SUNDAY’S 4-0 drubbing of Spurs made it 9-0 on aggregate for the season and sent the Reds back to the top of the table with the title in their own hands – but it’s not the first time Tottenham have been on the wrong side of a thrashing from Liverpool. KARL COPPACK recalled the rout of 1978 for issue 7 of The Anfield Wrap magazine.
THERE are times when football transcends the combative nature of the game and rises to an almost cruel art. Yes, a 7-0 hammering is a thing of beauty but the pleasure is shared somewhere between the joy and dominance of the football and that of inflicting a sadistic punishment upon the lesser team. Football is a cross between light theatre and gladiator nights.
But first to context. In the autumn of 1978 Liverpool stood as European Champions, but not English Champions. Nottingham Forest had nuzzled into our craw with their collection of ex-Derby players and fresh new talent.
Brian Clough admired Liverpool but much like Jose Mourinho now he was desperate for an enemy and a microphone. Twelve months earlier Forest were a newly-promoted team with much promise, but no one foresaw their rise. Undefeated at home, they had taken the League by seven points – a huge margin under the two-points-for-a-win system. We may have reigned Europe but we were still looking over our shoulders.
Contrast this with Spurs. They were promoted the previous May following a year’s absence from the top tier and things were on the up. Keith Burkinshaw produced a major coup by signing newly-crowned world champions Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa and were about to take the division by storm.
Glenn Hoddle, a mere pup back then, was also in the side and, although they were never going to emulate Forest’s success, they were back and looking for trouble. Furthermore, they looked to reverse half a century’s worth of poor Anfield results with their new blood. Tough.
Liverpool 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Dalglish (8 minutes)
This was the European Champions’ fourth game of the campaign. Kenny Dalglish had already bagged four and Graeme Souness three in the opening three games and one thing was obvious – Liverpool were not messing about this time. As imperious as Dalglish was, he had THAT midfield behind him – arguably the greatest in our history – and they were always going to create chances for him or take them themselves. Three of them, Jimmy Case, Souness and Ray Kennedy, could put a tackle in as well as pass while Terry McDermott was the artisan on the right. This was a unit that was merciless in its play – a unit that never got tired of hammering other sides. They were certainly up for it on this early September afternoon.
Liverpool 2 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Dalglish (20 mins)
Of course, it’s Dalglish. He’s got the game won in 20 minutes and he’s doing that flailing arms celebration like it’s his first-ever goal. It’s the second time he’s latched on to a diverted Case shot and he loves it. He’s delighted. The Kop are swaying. A part of London is being put back in its place.
Liverpool 3 Tottenham Hotspur 0
R Kennedy (28 mins)
And then there’s the opposite celebration. A rueful smile and a hand clap. The same performance Ray gave when Kevin Keegan won the penalty in Rome a little over 15 months earlier. Three up in under half an hour. Emlyn Hughes has limped off, David Johnson has come on – and I still can’t work out who’s playing where. The Reds can smell blood. We’ve won the game but there’s so much more to play for here. These are getting it.
Liverpool 4 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Johnson (48 mins)
Underrated this. Dalglish goes in for a one-on-one with the keeper and the ball rolls out to David Johnson. He’s got a lot to do. He drills it through three Spurs players. Kenny celebrates like he’s notched his third. Barry Daines is actually doing well in their goal. History will not reflect this.
Liverpool 5 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Johnson (58 mins)
Edit. Barry’s not done well there. Johnson nutmegs him like an older kid against his weak brother and is off on some odd hopping dance. Kenny’s delighted. Villa and Ardiles exchange worried glances.
Liverpool 6 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Neal (64 mins)
A twice-taken penalty on this occasion. Daines saves the first but is deemed to have moved. He has not, as it goes, but there’s little complaint. Top left corner. More leaping around in the Annie Road and a song based on Brown Girl in the Ring. The 70s, ladies and gentlemen. Sinstadt tells us it’s becoming a rout. Becoming?
Liverpool 7 Tottenham Hotspur 0
McDermott (76 mins)
And here’s the point where cruelty changes to beauty. Seven-nil is a hammering, of course it is, but this goes beyond pain. This is Liverpool at their best and, for me, the greatest Reds goal ever seen. Four passes, a handful of seconds and the Annie Road celebrating before Terry Mac has even leapt. There’s no point in my describing it. You’ve seen it hundreds of times already but it’s always, always worth another look. Have this one again on me.
Even Gerald Sinstadt can’t ruin it.
But it’s more than that. It’s not smug. It’s just delight, sheer unadulterated delight. Look at Heighway walking the length of the Paddock with a half-hearted pump of the fist followed by a droop of the shoulders. He loved that but he doesn’t want to leg it like Adebayor or Tardelli. The work, the beauty of what he and his mates have just done is enough. It’s a quiet dignity. The smile is almost shy.
You know what happened for the rest of that season. 85 goals, 16 conceded, Champions by miles but it was the Spurs game that put down the marker. It’s still my favourite ever Liverpool side. The 88 side for the old at heart.
I’ll take the same score line in March. Kenny would be delighted.
September 2, 1978. Division One. Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur.
LIVERPOOL: Clemence, Neal, A Kennedy, Hughes (Johnson), Hansen, R Kennedy, Dalglish, Case, Heighway, McDermott, Souness.