The reaction of Liverpool Football club after Heysel was never going to be easy. The tragedy had left both players and supporters bewildered throughout a summer of increased negative media perceptions, bound together with the worst decade of depression the city has suffered through Thatcherism.
Every once in a while a legend comes through at the club. Someone who is spoken about on the streets of the city for decades. Rush, Gerrard, Keegan the list is endless for the talent developed and the gulf of class witnessed at Liverpool. However, the story of the 1985/1986 campaign shows why there will only ever be one King. To be a player in a double-winning side is great, to be the manager of this side is fantastic, but to be both is a truly remarkable Footballing miracle, and an achievement held in the highest regard.
With Joe Fagan stepping down in the aftermath of the Heysel disaster the club could have suddenly found itself in disarray. Dalglish took over at the young age of 34, and with the European ban meaning the club couldn't compete in Europe the targets for the upcoming season seen Liverpool focus on the League, and the FA Cup.
Manchester United, led by manager Ron Atkinson and Everton who were the holders of the league title lay in wait for Liverpool as their main competitors throughout the season, and with the season starting against the backdrop of uncertainty, ambitions were not sky high in August.
Steve Mcmahon, Mike Hooper and John Dornin completed the summer arrivals for the Reds, viewed as a pretty underwhelming site to fans as they saw European Cup winners Ray Kennedy and Phil Neal leave.
The campaign begins;
The Reds got off to a flyer with a resounding victory over Arsenal at Anfield. Before the game, a service was presented in tribute to the events in Brussels three months prior.
Dalglish announced himself as player-manager by placing himself right in the number seven position, one that he had made his own and would continue to do so. But the managerial spell had begun with a victory, and with the King at the helm spirits around Anfield are lifted with assurance.
The Reds then hit a stumbling block. A draw with Aston Villa was swiftly followed by a defeat to Newcastle United. However, Dalglish didn't let an early-season hiccup faze him and shown the strength that got him the job, learning of his predecessors.
There are no doubt questions were asked in the media about the role of Kenny, and whether he had taken on too much, but Liverpool followed this up with a 5-0 win over Ipswich Town. Ian Rush, perhaps one of the most senior figures in the dressing room highlighted the significance of the supporter's togetherness. "Good manners that could have hardly been bettered", talking about the response after the Newcastle defeat.
Liverpool collected 15 points from a possible 24 in their opening 8 games. It wasn't smooth sailing for Dalglish who had the Merseyside Derby to contend with next.
To understand the magnitude of this season, where a back against the wall attitude was grasped throughout the club - the appreciation of what not just the club had been through, but also the supporters, who not only had suffered from Heysel but also the relentless everyday life they lived. Where mass unemployment was rising and being from Liverpool was looked down upon, from a personal sense, and in Football stadiums.
The first Merseyside derby of the season on September 21st 1985 was one of huge pressure. With Manchester United starting the season in fine form, by winning their first 10 opening games it seemed as though either club had to win this one to keep in touch.
Everton were on the rise under Howard Kendall and after being in the shadow of Liverpool who had dominated Europe, they seemed to finally have the upper hand after winning the League in 1984.
Liverpool won the game 3-2, and guess who? Kenny Dalglish opened the scoring in the first minute of play. A man who was walking through tactics just 15 minutes before then scored the quickest Merseyside derby goal in history. Rush and Mcmahon ensured the victory over the blues and landed a massive blow to their title hopes. This was the clubs first away league victory of the season.
A draw with league leaders Manchester United was followed by five straight wins on the bounce. Craig Johnston's equaliser at Old Trafford perhaps one of the catalyst goals in changing Liverpool's season. A defeat could have given United momentum to continue their bright start.
A comfortable 3-0 win over Aston Villa at the beginning of December coincided with United's loss of form and victory meant Liverpool went above United for the first time all season. Paul Walsh, who has since been described by Dalglish as an 'unsung hero' continued his knack of scoring crucial goals.
However, with the tumbling of United's form came Liverpool's after. A 0-2 home defeat to Arsenal started the bookend of a torrid Christmas period, which was capped off by another 2-0 defeat at Anfield, and this time to Everton. 10 points from 10 games either side of the holidays put the New Year into a different perspective.
