Liverpool must have had a feeling of déjà vu when they played West Ham at Wembley in the League Cup Final of March 1981.
For the Reds had already met the London club in August in the Charity Shield – the curtain-raiser to the new season.
Liverpool were at Wembley as First Division champions while Second Division West Ham were FA Cup winners.
The Reds won the Charity Shield 1-0 with a 17th minute goal from Terry McDermott. It was a close-fought match in front of a 90,000 crowd.
Many wondered whether the March encounter between the two clubs would end in a similar result. Liverpool had never won the League Cup – and they travelled south with expectation.
The route to the final had seen Liverpool beat Bradford City, Swindon Town, Portsmouth and Birmingham City before playing Manchester City in the two-leg semi-final.
The first leg at Maine Road ended in a 1-0 victory for Liverpool with Ray Kennedy scoring the only goal. The second leg at Anfield was drawn 1-1 with Kenny Dalglish netting for the Reds.
Manager Bob Paisley fielded a settled team for the final on Saturday March 14th. Ray Clemence was in goal with a defensive line of Phil Neal, Alan Kennedy, Colin Irwin and Alan Hansen.
In front of them were Ray Kennedy, Sammy Lee, Terry McDermott
and Graeme Souness, along with Kenny Dalglish and winger Steve Heighway. The reserve was Jimmy Case.
The referee was the hugely experienced Clive Thomas, who had officiated at both the 1974 and 1978 World Cups. His nickname was Clive ‘The Book’ due to his strict interpretation of the laws of the game.
The final itself was goal-less after 90 minutes, so the 100,000 crowd were treated to extra time. Alan Kennedy broke the deadlock for Liverpool by scoring in the 118th minute, but Ray Stewart replied for the Hammers two minutes later.
Kennedy’s goal had more than a tinge of controversy about it. His shot passed over Lee who was in an offside position, obstructing the view of Hammers’ goalkeeper Phil Parkes.
But referee Thomas let it stand, ruling that Lee was not interfering with play. West Ham manager John Lyall was not amused.
With no further goals and no penalty shoot-out, the match went to an evening replay at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Wednesday April 1st.
Ian Rush came into the Liverpool team and Case started, replacing Irwin and Heighway.
West Ham took the lead after only five minutes with a goal from Paul Goddard. But the Reds equalised through Dalglish in the 25th minute and won the game 2-1 with a goal from Hansen three minutes later.
The League Cup was not the only silverware Liverpool acquired in the 1980-81 season. On a momentous night in Paris, the Reds lifted the European Cup for the third time.
Real Madrid were defeated 1-0 at the Parc des Princes thanks to an 82nd minute goal from Alan Kennedy. The victory ensured that Paisley became the first manager to win the European Cup three times.
In comparison, the rest of Liverpool’s 1980-81 season was somewhat muted. The Reds went out of the FA Cup in the Fourth Round to Everton, losing 2-1 at Goodison Park.
Case scored for Liverpool while Peter Eastoe and Imre Varadi netted for the Toffees. The referee was again Clive Thomas.
Liverpool’s defence of the league title ended in disappointment too. The Reds finished fifth with 51 points, one point behind fourth-placed West Bromwich Albion. Arsenal were third with 53 points.
The top two places went to Aston Villa with 60 points and Ipswich Town on 56. Liverpool’s cup rivals, West Ham, were crowned Second Division champions with 66 points and were promoted.
*Hundreds of pictures from an unforgettable decade are packed into Clive Hardy’s fascinating book Around Merseyside in the 1960s. It’s available at £9.99 plus postage and packaging.
Just go to inostalgia.co.uk to place your order or ring the hotline on 01928 503777.