Last weekend’s Community Shield match between Manchester City and Liverpool was a reasonably competitive affair settled in City’s favour via a penalty shoot-out. Judging by the celebrations by some of the City players, it was a victory to savour.
There are those, Jurgen Klopp included, who question the continued validity and importance of the match, while others enjoy it for what it is – a chance for a Wembley showpiece with not too much pressure on the protagonists or spectators.
The one-off tournament has been around in various guises since 1908 and is played (usually) between the winners of the previous season’s FA Cup and the Premier League. In the event of a side winning both trophies, as with this year, then the side finishing runners-up in the league are invited to take part.
The match was known as the Charity Shield up until 2002 and was played at Wembley for the first time in 1974 when Kevin Keegan and Billy Bremner famously came to blows in a tempestuous affair between Leeds United and Liverpool.
Being a Liverpool supporter growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, I always had a reasonably good relationship with the Charity Shield, as it was then named, and now take this opportunity to share some selected memories with you, dear readers.
Being played on the first or second weekend in August, the Community Sheild invariably falls in the middle of the holiday season and so it is that early memories of the game often coincide with family vacations.
Being just ever-so-slightly too young to remember the afore-mentioned ’74 dust-up, my first recollections of the game relate to the game a year later when Derby met West Ham in the showpiece event that resulted in The Rams prevailing by a 2-0 scoreline.
My family and I were at the time living in Blackpool but had spent the entire preceding week staying with my maternal grandparents in Stratford, East London. On the day of the game, we set off back up north late in the afternoon, as I recall. The first half of our journey up the motorway was thus accompanied by hordes of triumphant Derby County supporters.
This was the game in which Charlie George made his debut for League Champions Derby, and in which West Ham ‘keeper, Mervyn Day, was arguably at fault for both goals. Seventeen years later Day made it back to Wembley when he sat on the bench as an unused substitute in Leeds United’s 4-3 Charity Shield victory over Liverpool.
In the 1976 Charity Shield, a single John Toshack goal was sufficient for title winners Liverpool to overcome Second Division cup winners Southampton on a boiling hot day. I remember watching highlights of this game and noting that Liverpool looked rather weird playing all in white. By now we were living in Essex and we spent the day itself visiting the seaside resort of Clacton.
The following year’s Charity Shield was a repeat of the previous season’s FA Cup Final as Manchester United met Liverpool. With tickets not being too difficult to get hold off, my Manchester United supporting father seriously contemplated a family outing to Wembley before, inexplicably, deciding to book a family holiday for us all the same day instead.
So instead of watching Kenny Dalglish make his debut for Liverpool, it was back up for motorway for us as we made the return trip up the M1 and M6 for a vacation back in my native Blackpool. As it happened, the match itself was one to miss as the two sides played out a scoreless draw and hordes of supporters indulged in pitched battles with one another.
Two years later and it was back to Clacton on another day trip while Liverpool were doing battle with Arsenal some 50 or so miles away. A gloriously sunny afternoon saw Liverpool hit their straps and put in a magnificent display against cup winners, Arsenal in the first of what would prove to be seven meetings between the sides in the 1979-80 season.
Two goals from Terry McDermott either side of a Kenny Dalglish classic went answered only by a late Alan Sunderland consolation in a convincing 3-1 win. In the season that ensued, Arsenal would go onto play a further 69 games, reach two cup finals, finish fourth in the league and yet not even manage to qualify for Europe. Liverpool, meanwhile would play ten games fewer, reach the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions and once again win the league.
This, of course, brought them back to Wembley for the following season’s Charity Shield when they once more met a London cup-winning side. This time it was Second Division West Ham that lined up against Liverpool.
On the eve of the match Liverpool manager, Bob Paisley, was asked for the starting line-up. “Same as last year,” was the reply given.
This match had special significance for me as it heralded the first time I had seen my side play at Wembley. Along with 90,000 others, I was present to witness the first Charity Shield of the decade and once more Terry McDermott was on the scoresheet as Liverpool prevailed by a single first-half goal following a rare mistake by West Ham keeper, Phil Parkes.
Two years later and a single Ian Rush goal was enough to secure victory for Liverpool in the Charity Shield against Tottenham. It was to be the first of three successive seasons in which Liverpool played the side in the Charity Shield that they had beaten in the previous season’s League Cup Final.
In March 1982, Liverpool defeated Spurs 3-1 in the inaugural Milk Cup Final and, as Spurs went on to win the FA Cup while Liverpool took the league title, the two sides matched up again in August for the Charity Shield. This chain of events was repeated in 1983 with Manchester United and 1984 with Everton.
It is worth noting (or not) that the 1982 Charity Shield is the only one of this period that I have no recollection of or of what I was doing that day.
In 1983, while Liverpool were losing to two Bryan Robson goals in Joe Fagan’s first match in charge, I was once more on holiday, while in 1984 I was lucky enough to again obtain a ticket to be present at Wembley for the game itself.
This was the first, and possibly only, full-house at the old Wembley for the Charity Shield as 100,000 souls made their way down Olympic Way to see Bruce Grobbelaar score the only goal of the game. Unfortunately for me and the red half of Wembley that day, it was his own goal that he put the ball in.
Two years later and the same two sides once more met in the season curtain-raiser. I once again managed to get a ticket, but in the end, decided not to go. In my teenage years I was a budding athlete and in the summer months would compete in track and field meetings for my local athletics club.
On the day in question, I elected to run for my club in a 1500 metres race in Enfield (I think) and so missed late goals from Adrian Heath and Ian Rush cancelling each other out.
The match was a repeat of the previous season’s cup final, as was Liverpool’s clash with Wimbledon two years later. This year, 1988, saw me embark on my first ever ‘lads’ holiday abroad, and so while John Aldridge was doing his best to atone for his missed penalty in the cup final by scoring both goals in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory, I was sampling the delights of San Antonio, Ibiza.
The last kick of the 1988-89 league season has of course gone down in the halls of infamy if you’re a Liverpool supporter. Michael Thomas, bless his little cotton socks, would go onto score for Liverpool in an FA Cup Final, but in 1989 his last-gasp winner at Anfield not only secured the title for Arsenal but also guaranteed that the Charity Shield that year would be a rematch of the one ten years previously.
Alan Hansen and David O’ Leary were the only survivors from the 1979 match, and now a decade later Liverpool once again ran out winners. This time thanks to a single goal scored by Peter Beardsley.
This was the third and final Charity Shield match I attended in the flesh.
In 1990 I was off on what turned out to be a life-changing world trip and so it came to pass that while Liverpool and Manchester United were huffing and puffing their way to a 1-1 draw at a rain-sodden Wembley, I was otherwise engaged in Suva, Fiji.
The last Charity Shield of this era involving Liverpool came two years later when Liverpool met Leeds United in a repeat of the match that started this sequence in 1974. This time there were no fisticuffs, but there was an Eric Cantona hat-trick and a comical Gordon Strachan own goal for the 61,291 in attendance to enjoy as Leeds ran out 4-3 winners. The match was played on my 24th birthday, and I chose not to attend as I was heading out to Indonesia for a holiday early the next day.
Since I came to live permanently in Indonesia a year later, Liverpool have been involved in just four more Charity / Community Shield matches. Two of these have come by way of being FA Cup winners and two because of finishing second in the league to ‘Double Winners’.
Will they be back in the Community Shield in 2020 as Premier League Champions? Time will tell.