A History of Liverpool FC’s Managers: From McKenna to Klopp

Liverpool FC, or the “Reds,” is one of the most storied football clubs in the world. They were founded in 1892 and played their first game in the English Second Division. They quickly rose through the ranks and were promoted to the First Division in 1893. In 1901, they won their first League Championship, and they’ve been a dominant force in English football ever since. They’ve won 18 league titles, 7 FA Cups, and 6 European Cups. They’re also one of the most popular clubs in the world, with millions of fans all over the globe.

1892 – The Founding Years of Liverpool FC

The story of Liverpool FC starts with John Houlding, a local businessman and politician. Houlding had been a director of Everton FC, another Liverpool-based club, but he was ousted from the club in 1892. He then decided to form his own club, which he named Liverpool FC. He found a place to play, Anfield, and built a team that would go on to become one of the most successful in the world. The early years of the club were not without their challenges, but they quickly found success and became a force to be reckoned with. 

The very first competitive match played by a Liverpool FC team was on September 3, 1892, where Higher Walton was on the end of a very comfortable 8-0 defeat. In the years to come, Liverpool was promoted to the First Division at the first attempt and won their first Football League title in 1901. With more success following on and off the field, including back-to-back titles and an Anfield expansion, the club endured a stellar start to life.

The club’s first manager was William Edward Barclay, who was responsible for building the team into a competitive force. He brought in players like John McCartney, Sam Raybould, and Alex Raisbeck, who would go on to become some of the club’s greatest players. Under Barclay’s leadership, Liverpool won their first major trophy, the Lancashire League, in 1893. They also won the Second Division title in 1894, which promoted them to the First Division. It was the beginning of a long and illustrious history of success for the club. 

A Club on the Edge of Greatness in the 1960s

The 1960s were a time of great change for Liverpool FC, and they started to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the world. Bill Shankly was appointed manager in 1959, and he oversaw a dramatic transformation of the club. He brought in players like Ian St. John, Ron Yeats, and Roger Hunt, who would go on to become club legends. The team won the Second Division title in 1962, and the following year, they won the FA Cup, their first major trophy under Shankly’s management. In 1964, they won the League Championship, and the club was starting to build momentum.

Liverpool Football Club entered their first European Cup competition in 1964, reaching the semi-finals against Inter Milan, who eventually beat Benfica in the final on home turf. Liverpool reached their first European final in 1966 with the Cup Winners’ Cup but suffered an extra-time defeat to Borussia Dortmund. The BBC’s popular highlights programme Match of the Day broadcasted its first show in 1964 with Liverpool beating Arsenal 3-2 at home. Five years later, Anfield was chosen as the venue for the programme’s first colour-format broadcast – Liverpool beat West Ham 2-0!

The 1970s and 1980s Were Fully of Glory

The 1960s were a time of great change for Liverpool FC, and they started to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the world. Bill Shankly was appointed manager in 1959, and he oversaw a dramatic transformation of the club. He brought in players like Ian St. John, Ron Yeats, and Roger Hunt, who would go on to become club legends. The team won the Second Division title in 1962, and the following year, they won the FA Cup, their first major trophy under Shankly’s management. In 1964, they won the League Championship, and the club was starting to build momentum.

Paisley oversaw the beginning of Liverpool’s dominance in England and Europe and was the only manager to win three European Cups with a single team until Real Madrid’s success in recent years. Joe Fagan took over from Paisley in 1983, and while his stint was a short one, he won the treble in his first year and is considered by many to be an underrated hero in the club’s history. In 1985, Sir Kenny Dalglish took his hero status to a new level by becoming one of the game’s first player managers. Nicknamed ‘The King’ by the Anfield faithful, Dalglish led the team to further success, including their 18th League Title. Following his shock resignation in the early 90s, Liverpool’s reign as the dominant team in England began to slip.

