Now Liverpool finally get to lift the Premier League trophy, we reflect on how the sporting world shaped up when they were last champions back in 1990.
Were it not for the coronavirus pandemic that has brought normal life to an unprecedented standstill and decimated the global sporting calendar, then Liverpool's players and fans may have finished celebrating their first title in 30 years by now.
The party, however, is still going as they finally get to lift the trophy they sealed last month.
Nevertheless, it's incredible to think that when the Anfield giants clinched their 18th crown back on April 28, 1990, they were nine league titles clear of their then-nearest rivals Everton and Arsenal, while Manchester United were two further back on seven - only to go on and top the standings an incredible 13 times under Sir Alex Ferguson over the next 23 seasons.
But now Jurgen Klopp's side have moved within one of their arch rivals but also fancy their chances of restoring their place as England's most successful club.
Our team of writers have turned the clock back 30 years to reflect on how different the wider sporting landscape looked when Liverpool last ruled the roost, including snooker, darts, golf, boxing, tennis, horse racing, athletics, cricket, formula one, both rugby codes and NFL. If that's not enough nostalgia, at the very bottom is some random trivia away from the sporting world.
For almost every football fan of a certain age, the year 1990 will only ever be known for ‘Italia 90’, one of the most iconic World Cups of modern times – and not just because of Pavarotti belting out Nessun Dorma on the TV coverage. And in the very first game, when Cameroon stunned reigning champions Argentina the stage was set for iconic moment to follow iconic moment – even in that game we had Omam-Biyik’s header and Massing’s foul on Caniggia weaving themselves into the fabric of World Cup history.
And it didn’t stop there – Roger Milla’s scoring (and dancing) lit up the tournament, Carlos Valderrama and Rene Higuita’s hair styles will live long in the memory, while top scorer Toto Schillaci sent the home nation wild with his scoring exploits. Diego Maradona mixed controversy with brilliance again before ending his campaign in tears, Enzo Scifo and Gheorghe Hagi were carving out reputations as number 10 supremos, while David Platt’s late winner against Belgium and Gary Lineker’s penalties against Cameroon dragged England into the semis.
Lineker’s “have a word with him” to Bobby Robson was another often-repeated moment as he reacted to Paul Gascoigne’s tears - which became the symbol of the tournament for England fans after they went on to suffer penalty heartbreak. Italia 90 was a landmark tournament in that regard, as it was the first time the Three Lions got a taste of the spot-kick misery that would become all too familiar down the years in major tournaments.
Take a look at some of the teams competing, namely Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, West Germany and Yugoslavia were all intact before the political and geographical map of Europe was redrawn over the years. Some of the names of the players taking part are now the managers, coaches and pundits of today – but to illustrate the point Roberto Mancini and Carlo Ancelotti both played for Italy and have both then become managers and won Premier League and Champions League titles, while Liverpool waited to be English champions again.
By Paul Higham (@SportsPaulH)
1990. Arguably the most significant year in snooker history.
The nineties began with Stephen Hendry becoming the youngest ever winner of the World Championship aged 21, signalling the end of Steve Davis’ reign as king of the green baize and beginning the Scotsman's own occupation of a throne he never looked like relinquishing for the next 10 years.
For Jimmy White, this was his second final defeat - six years after his first to Davis - and by losing the next four, three of which to Hendry, the Whirlwind would typically earn the lifelong moniker 'People's Champion'.
Hendry’s golden run saw him dominate the sport for a decade in a manner not seen before or after, his maiden world title won in 1990 and his seventh and final victory in Sheffield in 1999, snooker fans witnessing a period of unrivalled brilliance in the intervening years.
It appeared that 1990 would forever be remembered as being the springboard for success for the best snooker player of all time and while that proved to be the case, it wouldn’t be Hendry who would necessarily end his career with that accolade.
Instead, that honour will arguably go to Ronnie O’Sullivan, a record 19 Triple Crown victories to his name already - albeit two Crucible crowns fewer than Hendry - and the first man past 1000 century breaks.
When did it all start? 1990 of course, with the Rocket making his first TV appearance at the age of just 14 when compiling a typically fluent break of 75 to overpower Steve Ventham with all the style and swagger that would come to define his career.
It was the beginning of 30-year rollercoaster that still shows no sign of stopping and the ‘Rocket’ has been a firm favourite with snooker fans ever since.
By Richard Mann (@Richard_Mann11)
“Yes. Yes. Double 12. YEEEESSS, it’s there! Paul Lim! A nine-dart finish!”
