In 1990, when Liverpool won their last league title by nine points, Aston Villa finished second and loan-legend, Ronnie Rosenthal, was missing sitters but scoring vital goals to claim Kenny Dalglish his third title as manager aged only 39. John Barnes, the Scot's heir as the club's greatest player, hit 22 league goals for the Redmen that season and nobody dreamed that the train of success would ever end for Liverpool Football Club.
It was a bizarre and oddly beautiful time, which felt as though it was a twilight of sorts, between the end of one era and the beginning of another. The Berlin Wall had fallen, perestroika was in full effect and my own country, the Republic of Ireland, were going to the World Cup for the first time. The bleak dystopia of the 80s was ending, but so too was the dominance of the decade's undisputed footballing heavyweights.
Even the music of the era was a curious amalgam of contemporary innovation and retro nostalgia, consumed voraciously by your scribbler, who was wearing down the chunky buttons on his unwieldy Walkman, repeatedly playing cassettes crammed with Madchester's finest and the Hammond organ stylings of The Doors. The tunes chronicled the time and the playing order of the tracks on those old cassettes remains ingrained on my memory. Paisley was the shirt design of choice, and jeans were worn baggy, as my friends and I cultivated long fringes and and stared lasciviously from behind them at the beautiful girls of our town.
These days, some 24 title-free years later, the obsessive carnal passions have abated somewhat and my lustful and wanton glances are directed instead at the seductive loveliness of the Premier League table, where Liverpool lie in second place, a mere four points from the top, with ten games remaining. Not since those heady teenage days has this scribe wrung so much entertainment and pleasure from following the team. For all the heart-attack inducing awfulness of our defending at times, the attack of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, ably assisted by Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling is the most exciting since those times of Barnes, Rosenthal, Peter Beardsley and Ian Rush.
Steven Gerrard is just about old enough to recall the halcyon days of regular league wins and his is a talent which could have comfortably graced any of the magnificent teams of Liverpool's august past. With Barnes and Dalglish, Gerrard regularly features in the top three of most fans' all-time favourite Reds and he is therefore perfectly placed to assess the potential of Brendan Rodgers' emergent and exhilarating side. Not many would begrudge the Huyton man the one medal which would complete his collection, but even if talk of it happening this season is premature, there is an insistent feeling that Liverpool Football Club, spearheaded by the often baffling talent of Luis Suarez, is on the rise.
The captain is quick to attribute due praise to a man who scored his 62nd Premier League goal on his 100th appearance at the weekend. That is a truly phenomenal return and does not tell half the story of the Uruguayan's prodigious talent. Suarez is an utterly unique footballer -- instinctive, indefatigable and with a sinewy movement that has terrified the top flight's most composed centre-halves. His audacious skills led to the late penalty. It was the striker's insistent forward movement which resulted in his incisive pass for Sterling's crucial strike and he now sits atop the assist charts also with 12 for the season to date. In Suarez, Liverpool have a world great and Gerrard is not shy about spelling it out.
"It was a huge win for us and Luis showed once again that he's an absolute genius," Gerrard told the Echo. "People had been talking about him going five games without a goal but his contribution to the team has never wavered. He is very unselfish. At times he's been asked to play in a wider role and he has shown what a great team player he is. Even when he wasn't scoring, he was still terrorising defenders and creating goals for us. It was a great way for him to celebrate 100 league games for the club.
"His record is phenomenal. All strikers go through spells where they don't score but he's back on the scoresheet now and hopefully there's plenty more to come from him. After the quality of the finish for the first goal, it was a great assist for Raheem and then the way he earned the penalty just underlined the problems he caused them all game."
If he is effusive in his acclaim of Suarez, the iconic midfielder is equally unequivocal in his appraisal of the man at the helm. In the past, the likes of Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have had a real influence on how a manager is perceived and received at Anfield and it seems clear that Brendan Rodgers has made quite the impression on the captain.
"The manager got his tactics spot on and the team carried out his orders superbly," he said. "We played with a diamond in midfield to ensure we had bodies in the middle of the park to stop their threat. Then when we got possession we could counter-attack with the pace and quality of Daniel Sturridge and Suarez."
Having secured the points at Southampton, when many of the more pessimistic cohort in the fanbase expected the wheels to come off, Gerrard is cautious yet pleasingly upbeat about his side's outside shot at the Premier League title. He is also keen to stress the central role played by Rodgers in fostering an atmosphere in which such lofty ambitions can exist and take hold. The young manager is patently held in esteem by his captain, who believes that the fact that Liverpool are "in the race" is in no small measure due to the stewardship of the Northern Irishman.
"But there's a great togetherness in this team" Gerrard averred. "The spirit in the dressing room is something the manager has created. There is a lot of belief in the team. Games like the win at Southampton, coupled with what we've done at home recently to the likes of Everton and Arsenal, have fuelled that belief. There are other big teams fighting for the title and I wouldn't say we are the favourites. In fact we are the underdogs. But confidence is high and with 10 games to go we're in a great position. We have given ourselves a chance."
Sartorially speaking, your scribbler has evolved somewhat and that lank protective fringe has long-since disappeared, even if the boyish bashfulness remains. This year, however, has that atmosphere of potential that was so tangible everywhere in 1990. Were Gerrard, Suarez and Rodgers to attain the ultimate prize at the end of this most thrilling of campaigns, it would truly feel like a new dawn for Liverpool Football Club. Whether they are victorious or not, it is hard to shake the feeling that these three men are on the cusp of something significant. It may be time to make some era-defining mix-tapes.