Success for LFC Began to Decline in the 1990s

After the success of the 1970s and 1980s, Liverpool FC started to decline in the 1990s. They failed to win the league title for several years, and they also struggled in European competitions. This decline was attributed to a number of factors, including the Hillsborough disaster, the retirement of long-time manager Bob Paisley, and the arrival of new owners who were not as successful as their predecessors. It was a difficult time for the club, but they were able to find a way to bounce back. In 1991, they appointed Graeme Souness as manager, and he started to rebuild the team.

The latter years of the 1990s will be best remembered for the rise of some of Liverpool’s best local talent. Two of the club’s greatest strikers, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, didn’t take long to become favourites among the Anfield faithful. Jamie Carragher made his debut in 1997, and his grit and passion were long felt at the heart of the defence. Of course, we shouldn’t forget Captain Fantastic! Steven Gerrard made his first competitive debut in November 1998 against Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League.

Mixed Emotions Between 2000 to 2010

The early 2000s were a rollercoaster for Liverpool fans, with plenty of highs and lows. In 2001, they won a memorable treble, which included the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup. This was followed by disappointment in the next few years, as the team struggled to find consistent success. However, in 2005, they won the UEFA Champions League, a major triumph that saw them come back from 3-0 down to win the final. They also won the FA Cup in 2006, but in 2009, they suffered one of the worst nights in their history, losing the Champions League final to AC Milan.

Houllier’s popularity was at an all-time low in 2004, and he was replaced that summer by former Valencia manager Rafael Benitez. In his debut season, the Spaniard will forever be remembered for inspiring one of sporting’s most remarkable comebacks in Istanbul to deliver Liverpool’s fifth European Cup. Fast forward to the following season, and the success continued with Liverpool beating West Ham United on penalties in a dramatic FA Cup Final match. In 2007 Liverpool went to Athens for another European Cup final, but AC Milan came out victorious to claim their revenge after Istanbul. With the arrival of new American owners, things quickly began to turn sour at Liverpool FC. The club’s supporters soon despised Tom Hicks and George Gillet for false promises and public spats with Benitez and chief executive Rick Parry. Trophies had dried up since the 2006 FA Cup win, and the manager received his marching orders in the summer of 2010.

2010 to 2015 – Hope for a Promising Turnaround

After the lows of the previous years, Liverpool fans were hopeful that the club could turn things around, and they did just that. In 2010, they appointed Roy Hodgson as manager, and he brought in players like Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. They also hired Kenny Dalglish as their manager in 2011, and he helped to turn the team around. In 2012, they won the League Cup, and they also qualified for the Champions League. However, this success was short-lived, and they struggled again in the next few years.

Thanks to his charismatic personality and commitment to delivering attacking football, it didn’t take long for the Ulsterman to sway the Liverpool fans on his side. Rodgers’ inaugural season showed steady yet promising signs of improvement, and the January signings of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho proved to be a hit. During the 2013/14 season, we saw Liverpool spark under the manager and provide fans with some of the most exciting football the club has seen in years. LFC was leaky at the back, but clinical upfront and the passion of Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard helped spark a serious title challenge against Manchester City. Ultimately, the deadly combination of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge proved insufficient to deliver supporters the trophy they’ve waited over 20 years for. The departure of Suarez to Barcelona had seemed like a long time coming, but the mouthwatering transfer fee received failed to reap the rewards. The first season without Suarez and the first back in the Champions League was disappointing, concluding with a humiliating 6-1 defeat to Stoke in Gerrard’s last match for the reds. Clearly, Liverpool had lost their way under Brendan Rodgers; he was replaced in October 2015 by former Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp, an exciting appointment met with massive praise by the supporters.

2015 to 2020 – A Club on the Rise

The appointment of Jurgen Klopp as manager in 2015 marked a turning point for Liverpool FC. He brought in players like Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, and Sadio Mane, and he instilled a winning mentality in the team. In 2019, they won the Champions League, and in 2020, they won the Premier League title for the first time in 30 years. This was a huge achievement for the club, and it marked a new beginning for them. They have since established themselves as one of the best teams in Europe, and they are looking to build on their recent success. 

