On this day in 1987 John Aldridge made his debut for Liverpool FC.
Aldridge was a Liverpool fan from a young age and would never have thought he would be dropping 30 goals-a-season for his boyhood club. Starting his career off at Newport County and then moving onto Oxford United, he thought the dream had passed him by. With Ian Rush moving on from Liverpool to Juventus it meant that Kenny Dalglish needed to strengthen his attacking force and Aldridge didn’t need a second invitation when making his ‘dream move’ to Anfield in 1987.
Aldridge had scored 15 goals in 25 matches for Oxford United before moving to Merseyside but only made 10 appearances for the Reds in 1986/87 scoring 2 goals. Dalglish didn’t seem keen on using Aldridge but told him his time would come when better players would come into the club, a few months later John Barnes and Peter Beardsley arrived at Liverpool.
Aldridge took over the responsibility of leading the line for Liverpool scoring in each of the first nine league matches in 1987/88 season. He had scored in the last league game of the previous season and his club record of scoring in ten consecutive league games still stands. Normally so consistent from 12 yards, he was the only player to miss a penalty in the FA Cup final at Wembley when Liverpool were denied the League and Cup double by Wimbledon in 1988.
When Rush returned to Liverpool after just one season at Juventus, it was now up to Dalglish to try and accommodate both Rush and Aldridge in his team. Aldridge continued to shine in the 1988/89 season adding 31 goals to his tally and made amends for his FA Cup penalty miss when he scored inside 4 minutes against rivals Everton to add a FA Cup winners’ medal to his trophy cabinet after beating their neighbours 3-2 after extra-time.
Rush had scored the other two goals in the FA Cup final and when he reached full fitness it came apparent that Dalglish preferred his old striking partner over Aldridge. A move to Spanish side Real Sociedad was looming and he came off the bench in the 9-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace in September 1989, Peter Beardsley graciously made way for Aldridge who tucked the spot-kick away with efficiency and threw his shirt and boots into the Kop end at the end of an emotional farewell game.
He became the first non-Basque player to sign for Real Sociedad and was an instant hit with the fans scoring in nearly every game. However, after two successful season he wanted to return home and signed for Tranmere Rovers who had just been promoted to the old second division. He scored a club record of 40 goals in his debut season including nine in his first five games, he was top-scorer for the club in his five other seasons as well as being manager of the club in his last two seasons as a player. When it was time for him to hang up his boots, he did it in style scoring both goals in their 2-1 win over Wolves at the age of 39. He was club manager for Tranmere from 1996-2001 and kept Rovers mid-table in the First Division and they went all the way to Wembley in the 2000 League Cup final in which they lost to Leicester City.
His international goal scoring record makes less impressive reading as he did not score for Ireland until his twentieth game against Tunisia in October 1988, after he had broken his duck he netted 18 times in 49 matches. His most famous moment in an Ireland shirt was perhaps his rant at the match official during a game against Mexico, he had waited six minutes to come on as a substitute and was not pleased by this, his outburst was heard by millions of TV viewers. When he finally made it onto the pitch he grabbed a consolation goal which ensured Ireland’s progress into the second round on goal difference and endeared him to the Irish and Scousers worldwide as his rant was delivered in the thickest Scouse accent imaginable.
He was a true goal scoring hero and his career stats are 476 goals in 889 matches. He made a total of 104 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 63 goals.
Article by Lauren Black
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