Liverpool needed top four this time round but I'd take another season like treble winning campaign any day


Liverpool will take to the pitch on Sunday knowing that a win over relegated Middlesbrough guarantees a shot at next season's European Cup.

A top-four finish, should it happen, will be chalked up as progress for the Reds, especially when it is put into the context of some of the club's league finishes over the last decade. 


In terms of excitement, it at least means Liverpool have something to play for on the final day. Anfield could and should be able to raise itself for this one. There is a clear benefit for all concerned if the Reds chalk up a victory.

And yet - win, lose or draw - there will be a feeling of anti-climax. Champions League football brings with it obvious plus points for Liverpool FC. But what it won't bring right now is silverware.

"Remember that time we finished top four?"

It just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

There will be no open top bus tour should Liverpool get the right result; no commemorative mugs, no ‘remember the day’ in years to come.

It begs the question, what do we want as fans? What equals a good season? What makes it memorable?

This week marked 16 years since Liverpool lifted a third trophy in one of the best seasons I've ever experienced.

Liverpool didn't win the league in the 2000-01 season, and I didn't care a jot. Rival fans called it the 'Mickey Mouse Treble'. We just toasted a job well done one more time. Drink flowed, smiles were rarely removed from faces. This was the good life.

A group of players assembled by Gerard Houllier lifted the League Cup, the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup in that glorious season, with a third-placed league finish and Champions League qualification the cherry on top.

And yes, the mugs, the DVDs, and the ‘on this day’ -- all of that happened and continues to happen, and rightly so.

Liverpool’s squad was packed with quality. At the back, the class of German Markus Babbel, the reliability of Sami Hyypia, the steel and unexpected goalkeeping skills of Stephane Henchoz and the Scouse grit of Jamie Carragher.

In midfield, the raw skin-headed talent of Steven Gerrard, the experienced bald head of Gary McAllister, the never-ending nous of Dietmar Hamann and the Manc-slaying Danny Murphy.

And at the business end? Liverpool boasted Michael Owen (24 goals), Emile Heskey (22) and Robbie Fowler (17) up front.

Patrik Berger, Vladimir Smicer, Nick Barmby...on it went. Quality, depth and options. Liverpool were equipped to fight on all fronts. And it led to a season packed with special moments and memories to cherish.

For a generation of Liverpool fans raised on the rich history of incredible European trips this was our year.

Roma and Barcelona put to the sword on the way to Dortmund and then a UEFA Cup final with two cups already in the cabinet - how is it anything but a special season?

Throw in a win at Old Trafford – Manchester United’s first defeat at home for two years - a memorable injury-time free kick winner at Goodison Park from Gary Mac and the last day win at Charlton to secure third and a seat at Europe's top table and it was the season that kept on giving.

And all this without detailing the UEFA final in Dortmund. Opponents Alaves, if we're all honest about it, were unknown to most. The Spaniards were pitched as huge underdogs enjoying a fairy-tale season of their own having beaten Inter Milan on their way to Germany.

In the Dortmund town square during the day their fans seemed just happy to be there, swapping scarves and souvenirs with Reds before the big match.

With Liverpool 2-0 up inside 16 minutes, everything was going to plan. Ivan Alonso pulled one back but the two-goal lead was restored from the spot by Gary Mac.

From there - utter madness: 3-2, 3-3, 4-3 to Liverpool, an 89-minute goal to make it 4-4 and extra time, two sendings off and eventually a own goal from Delfi Geli - the first 'golden goal' to decide a major European final in club football.

When that unwitting glancing header hit the net half the Liverpool players and the majority of Liverpool fans didn't realise the job was done. The golden goal rule hadn't been made crystal clear to either club or supporters.

We worked it out in the end. A third pot for the sideboard in a season that tested bank accounts, partners' patience and the legs of our squad to the maximum. It was brilliant. How it should be. What you dream of. What you’re in it for.

Sixteen years on, the obsession for title number 19 burns so strong inside so many of a red persuasion that it feels days like these are often forgotten. Allied to the devaluing of once-great cup competitions, it’s an odd state of affairs to add the many strange nuances of the modern game.

I want the league title to come home to Anfield just as much as the next Kopite. But equally I've seen Liverpool win everything else during my time of going the match. That's still not bad is it?

Liverpool can only ever control what they do. The club can't curtail the spending or ambition of other teams. The title is always going to be tough to win, whoever is the manager and whatever the squad strength.  

One day, it will happen. But football glory isn't only counted in league titles. I'd take another season like 2000-01 tomorrow.