Kenny leads Reds to double

Kenny leads Reds to doubleMay 1986

Liverpool Football Club kicked off the 1985-86 under a giant cloud. The events of Heysel just four months previous had heaped shame on Anfield but that grey cloud was to have a glorious silver lining.

Under the inspirational guidance of player-manager Kenny Dalglish the Reds overcome the challenge of reigning league champions Everton to capture a 16th championship crown.

Fittingly it was King Kenny's goal that clinched the title at Stamford Bridge on May 3 and with that in the bag Liverpool stood on the threshold of their first league and FA Cup double when they walked out at Wembley for the FA Cup final the following week.

Second Division high-fliers Norwich, bogey team Chelsea, giant-killers York, a John Barnes-inspired Watford and a stubborn Southampton side had been defeated en route to the final and now only near neighbours Everton stood between the Reds and a place in the record books.

Like the Milk Cup final between the two Mersey foes two years earlier this was an occasion to savour. Red and Blue stood side by side beneath the famous twin towers and chants of 'Merseyside, Merseyside' proudly rang around the old stadium.

Ian Rush (LFC player 1980-87 & 1988-96): "This was extra special, because the FA Cup was the one trophy that had eluded Liverpool for the past dozen years. The fact that we were facing our Mersey neighbours Everton in the final added extra spice. Ever since we'd both won our semi-finals Merseyside had been in a state of wild excitement at the prospect."

Alan Hansen (LFC player & captain 1977-1991): "I was drained by the time Wembley came around. Whether or not it was sorting everything out for the big occasion, I don't know, but I was on my last legs in no time."

Jan Molby (LFC player 1984-96): "Although I had missed the last game at Chelsea in the league through illness I still felt Kenny would put me in, which he did. I felt nervous all week, not on the day, but leading up to it."

Ian Rush: "Although we were chasing the elusive double, I felt that all the pre-match pressure was on Everton. We had a trophy to our name already. If we beat them at Wembley, they'd have nothing to show for their season."

As Liverpool struggled to settle Everton struck first blood. Peter Reid's through pass released the country's leading goalscorer that season Gary Lineker and although Bruce Grobbelaar stopped his initial effort he was helpless to prevent him converting the rebound.

Alan Hansen: "I made the mistake of following Peter Reid's pass for the Lineker goal. I looked at it instead of turning and he was away from me."

Jan Molby: "I think the occasion got to us a bit in the first half. None of us had played in the cup final before, whereas Everton had been there the previous two years."

Mark Lawrenson (LFC player 1981-88): "Everton dominated the first half and I remember when we went in at half-time Ronnie Moran gave us a right talking to."

Kevin Sheedy (EFC player 1982-92): "It was tremendous going in at the interval 1-0 up. At half-time we felt we had Liverpool on the run. I had a good chance and clipped a shot wide. We were well on top at that stage."

Kenny Dalglish (LFC player/manager 1985-90): "One of the most important parts of a manager's duty is to motivate the players at half-time. I told them: "We've been magnificent all season, there's 45 minutes to go, let's go and give it our lot." It was not quite Churchill but the players responded."

The second half began as the first had finished – with the Blues on top – and Liverpool had Bruce Grobbelaar to thank for keeping them in the game after a rare mistake by Hansen almost resulted in Graeme Sharp increasing Everton's lead.

Bruce Grobbelaar (LFC player 1981-94): "I had come way out of goal to collect the back pass but Alan mis-hit it and I was stranded, hopelessly out of position. I got back as quick as I could and made a real kangaroo leap to reach the ball. It's something Craig Johnston taught me. If I'd tried to catch the ball I would have gone into the net with it."

Craig Johnston (LFC player 1981-88): "Brucie was a great goalkeeper and that save was out of this world."

Alan Hansen: "Early in the second half I thought to myself 'we could get stuffed here', but you know what happened…"

On 57 minutes Everton right-back Gary Stevens sloppily conceded possession, Ronnie Whelan seized upon the mistake and combined with Jan Molby to set up Rush who clinically struck the back of the net.

Kevin Sheedy: "We were told to go at Liverpool and not sit back and give them the initiative. That's exactly what we did. But Ian Rush is a master at snapping up half chances. A bad mistake let them in for the equaliser and suddenly they seemed to overrun us."

Ian Rush: "Jan Molby laid a ball just behind their defence and suddenly the chance was on. I reached it just before Bobby Mimms, took it round him and rolled it into an empty net. There was an explosion in my head like nothing I had experienced before."

Jan Molby: "We were very tentative in the first half but after the equaliser everything clicked and we weren't going to lose."

With the Great Dane running the midfield and enjoying arguably one of his finest ever games for the Reds, Liverpool gradually took control of proceedings and with Everton still rocking from the shock of conceding the equaliser Craig Johnston fired the recently crowned champions ahead with a close-range tap in from a Rush cross.

Alan Hansen: "At 2-1 it was their turn to wilt. My only remaining problem was making sure I got up the steps to collect the trophy ahead of the boss."

The icing on the cake of an unforgettable afternoon arrived six minutes from time. Again Molby and Whelan were involved and Rushie added the decisive finishing touch.

Ian Rush: "That last goal was a classic example of Liverpool at their best, with Jan Molby and then Ronnie Whelan carving out the chance for me."

Kenny Dalglish: "Afterwards someone gave me a picture of Rushie's second goal. It was taken on a motorised camera and I could see Rushie lining up to hit the ball and then there was the follow-through. It was a brilliant sequence."

Jan Molby: "Without wanting to sound big-headed the only thing missing from my performance was a goal, and I had a couple of chances to score. It would have been nice to have got a goal but football's a team game and it didn't matter who scored as long as we won. At the end of the day I had a hand in all three of our goals, which was great."

As the final whistle sounded at Wembley the red half of the stadium erupted in joyous celebration. After years of trying, Liverpool Football Club had finally joined a select band of clubs to have won the coveted league and FA Cup double. What made it an even more remarkable achievement was that it came in Kenny Dalglish's first season as player/manager.

Kenny Dalglish: "The lads put in a great effort and did everything that was asked of them. I was delighted for them as much as myself. All I did was pick the right team. It was such a proud moment. We did so well to win the league – the Wembley victory was just the icing on the cake for us."

Alan Hansen: "It was hard to believe that for all the success achieved under Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan the FA Cup was the one prize that had eluded the club since 1974. Somehow it had seemed as if there was a jinx on us. Then in Kenny's first year as boss, there it was. As a managerial debut for Kenny it could not have been bettered. It was an incredibly good season for us."

Ian Rush: "His first season in management had been an incredible success; to achieve it while he was still playing as well made it all the more remarkable."

Kenny Dalglish: "The Evertonians at the end of the game must have been absolutely gutted. They had lost the league, were 1-0 up at half-time in the FA Cup Final only to be beaten 3-1. It must have seemed like a bad dream."

After a night of celebration in the capital Liverpool and Everton returned to Merseyside together for an open-top bus tour of the city the following day but for one set of players it was a much more memorable homecoming.

Jan Molby: "During the flight, there was a light-hearted disagreement between the players about the amount of room on the plane. 'Move your fat arse,' Everton full-back Pat Van Den Hauwe shouted at little Sammy Lee. 'Sorry,' replied Sammy, 'but what do you expect? I've got two medals in my pocket!'"

Kenny Dalglish: "After the tour, I nipped into my local chip-shop. Everton's Paul Bracewell was in there. 'You are the last person I want to see," he said. I diplomatically refrained from asking for double chips!"