Wembley triumph can wake Liverpool of old

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When Liverpool lifted the League Cup trophy 11 years ago, it sparked the start of an unprecedented cup treble that will forever be remembered on Merseyside.

Under the guidance of Anfield favourite Gerard Houllier, the Reds went on to win the FA Cup and UEFA Cup, as well as confirming their place in the Champions League elite the following season with a top-four finish in the Premier League that year.

As attention now turns to Sunday's showcase Carling Cup final at Wembley, hopes hang on Kenny Dalglish's side to not only conquer the Cardiff City challenge that awaits, but to build the necessary momentum that will be required to emulate the famous class of 2001.

Houllier himself has already spoken of the similarities between his Liverpool of old and today's new-look side, and is adamant that winning the Carling Cup will provide the players with the impetus to clinch a domestic double and a return to the Champions League next year.

"There are similarities in the reconstruction programmes between when I took over in 1998 and Kenny this time around," explained the Frenchman. "It takes time to build a team and this is a transitional season for them.

"I think Kenny has made some very good buys. They are young players and they will get better and better over the next few years.

"Winning the League Cup in 2001 gave us so much confidence for the rest of the season. It was probably the most difficult final we had. But when you've done it once, you want to repeat it. The fans and the press said 'you've won one, why can't you win another one?' They pushed us towards the treble.

"Trophies exhilarate a team. Not only did we win two more finals but we went on a long unbeaten run in the league and got into a play-off for the Champions League.

"Liverpool have still got the FA Cup and a lot of good teams have already gone out of that. They have a good chance of getting a cup double. Winning the League Cup would be a tremendous boost for the rest of the season and will help Liverpool in their push to get into the top four."

Steven Gerrard will be aiming to lift the fifth major domestic trophy of his career when he leads Liverpool out at Wembley on Sunday, and will undoubtedly have a major role to play in the club's continued quest for glory this year.

The 31-year-old midfielder was given the captain's armband by Houllier back in 2003, and has gone from strength to strength since. Despite a succession of injuries over the past 12 months that have limited Gerrard's playing time since the return of Dalglish, the skipper looks as though he is relishing playing under the Liverpool legend.

"Steven has great leadership qualities and inspires those around him," Houllier added. "That's why I made him captain at such a young age. He thrives on responsibility. He was out injured for a long time but there are signs he's getting back to the top level.

"Liverpool have improved so much under Kenny. Some people questioned whether he had been out of management too long but he's clever. He had been going to all the games and has great knowledge.

"Getting that first trophy is hugely important. Liverpool Football Club has a culture of winning silverware, [and] with Kenny in charge and Steven leading a team with so much potential, the future looks very bright for Liverpool.

"Winning the League Cup could be the start of something special."

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