathering which would soon see Liverpool at the centre of a political storm. Attendances were down and the spectre of hooliganism was becoming something of a political football for the establishment. Yet in the midst of this Liverpool have there most successful season to date and both fans and players had something to celebrate. This was a time where fans still had a connection with the players and there's a great story about fans playing against Hansen in the street and not rating him, which I can relate to having once played five-a-side against Sammy Lee in the Vernon Sangster and although he was a few years older thinking what a player,  Evans does a good job explaining both how  accessible the players were and how underrated Lee was. This is the story of a forgotten season on the eve of football being invented by Sky.

If you're a certain age, Souness has always been a difficult character, it's hard to forget a Liverpool manager who sold his story to The S*n but it's difficult to think of a better midfielder who has played the game. He had everything you'd want in a complete midfielder and more, to dismiss him as just a hardman was to miss the point, he could do everything and do it better than anyone else. When you see the real worldclass greats they come with an arrogance that is hard to fake and Souness had it in abundance. He created space in crowded midfields and seemed to sneer at anyone who had the audacity to think they could beat him. His body language and a sneering side glance destroyed opponents as much as his physical prowess. He was the complete midfielder and a leader both on and off the field. No story of that season could be told without him rightly being one of the main protagonists. More than a player, a manager on the field in every sense.

So many of these books about teams seasons are glorified cut and paste jobs, cynically put out to make a bit of money but this book gets it right. Evans, like any fan, has obviously enjoyed talking to the players and getting their point of view. At times it's like being let into dressing room secrets and there is enough in here to spark many a conversation about the direction of the game. For those brought up on Football Manager there's no mention of 442's or 433's, it's there but talked about as it was then, about moving an extra midfielder in to cover an over burdened midfield. Before the European Cup Final in Rome, Liverpool's team talk has nothing in it about  what system Roma play, it's not even mentioned. The team talk's in the book:
1/ Don't let Falcao and Bruno Conte dictate the tempo
2/Shoot on site
3,keep hold of the ball.
And yet Liverpool's opponents know the score, The Brazilian  Cerezo is quoted after the final in Rome:
The English (sic) showed themselves to be a great team, an almost unbeatable team... When they passed the ball to each other, which is undoubtedly their speciality, I seemed to go mad. There was a moment when I felt like a bull in an arena. I couldn't do anything to block their style of play, their passing.
Or Facoa:
Liverpool have two faces.They are a typically English team by temperament, character, commitment. Also for their technical qualities. but they are equally a European team. In some ways similar to Roma. they know more than the usual cross and attack down the middle. They know how to hold onto the ball and look for angular moves. They have very good ball-plying midfielders able to slow down and speed up play.

Liverpool were playing ticki-taka and resting the ball, probing for weakness decades before Barcelona supposedly invented this type of play. Evans not only brings this out but manages to convey the real tension before and during the Roma final. Roma were a Club that had paid the referee £50 000 pounds before their semi-final against Dundee United, in the last round and now were playing against Liverpool in the Final in their own hate filled stadium. Liverpool's achievement was incredible and even knowing the outcome I was still gripped by the enormity of the event and the narrative.

This is good read, any book that slags off Len Griffiths from Bebington gets my vote. Evan's style is enjoyable to read and informative, the subplot, the drinking culture, the training, the diet and the political situation are just as interesting as the main theme and raise plenty of questions for any football fan. The players thoughts, which are integral to the book are interesting without ever being sensationalist. This is the last era where the players still have a connection with the fans and this is brought out well. The books worth a read for any football fan but that applies especially for Liverpool fans. Negatives? The Hen and Chickens, is outside Kirkby not in it and is 'folkloric' even a word, never mind in context of the Bullring and Sammy Lee.

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