Liverpool now on solid footing
Liverpool FC was just starting to make its way toward the elite levels of European soccer when it first visited Boston in 1964. The club had just won the First Division and was a season away from playing in the Champions Cup final for the first time.
The Reds did not return to Boston again until Monday, the first stop on a promotional tour for their preseason matches at Toronto FC (Saturday), Fenway Park against AS Roma July 25, and in Baltimore against Tottenham July 28.
The team is getting a fresh start under Brendan Rodgers, who replaced Kenny Dalglish as manager after last season. Liverpool now has stability with the financial backing of Fenway Sports Group, but Rodgers and the Reds are pursued by the blessings and curses of successes that began under manager Bill Shankly in the ‘60s.
“Over the course of the next seasons we’re looking to become competitive and build a squad that’s going to be able to compete and be at the top of the league,” Rodgers said during a press conference. “Liverpool, as everyone knows, has got a glorious past and it’s a wonderful history to the football club. And we’ll always respect that. And the challenge is to look forward and try and build and try and grow again. And that’s going to just take that wee bit of time.’’
Some of Liverpool’s top players will not join the team on this trip — they have been given a month off after having competed in the European Championships. But Fabio Borini, a $20 million transfer from AS Roma, will join Liverpool for training at Harvard University next week and could compete against his former club.
“It’s a great demonstration to his commitment to Liverpool,” said Rodgers, who coached Borini at Swansea City. “I’d given him the four weeks — he made it very clear he wanted to get back and training with the group, so we agreed next week. He’s very determined to do well and I’m sure he’ll play a part in some of the games.”
AS Roma also has local connections as Celtics owner James Palotta gained controlling interest last year. Both Liverpool and Roma are attempting to increase their popularity outside of Europe.
“First and foremost it’s all about preparation for the team, get ready for the new season,’’ said Rodgers. “We’re coming to some incredible facilities and playing in some fantastic grounds. So, I believe in relation to our preparation it will be very worthwhile.
“Secondly, Liverpool is a footballing institution world-wide and we hope in a period of days, when we’ve come back, we’ve picked up some more supporters and, like I say, to add to the millions we have already. It’s a great opportunity for us as a club to bring the club as a team and be that much closer to the supporters. And it will be fantastic for them, I’m sure they will be traveling from all across America to come see us play.”
In ’64, Liverpool took an 8-1 win over the Boston Metros at Everett Stadium after winning its sixth of 18 first division championships. But Liverpool has not won the title since 1990.
“I have a sense of the present and the present is that the group become competitive,” Rodgers said. “And if you can do that and grow over the next couple of seasons then, hopefully, we can get back competing with the top end of the Premier League. Liverpool’s history was made in the league and European competitions and it’s been over 20 years since the club has won the league. We’re not there, yet, but we want to build toward that.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.