RAWK Advent Calendar 2014 #12 - John Aldridge vs Crystal Palace, Sept 1989
I suppose choosing a penalty as my favourite goal is a strange decision, but it was more than the penalty for me. It was a player that I had become to hero-worship as a kid saying goodbye to the club that he loved. It was what that goal meant so much to him, and to so many others, and he knew he was saying goodbye.
I remember the day I heard Ian Rush was leaving Liverpool to sign for Juventus.
I couldn’t believe we were letting the greatest goalscorer I had ever seem play for the club leave.
We were Liverpool Football Club; we don’t sell our best players, we buy other teams’ best players and WE get better!
I was only 10 years old and I simply believed that when a player reached a certain age, they would become the new manager just as Dalglish had done a year before. I genuinely expected Rush to play for Liverpool until he retired and would get Dalglish’s job. It was the natural progression for the best striker at our club to then become the manager (I was a bit too young to remember Keegan had left for Hamburg years before!)
I was absolutely heartbroken and couldn’t get my head round who could possibly come in and replace “Rushy”, wear the famous #9 shirt and bang the goals in for us.
We’d just lost the league to Everton and Arsenal had beaten us in the League Cup Final. It added to what turned out to be a miserable season. Rush had scored 30 league goals, and we were selling him!! Kenny, what are you thinking?
A few months before Rush finally left for Turin, we’d signed a young striker from Oxford United called John Aldridge. You have to remember, this was a time before the internet or Sky TV existed.
As a 10 year-old kid, your wider football knowledge came from watching Elton Welsby presenting “The Match” on ITV on a Sunday afternoon, reading the match reports in the Sunday papers, buying a copy of “Shoot” or “Match” magazine or dialing up page 302 on Ceefax!
If you wanted the real inside gossip, you could phone “Clubcall” a premium line telephone service. Did anyone actually call Clubcall?
So I didn’t know a great deal about this new striker we’d signed. I remember thinking he looked a bit like Rush, but he just wasn’t Ian Rush, and no matter how hard he tried to be like Rush, he wouldn’t be as good as the player we’d agreed to sell.
Player-manager Dalglish was now playing infrequently and Rush, Aldridge and Paul Walsh rotated with 2 of the 3 usually forming the Liverpool strikeforce as Liverpool just missed out on silverware in 1987.
Rush departed in the summer of 1987, and the money was re-invested in bringing John Barnes and Peter Beardsley to Anfield.
Aldridge scored 26 league goals as (arguably) one of the finest Liverpool sides won the First Division Championship in style in 1987-88, going 29 games without defeat.
We were absolutely sensational that year. Barnes and Beardsley were majestic, Steve McMahon drove the midfield on, Ray Houghton was classy, and we played some of the best football I have ever seen.
Aldridge just couldn't stop scoring. He'd done the impossible in my eyes and had replaced the legend.
The “Double” (a second in 2 years) was agonisingly prevented by Wimbledon who won the FA Cup 1-0 at Wembley, with Aldridge becoming the first player to miss an FA Cup Final penalty!
Rumours began to circulate that Liverpool were planning to re-sign Ian Rush after just one year in Italy. As Liverpool made their way to London to play Wimbledon in the Charity Shield, news broke that Liverpool had agreed to bring Rush home, to the delight of the travelling Liverpool fans.
Liverpool exacted some revenge on Wimbledon with a 2-1 win. Aldridge scoring both Liverpool goals to remind the travelling Kop that he was still Liverpool’s #1 striker.
There was speculation that Aldridge would be sold to accommodate Rush as Liverpool had played such a fluid 4-3-3 formation in their brilliant season in 1987-88. Beardsley and Barnes supporting Aldridge in a devastating Liverpool attack. Rush coming in would make it a 4-4-2, which would unbalance the team. But Dalglish persisted and often played Aldridge and Rush together.
Aldridge scored 31 goals in all competitions, and Rush was on the score sheet 11 times as Liverpool ended the season with the heartbreaking events at Hillsborough engulfing the city. Aldridge and Rush (2) scored in a moving Merseyside FA Cup Final as Liverpool beat Everton 3-2 to lift the FA Cup.
