Liverpool EFL Cup quarter-final against Leeds evokes memories of great games
ONCE upon a time it was one of the biggest matches in English football.
Liverpool v Leeds in the League Cup quarter-final at Anfield tonight brings back memories of times when this was one of the great games.
A true showdown of top players and two clubs who rose to the top during the 1960s.
Liverpool came from a city utterly steeped in football. Leeds, then and now, was the biggest city in Britain with just a single League club.
Back then, both were desperate to break the domination of the Manchester United of George Best, Denis Law and Booby Charlton. To do that they had to beat each other first.
And that led to some very spiky encounters!
There were some serious characters on the pitch; Billy Bremner, Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter in white, Ron Yeats, Ian St. John and Kevin Keegan in red.
Who can ever forget the sight of Bremner and Keegan laying into each other in what was only the Charity Shield at Wembley in 1974?
Charity was in short supply that afternoon as the teams kicked each other up and down Wembley's big pitch.
But it was often like that between these two clubs who just seemed to spark each other off in a bad way.
And there were characters off the pitch too.
The clubs were then led by two of the finest managers ever to grace the British game, Bill Shankly and Don Revie.
Leeds won the battle in the short-term, winning two League titles and an FA Cup within five years under the guidance of Revie.
Shankly won the English title too. However, when Bob Paisley succeeded Shankly as the Anfield supremo, there was a Red revolution.
Liverpool soared into the distance, winning four European Cups and six league titles between 1976 and 1984.
To this day, the names of the top players of the time, Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness and Alan Hansen, are revered if you are a Red in Liverpool.
Leeds came back briefly, winning the last First Division crown in 1991/92.
Truth be told, a stumbling and nervous Man United threw that title away.
However, Leeds did have a classy, and beautifully balanced, midfield of Gordon Strachan, David Batty, Gary McAllister and the late Gary Speed.
They also had a certain Eric Cantona up front.
But Leeds' decision to sell Cantona to United was the catalyst that set off a huge spell of United dominance.
Remarkably, Leeds' 1992 triumph is the last time either of these clubs could call themselves England's best.
Liverpool have done much better in the interim, winning many cups, most famously of all the 2005 European Cup with a stunning triumph over AC Milan in Istanbul.
Jurgen Klopp is now over a year in charge of Liverpool and he'll be looking to this competition as a chance to win a trophy, having lost both the EFL Cup final and the Europa League Final in 2015.
Leeds were so close to that level of European success, getting to the Champions League semi-final in 2001 before losing to Valencia 3-0 on aggregate with players like Rio Ferdinand, Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Ireland's Gary Kelly and Ian Harte in action.
But the money to get them there had been borrowed.
Leeds were, in the words of their then chairman Peter Ridsdale, 'living the dream'.
And the dream turned into a nightmare as the money ran out when they did not get back into the Champions League and financial problems were uncovered.
Their best players were sold and the club suffered sad relegations all the way to League One, under a succession of managers.
They are back in the Championship now and sniffing around the play-off places under manager Garry Monk and an excitable chairman in Massimo Cellini.
Yet the fact remains that Leeds, incredibly, have not graced the Premier League since 2007.
Tonight's EFL Cup quarter-final, kicking off under the Anfield lights at 7.45pm, will show the club and its supporters just what they have missed in their lost decade away from the big time.