It was a classic case of so near, yet so far for Liverpool football club in the extraordinary season of 1968-9.

English League Division One match at Anfield.
Liverpool 1 v Tottenham Hotspur 1.
Liverpool trainer Bob Paisley carries off injured fullback Emlyn Hughes.
29th April 1968.

The Reds finished second in the First Division to Leeds United with a points total that would have won the league in previous seasons.

They went out of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup on the toss of a coin to Spanish club Athletic Bilbao.

And they were knocked out of both the FA Cup and League Cup by the eventual runners-up in both competitions!

It all started promisingly for the Reds when talented forward Alun Evans was signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers in September 1968.

Alun Evans who became the first £100 000 teenager when signed for Liverpool from Wolverhampton Wanderers, enjoys a snack in the boardroom watched by new manager Bill Shankly and chairman Sid Reakes after he signed.
16th September 1968.

Evans was only 19 at the time and his transfer fee of £110,000 was a British record for a teenager. He caught the eye of Liverpool manager Bill Shankly when he gave Reds skipper Ron Yeats the run-around in a league match.

Sport: Football: Liverpool Manager, Bill Shankly watching a reserve game at Anfield between Liverpool Youths and Tranmere Youths. December 1969 Z11757

Evans went straight into the first team and made his debut against Leicester City at Anfield, scoring one of Liverpool’s goals in a 4-0 win.

The Reds were looking to improve on their third-place finish the previous season to land their eighth league title – and were hitting their form by September.

The 4-0 victory over Leicester was followed by a 6-0 demolition of Wolves at Molineux, with Evans bagging a brace against his former club. Roger Hunt and Peter Thompson also scored two goals each.

Hunt netted two more in the 4-0 thumping of Burnley at Turf Moor in October, but then came a 1-1 draw with local rivals Everton at Anfield. The Reds then got back on track with a 2-0 home win over fierce rivals Manchester United.

First choice goalkeeper for the Reds was Tommy Lawrence, although Anfield saw the debut of a future legend when a youthful Ray Clemence played against Swansea Town in September in the Third Round of the League Cup.

Liverpool goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence in action during the match against Arsenal at Anfield.
3rd March 1969

Clemence was signed from Scunthorpe United at the age of 19 for £15,000. He went on to make 470 league appearances for Liverpool and won 61 caps for England.

The Reds started 1969 with a 1-0 home win against West Bromwich Albion and then beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea v. Liverpool, league match at Stamford Bridge January 1969.
Liverpool players Alun Evans, Chris Lawler and Tommy Smith clear fom Chelsea’s Dave Webb.
Final score: Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool

February brought a 2-0 home defeat to Nottingham Forest and a 1-1 draw against West Ham at Upton Park.

Goalkeeper Lawrence was called into action in the snow at Anfield in March in a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Arsenal. Then came a crunch home match against title-chasers Leeds.

The teams played out a tense 0-0 draw – but it was not enough to knock Leeds off their stride. Liverpool had already lost 1-0 in the reverse fixture at Elland Road and desperately needed a victory.

Leeds’ consistency saw them win the league with 67 points, six ahead of Liverpool on 61. Everton came third with 57 points.

It was no consolation to Shankly and his team that 61 points would have won the league in the previous two seasons. It was also the same total the Reds achieved as league champions in 1965-6.

Liverpool’s near-miss season was underlined when they went out of the Fairs Cup in the First Round on the toss of a coin to Athletic Bilbao. The Reds lost the away leg 2-1 in September 1968, but won by the same score back at Anfield in October.

Liverpool players Tommy Smith and Emlyn Hughes at Anfield.
October 1969
Z10464

Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup 1-0 by Leicester City in a Fifth Round replay and lost 2-1 to Arsenal in the League Cup Fourth Round.

If the Reds hoped for consolation the next season, they were to be disappointed. Everton won the league with 66 points, while Liverpool finished fifth with 51.

*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.