1987: ‘Let’s keep Ian Rush and send John Aldridge to Juventus’

Summer 1987. Liverpool Double winners in 1986 had finished the 1986/87 season empty handed. Everton had stormed to the Title ahead of Dalglish’s men and Liverpool had lost the League/Littlewoods Cup Final 2-1 to Arsenal, the first time they had lost a game when Ian Rush had scored. Mark Lawrenson had missed most of the season with injury and the Reds looked vulnerable without him. Gary Ablett had emerged at left back but Kenny rarely played that season, with Paul Walsh forming a partnership with Ian Rush up front. Rushie had equalled Dixie Dean’s 19 goal Merseyside Derby goal record in a 3-1 victory at Anfield in April. Mike Hooper replaced the injured Grobbelaar in goal but Liverpool had lost home and away to Manchester United in Alex Ferguson’s first season in charge at Old Trafford.

Major rebuilding was needed for Liverpool to be contenders again. Star striker Ian Rush had been sold to Juventus in Summer 1986 for a record £3.2M but had stayed at Anfield on loan for the 1986/87 season. Lifelong Red and Scouser John Aldridge had arrived from Oxford but he had struggled to start many games. In fact many fans had joked that Liverpool should send Rush lookalike Aldo to Juventus instead of Rushie.

How do you replace Ian Rush? It turned out with three players. Peter Beardsley had arrived from Newcastle for a British transfer record £1.9M. The skilful striker was joined by Watford winger John Barnes for a fee on £900,000. They would form a partnership with John Aldridge up front. How would the new signings adapt? On the opening day of the season all three players combined as Aldridge headed Liverpool in front at Highbury. A late long range header by Steve Nicol gave Liverpool a 2-1 victory in their new silver away kit, on a scorching day in North London. A broken sewer on the Kop had delayed Liverpool’s first game at Anfield. On the 12th September Barnes and Aldridge scored against his former club Oxford United in a 2-0 win. Liverpool were on their way. Steve Nicol scored a hat trick at Newcastle in a 4-1 victory, live on Match of the Day at the end of the month.

Early leaders Queens Park Rangers arrived at Anfield in mid October. In front of Ian Rush, Liverpool produced a fine display. John Barnes scored twice, including a memorable run from the halfway line in a 4-0 victory, to send the Reds top of the table. Liverpool’s winning run was ended by Everton in the Littlewoods Cup at the end of October. A deflected Gary Stevens shot gave the Toffees victory, in a game notable for Graeme Sharp missing an open goal at the Kop end.

In October, in a bid to strengthen the midfield, right sided Oxford United player Ray Houghton was signed for £825,000 and scored in his second game, a 1-1 draw at Wimbledon. Liverpool faced Everton live on Match of the Day at Anfield on the 1st of November. Liverpool put on their best display of the season so far to win 2-0. Former Toffee Steve McMahon had given the Reds a first half lead before Beardsley smashed home the second goal in front of the Kop. BBC commentator Barry Davies excitedly declared: “and he gets a kiss for it, from a man in a blue stripped shirt!”

The next test for Dalglish’s men was at Old Trafford. John Aldridge headed Liverpool ahead but Whiteside equalised, as both teams settled for a point in a 1-1 draw. The Reds won their next three games before facing Chelsea live on ITV on the 6th December. A late Steve McMahon goal at the Kop end gave Liverpool a 2-1 win.

The FA Cup campaign began with a 1-0 win over Stoke City in a replay at Anfield. George Graham’s Arsenal then arrived at Anfield. In front of a live European television audience Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners. Steve McMahon famously kept the ball in play, ran off the pitch then came back on to set up John Aldridge to give the Reds the lead. In the second half a brilliant Peter Beardsley run and chip sealed the victory. After the game French Captain Michel Platini hailed the Reds performance as “displaying the best in continental football”.

In the FA Cup Liverpool beat Aston Villa 2-0 at the end of January thanks to a Barnes header and a Beardsley strike. Kenny’s men looked unstoppable. Their reward for victory at Villa Park was a 5th Round tie away to Everton. In a poor game remembered for John Barnes flicking a banana off the pitch thrown at him by racists, Ray Houghton headed home the winger’s cross to give Liverpool a narrow 1-0 win.

Liverpool kept winning and they went to Derby in March knowing that if they avoided defeat, they would equal Don Revie’s great Leeds United team’s 1973/74 record of 29 league games unbeaten from the start of a season. Craig Johnston scored in a 1-1 draw at the Baseball Ground. Could Liverpool beat the record? Wayne Clarke, the brother of former Leeds striker Wayne scored at Goodison, following an error from Bruce Grobbelaar to condemn Liverpool to a 1-0 defeat in front of ITV’s cameras.

After another defeat at Nottingham Forest over Easter, the press questioned if Dalglish’s men would blow their lead at the top of the First Division. Manchester United were next up at Anfield. In a thrilling game Steve McMahon fired Liverpool into a 3-1 lead but ten man Utd fought back to earn a 3-3 draw. After Alex Ferguson had ranted to the press after the game Dalglish declared: “you might as well listen to my baby daughter, you will get more sense out of her”. On the 9th April Liverpool faced Brian Clough’s young Nottingham Forest team in the FA Cup Semi Final at Hillsborough. An Aldridge penalty and a second half volley which was named as the Goal of the Season, gave Liverpool a 2-1 win and a place at Wembley.

