When two equally destructive forces come up against each other, you would expect them to cancel each other out. But what happens when two such forces join hands to take on the rest? Mayhem.
There were many greats who graced the Liverpool of 1970s. If you were asked to name a few, the names would be dealt with individually. But there are two names which have to be uttered in the same breath; two people whose presence as a pair was far more destructive than when individual performances were taken into account. One incomplete without the other and vice versa. One of the deadliest strike pairings in Liverpool’s history- John Toshack and Kevin Keegan.
Toshack, 6”1’, was signed for 110,000 pounds in the winter of 1970 at the age of 21. A player with a boisterous presence, he was no doubt Mr.TargetMan for Liverpool. However, the great Bill Shankly knew that the recipe for success was not yet complete. There was just one more person lacking. And that was Kevin Keegan. The Englishman signed on for the Reds in 1971 and was originally deployed as a midfielder. However, seeing his ability to immediately strike an understanding with Toshack on the pitch, Shankly shifted gears and very soon, Keegan was playing alongside the Welshman in attack.
“Toshack, Keegan, one nil!” – One of the most unforgettable lines by iconic commentator David Coleman.
John Toshack – Liverpool’s Tower
As Liverpool folklore goes, for the supporter and the neutral, watching Toshack and Keegan combine was nothing short of magic. Toshack’s aerial presence would always feed Keegan and Keegan’s tiny but quick feet would leave defenders behind in no time. One very interesting angle that this relationships projects is that Toshack’s versatility came into light largely because of Keegan. Having started off as a target man, Toshack slowly began to drift into a parallel role of playing alongside a strike partner. This gave him the freedom to experiment more when he received the ball since he knew he didn’t just have to direct it into the back of the net. The result was that his footwork got better as time progressed and his confidence in the box increased because of his awareness that Keegan was always around.
Month after month, Toshack grew from strength to strength and it was not long before he earned his rewards. Liverpool won the league in 1973, six years after their last league title; and it was John Toshack who was instrumental in bringing home that cup. The only misfortunes in Toshack’s career were his niggling injuries. Time and again the Welshman suffered minor injuries sporadically which kept him out of the game. But his talent was such that, when he was on the field, you always knew he would make an impact. 1975-76 was his most productive season at Merseyside; Toshack went on to win the UEFA cup and the League.
When Toshack came on, you always knew something was going to happen. The mystery factor would suddenly surface because at a time when Liverpool was writing an ethos of its own, the presence of a monster like Toshack would only mean that you just don’t know how to deploy your defense; man-marking or zonal? Toshack always kept them guessing.
Kevin Keegan – Mighty Mouse
“John Toshack and I weren’t two of the most gifted players in the world but we combined to a good effect on the field.” – Kevin Keegan on his partnership with John Toshack
A year after Toshack’s signing; Kevin Keegan became Liverpool’s latest star recruit from Scunthorpe United. Signed for a mere 35000 pounds, Keegan was again one of Bill Shankly’s smart buys and arrived at Liverpool as 20 year old midfielder. However, his presence on the pitch seemed to yield better results for club and himself when it was noticed that Keegan was a far better player when he played off John Toshack. Shankly’s tactical nous gave birth to a deadly strike duo.
Given Toshack’s ability in the air, Kevin Keegan’s role as a striker became much easier since he would always play around Toshack who would be his pivot. This made life hard for defenders because one moment they would be marking Toshack and looking to win the aerial battles and in the very next, they would have to catch up with Keegan on his marauding runs. It was a simple yet effective combination and it brought many laurels to Anfield.
“Tosh was a wonderful player to play alongside. His aerial ability was fantastic and I always knew that he was going to win the high balls. From then on it was just a question of me reading which way the ball was going to go and from those situations we created many chances. “– Kevin Keegan
Keegan, like Toshack, went on to win several medals during his tenure at Liverpool. However, the point that stands out here is that, for two players who met and play alongside each other from the tender age of 21, shows that you don’t always need experience on your side to create a working relationship. The relationship, if considered as a single entity, can be a match-winner on its own and can grow to higher levels as time passes by. Kevin Keegan and John Toshack went on to score a total of 196 goals for Liverpool during 1971-77.
Andy Carroll & Luis Suarez – A Duo That Speaks Football
What’s ironic is, after Kevin Keegan departed Liverpool, it was Kenny Dalglish who stepped into his shoes. Now everybody who is abreast with football these days would know how well versed Dalglish is about the club’s history and heritage. And all that he had to do was, wind the clock back to the 70s, pluck out a leaf from Liverpool’s history and pen down two names in place of Toshack and Keegan.
In this present era, any ardent fan of Premier League football knows all about Carroll’s and Suarez’ abilities as individual players. Having signed on at Merseyside just this season, it is too early to analyze their impact on Liverpool’s progress. Hence, to give an idea of what this new strike duo can blossom into, we went back in time and spoke about John Toshack and Kevin Keegan and the impact that both of them had on the game.
Three’s Company – This Is What Liverpool Was Waiting For
From the few glimpses that we all have caught so far, it is evident that there is room for understanding between Carroll and Suarez and if exploited well, it could well be the most dominating strike partnership in the Premier League. Carroll has had just 5 League starts so far and has scored two fantastic goals but what mustn’t go unnoticed is his understanding with Suarez. Both the players are beginning at the grass root level, in the sense that, currently, both are trying to stay close to each other in order for Carroll to win the header and direct it towards Suarez and for Suarez to stay close enough so that he can collect the ball at his feet and make his run. With time and with further training and practice, this relationship can be further refined to yield more results for Liverpool.
Furthermore, if Liverpool does venture out in the transfer market in the summer looking for wingers, then Carroll’s threat to the opposition goal would only increase. This would again give the defenders a lot to think about. But let’s not forget, the most expensive British footballer has a killer left foot.
And if what goes around comes around, then Kenny’s could be compared to Shankly’s time when he was plotting the Red Revolution. Liverpool has slumped again and this time Dalglish has taken over the reigns. Having made the right moves so far, you can’t really argue about the rationale behind bringing Carroll and Suarez together.