Anfield last night payed tribute to one of the most iconic football managers of all time, as the club marked the 50th Anniversary since the great Bill Shankly took charge of the club and made history during an incredible and awe-inspiring 15 years at the helm of the Merseyside giants.
The achievements of the club during the 1960’s are still fondly remembered on Merseyside – and probably always will be as the great man took them from the old second division – now the championship, and won three league titles, two FA cups as well as a Uefa cup, a period which kick-started Liverpool’s proud and inspiring history.
What the great man himself would have made of last night’s performance is anybody’s guess, let alone the troubles this great club somehow find themselves embedded in at a time in which most Liverpool fans will be really starting to panic despite last night’s slender 2-1 win over Wigan.
Never did a victory over a club like Wigan draw such a relieved bate of breathe from 45,000 watching kopites, however despite last night’s score line it was far from convincing and if anything highlighted just where Liverpool are right now and what is to be expected as a large and unpleasant cloud looms over Anfield and does not look like going away anytime soon.
The pre-match and half-time celebrations that took place at Anfield last night just goes to show how this iconic football figure will never be allowed to be forgotten. The pre-match mosaic on the kop spelt out the words ‘Shanks – The Legend’ a fitting tribute which was followed by players, now labelled legends of Liverpool’s past, graced the hollowed turf at half-time along with members of Bill Shankly’s family.
The current crop of players have a long way to go before they can be even spoken in the same breath as the likes of Ian St John, Steve Heighway and Kevin Keegan. Last night’s performance showed how far Liverpool have fallen since those days of the 1960’s.
At times last night, Liverpool players looked uninterested, unmotivated and during periods even clueless as to how to try and perform in front of those legends watching in the stands. They certainly did not produce anything that inspired the watching Kop, as Anfield was as quiet as it has ever been with the odd Steven Gerrard chant and even the odd one for manager Rafa Benitez although it’s obvious that chant does not draw the same passion and emotion it did 12 months ago.
David Ngog put the home side ahead after nine minutes when the Frenchman glanced in a Fabio Aurelio cross after ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland had failed to palm the ball away to safety.
The early goal should have got Liverpool going, but if anything it only drew a more laboured approach from the men in red as they seemed quite happy to play the ball backwards to defenders Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, an approach which did not win favour from the crowd.
Liverpool’s defence has been wobbly at best this season and as the game wore on the away side looked as though they could sense nerves arising from the home players. The centre back pairing of Agger and Skrtel again looked fragile and Paul Scharner will feel he should have put Wigan level with a point blank header.
The home side’s slow and static approach did not please the home fans and when the biggest cheer of the night did arrive it was due to the arrival onto the pitch of Fernando Torres who drew a rapturous standing-ovation from the crowd as he replaced the ineffective Ngog. If any of the current Liverpool players comes close to mirroring the affection shown by the home fans towards the legends that stepped onto the pitch at half time, it is him and it is clear that affection is not a one-way thing.
The darling of the Kop made an instant impact, first winning the home side a corner from his first touch, before going on to double Liverpool’s lead. The Spaniard making his 100th appearance for the club, burst through on the Wigan goal before rounding Chris Kirkland and despite the best efforts of Titus Bramble who blocked the striker’s first attempt, Torres made no mistake with the second as he collected the loose ball before tapping home.
There was still time though for that Liverpool defence to again reveal the frailties that have become of it this season when Charles N’Zogbia was inexcusably allowed to dribble the ball past three Liverpool defenders before firing home however the homes side despite a nervy finale managed to hold on.
A win is a win but for manager Rafa Benitez this must be the start of a new beginning for Liverpool or he may begin to feel himself being pushed further and further towards the Anfield exit door.