Once again, the chance of winning The “Double” was snatched away as Arsenal won the League title with Michael Thomas’s dramatic winner.
The news came in September 1989 that Liverpool had agreed to sell Aldridge to Real Sociedad for little over £1m as Dalglish decided he wanted to revert back to the 4-3-3 system that had seen Liverpool play some of the best football we had ever seen in the previous year. Information at that time was vague. You couldn't log on to RAWK to read the latest transfer shenanigans in those days.On the 12th September 1989, Liverpool hosted Crystal Palace at Anfield. http://www.youtube.com/v/WdFLIewHMCs?fs=1
It was on this day that in front of 35,779 supporters at Anfield, Liverpool trashed Crystal Palace 9-0 but not only will the scoreline be remembered, the match will also be remembered as the day we said a fond farewell to a legend at Anfield John Aldridge who was to sign for Real Sociedad the following day.
That day at Anfield would become one of the most iconic match in Liverpool’s footballing history, the 9-0 scoreline equalled Liverpool’s best ever League victory.
Glen Hysen, Peter Beardsley, Gary Gillespie, Ian Rush, John Barnes, Steve McMahon, John Aldridge and two goals from Steve Nicol secured the win!
With Liverpool already 5-0 up, in the 66th minute, Peter Beardsley (influenced by the crowd) offered to be substituted so that John Aldridge who was on the bench could take a penalty that had just been awarded, Aldridge scored in his final game for Liverpool.
I remember watching as the Kop swayed (as it used to) as Aldridge put the ball on the spot. We were 5-0 up at the time, but I was feeling like a bag of nerves. I desperately wanted him to slot this penalty away, and after a few seconds the referee blew his whistle and up he stepped…
Slotted, to his right, the goalkeeper’s left. The net bulged, and Anfield roared, louder than they had done all night.
Aldridge was mobbed by his team-mates. It was almost time to say goodbye - He knew it. His own celebration was muted, it was as if he knew that would be the last time he would score for Liverpool in front of The Kop.
When players are sold these days, they don't really get the chance to say goodbye. If a player is off, they are left out of the squad so they can do their medical etc, and they are not risked. Moreno for instance didn't get to play in the Super Cup Final the day before he left Sevilla to join Liverpool back in August. Aldridge was leaving, and he had the chance to score what he knew would be his last goal for the club and say farewell.
As the final whistle blew, ‘Aldo’ made an emotional lap of honour around Anfield receiving a standing ovation from the Liverpool fans, Aldridge repaid the supporters for their support by throwing his boots and shirt into the crowd.
Liverpool had won 9-0, but I was gutted!
John William Aldridge had played 104 games for Liverpool, scoring 63 goals.Liverpool's Team :
Bruce Grobbelaar, Glenn Hysen, David Burrows , Steve Nicol, Ronnie Whelan, Alan Hansen, Peter Beardsley (John Aldridge), Gary Gillespie, Ian Rush, John Barnes, Steve McMahon (Jan Molby)
Liverpool Goals :
Steve Nicol (7), (90)
Steve McMahon (15)
Ian Rush (45)
Gary Gillespie (56)
Peter Beardsley (61)John Aldridge (67 pen)
John Barnes (79)
Glenn Hysen (82)
The following day, Aldridge jetted out to Spain. Now aged 13, I found myself in the same position I was in almost 3 years ago and questioning what Dalglish was playing at!! Kenny, how can you sell our best striker?
We were Liverpool Football Club; we don’t sell our best players, we buy other teams’ best players and WE get better...
I now understood that strikers didn't automatically become the new manager just as Dalglish had done, but I couldn't imagine Liverpool FC without John Aldridge banging the goals in for us...
Fast forward 7 months - Alan Hansen was lifting Liverpool’s 18th First Division Title.
All is forgiven Kenny - But I still miss 'Aldo'.
Merry Christmas everyone.