Date: 16th September 2014 at 1:52pm
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After a long five year wait the Reds return to Champions League action tonight.

While it’s true that Ludogorets Razgrad aren’t the most glamorous opposition, that won’t matter to Kopites who have been impatiently waiting for a return to Europe’s top table.

Memories of the disappointing performance at home to Aston Villa will vanish as soon as Zadok the Priest sounds around Anfield.

Zadok the Priest? Is that a new chant no-one’s heard yet? No, even though the name of the song isn’t well known, millions of football fans around the world would recognise the Champions League theme music that is set to make a welcome return to Anfield.

Growing up that theme held a certain mystique for me, even though the Reds weren’t involved I still looked forward to watching some of the greatest players in the world.

Unfortunately I was only allowed to watch the first half before being sent to bed, I was desperate for the Reds to qualify so my mum would let me stay up.

We missed out on goal difference in 1997 thanks to some erratic goalkeeping displays from David James and the Reds had to wait until 2001 to reach the Champions League.

If there’s one score line that defines the Reds’ recent European history then it is 3-3.

Many writers who are much more qualified than me have already had plenty to say about the night in Istanbul nearly 10 years ago but another 3 – 3 draw three years earlier showed the Reds fighting spirit in the Champions League.

In 2002 the Reds were drawn alongside Valencia, Basel and Spartak Moscow, not a walkover but certainly a group that looked easily negotiable.

Rafa Benitez’s Valencia were too much for the Reds and despite two wins against Spartak Moscow a draw at home to Basel meant the Reds travelled to Switzerland needing a win.

The Reds had started the league campaign really well that season, but just before taking on Basel they lost for the first time in the league away to Middlesbrough.

The Swiss side picked up where ‘Boro left off and were ahead inside two minutes. Before half time it was 3 – 0 with Julio Hernan Rossi, Christian Giminez and Timothee Atouba on the score sheet.

Hardly household names, in fact the Reds were being trounced by an extremely average side orchestrated by Hakin Yakin in the hole.

Facing the impossible the Reds upped their game, Danny Murphy pulled one back on the hour and just as he would in the final three years later Vladimir Smicer made it 3-2 to give the Reds a lifeline.

With just seven minutes remaining Michael Owen won a penalty, the current BT commentator was about as good at spot kicks as he is behind the microphone so it was no surprise to see it saved but Owen smashed home the rebound to make it 3 – 3 just as Xabi Alonso would in Istanbul.

But it was too little too late, Basel saw the game out and progressed while the Reds were consigned to the European rubbish bin – or as it was known as the time the Uefa Cup.

Despite a lack of quality the Reds fought until the final whistle and even though they ultimately fell short, you couldn’t help but feel proud watching them pour their hearts out on the pitch.

A fitting description of the Reds in Europe since the turn of the century.

Under Rafa Benitez the Reds enjoyed plenty of success in Europe but they did it through organisation, discipline and heart rather than by having the best players.

During the 2005 run the Reds fielded Darren Potter, Josemi and Antonio Nunez.

In the final itself Milan had Paolo Maldini, Jaap Stam, Allesandro Nesta and Cafu. We had Djimi Traore.

In 2007 Liverpool faced a Chelsea side that cost twice as much to assemble and came out on top after penalties.

Two years later the Reds beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu with Fabio Aurelio marshalling Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt up against Fabio Cannavaro.

Even though we’ve never had the quality on paper to match the European elite we consistently found ways of beating them thanks to the heart shown by the players on the pitch and the fans on the terraces.

This year the Reds have been put in another testing but manageable group with champions Real Madrid the team everyone is looking forward to seeing at Anfield.

The Reds never do it the easy way but if they show the same courage as the teams of the past have done, then they’ll be a joy to watch again.


2 responses to “Fans View : What The Champions League Means To Me”

  1. Daniel McClean says:

    Remember that Basel game really clearly. We’ve never done things straightforward in Europe, and don’t think this season is going to be any different!

  2. Andrew Smith says:

    You were right. We don’t do it the easy way!

    On the plus side we got three points and there’s plenty of room for improvement!