19 Apr 2014

Liverpool FC, neon colours and Tories: 1990 all over again?

When Liverpool last won the title in 1990, Margaret Thatcher was still in power, the Soviet Union was in crisis and we were still wearing neon colours. What else has changed?

World in motion

In 1990 Liverpool won their 18th league championship trophy and their fifth major trophy in as many seasons under Kenny Dalglish.

Back then they were owned by Sir John Smith (a sales director of a brewery) and were playing in the old First Division (the Premier League was founded in 1992).

England New Order’s World in Motion – featuring Liverpool midfielder John Barnes – was number one in the charts and Paul Gascoigne burst into tears at Italia 1990.

The Reds, now owned by US businessman John W Henry and managed by Northern Irishman Brendan Rogers, are on the verge of clinching their first title in 24 years.

Their estimated value is around £530m and the team is captained by Steven Gerrard – who broke down in tears after they beat Manchester City on 13 April.


In 1990 Lord Justice Taylor published his report on the Hillsborough disaster, which had claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans in 1989.

Anfield had a capacity of 55,000 until the 1990s. The Taylor report forced Liverpool and other top-flight clubs to convert to all-seater stadiums in time for the 1993–94 season. As a result, Anfield’s capacity was reduced to just over 45,000.

Today, a new inquest is taking place after “accidental death” verdicts from the original Hillsborough inquests were quashed in 2012, and the club are planning to expand its stadium to 60,000 seats.

Margaret Thatcher

In 1990 Margaret Thatcher was still prime minister – but was months away from being ousted and replaced by John Major. Opinion polls at the time showed that Labour had established a 14 per cent lead over the Conservatives.

Britain’s unemployment was down to 1,610,000 – the lowest since 1978. But economists feared a sharp rise in unemployment amid widespread fears of a recession.

House prices crashed between 1990 and 1992, but then, as the economy emerged from recession, began to rise – a trend which continued for 15 years.

In February 2014 unemployment fell by 125,000 to reach 2.34 million.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev

1990 began with nationalist turmoil in the Soviet Union: Azerbaijanis rioted, while Moldovans demonstrated in favour of unification with post-communist Romania.

On 15 March, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected as the first and last president of the Soviet Union. In October, Ukraine and Russia declared their laws completely sovereign over Soviet-level laws.

With the USSR in a state of near collapse, the final blow to Gorbachev was effectively dealt by a Ukrainian referendum on 1 December 1991, in which the Ukrainian people voted for independence.

On 8 December, the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, signed an accord which declared the Soviet Union dissolved. On 25 December Gorbachev resigned. That night, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time.

24 years on and eastern Europe is in crisis again. Following the annexation of Crimea by pro-Russians, violent protests have spread across eastern Ukraine.

Neon colours

In 1990 Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan were lauching their pop careers, while at home we were watching the Simpsons, Twin Peaks and Baywatch on TV.

We were listening to Do the Bartman, Sinead O’Connor, Happy Mondays, Primal Scream, Stone Roses and EMF, and going to the cinema to watch Edward Scissorhands, Pretty Woman and Home Alone.

Fashion-wise, it was all about neon colours and denim shirts. Oversized sweaters, casual T-shirts and baby-doll dresses were also popular. In 2014, the flattering neon colours were making a comeback.

Although Tim Berners-Lee had proposed the creation of what became the world wide web as early as 1989, in 1990 fans were still using Ceefax to check the football scores on a Saturday. Des Lynam was presenting Match of the Day and Sky Sports had yet to be launched.