It’s impossible to even write those words without smiling, let alone watching it for possibly the 501st time since lockdown began, but not only does this truly joyous moment never get old, it also came in a defining era when many leading stars were soon to take darts in a new direction.
By the time Paul Lim hit his iconic perfect leg in 1990, the World Championship had become the only event people could watch on TV despite the likes of Eric Bristow, John Lowe and Bobby George making the sport so popular in the early-to-mid 1980s and discontent among the players was rife.
A 29-year-old Phil Taylor would seal his first of 16 world titles with a thumping 6-1 victory over the late, great Crafty Cockney, who had celebrated the last of his five in 1986, while the Power’s second came in the greatest Lakeside final of all time against Mike Gregory two years later.
Taylor, Bristow, Lowe and 1991 winner Dennis Priestly were among the initial 16 players who broke away after the 1993 World Championship and later that year would manage to stage the first ‘rival’ edition televised by Sky Sports. The rest, as they say, is history.
As far as the general standards in 1990 are concerned, Taylor showed an early glimpse of his mastery with the only ton-plus average of the tournament in the semi-finals (100.80) and he followed that up with a mark of 97 in the final, with Bristow’s 93 being the 10th above 90.
Meanwhile, Lim’s nine-dart stunner in round two was the second televised perfect leg in history – six years after Lowe pocketed a record £102,000 for the first – but the fact his own £52,000 prize has only been surpassed once since when Phil Taylor scooped £100k in 2002 is purely a reflection on how the mesmerising quality of play has increased to match the otherwise bulging prize pots in the PDC.
By Chris Hammer (@ChrisHammer180)
Golf in 1990 was a sport still some years from the revolution led by Tiger Woods, a 14-year-old creating all sorts of buzz – not least in an interview with Trans World Sport.
Nick Faldo won the Masters for a second time - and via a play-off for the second year in a row - while he added his second of three Open Championships for good measure in July.
It was a big year for the women’s game, too, with the very first Solheim Cup going the way of the United States.
It was, as we look back now, the night before the dawn of a new era; here, players of all shapes and sizes, of varying skills, competed for the biggest prizes in the sport – all while dressed in clothing so loose fitting you’d have been able to fit Tom Kite and Brad Faxon inside a small quarter-zip. The notion of golf as a sport for the athlete had not quite cottoned on.
1990 was also the year of unification when it comes to the size of the ball. Believe it or not, until this point in history, the R&A and the USGA could not come to an agreement as to a universal size, with the so-called ‘British’ ball smaller than the 1.68-inch diameter of its American equivalent. Thirty years on and the ball is back in the spotlight as debates rage as to the future of the sport and the potential for bifurcation.
Over those three decades, the sport has changed. Now, power is king, and the best players in the sport get rich quickly. And it’s all thanks to one young kid from California, who when asked just what set him apart was able even at 14 to hit the nail on the head, just as he’s since proven capable of hitting an iron to his target.
“My competitiveness – when you have to make a putt, you make a putt.”
By Ben Coley (@BenColeyGolf)
In the summer of 1990 English cricket fans caught their first sight of a 17-year-old from Mumbai of whom big things were already being predicted both in India and further afield, someone who would go on to become one of the greatest to ever play the game.
A fresh-faced young man by the name Sachin Tendulkar had made his Test debut against Pakistan a few months earlier and having stood up to the might of Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram with both courage and skill, he was selected for his first tour of England already carrying the heavy weight of expectation on his young shoulders.
A promising start to the Test series at Lord’s confirmed that Tendulkar was indeed a rich talent and within a matter of days the ‘Little Master’ had his maiden Test century, a match-saving unbeaten 119 at Old Trafford following a classy hand of 68 in the first innings.
It wasn't quite the highest score of the series, mind, with England captain Graham Gooch scoring a monumental 333 at Lord's before following it up with 123 in the second innings.
Nevertheless, in Tendulkar a star was born and a couple of years later he returned to these shores to continue his love affair with England, setting up temporary home across the Pennines in Yorkshire where he quickly etched his name into the history books of the club.
Tendulkar would end his career in India in 2013 with exactly 100 international centuries to his name, a colossal achievement, but it was back in the summer of 1990, in England, that his incredible journey really started to take flight.
By Richard Mann
“Becker was first my idol until some of my friends said, ‘Why Becker? Edberg is cooler’,” recalled Roger Federer. “Is he? Okay, I'll be Edberg.”
If you’d said a 22-year-old Boris Becker had already won his last Wimbledon by the time 1990 ticked over, you’d have got a similar reaction to anyone who prophesied Liverpool’s title drought.
