A red-tinted look at the year of Liverpool's last title triumph - 1990

Mitch Phillips

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain underwent some fairly tumultuous change from the early 1970s to the end of the 1980s but one thing remained constant - come the end of each season, Liverpool would be top, or almost top of the Football League.

When they hoisted the old First Division trophy in April 1990 it marked Liverpool's 11th title in 18 seasons, and only twice in that remarkable run did they finish outside the top two.

They are set to win it again over the next few days, but anyone predicting back in 1990 that this triumph would be the first for 30 years might have been considered a probable victim of Mad Cow disease, which burst on to the scene the same year. Yet dynasties fall - as Margaret Thatcher and Mike Tyson also discovered in 1990.

Like Liverpool, Thatcher had ruled unchallenged as Britain's longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century and also probably thought she would go on forever, until she was forced out by her own Conservative party colleagues and replaced by John Major.

Tyson was arguably the most dominant force in heavyweight boxing history but, after 37 usually crushing wins, he was knocked down and beaten for the first time in his career by Buster Douglas in one of sport's biggest all-time shocks.

The late Gary Mason was British heavyweight champion at the time - a prime example of what now looks a very different sporting landscape.

In 1990 Aston Villa finished second in a top flight that included Wimbledon, Coventry City and Luton Town - with Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton Athletic and Millwall relegated.

Leeds United won the second division to return after an eight-year absence and would go on to win the league two years later.

After four barren years, Alex Ferguson finally collected his first piece of silverware at Manchester United as they beat Crystal Palace in a replay to win the FA Cup, though they finished a distant 13th in the league, five points above the relegation zone.

It would be another three years until he won the title - the first edition of the fancy new Premier League - to end a 26-year drought that used to delight Liverpool fans.

The world's highest transfer fee at the time was the 8 million pounds ($10 million) paid by Juventus to Fiorentina for Roberto Baggio, while England's most expensive player was still Chris Waddle, sold by Tottenham Hotspur to Marseille for 4.2 million the previous year.

Hooliganism was still rife. In May, 34 Bolton Wanderers fans, who were convicted of attacking police and rival supporters, were banned from travelling to the World Cup in Italy.

England lost to eventual champions West Germany on penalties in the semi-finals in that tournament, and though Luciano Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma and New Order's World in Motion were the soundtrack of Italia '90, the year's biggest selling single in the UK was a re-release of the Righteous Brothers' Unchained Melody.

Paul Gascoigne and England gained legions of fans from that adventure, but less uplifting was the country's final rebel cricket tour of South Africa, which came to look even more ill-advised as Nelson Mandela was released from captivity three weeks after they arrived.

Back in the UK, recognition of National Health Service staff as "front line heroes" was still a distant dream as the country's ambulance workers eventually returned to work after a crippling six-month strike over low pay.


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(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis)