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Unsung Heroes: Part 1 – Ronny Rosenthal

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Crosby Nick:
OK, so he had a song or two come to think of it. But this post might become the first in an occasional series remembering players who had a great impact for the club, but who’s exploits have possibly been forgotten by many, or pale into ‘insignificance’ compared to some of the legends to have played for us.

When Ronny Rosenthal was signed on loan from Standard Liege on 22nd March 1990 I’d like to say that eyebrows were raised amongst Liverpool supporters. But back in the Dark Ages of no Internet, no official club TV channel and only the odd bit of Teletext and Newspaper coverage I only had the opinions of my Dad and brother to go off. And like me, they had no idea it had happened either. Gradually though, the name began to make a bit of an impact. He must have made a bit of a buzz in the training. I remember seeing his name in the matchday program, it may have been a bit slow burning but suddenly there was a fait bit of anticipation about Rocket Ronny from Tel Aviv.

Liverpool were embroiled in a threeway fight for the title with Arsenal and Aston Villa. A midweek defeat away at Spurs in late March had threaten to derail the charge. Nerves were frayed. Our next game saw us at home to Southampton and as an excited 11 year old I saw my first glimpse of the man the tabloids would no doubt call ‘mercurial’, ‘enigmatic’ or maybe just a bit plain old hit and miss. Desperate times called for desperate measures however, and having fallen 2-1 behind to a thunderbolt from returning hero Jimmy Case, Liverpool’s season was threatening to unravel. On came Ronny and he gave the team and more importantly the fans an instant lift. With no youtube to fall back on I can’t imagine many in the crowd that day had seen him play before. If asked to describe him now I think I’d struggle, the best comparison I can think of is a more powerful Milan Baros. He had the same tendency to get his head down and just start running, but he had the power to shake off defenders and he made a real impact that day. Liverpool hit back, through a Russell Osman own goal (ask him about that one on Eurosport) and a late Ian Rush winner, both in no small part to the hard work and perseverance of Rosenthal. The Kop had a new cult hero. The title charge was back on track.

He played no part in a narrow win against Wimbledon but then earned his first start in a midweek game away at Charlton. Any hint of nerves were blown away as Ronny scored the perfect hat trick – right foot, left foot, (diving) header. See it in all its glory here:

Unsurprisingly his exploits earned him another start but in our next game, despite another early goal from the Rocket we blew a 2-0 lead at home to Nottingham Forest opening the door for Arsenal. Our next game was away at Highbury, never an easy place to go and with Aston Villa breathing down our necks there was no margin for error. Ronny was back on the bench for this one as Kenny went with his tried and trusted players. A goal just before half time from Michael Thomas (who else?!) had us on the ropes. Midway through the second half Ronny got the nod from the bench and once again the impact was immediate and impressive. He ran Arsenal’s famous back four ragged as Liverpool fought their way back into the game. With just 4 minutes left John Barnes equalized. Rosenthal’s impact off the bench was so great that ITV pundit Ron Atkinson gave him the Man of the Match award (complete with his name firing out of the snazzy champagne bottle graphic – have some of that Sky!).

Momentum restored Liverpool battered Chelsea 4-1 in their next game with Rosenthal again scoring the opening goal. Liverpool clinched the title the following game with a come from behind victory over QPR, and after picking up the trophy with another win at Derby, Ronny started again in the final game of the season, a 6-1 romp at Coventry where he scored twice. All in all Ronny had scored 7 goals in 8 games (including substitute appearances) to give Liverpool the much needed momentum to get over the line and secure their 18th title. 18th title…seems a long time ago now…

That summer he was signed on a permanent deal for a £1million fee but wasn’t in the starting line up for the opening game of the season. A club record 8 straight wins meant he struggled to get into the starting line up in the early stages of the season. Then in February David Speedie was signed, creating extra competition for places. All in all Rosenthal scored just 5 goals in the 90/91 season, 4 of which came in a flurry around Christmas time and contributed to important home wins against Southampton and Leeds. The 1991/92 season saw more of the same frustration for Ronny as he scored just 3 goals, again struggling to cement a starting place, perhaps hindered by his early ‘supersub’ reputation.

1992/93 saw Ronny playing more regularly as injuries to senior players took their toll in a pretty forgettable season. He did have some unforgettable moments however – some better than others!...He was on the scoresheet at Villa Park in Spetember when freshly sold Dean Saunders put us to the sword. Funnily enough, that isn’t the moment that lingers longest in the memory though. It was of course his own version of the crossbar challenge when having rounded the keeper Ronny thought it would be easier to liven up the notoriously shite Aston Villa fans by lashing one against the bar from 10 yards out with the goal at his mercy. Ah well, think of the royalties Ronny!...another consolation goal in a bad defeat would have long since been consigned to the memory banks. Now, worldwide fame beckoned…with thinking like that it’s no wonder he ended up as an agent.

Thankfully there were a couple of more fondly remembered moments for Ronny that season – in November he stepped off the bench yet again to latch onto a through ball from the returning from injury John Barnes to belt in a last minute winner at QPR:

The trick was repeated in March to score an injury time winner in front of the Kop to win an otherwise forgettable Merseyside Derby. All in all, Ronny had his most successful season since his debut, scoring 6 League goals and one in the League Cup in the epic 4-4 against…erm Chesterfield. The emergence of a certain Robbie Fowler, along with the signing of Nigel Clough saw Ronny sold to Spurs midway through the 93/94 season.

His legacy? Well to outsiders, say the name Ronny Rosenthal and they’ll immediately refer to his Villa Park howler. But to Liverpool fans of a certain vintage, he’s fondly remembered for the impact he had in that decisive title run in in the Spring of 1990 and for the smattering of match winning performances that followed. All in all Ronny scored 22 goals for the club in 97 games (many of which came off the bench). A more than decent return for my first unsung hero.

PS – I know there are probably many others who may be more worthy of an article, but being 11 at the time I have a great fondness for the late 80’s/early 90’s era team.

Good read that Nick, saw you mentioned you might do something in the 'What is RAWK' thread, and am glad you followed it up.
He will always be remembered for THAT shot against Villa,and sufferedas a result of the emergence of 'homegrown talent, but he was a player we could have used well this season.
Thanks for taking the time.
Enjoyed that.

Nice one, big man.

Was planning to do something similar for the wider footballing world, a sort of 'Icons of the Game' sort of thingy. Had a piece written out van Basten last night, didn't post it.

I look forward to more of these.

Enjoyed that immensely, nice one mate.

Remember when he signed and thought 'Eh! Who the Fuck?'

The part I liked most about this post was the 'Part 1' bit, insisting there's more to come!


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