A few days later the Reds faced Forest again at Anfield. In a game described by Tom Finney as “the best display of football he had ever seen” Liverpool thrashed Clough’s boys 5-0. The game was remembered for a brilliant Beardsley through ball and chip by Aldridge in the first half, and a John Barnes nutmeg on Steve Chettle at the Kop end, to set up Peter Beardsley to score again. John Motson laughed as the winger beat the hapless Forest defender and ‘Psycho’ Stuart Pearce sank to his knees as the ball was fired home. Many observers claimed it was best performance that they had ever witnessed from a Liverpool team at Anfield.

On St George’s day Liverpool knew a win over Terry Venables’ Tottenham would give them the Championship with four games remaining. Peter Beardsley curled home the winner and the Kop saluted Kenny’s 1-0 winners at full time. Liverpool finished the season with the record: P40 W26 D12 L2 F87 A24 and a record 90 points. The front three of Barnes, Beardsley and Aldridge were the finest in Europe that season, and it is fascinating to speculate how they would have fared in the 1987/88 European Cup. Sadly Liverpool were not admitted back into Europe until 1991.

Was this the Reds greatest ever team? Or was that the 1978/79 team? Had Liverpool won a second Double they could have claimed to be the best but sadly they lost to Wimbledon. Had Beardsley’s first half goal been allowed to stand and John Aldridge not seen his first penalty of the season saved by Dave Beasant, Liverpool would have won. Aldo won the Golden Boot with 28 League goals and a few days later a Liverpool X1 beat an England X1 3-2 in Alan Hansen’s Testimonial. A memorable end to an unforgettable season.

Italia 1990: Egypt and the Group of Death

June 1990. The Pharaohs were preparing for their first appearance in the World Cup Finals since 1934. Egypt had won their third African Cup of Nations in Cairo in 1986, but had always struggled to qualify for the World Cup, despite regularly beating the same opponents in the Cup of Nations.

Egypt had sailed through their opening Group B qualifying group to finish top ahead of Liberia, Malawi and Kenya. To seal their place in the 1990 World Cup Egypt would have to defeat their Arab rivals Algeria. Qualifiers in both the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, the Algerians had defeated World Cup Finalists West Germany 2-1 in Spain 1982.

Egypt played the first tie in Constantine on the 8th of October 1989. In front of a crowd of 55,000 Egypt held to Algerians to a 0-0 draw. It was thanks to the outstanding defender Hany Ramzy and his Al Ahly team mate goalkeeper Ahmed Shobair that Egypt held on. They knew that victory in Cairo would send Egypt to the World Cup. On the 17th November 100,000 fans turned up to roar the Pharaohs to victory. In a tense game an early header by star striker Hossam Hassan gave Egypt victory. At long long last Mahmoud Al-Gohari would take his team to the World Cup.

The draw for the World Cup in December placed Egypt in a very tough group. Euro 1988 winners Holland, England and the Republic of Ireland would be their opponents in Group F. To prepare for the World Cup Egypt played a series of friendlies in Europe. A victory in Czechoslovakia was followed by a shock 3-1 win over Scotland in May. England manager Bobby Robson knew that Egypt would be no push overs after their win in Aberdeen. Although few people expected Egypt to make an impact in the World Cup, they were quietly confident. They would be very well prepared for all three games.

Egypt’s manager was a former striker Mahmoud El-Gohari. He was a strict 52 year old and a former manager of giants Al Ahly. He had taken over in 1988 and led Egypt to Italia 1990. His first task was to pick the squad for the World Cup. The 22 players selected were mostly from Egypt’s two biggest clubs Al Ahly and Zamalek. El-Gohari was a defensive coach. He hoped that a strong defence could bring Egypt success and that Hossam Hassan and his twin brother Ibrahim could make an impact in Italy.

On the 12th June 1990 Egypt faced European Champions Holland in Palermo. Egypt lined up in an unfamiliar green kit while the Dutch wore white shirts. Few people gave the Pharaohs a chance. Cheered on by a crowd of over 30,000 fans including several members of the Egyptian navy dressed in white and waving flags, Egypt started very well. Confident on the ball they created several chances. Magdi Abdelghani was dominating the midfield. Dutch stars Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten hardly touched the ball. The first half ended goal less. After 58 minutes, disaster for Egypt. Dutch striker Vim Kieft fired Holland in front after a deflection. How would Egypt react? They continued to press the Dutch but could not score. Then on the 83rd minute Egypt were awarded a penalty after a foul by Ronald Koeman. Magdi Abdelghani confidently fired past the Dutch keeper and the Pharaohs had earned a famous point with a 1-1 draw. England and Ireland had drawn 1-1 the night before, so all teams were level going into the next game.

Four days later Egypt in their more familiar home kit of red shirts, faced Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland in the same stadium. Ireland were favourites thanks to their direct ‘long ball’ tactics. However in a game of few chances and thanks to a couple of good saves by Ahmed Shobair, the game ended 0-0. After the game Charlton claimed he “didn’t like the way Egypt played”. He accused them of being very defensive but El-Gohari pointed out that Egypt’s best defender Hany Ramzy did not have much to do. England and Holland drew 0-0 the night before, so all teams went into the final games level with two points each.

So on the 17th June 1990 Egypt faced England knowing either a win or a draw would send the Pharaohs into the last sixteen. Paul Gascoigne (Gazza) the Tottenham midfielder would be England’s danger man. He was outstanding against Holland and Egypt started slowly not wanting to give anything away. In a tense first half of few chances England took the lead. Gazza fired a free kick and defender Mark Wright headed past Shobair, who had come off his line. England lead 1-0 at half time. In the other game played at the same time, Holland lead Ireland 1-0. The second half had few chances. England were content to hold onto their lead and Egypt did not want to send too many players forward, in case they were caught on the break. In the last ten minutes Egypt had a great chance to equalise. Shilton saved well after Abdelghani’s shot appeared to be blocked by Mark Wright’s hand. England held on for a hard fought 1-0 win. Holland and Ireland drew the other game 1-1 and they went through to the next round alongside England. Defeat was hard on Egypt, they had drawn two of their games and only conceded two goals.

It would be 2018 before Egypt qualified for the World Cup again. However Mohamed Salah failed to inspire his team and they lost all of their games. Italia 1990 remains a fond memory for all Egyptians, when the Pharaohs showed the world that they could play football.

1981: So you tried to ban us Mr Croker

Scotland fans holding up a banner which reads ‘So you tried to ban us Mr Croker’, in reference to English FA Secretary Ted Croker, during the British Home Championship match between England and Scotland at Wembley Stadium in London, 23rd May 1981. Scotland won 1-0. (Photo by Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

May 1981. Jock Stein was preparing to face England at Wembley for the second time. On his first visit in 1979 Scotland had played well but a poor display by George Wood, who had replaced Alan Rough after a 3-0 defeat to Wales, ended in a 3-1 defeat for the Scots. Scotland went into the annual British Championship clash without many of their best players. Liverpool trio Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Alan Hansen were preparing to face Real Madrid in the Reds third European Cup Final in Paris. Uefa Cup Finalists Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town relied on scoring sensation John Wark and full back George Burley. Wark had given Scotland the lead in the 1979 game and Stein’s men looked weak in midfield without Souness and Wark. So a new look team who have to take on the Auld Enemy.

Jock Stein had taken over from Ally MacLeod in October 1978. He faced a tough task straight away. Scotland had never qualified for the European Championships before. With only the group winners qualifying, the Scots were placed in a tough section with Belgium, Austria, Portugal and Norway. Stein made a good start as Scotland came from 2-0 down to beat Norway 3-2 at Hampden. Sadly the results fell away after that. Defeat in Portugal was followed by a fine 4-0 win in Norway but any hopes Scotland had of qualifying were ended by a powerful Belgium side. They beat Scotland home and away and their 3-1 victory at Hampden was due to some poor defending. Alan Rough’s error had led to a 1-1 at home to Austria in October, and Scotland ended their campaign in fourth place ahead of Norway. Group 2 winners Belgium went on to reach the Euro 1980 Final in Rome, but lost 2-1 to West Germany.

Stein had some fine players to choose from, so the results were disappointing. Critics in the press pointed out that there were too many Anglos (English based players) in his squads. It seemed that Jock didn’t know what his best side was, as he chopped and changed players searching for a winning formula. In September 1980 Scotland started their campaign to qualify for the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Once again they were in a tough group but this time the top two teams would qualify: Northern Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, Israel (now in UEFA) were their opponents in Group 6.

Gordon Strachan scored to give Scotland a 1-0 win in Sweden before a frustrating goal less draw with Portugal at Hampden, just a few months after the Scots had defeated the same team 4-1 at home, in their last Euro 1980 qualifier. February 1981 saw a tough away game in Israel. In an unfamiliar red away kit, Kenny Dalglish’s goal from a corner earned Scotland a 1-0 victory, though it was only a fine display by Alan Rough that denied the Israelis.

The following month the Scots faced Billy Bingham’s Irish side but they could only manage a 1-1 draw at Hampden, thanks to a John Wark equaliser. At the end of April Scotland beat Israel 3-1 at Hampden, John Robertson scoring twice from the penalty spot and Davie Provan’s goal sealed the win.

Scotland had not won the Home International Championship since 1977 and few fans expected that to change. Wales beat Scotland 2-0 in Swansea thanks to two Ian Walsh goals. The pairing of Kenny Burns and Gordon McQueen were left exposed and Stein knew he would need to ring the changes as Northern Ireland visited Hampden again. Tommy Burns came into the team and Ray Stewart the West Ham full back scored on his debut. Tottenham’s Steve Archibald netted too, to give the Scots a morale boosting 2-0 victory.

In a bid to stop the Tartan Army travelling down to London in huge numbers, FA Secretary Ted Croker had tried to ban Scotland fans from buying Wembley tickets. As both sides emerged from the tunnel on 23rd May 1981 a sea of Lion Rampant flags greeted them. The crowd was down on previous encounters, with 90,000 fans at Wembley.

England were in poor form. Ron Greenwood’s men had failed to score in their last three games and their last win was at home to Switzerland in November 1980. The Auld Enemy started with Bryan Robson at centre back and a skilful trio of Wilkins, Hoddle and Coppell in midfield. Scotland had Player of the Year Alan Rough in goal, aiming to be the first Scotland goalkeeper to win twice at Wembley. The Aberdeen pair of Willie Miller and Alex McLeish made a rare start together, with Joe Jordan and Steve Archibald up front.

England started well on a poor surface and Alan Rough was kept busy. Asa Hartford went close for Scotland before an injury led to David Narey replacing him in the first half. Peter Withe and Tony Woodcock were well marshalled by Miller and McLeish and it was goal less at half time.

