On Tuesday, September 16, 1969, a 22-year-old Frenchman named Gérard Houllier attended Anfield for the first time. He was stationed in the stands rather than the dugout, though, as he witnessed a record-breaking European Fairs Cup victory over Irish side Dundalk.
On the pitch and in the stands, Bill Shankly’s Liverpool were very much their relentless selves on this early Autumn evening.
In the short and long-term, that saw them rewarded.
On the night, their approach brought them five goals in either half and a subsequent 10-goal aggregate lead to take back across the Irish Sea for the second leg a fortnight later.
It brought them what would remain the club’s biggest ever competitive victory until five years and a day later, when Bob Paisley’s first continental game in charge produced an 11-0 home European Cup Winners’ Cup win over Norway’s Strømsgodset.
It brought them seven different scorers, too. Alun Evans, Tommy Smith and Bobby Graham each struck twice, while Chris Lawler, debutant Alec Lindsay, Peter Thompson and Ian Callaghan got one apiece.
In the long-term, though, it seemingly helped to charm the club’s future manager, who was then working on Merseyside in a teaching capacity, but who almost 30 years later would be leading a Liverpool side of his own.
The manager who, in 1998, represented the first in nearly 40 years not to have been part of that Boot Room culture.
The manager who would, ultimately, reshape the club into a genuine 21st-century force in a six-year stay that produced six trophies and a seismic shift in culture – akin to that induced by fellow Frenchman Arsène Wenger at Arsenal.
That that manager – alongside his future assistant Patrice Bergues – had witnessed first-hand the foundations upon which he could later build, surely would have enhanced his understanding of the task at hand nearly three decades later.
“I suppose going to the game with Patrice that day was a touch of destiny,” Houllier told lfchistory.net.
“Patrice had come over to spend a few days with me because I was here on my own, and so we decided to go and see Liverpool play Dundalk.
“What impressed me first of all was the atmosphere inside the stadium. We were on the Kop, and it was fantastic to see the unconditioned support of the fans.
“I was also impressed by the energy which was shown in the game, and the stamina of the players.
“I think 15 minutes before the end of the match the score was 8-0 and still Liverpool went looking for goals. In fact the score at half-time was 5-0.”
It was indeed.
Evans strikes – one after 50 seconds, the other after 37 minutes – bookended Lawler, Smith and Graham efforts in the 10th, 24th and 36th minute respectively to earn that five-goal advantage at the break.
Lindsay got off the mark 10 minutes after the restart and that was added to by Smith in the 67th minute, Thompson in the 69th, Callaghan in the 76th and finally Graham in the 82nd.
“In France, if you are 5-0 up at half-time the game is over in the sense that you don’t bother trying to increase your score. It’s not like that in England,” Houllier summarised.
A Thompson brace alongside Graham and Callaghan goals in Ireland a fortnight later secured an emphatic 14-0 aggregate success.
The Merseysiders wouldn’t progress beyond the second round, however. Vitória Setubal of Portugal would knock them out on away goals in late November.
Liverpool would, though, feel further benefits from that brilliant night’s work against Dundalk much further down the line of course.
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