By winning his first as a prodigious teenager in 1985 - becoming the first unseeded Wimbledon champion in the process – Becker began a love affair with SW19 that would also see him lift the trophy 12 months later and for a third occasion in 1989.
The German youngster exacted revenge on Stefan Edberg in the latter of those for the defeat he suffered in the 1988 final and duo would again face off in 1990 to complete their remarkable Wimbledon trilogy in quite some style.
Becker lost the opening two sets 6-2 but courageously battled back by taking the third and fourth 6-3 as he threatened to become the first player since 1927 to win a Wimbledon title from such a deficit.
His comeback, however, would prove to be in vain as the 24-year-old Swede clinched a gripping decider 6-4 to win his second Wimbledon and his fourth of six career Grand Slams having also landed the Australian Open (’85, ’87) before going on to add two US Open titles (‘91, ’92).
Despite two further final defeats in the 1990s to Michael Stich and Pete Sampras, Becker went on to add a pair of Australian Open titles of his own (’91, ’96) to take his Grand Slam tally to six, which also included the 1989 US Open, but he’d finally get a measure of revenge over Edberg at Wimbledon some 24 years later in true storybook fashion.
Federer, who had previously revealed that the Becker-Edberg rivalry inspired him to play tennis as a child, recruited the Swedish legend as coach for two seasons in 2014 while Becker was already in Novak Djokovic’s corner.
The pair subsequently met in back-to-back Wimbledon finals as their own great rivalry reached another level, but on both occasions the coolest duo were melted.
By Chris Hammer
In the glorious history of great sporting upsets, boxing produced one of the most famous ever way back in February 1990, when the formidable Mike Tyson made his way to the ring inside the Tokyo Dome.
Boasting a fearsome unbeaten record of 37-0 with 33 knockouts, including a fifth-round stoppage of Frank Bruno exactly 12 months earlier, a 24-year-old Iron Mike couldn’t have been a much hotter favourite to win his 11th straight title fight since 1986 and retain the WBA, WBC and IBF belts for the seventh successive bout.
It was supposed to be another quick, routine defence, serving merely as a preparation for a potential mega fight with Evander Holyfield, while challenger Buster Douglas arrived in Japan priced at 42/1 to pull off the unthinkable.
Aged 30, the ‘no hoper’ had previously lost four of his 34 fights in a far from sparkling career but he was also dealing with the tragic death of his mother Lula Pearl, who died suddenly just 23 days before the fight.
Douglas, though, was fearless from the opening bell and despite being sent to the canvas in the eighth round, he used his significant height and reach advantages to outbox the champion before a brutal onslaught in the 10th left a beaten Tyson on the floor, awkwardly scrambling to get his mouthpiece back in place.
If that was a jaw-dropping way to start the year, then Chris Eubank’s WBO middleweight title clash with Nigel Benn was a breathtaking way to end it.
An intense domestic rivalry had bubbled away outside of the ring for around three years before they finally got it on inside of it, with Benn hoping to defend the belt he’d taken from Doug DeWitt back in April and retained against Iran Barkley four months later.
The unbeaten, cocky Eubank was a marginal underdog despite winning five previous fights in 1990 but there was hardly anything to split the pair after seven gruelling rounds of a thriller that had already lived up to the hype and more.
The Dark Destroyer sent his arch-rival to the canvas in round eight but back came Eubank in the next with a relentless barrage that forced referee Richard Steele to bring an all-time epic to an end.
It’s no wonder that a rematch three years later brought in an estimated global TV audience of 500 million as Benn and Eubank put their respective WBC and WBO Super titles on the line at Old Trafford, although this would, of course, end in a draw. An amazing story for another day...
By Chris Hammer
Liverpool won their 18th First Division title - and eighth in 15 seasons - with two games to spare following a 2-1 victory at home to QPR and considering they finished nine points clear, it would have seemed inconceivable at the time to say a 19th wouldn't follow for 30 years.
The Reds did, however, miss out on a coveted double when they were stunned by Crystal Palace in the semi-finals of the FA Cup – and back then the FA Cup really was a trophy worth winning.
Liverpool had previously battered the Eagles 9-0 that season but were beaten 4-3 in extra time at Villa Park – yes back in the time when the FA Cup semis were staged on neutral grounds not Wembley. The game was almost eclipsed on the same day up at Maine Road as Oldham threatened to put Manchester United out in what turned out to be a 3-3 draw, with United winning the replay.
