Following the success of Simon Hughes’ Red Machine and Men in White Suits, books which depicted Liverpool FC’s domination during the 1980s and its subsequent fall in the 1990s, Ring of Fire focuses on the 2000s and the primary characters who propelled Liverpool to the forefront of European football once again. With a foreword by Steven Gerrard, this is the third edition in a bestselling series based on revealing interviews with former players, coaches and managers.
For Liverpool FC, entry into the 21st century began with modernisation and trophies under manager Gérard Houllier and development was then underpinned by improbable Champions League glory under Rafael Benítez. Yet that is only half of the story. The decade ended with the club being on the verge of administration after the shambolic reign of American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
In Ring of Fire, Hughes’ interviewees – including Jamie Carragher, Xabi Alonso and Michael Owen – take you through Melwood’s training ground gates and into the inner sanctum, the Liverpool dressing room. Each person delivers fascinating insights into the minds of the players, coaches and boardroom members as they talk frankly about exhilarating highs and excruciating lows, from winning cups in Cardiff and Istanbul to the political infighting that undermined a succession of managerial reigns.
Ring of Fire tells the real stories: those never told before by the key players who lived through it all.
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.
During the 1980s, Liverpool Football Club dominated English football, winning six league titles, two European Cups, two FA Cups and four League Cups. In Red Machine, Simon Hughes interviews some of the most colourful characters to have played for the club during that period. The resulting interviews, set against the historical backdrop of both the club and the city, provide a vivid portrait of life at Liverpool during an era when the club’s unparalleled on-pitch success often went hand in hand with a boozy social scene fraught with rows, fights and wind-ups.
The players featured here include John Barnes, Bruce Grobbelaar, Howard Gayle, Michael Robinson, John Wark, Kevin Sheedy, Nigel Spackman, Steve Staunton, David Hodgson and Craig Johnston, as well as first-team coach Ronnie Moran. Their candid, ribald and sometimes scathing recollections provide an antidote to the media-coached, on-message interviews given by today’s players and combine to offer a unique insight to this exciting time in the club’s history.
Simon Hughes is a journalist and author. He covers Merseyside football for the Independent and goes elsewhere for the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph. His book Red Machine won the Antonio Ghirelli Prize for Italian Soccer Foreign Book of the Year 2014. His other titles include Secret Diary of a Liverpool Scout and Men in White Suits. He lives in Liverpool.