England almost took the lead when Willer Miller cleared Peter Withe’s header off the line at the start of the second half. Celtic winger Davie Provan and John Roberston began to see more of the ball. It was Provan’s through ball that led to a penalty as Archibald was hauled down by Bryan Robson. Joe Corrigan in a rare start with Clemence and Shilton injured faced Nottingham Forest’s John Robertson from the spot. Trevor Francis ran to tell him which side Robertson would place the kick, but Scotland scored as he was sent the wrong way. Could Scotland hold on? England became desperate and started pumping high balls up to Peter Withe, but McLeish won everything in the air. Trevor Francis claimed a penalty when Miller challenged him in the box, but the French referee waved away England protests. Soon after, the final whistle blew and Jock Stein had led Scotland to their first win at Wembley since 1977, much to the Tartan Army’s delight. Scotland did not win the British Championship however, as it was not completed after England and Wales refused to travel to Northern Ireland following violent clashes.

Buoyed by their Wembley victory Scotland defeated Sweden 2-0 at Hampden in September and a 0-0 draw in Belfast meant the Scots won Group 6 ahead of Northern Ireland and qualified for the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

John Roberston scores the winning penalty in the 64th minute

Scottish players salute the Tartan Army after the final whistle

L-R Archibald, Stewart, F.Gray, Provan and Robertson

Ibrox 1988: The start of something big

Summer 1988 and in the blue half of Glasgow, Rangers Player/Manager Graeme Souness was fuming. His 1987 Champions had finished a miserable third behind Hearts and Double winners Celtic, who had won back the title in their Centenary year. Souness had dipped into the transfer market but strikers Mark Falco and Trevor Francis had come and gone and Danish winger Jan Bartram was sold after a few months, after criticising Souness in a Danish newspaper. Following a dressing room bust up, Graham Roberts had been sold to Chelsea. Souness was convinced that a broken leg suffered by inspirational Captain Terry Butcher had cost Rangers their title. Robert Fleck had been sold to Norwich leaving Ally McCoist without a regular strike partner.

The only silver lining for Rangers was a strong run in the European Cup, halted in the Quarter Finals by former winners and soon to be 1989 Finalists Steau Bucharest. Rangers won the 2nd leg 2-1 at Ibrox but lost 3-2 on aggregate. Souness boiled over and his horrific foul only resulted in a booking, today it would have led to a lengthy ban. Rangers had retained the Skol League Cup after a thriller against Aberdeen, but Souness knew major surgery was needed on his Gers squad.

Terry Butcher returned alongside Richard Gough. They formed a formidable partnership at the centre of defence. Souness splashed out £2.1M on England right back Gary Stevens. Norwich striker Kevin Dinkell arrived for £825,000 and Souness hoped that wingers Mark Walters and Davie Cooper could provide the ammunition for a title push.

In August Champions Celtic arrived at Ibrox. Frank McAvennie gave them an early lead but Rangers stormed back. Ally McCoist fired an equaliser before former England Captain Ray Wilkins fired home a long range screamer to give the Gers a 2-1 half time lead. In the second half Rangers were rampant, led by the outstanding Mark Walters they ran in three further goals to go 5-1 up. Souness came on to close the game down but many felt Rangers could have run up a record score. However at full time Billy McNeill had seen his side outplayed and thrashed 5-1. Would the tide turn in Glasgow?

In October Rangers had fought through to the Skol/League Cup Final against Aberdeen. In a repeat of the previous Final, Rangers were fortunate to win another classic 3-2 thanks to goals from Ian Ferguson and an Ally McCoist double. Souness had guided Rangers into Europe, but he wanted more than a Uefa Cup place.

Celtic were not going to go down without a fight. They beat Rangers 3-1 at Parkhead in November to close the gap at the top. Rangers then went on a long run of victories, and went into the January game with Celtic top of the table. Souness knew they had to lay down a marker to their greatest rivals. In front of a packed Ibrox Chris Morris put Celtic ahead but Rangers roared back. A Butcher header and Ferguson strike gave them the lead, before two Walters goals including a penalty meant Souness’s men ran out convincing 4-1 winners.

Rangers winning run continued and at Easter they faced Celtic again. The Gers had not won a league game at Celtic Park since 1980. They had to withstand an onslaught in front of 60,000 fans but Drinkell and McCoist gave them a 2-0 lead at the break. Celtic pulled a goal back and then came the turning point. Richard Gough was harshly adjudged to have handled and Celtic were awarded a penalty. England goalkeeper Chris Woods saved Andy Walkers spot kick and Rangers held on for a famous 2-1 victory.

Souness signed full back Mel Sterland and in his two goals against Hearts at Ibrox on the 29th of April sealed Rangers Championship win. Rangers finished ten points ahead of Celtic and Aberdeen were runners up. Souness had won the title back in what was to become the first of 9 In a Row.

1985: The Year that changed everything

Summer 1985 was a dark time in English football. A fire at Bradford City had led to the deaths of 56 people. A few days later Liverpool faced Italian Champions Juventus aiming for a fifth European Cup. On a tragic night in a crumbling Heysel stadium, rioting by Liverpool and Juventus fans led to the death of 39 Juventus supporters. Liverpool Captain Phil Neal was told by a UEFA official that the Final had to be played, for fear of more trouble. On a eerie night Juventus won the European Cup for the first time thanks to a Michel Platini penalty in the second half, even though a foul by Gary Gillespie was outside the box. It was a sad end for Joe Fagan after two seasons as Liverpool manager. His team without inspirational Scottish midfielder Graeme Souness who had joined Sampdoria, had finished the season empty handed, behind Howard Kendall’s rejuvenated Everton team. After pressure from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, UEFA banned Liverpool and all English clubs from Europe. So European Cup Winners Cup winners Everton were denied a place in the 1985/86 European Cup.