The FA Cup final also ended in a 3-3 draw in what was a vintage year for the famous old trophy, with the replay nowhere near as entertaining as Lee Martin scored the only goal of the game for Man Utd. The FA Cup this year though had even more significant ramifications as it was the year Mark Robins’ third round goal that reportedly saved the job of a certain Alex Ferguson – who went on to have a decent career at Old Trafford. Palace also fielded the last all-English starting XI seen in the FA Cup final.
Away from the FA Cup, Kenny Dalglish retired from playing at the age of 39 after his final season as Liverpool player-manager (remember them!) while Match of the Day host Gary Lineker was top scorer in the league with 25 goals and John Barnes won the Player of the Year and Soccer Saturday pundit Matt Le Tissier won the Young Player of the Year. It was a year when Second Division Oldham Athletic did wonders to make the FA Cup semi-final and League Cup final (beaten by Forest) with Andy Ritchie banging in 28 goals and a certain Frankie Bunn scored six in one game against Scarborough.
Leeds were promoted as Division Two champions and celebrated by splashing out £1m each on both Gary McAllister and John Lukic, and in what were to be pivotal moves for the years to come, Manchester United paid Oldham £625,000 to sign Denis Irwin and Brian Clough brought a young Irishman named Roy Keane to Nottingham Forest from Cobh Ramblers for just £10,000.
As for the European scene, English clubs were in the final season of their five-year ban due to the Heysel disaster while the European Cup was still two years away from being rebranded as the Champions League.
Italy dominated by winning all three competitions, with Milan lifting the European Cup, Sampdoria winning the Cup Winners' Cup and Juventus triumphing over Fiorentina in the UEFA Cup.
By Paul Higham
The longest-priced winner in Cheltenham Gold Cup history took top spot on March 15 1990, with Norton’s Coin springing a 100/1 shocker for Welsh dairy farming trainer Sirrell Griffiths.
The odds-on favourite that year was the brilliant Desert Orchid who could manage only third.
Fans’ favourite Dessie was having his sixth start of the 1989/90 campaign at the Cheltenham Festival and although suffering a surprise defeat in the big one, he turned out just a month later with a typically swashbuckling performance to win the Irish Grand National under the welter burden of 12 stone.
He was the even-money favourite in the Easter feature at Fairyhouse.
They simply don’t make them like Dessie any more.
By Matt Brocklebank
In 1990 we were still at the Five, rather than Six, Nations stage and Scotland were being crowned champions.
They hosted England in their final crunch game with the winner taking the Grand Slam title after they'd both won their previous three matches. Never before had such a prize rested on the final fixture.
It was the Scots that came out on top, with a Tony Stanger try giving the hosts a 13-7 victory over Will Carling’s men. That day, Scott Hastings played at outside centre for the Scots; fast forward to 2020 and his fly-half son Adam was facing England at Murrayfield in their 13-6 Six Nations defeat.
In those 30 years Scotland have only gone on to win the tournament on one further occasion, in 1999.
The sport is unrecognisable from 1990, experiencing major life-changing events including turning professional in 1995; the Five Nations becoming the Six in 2000 with the introduction of Italy; England going on to win one World Cup and lose in another three finals; substitutions, the sin bin and the TMO; and Wales, Ireland and France have all built brand new homes.
By Gareth Jones (@MattBrocklebank)
The 1990 Ashes Series was one that will long linger in the memory. There were iconic moments galore, not least Hull winger Paul Eastwood’s two-try heroics at Wembley that inspired a 19-12 victory for the home side in the opening clash.
Onto Old Trafford and one of the great rugby league matches. Great Britain had history within their grasp. They hadn’t won a series against the old enemy for 20 years but with three minutes remaining and the scores locked together in front of a capacity crowd, they were camped on the visitors’ line.
The Kangaroos were struggling to even get out of their own 20 metres when, on the fourth tackle, Ricky Stewart sold a dummy and set sail. He fended off the chasing pack long enough to find Mal Meninga on his shoulder and the giant centre thundered to the line to break British hearts.
The decider at Elland Road lacked the same drama. Try as they might, another sell-out crowd couldn’t inspire the home side to more heroics and a professional and ruthless display from Australia earned them a 14-0 win and the trophy headed home on Qantas.
It was a case of what might have been but for that one moment of magic from Stewart when his side needed it most.
By Dave Ord (@DaveOrd)
Back in 1990 the world’s fastest racehorse was scorching the turf up and down the land – the mighty Dayjur.
You wouldn’t have thought it when he finished seventh in the seven furlong European Free Handicap at Newmarket on his seasonal reappearance, but a drop in trip and change in tactics did wonders for him.
He announced his arrival on the sprinting scene in the Temple Stakes at Haydock before he flew to victory in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot in June.