Alan Hansen, who was the senior centre half at the club described it as 'This is the worst Liverpool side I have seen in my life, this team is going to win nothing'. - https://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/first-team/223546-hansen-how-the-worst-liverpool-side-proved-me-wrong
The repercussions after a catastrophic derby, a few days after Liverpool had dropped points at home to United meant Everton were now top of the pile. Dalglish was absent from the 11 as alarm bells just started to flicker, Everton were eight points clear but Kenny refused to believe Liverpool's title challenge was over.
Even the most optimistic of fans alive at the time could not have envisioned the journey they would be taken on to the marvellous double after a derby defeat. But along with Liverpool's poor league form the Reds where steamrolling in the FA cup. A 5-0 win over Norwich was followed by knocking Chelsea out at Stamford Bridge. A place that turned out to be a happy hunting ground for the short term future.
8 points behind Everton with 12 games to go. Surely not, right?
Liverpool began an unprecedented end to the season with a win at White Hart Lane. Ian Rush scored a crucial goal in the 90th minute, which has been looked back upon as a springboard to Liverpool's form. Perhaps if Liverpool had drawn at Spurs, after defeating in the derby the season might have taken a different course.
A win at QPR and suddenly the season looked to be back on track. Despite this, in the build-up to Southampton disturbing news broke to all supporters that Ian Rush would be going to Juventus, at the end of the season. Dalglish could have done without this, a perceived tough ending to the season, and now his main striker counterpart going to Italy? Who knows what he was thinking.
Liverpool rolled on though, and Dalglish continued to work his magic. A goal in a 2-1 home win against West Brom kept Liverpool breathing down the neck of the city rivals. Suddenly it was the backend of April, and Liverpool were unbeaten in 9 league games and in the FA cup final.
It was the time that separated men and boys. Legends and players, and those who can manage and play, well what is there to be said?
Liverpool were at Filbert street, the past home of Leicester City. Everton who had opened the door to the Reds with a draw at Nottingham Forest where then playing Oxford on the same night.
The penultimate fixture of the season was the night that changed everything. Liverpool ran out comfortable winners at Leicester through Rush and Whelan, and with supporters packed into the away end, the news came through staggered radio audio that Oxford had gone 1-0 in front.
'They went to Nottingham Forest and they only got a draw, and then they went to Oxford and they couldn't even score'. Was the song that developed amongst fans as the title changed grasp ahead of the final day of the season.
Step forward the King.
The last day of the season seen trains packed to the rafters in both directions from Liverpool lime street to London Euston.
Liverpool were away at Chelsea, while Everton had West Ham in what seemed to be a routine win for the blues.
A handpicked side to play when three points away from the league title would not be a Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge, trying to do anything to upset the travelling Liverpool supporters.
Dalglish placed himself up front in a 3-5-2 formation and placed himself as the forefront of Liverpool FC. The game was a scrap by all accounts, but one moment if magic came on the 23rd minute, as Beglin's chip was controlled on the chest and placed into the opposite corner right in front of the away end. It was the match made in heaven, Dalglish 0-1 won Liverpool the title.
The Cup final
In 1986 the FA cup final was the beacon of English Football and surpassed a crowd of 95,000 as Liverpool once again faced Everton this time at Wembley.
Was it to be the marvellous double for Kenny's men, or would the Blues seek revenge in the best way?
A sign of strength and unity was amplified around the ground with the ongoing climate in the city away from Football. It was the perfect place for Scouse voices to be heard.
Dalglish again placed himself upfront with Rush, with Johnston, Molby and Macdonald supplying them.
Everton took the lead through their talisman Gary Lineker, but he was to be bettered by Liverpool's Ian Rush who scored another double against them.
Liverpool's fans taunted blues around the ground by singing 'Champions' towards their heroes. Who were soon to be the double champions of the 1986 campaign.
The 10th May 1986 was perceived to be another Spring day in February when Everton had gone 8 clear after a win at Anfield. Instead, it was a day when both Liverpool and Dalglish had made valuable history, which is still treasured to this day. Plenty of fans who were alive at the time recall it as the greatest season ever.
A great book about the 1985/86 campaign - 'On the March with Kenny's army' by Gary Shaw and Mike Nevin. Here - https://www.amazon.co.uk/March-Kennys-Army-Liverpool-Overcame/dp/0955728320