Liverpool followed Chairman John Smith policy of appointing from within by naming Kenny Dalglish as the club’s first ever Player/Manager. Alongside Kenny would be coaches Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans with Bob Paisley an advisor. Kenny let veteran defender Phil Neal join Bolton at the start of the season and Alan Kennedy soon left for Sunderland. Scouser Steve McMahon arrived as Dalglish’s first signing in September from Aston Villa. Liverpool began the season with a 2-0 win over Arsenal at Anfield. The team was dropping points as Manchester United raced to the top of the table after ten straight wins. A 1-1 draw at Old Trafford thanks to a Craig Johnston goal kept Liverpool in touch, but Ian Rush was going through a rare dry spell in front of goal. Paul Walsh was in fine form alongside him but Liverpool ended the year playing catch up with Everton, Manchester United and Chelsea at the top of the First Division.

In the Milk Cup Liverpool had defeated Manchester United 2-1 at Anfield thanks to a Jan Molby wonder goal and a penalty from the Great Dane. After a television dispute at the start of the season, 1986 started with Liverpool facing an away trip to Watford, live on Match of the Day. In an unfamiliar all white away kit, Liverpool ran out 3-2 winners, though Watford winger John Barnes was outstanding.

In February Liverpool welcomed Champions Everton to Anfield. Liverpool had won 3-2 at Goodison in September 1985 and needed a victory to have any chance of reclaiming the Title. A Grobbelaar howler and a late Lineker finish in front of the Kop left Liverpool trailing Everton by eight points. It seemed a formality for them to retain the Championship. Manchester United had fallen away as their Captain Bryan Robson was plagued with a dislocated shoulder. Chelsea’s charge had also faded, though West Ham with their lethal strike force of Tony Cotte and Frank McAvennie were hot on the heels of Everton.

An injury to Paul Walsh had forced Kenny Dalglish to pick himself for the run in. Liverpool faced Spurs in another live game at a snowy White Hart Lane in March. As Kenny watched from the bench, Chris Waddle gave Tottenham the lead after another Grobbelaar mistake. In the second half Jan Molby fired past Ray Clemence but a draw was no good to Liverpool. Then in the last minute Ian Rush poked home Ronnie Whelan’s though ball to give the Reds a vital 2-1 victory.

Liverpool had made it to the Milk Cup Semi Finals and were favourites to beat QPR over two legs. However after a 1-0 away defeat in the first leg, Liverpool could only manage a 2-2 draw at Anfield with a Molby penalty saved and two own goals sending QPR to face Oxford United at Wembley.

Liverpool defeated Manchester City 2-0 over Easter thanks to two McMahon goals at Anfield, but needed Everton to drop points to have any chance of winning the First Division. On the 30th April Liverpool faced Leicester at Filbert Street, while Everton travelled to Milk Cup winners Oxford at the Manor Ground. First half goals from Ian Rush and Ronnie Whelan gave Liverpool a hard earned 2-0 win. Everton missed chance after chance with top scorer Gary Lineker unable to find the net. A late Oxford goal condemned Everton to a 1-0 defeat, with manager Howard Kendall filmed with his head in his hands.

So after a run of ten straight wins Liverpool knew a victory at Chelsea would give them the League Championship. A draw or defeat would open the door to Everton, with West Ham holding an outside chance of the Title. As Everton rattled in goal after goal including a Lineker hat trick in a 6-1 win over Southampton, Liverpool began their game slowly. Before the half hour mark, Jim Beglin’s shot was cleared off the line. In a follow up attack, Beglin’s flick set Dalglish free and he volleyed Liverpool ahead. In a tense second half both sides cancelled each other out. When the final whistle blew Liverpool had won 1-0 to seal the Championship in Kenny’s first season as Player/Manager.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – MAY 6th 1986 Liverpool players pose with the Canon League Division One trophy before the Screen Sport Super Cup Semi-Final Second Leg match between Liverpool and Norwich City held on May 6, 1986 at Anfield in Liverpool, England. Liverpool won the match 3-1. (Photo by Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Liverpool then prepared to face Everton in the FA Cup Final. Everton had won the Cup in 1984 and lost the Final the previous year. Liverpool hadn’t won the FA Cup since 1974. Would Liverpool be able to clinch the Double for the first time, or would Everton deny them? We will find out in a future blog.

1986 Andy Roxburgh takes over

Summer 1986 and Diego Maradona had led Argentina to World Cup glory in Mexico. Scotland who had qualified for their fourth World Cup in a row had failed to progress from the original Group of Death. Drawn alongside eventual Finalists West Germany, South American Champions Uruguay and a dazzling Danish team few expected Scotland to make any progress. Led by Alex Ferguson who took over as caretaker manager after the tragic death of Jock Stein in Cardiff in September 1985, the Scots would be very well prepared. Scotland went into the World Cup with a strong defensive record. With the Fergie’s Aberdeen trio of Jim Leighton, Willie Miller and Alex McCleish Scotland had kept five clean sheets in the six games under him. Their only defeat came at Wembley in April a 2-1 Rous Cup defeat, despite a captain Graeme Souness penalty.

