Liverpool finished second, a bit down from 1973, but it was growing team getting in better and better shape. Not reaching its full potential yet. Third finished Derby County – the 1972 champions, still coached by Brian Clough.
The first three spelled out bright future – recent champions were playing strong, and expected to play even better. None was ephemeral team, just mercurially rising only to sink immediately. The were different teams too, using different approaches – the Scotish Leeds; the younger and faster Liverpool, and the magic mix of Derby, where not exactly great players were shaped into disciplined and well knitted team, capable of overachievement. Shrewd managers led all three… but not for long: Revie left Leeds United to coach the national team; Bill Shankly surprisingly announced his retirement – the irony of it! The builder of the great Liverpool retired before Liverpool conquered Europe. Brian Clough, always a maverick, quarreled with Derby’s big brass and soon left to coach lowly Nottingham Forest. Yet, unlike Leeds United, both Derby County and Liverpool had a lot to say. Particularly Liverpool.
In 1974 Liverpool had to comfort themselves with FA Cup. With 2 goals by Kevin Keegan and one by Steve Heighway they beat Newcastle United in front of 100,000 fans. The last trophy Bill Shankly collected.
The boys in red were to collect much more gold soon. The squad was already ripe and ready, growing longer and longer hair.