Watching Manchester City play at Anfield over the last 70 years has been a little like standing in front of the Niagara Falls waiting for the water to start flowing in the opposite direction.
Apart from the very odd occasion when it slowed to a trickle, the great weight of water has continued to slip smoothly over the precipice and down into the depths below just as the fates decreed many millennia before.
Depths of another kind have met the City supporters housed in the Anfield Road end of the ground since a fortuitous FA Cup win there in 1956. The depths of despair and the depths of darkness.
Since that victory, the flow of luck, fortune, goals and practically everything else has run almost uninterrupted in the opposite direction.
For those of us who were not yet born in the mid-fifties, there are only two possible recollections of triumph on this particular enemy territory: a 3-1 win in the depths of winter 1981 and a 2-1 victory under ex-Liverpool hero Kevin Keegan – thanks to goals from another ex-Liverpool hero Nicolas Anelka – in 2003.
These represent truly meagre pickings for fans that have been travelling in hope to the city of the Beatles for five decades or more. It has certainly not been City’s managers over the years shouting “we can work it out”.
Wins may have been thin on the ground, but two fixtures in consecutive seasons in the early 90s will bring a glimmer of hope to those travelling west this weekend.
In November 1990 the two sides collided as Liverpool’s all-conquering 20 years in charge of English football was beginning to falter (although they led the table going into this particular match), while a City side driven by new player manager Peter Reid was on the up after a decade spent fighting the ignominy of two relegations in 1983 and 1987.
City, battling an Anfield hoodoo which has lasted through to the present day more or less totally unscathed, took the game to their hosts, forced on by the exuberance of Reid. A Mark Ward penalty seemed to have sealed an unlikely victory when a typical Kop End resurrection left the Blues on the floor, goals from Ian Rush (82) and Ronnie Rosenthal (86) seemingly steering the points to the leaders.
“Reid refused to let any of his players contemplate defeat”, wrote Norman Fox in the Independent and Niall Quinn’s looping header in the 91st minute made it 2-2 in a breathtaking finish.
A year and a month later another 2-2 draw enthralled the fans. With Liverpool trailing the leaders Manchester United by 11 points, City were one place behind them in 5th, just a point behind. This was to be David White’s match, scoring his third and fourth goals of the season against this opponent, after a brace in the 2-1 win in the first home game of the season.
This time the scoring was reversed with Liverpool netting early through Dean Saunders and White’s double coming early in the second half to silence the baying of the Kop. As Quinn had done a year before, so Steve Nicol did this time, dragging Liverpool level in the 82nd minute.
It was to be Steve McMahon’s last game in the Liverpool midfield, transferring to City a day later. His battle in the middle of the park with the old war horse Reid had typified the pugnacious spirit of the two sides. For two consecutive years both teams had served up matches of unbridled energy and drama. Unlike many of what had gone before and indeed what has transpired since, Liverpool and City were utterly inseparable.
As these two northern giants prepare to do battle again, City fans still wait for the tide to turn and begin to flow in a new and unaccustomed direction.