It may seem far-fetched now, but there was a solid decade there where Liverpool lacked quality and stability at the full-back position. Whether through injury or lack of ability, the players brought in to cover the myriad duties required from a wide defender in the modern game simply could not establish themselves as long-term solutions, and the Anfield faithful watched Jon Flanagan, Martin Kelly, Aly Cissokho, Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique, Nathaniel Clyne and others come and go.
Fast forward to the Champions League winning side of 2019, and Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson — 20 and 25 years old, respectively — appear to have reversed the trend, seemingly overnight, and at very little cost. The duo — costing the club a total of £8m — contributed 28 assists between them last year, while being part of the stingiest defence in the land, and for the first time in a long while, the Reds look set for fullback prosperity.
The assists are important, of course, as is the defensive success, but something more is required to become a fan favourite defender. Alexander-Arnold has a leg up in that regard, as a boyhood Red entering his 15th year with the club, but as an unheralded Scot arriving from relegated Hull City back in 2017, Robertson had a little more work to do. Thankfully, a lack of work ethic has never been the Scotland captain’s problem.
“I think how good Robbo has been since he’s been at the club has been incredible really,” James Milner explained to media during the Pro-Am golf tournament at Valderrama. ”The fans love him. I think it started with that 90-yard press of Man City – he pressed everyone in their team I think, went to the ‘keeper and then did them all again!
”He’s got great quality and [is a] good defender,” the vice-captain continued. “He’s good around the dressing room as well, he’s good craic. That’s the one thing we’ve got as a team, we’ve got a great team spirit. You need lads like Robbo.
”As good as he is on the field, he’s brilliant in the dressing room as well.”
I know you all remember that moment, but let’s have another look anyway.
Yep, that is absolutely how cult status is achieved. It doesn’t hurt that it takes place during an historic stomping of the avatar for all that is wrong in football financials these days, but the Kop will always appreciate someone who busts their ass for the shirt. May his legs never give out.