Q&A: Tony Evans
Describe your greatest Liverpool FC moment between 1985 and 2005.
It has to be Istanbul. After Heysel, I never thought I’d see another European Cup final. To get to one 20 years later was very emotional, especially drawing Juventus on the way. At half-time it was despair and the only thing I wanted was for the team to cling on to a bit of pride. To win in those circumstances was phenomenal. The moment Steven Gerrard lifted the trophy was one to treasure. Aside from that, doing the double in 1986, Kenny Dalglish’s first season as manager and emerging from the cloud of Heysel. Beating Everton at Wembley, after being outclassed for an hour, was a joy.
Describe your worst.
Hillsborough. Football pales into insignificance. No one is ever prepared to witness mass death at an event that should be fun. Heysel isn’t far behind. It was a horrible afternoon and evening and the realisation that people had been killed was an appalling shock when I heard on the boat going home.
What was the greatest Liverpool goal scored between 1985 and 2005?
Dalglish’s goal at Stamford Bridge in 1986 that sealed the title. It was a tight game with few chances and the ball dropped over his shoulder. He took it on his chest and then scored with his right foot. It was magnificent skill. A week before, we thought Everton would win the league. Suddenly, the double was on. And it was into our end. What a day!
What was the greatest game?
In term of atmosphere and importance, the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea in 2005 was unbelievable. I’ve never seen such a unity of purpose from the crowd – it was ferocious and intimidating without being violent. The team picked up on it and left Jose Mourinho and Chelsea shell-shocked.
My other favourite game had nowhere near the importance. It was a League Cup tie, a second replay against Arsenal at Villa Park. It was midweek in November and only the hardcore support from each team were there. Arsenal were a good side and just emerging. They went 1-0 up early, in the days of ‘one-nil to the Arsenal’. We came back to win 2-1 with a performance of such power and passion that it made you proud to be Scouse and a Red. Looking back, it feels like the last great performance of the old days. Everything was about to change and we didn’t know it.
Who was the greatest player?
Easy: Dalglish. If you say Steven Gerrard you’re either too young to have seen Kenny or really, really stupid. It’s that simple.
And who was the greatest manager?
Bill Shankly. Bob Paisley won more but what Shankly gave to us was an ethos, a belief that we’re part of something bigger than mere football. He made Liverpool a cultural symbol, convinced us it was something worthy of commitment and devotion. Sometimes I wish he hadn’t.
Describe how it felt to be a Liverpool fan between 1985 and 2005.
It was about more than football. When we sang, “They all laugh at us, they all mock us, they all say our days are numbered, but I was born to be Scouse, victorious are we!” it was an assertion of culture, love, identity. The winning, as great as it was, was incidental. You were there with your mates. You were different. You, and the team, were flag-bearers for a distinct and separate community. At a time when the city was under attack economically, socially and politically, we were unstoppable. Shankly’s statue says: “He made the people happy.” What he left gave the people something to cling on to, to be proud of, when times were awful.
Can Liverpool ever regain its place among Europe’s elite?
It will be a long haul. Two decades of mismanagement culminated in a five-year headlong rush to mediocrity. Gillett and Hicks wounded the club below the waterline and Fenway Sports Group have tried to recreate something special in their own image. You know, I don’t even want to compete against the elite. I just want us to be ourselves. That’s what’s in danger: the specialness, the identity. If we lose that in the quest for cash to make us compete, it would be a mistake.