December 2, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

Liverpool 1981 – football and riots

2 min read
1981 was a year of riots and great football for the city of Liverpool when the city was scarred by violence but also beamed with pride
Liverpool FC

In 1981, when riots consumed Liverpool, the reds were in seventh heaven as Liverpool FC swept aside Bayern Munich to get through to the European Cup final against Real Madrid in May, 1981.  

Manager Bob Paisley seemed to have a golden touch notching up four first division titles, two European cups, the UEFA cup, the League Cup and other trophies in his seven years up to 1981.  He had taken over from the revered Bill Shankly whose death later that year would plunge the city in to the kind of mourning seen for heads of state.

This was an era when Liverpool FC seemed an unstoppable force giving a city buffeted by economic woes a much needed boost.  The local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, taunted Bayern that they had been so cocky after a goalless first leg of the semi-final at Liverpool’s Anfield ground that they had been spotted handing out invitations to the Paris final afterwards.  Scottish born midfield player Graeme Souness chuckled at this “Teutonic thinking”.

“We always seem to play better when people are writing us off,” he noted.

The Echo included a humorous map of Paris in its souvenir addition to help scousers going over there find their way round.  It included a road sign saying “Garlic for three miles”.  But on a more prescient note, just two months ahead of the riots that would engulf Toxteth, the paper had some sage advice for fans.

“POLICE: They’re not all Inspector Clouseau’s especially the riot police who still bear the scars of their clash with the Leeds fans when they rioted in the Parc des Princes stadium.”

In the aftermath of the rioting in Toxteth during July of that year, the call would go out to create such a French style riot control force on British soil though the plan never took off. 

Although the Echo said that the reputation of Liverpool fans in French eyes was “tres bon”, the same could not be said of England fans in 1981. In June of that year, they would cement their dubious reputation with an orgy of violence at Basle after England was defeated 2-1 by Switzerland in a World Cup qualifier.

Liverpool Echo broadsheet size pull-out supplement
Liverpool Echo - encounter between French and scouser
Advice to scousers going to France
You'll Never Walk Alone - the Liverpool FC anthem in French
Liverpool FC program
Bob Paisley on the club's excellent prospects

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