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Liverpool have come close to the title in the 30 years since they last won it. They were close in 2008/09, even closer in 2013/14 and perhaps even closer still in 2018/19.
But perhaps the one they should’ve won was in 1996/97, as we discussed in the Totally Football Show this week.
So why did the team that were five points clear at the turn of the year, eventually fall so far behind that they finished seven back from a relatively moderate Manchester United, who won the title with only 75 points?
“Two things: firstly I don’t think Roy Evans was good enough a manager,” said Daniel Storey on the Totally Football Show this week. “He was popular in the dressing room but maybe didn’t quite have that discipline to manage the squad as he liked, that subsequent managers had. They took 16 points from the last 12 league games, which was pitiful considering they only finished seven points behind Manchester United.
“The other scapegoat, and probably the more significant scapegoat, was David James, who made a series of clangers and that’s when the ‘Calamity James’ nickname was established.”
Indeed, defender Mark Wright would later say: “That was the season we should’ve won the title and everyone remembers that. It was the season David James dropped a few clangers, and we remember them because in some games he didn’t have anything to do, then all of a sudden thinks he’s got to be involved, he’d come rushing out and all of a sudden you’d be 1-0 down.”
As Matt Davies-Adams said on the Totally Football Show, we can only presume that Wright made absolutely no errors that season. Although we note that while James would get the obvious and perhaps deserved blame for at least two of the goals in their 3-1 defeat to United that season, all three were ultimately unmarked headers in the box. Which is traditionally the purview of the central defender.
Anyway, Daniel Storey continued: “It was a very strange season. Liverpool only lost two games by more than a single goal all season, but in those crux moments of crux matches, either James let them down or they didn’t quite get it over the line.
“I think this is the season, if you speak to Liverpool supporters across that era, that was their chance to end what was at the time a mini drought, but you just felt that missing out that season, they weren’t going to get that chance again.”
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