Scotland kicked off against Denmark in Neza and played well. Richard Gough and Charlie Nicholas went close, but Michael Laudrup was a constant worry for the Scottish defence. At the start of the second half Preben Elkjaer fired the Danes ahead after a lucky bounce off the outstanding Willie Miller. Scotland’s most dangerous player was Gordon Strachan as Souness was strangely subdued. Roy Aitken fired Scotland level but his goal was ruled offside (television replays later showed that the goal was good). Scotland finished the game with ten men as Charlie Nicholas was brutally hacked down and Ferguson had already used both his substitutes. It was another hard luck story, a 1-0 defeat despite a good performance. The old failing of lack of firepower up front had cost Scotland. Alex Ferguson had left Mo Johnston top scorer in qualification and SPL top scorer Ally McCoist at home. Scotland had only scored seven times under Alex Ferguson so his choice of Sturrock, Archibald who had not scored for Scotland since the 1982 World Cup and Sharp had raised eyebrows.

Scotland then faced West Germany at noon a few days later. Fergie opted for a 4-5-1 formation against the Germans with Strachan supporting lone striker Steve Archibald. The Germans made a blistering start, Leighton made a fine save and the Germans hit the post from the resulting corner. Then against the run of play Scotland took the lead. Strachan fired home from a tight angle. Could Scotland keep their lead until half time? Sadly not as Rudi Voller equalised just five minutes later. Leighton made a brilliant save from Voller on half time after a slip by Willie Miller. At the start of the second half Klaus Allofs fired the Germans ahead and only Leighton’s brilliance kept the Scots in the game. They almost got a point in the last few minutes after a brilliant run by substitute Davie Cooper, Richard Gough’s flying header sailed just over the bar. West Germany became the only team in the 1986 World Cup to win a game after falling behind. It was hard to be critical of Scotland following another good performance.

Scotland were handed a life line after a rampant Denmark thrashed Uruguay 6-1. A win in their final Group E game against the South Americans would send Scotland through to the second round as one of the best third placed teams. On Friday the 13th of June Scotland’s luck ran out. Alex Ferguson dropped Scotland captain Graeme Souness and handed first starts to Paul McStay and Everton striker Graeme Sharp. Strachan was hacked down by Batista and the French referee produced a red card after just two minutes. Playing against ten men Scotland could find no way through a massed Uruguay defence. Steve Nicol missed a great chance, which was the Scots only shot on target. Only a brilliant Leighton save in the second half kept Scotland in the game and after being hacked and fouled throughout the game, the Scots only other attempt was a David Narey drive, fired over from long range. Davie Cooper and Charlie Nicholas were thrown on in the last twenty minutes but the match ended goal less. Alex Ferguson resigned straight after the final whistle. FIFA fined Uruguay for their violent conduct as SFA Chief Ernie Walker called them “the scum of world football”

So who would take over as the new Scotland manager? Graeme Souness announced his retirement to concentrate on his new job as Rangers Player/Manager. Kenny Dalglish at 35 was also unlikely to feature again in dark blue. The favourite to replace Fergie was Billy McNeill who had endured a mixed spell at Manchester City. Former Jock Stein assistant Jim McClean was also in the running. However in July 1986 Andy Roxburgh was unveiled as the new Scotland manager. Andy who? asked the press. Roxburgh a former teacher, had never played the game at a high level. He had led the under 18 team to the European Championship in 1982 and had been an assistant at Mexico 1986.

Scotland had been drawn in a tough Euro 88 qualifying section alongside familiar foes Belgium, Bulgaria, Republic of Ireland and minnows Luxembourg. Roxburgh made a slow start. A goal less draw against Bulgaria at Hampden, where McStay had missed a great chance after a brilliant run by Davie Cooper, was followed by a 0-0 draw in Dublin in October. Only a header off the line by the recalled Alan Hansen earned Scotland a point. In November Scotland finally ended a three game scoreless streak by beating Luxembourg at Hampden. Two Davie Cooper goals with one from the spot and a late Mo Johnston header moved Scotland into second place, in Kenny Dalglish’s 102nd a final game for his country.

With only the group winners qualifying for the Euros in West Germany, Roxburgh knew that a win over Jack Charlton’s side would put Scotland in pole position to qualify. He picked a strong team with Gough alongside Hansen at the back and Cooper and Strachan on the wings. An expectant crowd at Hampden witnessed a dull game in front of a large Irish support. After a quick free kick Liverpool’s Mark Lawrenson gave the Republic a first half lead. Scotland found it difficult to break down the very direct Irish team and despite having a late Mo Johnston effort cleared of the line, Scotland lost 1-0.

In April Scotland imploded in Belgium where Paul McStay’s header could not prevent a 4-1 thrashing, the last time Scotland wore their lemon yellow away kit. The knives were out for Roxburgh, but Scotland bounced back in the Rous Cup. They held a strong England team to a 0-0 draw at Hampden, with only the crossbar denying Charlie Nicholas and the Scots victory. A narrow defeat to Brazil followed, with the South Americans lifting the trophy in their swapped Scotland shirts.

Roxburgh entered the Autumn declaring in the match programme before a September friendly against Hungary that “the next World Cup starts here”. A young side featuring Ian Durrant on his debut won 2-0 thanks to Ally McCoist’s first Scotland goals. In October Scotland gained revenge to beat World Cup Semi Finalists Belgium 2-0 at Hampden thanks to goals from McCoist and the outstanding Paul McStay.

