In Men in White Suits, Simon Hughes meets some of the most colourful characters to have played for Liverpool Football Club during the 1990s.
The resulting interviews, set against the historical backdrop of both the club and the city, deliver a rich portrait of life at Anfield during a decade when on-field frustrations were symptomatic of off-the-field mismanagement and ill-discipline.
After the shock resignation of Dalglish and Graeme Souness's ill-fated reign, the Reds – under the stewardship of Roy Evans – displayed a breathtaking style led by a supremely talented young group of British players whose names featured as regularly on the front pages of the tabloids as they did on the back. The Daily Mail was the first newspaper to tag Evans’s team as the Spice Boys.
Yet despite their flaws, this was a rare group of individuals: mavericks, playboys, goal-scorers and luckless defenders. Wearing off-white Armani suits, their confident personalities were exemplified in their pre-match walk around Wembley before the 1996 FA Cup final (a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United).
In stark contrast to the media-coached, on-message interviews given by today’s top stars, the blunt, ribald and sometimes cutting recollections of the footballers featured in Men in White Suits provide a rare insight into this fascinating era in Liverpool’s long and illustrious history.
Some good interviews in the book
First having grew up watching Liverpool football club in the 1990's, I was looking forward to reading this book. I was 7-15 years old during this period, with memories of great games but not great times. I always see the 90's as Sky coming in and using football as a vehicle to make money. A new era whereby to give fans who had the money, football at a cost. I'd always watch the great matches of Liverpool at a cousins because we couldn't afford Sky. I felt it mirrored Liverpool being unable to remain a force, as football almost changed overnight and the club couldn't see it.
The book interviewed some interesting former players like Nicky Tanner, Redknapp and Souness as the manager who I always believed was the main person at fault for the club's decline, but it's clear he was simply the wrong man at the wrong time. His regrets at how he handled the older players like Peter Beardsley, Steve McMahon and Ray Houghton as moving them on too quickly tells you he knows he made massive mistakes but none bigger than the club not seeing the revolution of the premier league, sky, marketing and commercialism being the aim of football club's trying have or maintain success. Liverpool at boardroom level knew things were changing but were too set in their ways to change.
I thought it was odd to conduct interviews with bit part players such as Erik Meijer and David Thompson. Neither interviews seemed relevant and give me hardly no information that I was concerned about. Thompson especially, come across as arrogant, bitter and selfish. A player Gerard Houllier didn't want, but only because Houllier wanted athletes like Carragher and Gerrard, who conducted themselves as professional and abiding by the rules a professional should be.
Overall I think the book was a good read, however the questions raised of why Liverpool's success in the 1990's was limited to 2 trophies, weren't to the point. I'd of liked to hear from former boardroom members. Why they didn't see what was happening and what they thought the football club might of become if they gone down the Disneyland route of the global marketing such as Man Utd.
Don't expect to many great stories just disappointments that seemed to me as only right from some former players, who I'd remember as Liverpool players when I was a child but still at the time, not believing they were.