Written by: James McHale @jamesmchale2607
Born in 1955 in Sauchie, Scotland, Hansen grew up supporting Rangers but despite this the defender signed for Hibernian aged 14, despite being a keen golf player. Hansen may have never taken the leap on his own though and he can thank his father for being the one who encouraged him to take the risk and pursue a career in football, though he later turned down a professional contract at the club in order to continue playing golf.
A career in golf never really came about and instead the young Hansen then decided to join his older brother John at Partick Thistle, turning down the opportunity to study at the University of Aberdeen. The process involved in joining Partick Thistle was far from straight-forward though when his opportunity arrived, Hansen grasped it with both hands – being eager to escape the insurance firm he was forced to work at whilst his application was being processed.
Watching from the side-lines, the young trainee saw the senior side defeat the mighty Celtic in the 1971 League Cup Final, causing a major upset and sending shockwaves through Scottish football. Hansen’s first real taste of first-team football came during the 74/75 campaign when he made a whopping 29 appearances in Scotland’s Division One, a semi-professional league below the somewhat more professional First Division and Premier Division. The following 2 seasons saw Hansen’s side climb up the leagues with back-to-back promotions with Hansen being an important and ever-present figure in the side.
Under the recommendation of legendary Celtic coach Jock Stein, Liverpool paid a colossal £100,000 for the young centre-back in 1977. Hansen soon found himself in a news shortly after arriving following a goal only a month after making his debut for the Merseyside giants, scoring the opening in a 5-1 hammering of German side Dynamo Dresden in October of the same year. Having joined at the back end of the campaign, Hansen was forced to wait a little while to make his debut but once his foot was in the door, Hansen made it clear that he was going nowhere but upwards.
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Cementing his place in the side in 78/79, Hansen soon forged a brilliant relationship with the rest if the players and the fans alike and earned his reputation as a no-nonsense defender after being in integral part of the title winning side that season. Not just a brilliant tackler, Hansen had an incredible footballing brain and his ability to read the game allowed him to compete with the very best forwards around. Being comfortable on the back as well as being strong in the tackle, you could argue that Hansen was the archetypal Virgil van Dijk, always looking for a pass where others would simply ‘hoof’ the ball away.
Hansen’s entire Liverpool career was laced with success but arguably his best spell at the club started in 1981 when Liverpool won the European Cup twice and the League Cup four times between 1981 and 1984, not to mention the three domestic titles also won during that time. This success coincided with the arrival with Mark Lawrenson from Brighton, a player with which Hansen would go on to form a formidable partnership with over the coming years.
Such never before seen success continued over the following years, but it was tarnished by the horrific events that unfolded in the 1985 European Cup final against Juventus where 39 Juventus fans lost their lives after both sets of fans clashed inside the stadium. Despite witnessing such horror, Hansen would go on to enjoy further success at the club, working under team-mate and fellow Scottish international Kenny Dalglish – the former Liverpool ace was appointed player-manager in 1985.
A serious knee injury in 1988 was a major setback in Hansen’s career and although he could still ‘do a job’ for Liverpool, the Scot never fully got back into the swing of things and played his final games for Liverpool over the next couple of seasons. Perhaps lingering memories of the recent Hillsborough disaster still plagued the defender, or perhaps it was simply his body not being able to do what it once could, but the legendary defender retired in 1991 whilst still being at the top of the English game.
Hansen left Liverpool having won eight First Division titles, five Community Shields, four League Cups, three European Cups, two FA Cups, and one Super Cup at the club – not bad at all. In addition to his vast list of team honours, Hansen won a plethora of individual accolades too including being named in the PFA First Division Team of the Year six times. From humble beginnings to reaching the height of European football, the Scot amassed 620 appearances in Merseyside – pretty decent for a fella who struggled to see a career in football during his early days.
Article by James McHale @jamesmchale2607