In November Scotland went to Sofia to face a Bulgaria side that only needed a draw to qualify for Euro 88. In a poor game on a wet night, Jim Leighton was at his agile best to keep the score blank. In the last ten minutes a rare Scotland attack was finished by Hearts midfield substitute Gary MacKay. The Scots held on for a famous 1-0 victory which sent Jack Charlton’s Republic to the Euros. Scotland ended their campaign in December in Luxembourg, knowing a victory would give them ten points their best ever tally in European qualification. Once again when they were favourites Scotland slipped up against a supposed minnow and Roxburgh was left frustrated by another 0-0 draw. Scotland had kept five clean sheets in their eight qualifiers, but had only scored seven goals too.

Andy Roxburgh had joined Willie Ormond and Jock Stein in failing to take Scotland to the European Championships. His task was to build a Scotland side for the 1988 and 1989 World Cup qualifiers. Could Scotland qualify for a record fifth World Cup in a row at Italia 90? We will find out in a later blog.

Rangers 1983/84

Rangers kicked off the 1983/84 season at a cross roads. Manager and Gers legend John Greig was starting his sixth season as manager. Rangers had not won the Championship since 1978. The New Firm of Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen and Jim McClean’s Dundee United had left Rangers behind. Aberdeen had won the title in 1980 and two Scottish Cup Finals against Rangers in 1982 and 1983. Fergie’s men had also beaten the mighty Real Madrid to land the European Cup Winners Cup that summer.

Even worse for Rangers fans, they had watched Dundee United clinch the Championship and Celtic had been Champions in 1981 and 1982. Attendances were down at Ibrox and Rangers best player Davie Cooper was in and out of the side. In a bid to kick start a title challenge Rangers had splashed out £185,000 to sign Sunderland striker and lifelong Rangers fan Ally McCoist. Their defence was still very leaky though with Barcelona ’72 legend Peter McCloy shaky in goals.

Rangers made a slow start to the season. An Ally McCoist goal after just 27 seconds gave the Gers the lead at Parkhead but Celtic fought back to win 2-1. Aberdeen were already fighting it out with Celtic at the top of the league and in October after a 2-1 defeat by Motherwell at Ibrox in front of just 15,000 people and with fans protesting, John Greig resigned. It was a sad end for a proud Rangers legend who had failed to recapture the Championship after the Treble in 1978.

Who would replace him as Rangers manager? The board first approached former Rangers striker Alex Ferguson. However after his unhappy spell as a player at Ibrox and with a great team at Pittodrie, he turned the job down. Jim McClean was then interviewed for the job. He initially accepted but then changed his mind and stayed at Tannadice. So Rangers then turned to Motherwell manager and their last title winning boss Jock Wallace in a bid to recapture former glories.

Rangers dipped into the transfer market. Nicky Walker the Motherwell keeper followed Jock to Ibrox and striker Bobby Williamson and full back Stuart Munro arrived from Alloa. Slowly Rangers began to climb the table . Davie Cooper was getting back to his best and the new year brought more hope. Rangers beat Champions Dundee United over two legs in the Semis to reach the League Cup Final against Celtic at Hampden.

Celtic started as favourites. Jock Wallace famously declared that Rangers “had the battle fever” before the game. David Hay had replaced Billy McNeill but had not convinced at Parkhead. Peter McCloy was back in goal and McCoist played in midfield behind strikers Sandy Clark and John MacDonald. On the stroke of half time Bobby Russell was tripped and Ally McCoist gave Rangers a half time lead from the penalty spot.

Early in the second half Sandy Clark flicked on a huge McCloy kick and Ally McCoist stabbed home his second goal. Celtic came back. Brian McClair pulled a goal back from a clever free kick, then in front of a half empty Celtic end Ally McCoist went from hero to villain, after he gave away a dubious late penalty. Mark Reid converted and the game went to extra time.

Super Ally then won another penalty after Roy Aitken hacked him down. McCoist then saw his spot kicked saved by Pat Bonner, but he reacted quickest to score the rebound. Rangers held on despite a few scares and Jock Wallace had won his first trophy back at Ibrox. Captain John McClelland proudly lifted the cup.

Rangers defeated Celtic again in April thanks to Bobby Williamson’s spectacular goal but Jock Wallace’s side ran out of steam and finished the season in a miserable fourth place behind Champions Aberdeen. A huge rebuilding job would be needed to get Rangers back to being challengers again.

1984 Auld Enemy Clash

It was May 1984. Scotland prepared to face England in the last ever British Championship clash at Hampden Park. It was an historic game in a 100 year Tournament.

The Home International Championship had been running since 1884. However poor attendances and a lack of media interest had slowly lead to it’s demise. In December 1983 prior to Scotland’s 2-0 defeat against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, both the English and Scottish FA announced that the 1984 British Championship would be their last. The England v Scotland fixture the most lucrative and high profile fixture would continue in another form.

The Welsh and Northern Ireland managers both condemned the decision. Welsh manager Mike England and Irish manager Billy Bingham both pointed to their countries good recent results against both England and Scotland and claimed greed was behind their choice to withdraw from the Championship.

As Scotland lined up to face England at Hampden, both countries knew a victory would give them the Championship. England manager Bobby Robson was under pressure after a poor season. A defeat to the exciting Denmark team in September 1983 had ended England’s chances of qualifying for Euro 84. Wales had defeated England a few weeks earlier thanks to a Mark Hughes header on his debut at Wrexham. Without several first choice players Robson opted for a brave and exciting 4-4-2 formation with wingers John Barnes and Mark Chamberlain (Alex Ox’s father) on the wings. England had beaten Scotland 2-0 at Wembley the previous year in a one sided game and were the Championship holders.