His career-defining performance was still to come, though, at York, where he bolted up by four lengths in the Nunthorpe in a course record time of 56.16 seconds.
That record stood for 29 years until Battaash, last summer, in the same famous Sheikh Hamdan silks, broke 56 seconds on the Knavesmire for the first time thanks to a brilliant Nunthorpe in 55.90.
Unlike Battaash, though, Dayjur had more winning to come 30 years ago. He won the Sprint Cup at Haydock, the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp and then bowed out with a Breeders’ Cup second after dramatically jumping a shadow in the dying strides of the race.
Back in 1990, Dayjur was the fastest thing on four legs. And he set the benchmark which would last for three decades.
By Ben Linfoot (@BenLinfoot)
Great Britain may not have a rich history of sprinting success but turn the clock back to 1990 and Linford Christie was at the forefront of a rare golden era.
Two years after taking silver behind Carl Lewis in the “dirtiest race in history” at the Seoul Olympics, Christie kicked off the year by powering to his first of two 100m Commonwealth Games titles for England and when pulling on the Team GB vest later that summer he won his second European crown, with John Regis taking bronze.
The reverse result happened in the 200m while there were plenty of other podium-topping performances in the sprints thanks to Colin Jackson (110m hurdles), Roger Black (400m), Kriss Akabusi (400m hurdles) and the 4x400m squad, although surprisingly the 4x100m quartet made do with silver.
Of these legendary athletes who all etched their names in folklore for numerous other achievements – who can forget Tokyo 1991 for starters - only Christie would go on to become an individual Olympic champion as he emulated Allan Wells (1980) and Harold Abrahams (1924) at Barcelona ’92 aged 32 before following that up with a world title 12 months later in a national record of 9.87 seconds.
Christie, who managed a third 100m European title and a second Commonwealth crown in 1994, remains the only British athlete to win individual golds in all four major championships available while his 24 international track medals – indoor and outdoor - is more than any other from these shores.
By Chris Hammer
The late, great Ayrton Senna was at the height of his incredible powers in 1990 although his second of three Formula One titles came in highly controversial circumstances.
Widely regarded as the most naturally gifted driver of all time, the Brazilian would only be able to dazzle fans of the sport for just three more full seasons before his tragic death while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix but, as much as it’s a cliché to say it, his legend still lives on.
Although Michael Schumacher, who won the first of his record seven crowns in 94, will be remembered as the most technically complete champion, those who watched this particular era of the sports will unanimously agree that nobody has ever driven from their heart with as much heart-racing flair, skill and passion as Senna.
This was typified throughout the first 13 races of what turned out to be a controversial 1990 season, as the enigmatic Brazilian won six of them, including his second of six Monaco Grand Prix victories, while he finished on the podium on five other occasions to open up an 18-point lead over his great rival Alain Prost.
But when the Frenchman responded by winning in Spain, where Senna failed to finish, the lead was cut to just nine.
With two races to go, the season headed to the scene of where the pair controversially crashed in the previous year – Suzuka – and unless you’re young, have no interest in Formula One or haven’t seen the film, you’ll know what happened next.
Senna collided into Prost at the first corner, taking them both out and mathematically sealing the title in the process.
"What he did was disgusting. He is a man without value," fumed Prost, who almost quit the sport at that point.
A year later, Senna came clean and admitted it was deliberate.
By Chris Hammer
Such is the way the NFL works, the Super Bowl in January 1990 ended the 1989 season with the San Francisco 49ers thumping the Denver Broncos 55-10 in New Orleans with Joe Montana the MVP of that game on his way to becoming one of the legends of the sport.
Radio announce Jack Buck called that game, and in a nice twist his son Joe is now calling Super Bowls for a living on TV. Denver quarterback John Elway has gone on to be the GM of the team these days and has guided them to a Super Bowl himself.
In 1990 there were just 28 teams in three divisions, and not the 32 in eight divisions we see today – and between then and now there were a huge number of relocations, name changes and new expansion teams being introduced a league that was almost always evolving over the next couple of decades. The Raiders were still in Los Angeles before moving to Oakland, the Rams were also in LA before moving to St Louis, and back to LA!
The Houston Oilers were still in existence before they moved to become the Tennessee Titans and the Cleveland Browns were still the original Browns before they packed up and moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens, who went on to win two Super Bowls. The Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers were also introduced in later years.
Also, somewhere in California, a young 13-year-old Tom Brady was only dreaming of paying in the NFL – still a decade away from being drafted by the New England Patriots and then going on to be arguably the greatest player to ever grace the game.
By Paul Higham