Thirty years of change? The UK when Liverpool were last top of the pile


Liverpool (AFP)

Liverpool are the champions of England, Britain is fretting over its relationship with Europe, Kylie Minogue is releasing songs and a bouffant-haired Tory prime minister is under political pressure.

Welcome to the United Kingdom in 1990, the last time Liverpool won the league title, and proof that, often, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Then, as now, Britain started the decade on the cusp of profound change.

Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hammering out a trade deal with Brussels that follows Britain's tortured withdrawal from the European Union.

In 1990 his late predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, was also at loggerheads with Brussels -- and her own party -- over whether to join Europe's politically-sensitive Exchange Rate Mechanism.

The bitter issue dogged the very last days of Thatcher's 11-year premiership, and by November she had been replaced as premier.

"Britain was in a transition back then," Simon Chadwick, professor of Eurasian sport at Emlyon Business School, told AFP.

"And we now have a Tory leader who needs to confront the reality of the need for the state to intervene."

The Labour Party, then as now had been in opposition for more than a decade.

Also in 1990, Britain was joined to the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age when Channel Tunnel workers from the UK and France met 40 metres (130 feet) beneath the sea.

London was also rocked by big, sometimes violent, demonstrations.

Thirty years on, it has been Black Lives Matter and protests by right-wing groups.

In 1990, and just a month before Liverpool secured their title by beating Queens Park Rangers 2-1, 200,000 people demonstrated against that year's other main political issue, the "poll tax" -- a flat-rate charge on every adult.

So unpopular, it prompted some of Britain's largest and violent protests in years, and the March demonstration in central London's Trafalgar Square left more than 200 people injured, including police officers.

- Mr Bean is born -

Perennial pop star Minogue has promised her fans an album of "grown-up" disco in 2020.

In 1990, she was number one in the charts with the song "Tears on my Pillow", one of three top 10 singles that year.

Artists who featured in the charts 30 years ago and today also included Madonna and Elton John.

Rave culture was emerging in 1990, and is big in London again today.

Possibly the most globally famous cultural icon to make their debut in 1990 was "Mr Bean", who first appeared on UK screens on New Year's Day that year.

Other UK TV debuts included "Baywatch", a programme about well-sculpted US lifeguards that lives on in reruns across the world.

Among the movies produced in Britain that year were Mel Gibson's "Hamlet", "The Field", which earned actor Richard Harris a second Oscar nomination, and "Nuns on the Run".

- Gazza effect -

Ironically, one of the major aspects of UK life to change most significantly in the last 30 years has been football.

When Liverpool won the league in 1990, the sport's image in England had been tarnished by years of hooliganism and haunted by a string of disasters.

Among those tragedies was the Hillsborough tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest.

Even though they topped the First Division, Liverpool were banned from playing in the next season's European Cup because of their fans' involvement in the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985, which left 39 people dead.

It was not until the summer of 1990, when England marched into the World Cup semi-finals and Paul Gascoigne emerged as a world-class star, that English football had a smile once more on its face.

There was one other notable thing that happened in 1990.

A lanky, young defender signed for German second-tier club Mainz 05 at the beginning of a career which would eventually see him become one of the world's top coaches.

Things have definitely changed over the past 30 years for Jurgen Klopp.