Scotland lined up hoping to win their first Auld Enemy game at Hampden since 1976. In fact Scotland had not scored against England since then and Jock Stein was still waiting for his first Auld Enemy victory in Glasgow. Scotland had beaten Wales 2-1 in February thanks to a Davie Cooper penalty and a debut goal by the exciting Watford striker Mo Johnston.

Scotland started with former Aberdeen striker Steve Archibald and current Don Mark McGhee up front. After a nervous start Scotland took the lead. Gordon Strachan collected a punch from Peter Shilton and his cross was headed firmly home by Mark McGhee after thirteen minutes. The 74,000 crowd roared their approval. Then gradually England’s midfield of Ray Wilkins and Bryan Robson started to take control. Before half time England drew level. Arsenal’s Tony Woodcock turned Scotland Captain Willie Miller and fired a powerful shot past Jim Leighton.

The second half started amid a downpour and as the skies darkened, Scotland began to get on top. Wark and Archibald were both denied by Shilton. Then with twenty five minutes to go Jock Stein brought on Paul McStay and Mo Johnston for Strachan and McGhee. Jim Bett began to fire dangerous crosses into the England area and his shot was headed off the line by Terry Fenwick. With just a few minutes left Scotland thought they had won the game. Mo Johnston volleyed a powerful shot towards the top corner, but a flying Peter Shilton denied him with an acrobatic reflex save. So perhaps fittingly the last ever Auld Enemy Home Championship clash ended with honours even in a 1-1 draw. As the Tartan Army trooped home in the rain ruing that late save, Northern Ireland would claim the last British Championship on goal difference and they would get to keep the trophy.

Ironically in the 1984-1986 World Cup qualifiers England were drawn with Northern Ireland and Wales with Scotland. Only a late Davie Cooper penalty denied Wales a place in the Mexico World Cup alongside England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. However their September 1985 1-1 draw was overshadowed by Jock Stein’s tragic death. It was left to Alex Ferguson to guide and lead Scotland to the 1986 World Cup, where once again they were eliminated in the opening group stage.

The Scotland v England game continued from 1985 to 1989 under the guise Rous Cup. Scotland won the first edition 1-0 at Hampden with a Richard Gough header in a game switched from Wembley after the Heysel disaster. In 1989 after England’s 2-0 victory and following further clashes with English hooligans and the police that annual Auld Enemy game was abandoned. It wouldn’t be until Euro 96 that the two countries faced each other again at Wembley.

1981/82 Paisley’s New Liverpool team

It was Christmas 1981.

A cold dark winter in Thatcher’s Britain. A few months on from the Toxteth riots and things were not going well at Anfield. Bob Paisley had started a rebuilding job but the team just wasn’t gelling. A 3-1 defeat at home to Manchester City had left Liverpool 12th in the First Division table.

New goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar had struggled to replace Ray Clemence. After another poor performance against City Bob Paisley decided to make bold changes. It started with the Captain. Proud Scouser Phil Thompson who had lifted Liverpool’s third European Cup that summer after a 1-0 win over Real Madrid in Paris was stripped on the arm band.

Graeme Souness the tough but skilful Scotland midfielder replaced him. Aggressive, arrogant and some said dirty, Souness was a winner. He was a leader and Paisley knew the responsibilty of being skipper would drive Liverpool on.

Irish youngster Ronnie Whelan had replaced legend Ray Kennedy who had joined John Toshack’s Swansea on the left of midfield. Record £900,000 signing from Brighton Mark Lawrenson had struggled to find his best position in the team. Although he was later to form a formidable partnership with classy Scot Alan Hansen at centre back, Lawrenson was being used in midfield alongside Souness.

Upfront a young skinny Welsh striker Ian Rush, a £300,000 signing from Chester had started to form a potent partnership with Kenny Dalglish. After clear the air talks following the Manchester City defeat assistant manager Joe Fagan had warned Grobbelaar to stay on his line and if you was going to go for crosses give a shout to his defence, to cover his line.

Bob Paisley had also told Ian Rush to be more selfish in front of goal and to shoot on sight. Kenny Dalglish had told him in training to just make forward runs and he would find him.

The new year saw things start to fall into place. Liverpool went on a long unbeaten run. From being 12th they steadily climbed the table. A win at Old Trafford thanks to new Australian winger Craig Johnston, a signing from Middlesbrough included a penalty save. Bruce had seen a picture of Frank Stapleton’s previous penalty and dived the same was to save it!

In March Liverpool faced FA Cup holders Tottenham in the first Milk Cup (League Cup) Final at Wembley. A goal down to an early Steve Archibald strike against a Spurs team that had never lost at Wembley a late Ronnie Whelan equaliser had forced extra time. Bob Paisley told his players not to lie on the turf during his team talk, to show Tottenham that his players were not tired. In extra time Whelan and Rush fired further goals past former legend Ray Clemence, to give Liverpool a 3-1 victory and to retain the League Cup.

In the league Liverpool faced Tottenham again at Anfield in May, knowing that a win would give them the Championship again. They went behind to a Glenn Hoddle wonder strike. At the start of the second half Ray Clemence was famously given a standing ovation by the Kop. Liverpool ran in three goals, a Lawrenson header and further strikes by Dalglish and Whelan gave Liverpool their thirteenth Championship and Bob Paisley’s fifth League title.

Champions again with almost half a new team, a new Captain and new young players. Bob Paisley’s new Liverpool team were England’s best once again.