The 2019/20 Season Will Be One to Remember

The 2019/20 season was truly remarkable for Liverpool FC. They were dominant throughout the season, winning the Premier League title with a record-breaking number of points. They also reached the Champions League final, where they were narrowly beaten by Bayern Munich. Mohamed Salah was the club’s top scorer with 31 goals, and Virgil van Dijk was named PFA Player of the Year. The season was made all the more impressive by the fact that it was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite all the challenges, Liverpool FC showed great resilience and determination to become champions. 

With a new decade underway, the question of Liverpool winning their first league title in 30 years seemed to be more a case of when rather than if. An outstanding lead at the top of the table meant that the only thing which could stop them would be a pandemic crisis. Unfortunately, such a situation happened. With the COVID-19 crisis spiralling out of control worldwide, the UK government had no choice but to enforce strict restrictions to reduce the spread of the virus. In the last-16 stages of the Champions League against Atletico Madrid, Liverpool’s defeat marked their last game for the unforeseeable future. It was unclear if and when the season would resume with ordinary life on hold, leaving Liverpool FC’s title hopes hanging in the balance.

After the COVID-19 enforced hiatus, football returned in June 2020, providing much-needed relief from the pandemic’s gloomy undertone. While safety protocols spoiled the fun, including no crowds allowed, it was great to finally have football back on our screens. The unusual nature of the pandemic meant that every match was available for TV viewing, even handing BBC their first-ever live Premier League football broadcast. Liverpool FC returned to action against local rivals Everton, with the match ending in a null draw. The team beat Crystal Palace empathically a few days later, leaving them on the brink of title success.

Thursday, 25th June 2020, will live long in the memory of Liverpool fans everywhere. After Manchester City lost to Chelsea, Liverpool FC was officially crowned Premier League champions, delivering the club’s first title in 30 years. The team celebrated their victory in style at the Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa, having watched the match as a group. While COVID-19 restrictions were still in force, this didn’t stop thousands of supporters from flocking to the stadium to chant, set off flares and fireworks, and party all night long. The club had to wait another month for their final home game to lift the trophy. While no crowds were allowed into the stadium, the Premier League ensured that Liverpool could mark the occasion in extravagant fashion while adhering to safety protocols. Jordan Henderson took to the steps of the famous Kop, and after his trademark Hendo Shuffle, he lifted the Premier League trophy high to end a long wait.

2023/2024 – What Will This Year Bring?

With the 2022/2023 season just starting, there is already much anticipation about what Liverpool FC can achieve in the coming years. They will be looking to build on their success and win more titles. There are already rumors of new signings, and fans are excited to see what the team can do. One thing is for sure, Liverpool FC will be giving it their all to continue their success. Whether they can win more titles remains to be seen, but they are certainly a team to watch out for. Do you think they can continue their winning ways?

A Complete List of Liverpool Football Club’s Managers

John McKenna (1892-1906)

  • John McKenna and Tom Watson (1906-1907)
  • Tom Watson (1907-1915)
  • William Barclay (1915-1919)
  • David Ashworth (1919-1922)
  • Matt McQueen (1922-1926)
  • George Patterson (1926-1928)
  • David Ashworth (1928-1931)
  • George Patterson (1931-1933)
  • George Kay (1933-1944)
  • Billy Liddell (1944-1945)
  • George Kay (1945-1946)
  • Don Welsh (1946-1951)
  • Andy Beattie (1951-1953)
  • Phil Taylor (1953-1959)
  • Bill Shankly (1959-1974)
  • Bob Paisley (1974-1983)
  • Joe Fagan (1983-1985)
  • Kenny Dalglish (1985-1991)
  • Graeme Souness (1991-1994)
  • Roy Evans (1994-1998)
  • Gerard Houllier (1998-2004)
  • Rafael Benítez (2004-2010)
  • Roy Hodgson (2010-2011)
  • Kenny Dalglish (2011-2012)
  • Brendan Rodgers (2012-2015)
  • Jürgen Klopp (2015-present)