Friday 18 October 2019

Re-living lost years may prove painful for Pool supporters


Dean Goodison: Book review

With what had gone before, the 1990s came as a bit of a shock to Liverpool Football Club. For much of the previous three decades they led the way, racking up European Cups, UEFA Cups, League titles, the list goes on and on. Success was assumed, failure was unacceptable.

Then came a 'lost' decade, when losing became the norm and being 'just another team' was a real possibility. If ever there was a decade not to get 'lost' it was the one that shaped the blossoming football landscape for its seemingly infinite future.

Simon Hughes' book 'Men in White Suits' visits those years under Graeme Souness and later Roy Evans when Liverpool lost their way and others prospered - mainly their bitter rivals from down the East Lancs Road, Manchester United.

The title of the book refers to the 1996 F.A. Cup final when the Reds turned up for the Wembley showpiece against their north-west neighbours wearing Armani white suits. That decision would quickly be tied to the rather unflattering 'Spice Boys' tag they semi-cultivated with their own shenanigans during the lean years.

Hughes' offering very much explains the inner turmoil of a club hierarchy struggling to bridge the gap between the ways of years past and new-found professionalism, and the players who are only too happy to take advantage of the spiralling contracts and glamorous lifestyle.

The structure of the book is quite simple. The chapters, of which there are eleven, are each given over to a player (plus one each for the two managers in question) to talk about their careers, but in particular their time at Anfield.

While it's quote heavy, that doesn't damage the read to any great extent. There are a couple of times when reading you might have an 'oh, who's saying this' moment because of the structure, but this publication wouldn't work any other way.

The content is not strong enough for it to be a storyteller book, so the personalities are needed.

Some of those featured are key players of the time like the under-rated duo of Jamie Redknapp and John Scales. Their stories are a real insight into what was going wrong at Liverpool in the '90s. 'Cult heroes' like Eric Meijer and Nick Tanner have an interesting tale to tell with the former, in particular, coming across really well.

For Irish fans there is one chapter that will be of particular interest. Jason McAteer is one of the most unlikely of national heroes under Jack Charlton and then Mick McCarthy.

He's an affable rogue who is probably most remembered for his goal against the Dutch that propelled Ireland to the 2002 World Cup.

The Scouse-Irishman talks at length about his time at Liverpool and with Ireland. One of the funniest moments of the book is a story about the Irish squad lining up on the pitch ahead of the Norway game at USA '94; it's one to look out for.

Is it worth the purchase price of in excess of €20? For Liverpool fans, maybe. There are some characters that might have been a hero to you or, on the other end of the scale, you had a strong dislike for and what they have to say in their chapter is food for thought.

Otherwise, for the general soccer fan, it will contain interesting titbits about the Premiership in its era of change.

There are some laughs along the way, it starts a little slowly, heats up in the middle chapters before petering out a little with the managers' views at the end. All in all a decent publication.

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