Liverpool’s last title – 1990

LIVERPOOL won their 11th title in 18 seasons and went very close to securing a second “double” when they surprisingly lost to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park. After such a long run of success, which included 27 major trophies since 1972-73, this title triumph proved to be the end of an era for the club, a period that was curtailed to some extent by the tragedies of Heysel stadium and Hillsborough. While Liverpool remained one of the top clubs in the Football League, their period of overwhelming dominance was certainly coming to an end.

The only major signing in the summer of 1989 was Swedish defender Glenn Hysén who arrived from Fiorentina for £ 600,000. At the same time, some familiar faces started to depart Anfield – Kevin MacDonald, Jim Beglin and John Aldridge all left the club.

Liverpool started the season satisfactorily, occasionally showing how dangerous they could be in front of goal. They were unbeaten in their first eight league games, the highlight of which was a 9-0 demolition of Crystal Palace, but they generally seemed to be struggling to display the flair and power of previous years on a consistent basis. After losing for the first time, a 4-1 drubbing at Southampton, they entered an indifferent patch which saw further defeats at the hands of Coventry, Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday. In the last of those losses, the Liverpool team was, quite unusually, jeered by the fans.

The main contenders for the title in 1989-90 in the early months were reigning champions Arsenal and, surprisingly, Aston Villa. But as 1989 ended, Liverpool were top of the table, with Villa four points behind but with a game in hand.

Liverpool embarked on a 20-game unbeaten run in league and cup, but Villa topped the table into March and after the Reds’ sequence ended on March 21 at Tottenham, the Midlands side were three points in front of Liverpool but had played 30 games to Liverpool’s 29.

Liverpool drew level on points at the end of the month after beating Southampton 3-2 at Anfield, coming from behind to win thanks to a very late goal from Ian Rush. A day later, Villa lost at home to Manchester City and handed the initiative to Dalglish’s side. Villa, though, clung on relentlessly, although they lost three of their last eight league games.

Liverpool’s performances may have fallen below the high standards set by the club since the 1960s, but they still proved too good for all contenders. Villa’s dwindling hopes were finally extinguished on April 28 when they were held 3-3 at Villa Park by Norwich City and Liverpool beat Queens Park Rangers 2-1 at Anfield. Liverpool still had two games to play, both of which were won, 1-0 against Derby at home and then a 6-1 thrashing of Coventry away, a game that saw John Barnes score a hat-trick. A nine-point margin between Liverpool and second-placed Aston Villa seemed extravagant after a season in which they had rarely been at their best.

The FA Cup saw Liverpool bow-out at, of all places, Villa Park, losing to Palace 4-3, the team they had beaten 9-0 earlier in the campaign. Throughout the season, Liverpool had shown that they had their weaknesses, but the quality of their squad saw them through, although the average age of the team was generally over 28. The media reported that this year, “the Champagne was flatter” than in previous title wins.

Little did the Liverpool fans know it, but 1989-90 represented the beginning of the end of the Shankly dynasty that had served them so well since the mid-1960s.

Liverpool’s regular team comprised: Bruce Grobbelaar; Glenn Hysén, David Burrows, Steve Nicol, Barry Venison, Alan Hansen, Steve Staunton, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan, Steve McMahon, Peter Beardsley, Jan Mølby, John Barnes, Ian Rush.

Bruce Grobbelaar (32): Joined Liverpool in March 1981 from Vancouver Whitecaps, costing the club £ 250,000. A flamboyant goalkeeper, occasionally prone to bizarre mistakes, he became something of a folk hero at Liverpool. Born in Durban, South Africa, he was a Zimbabwean international.
Glenn Hysén (29): Experienced Swedish defender who joined from Fiorentina for a £ 600,000 fee. Won two UEFA Cups with his hometown club, IFK Göteborg after which he played in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven. He left Liverpool in 1992, returning to Sweden.
David Burrows (20): Left back who joined Liverpool from West Bromwich Albion in October 1988, costing £ 550,000. Spent almost five years with the club before joining West Ham in September 1993. Alan Hansen (34): Signed from Patrick Thistle in 1977 for a £ 100,000 fee, Hansen established himself in the Liverpool defence in his second season at Anfield and proved to be an excellent reader of the game. He won 26 caps for Scotland and was named in the PFA team of the year, which proved to be his final season with Liverpool.
Steve Staunton (19): Versatile player who signed from Dundalk for £ 20,000. An all-round sportsman, he was also an accomplished Gaelic Footballer. Won 102 caps for Republic of Ireland. Joined Aston Villa in 1991 where he made over 200 Football League appearances.
Barry Venison (24): Full back who joined Liverpool in 1986 from Sunderland for a £ 200,000 fee. Won two England caps in a career that also included stints with Newcastle, Southampton and Turkey’s Galatasaray.
Peter Beardsley (29): Highly talented midfielder or forward who won 59 England caps, playing in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups. Started his career with Carlisle United and had a brief an unproductive spell with Manchester United before flourishing at Newcastle United. Moved to Liverpool in 1987 for a record fee of £ 1.9 million. His performances in 1989-90 saw him named in the PFA team of the season. Spent four seasons at Anfield, playing 175 games and scoring 61 goals. Joined Everton in 1991.
Ronnie Whelan (28): A hard-working and consistent midfield player who was signed from Irish club Home Farm in 1979 for £ 35,000. Dublin-born, Whelan was being courted for some time by a number of English clubs, including Manchester United. He developed a reputation for being the man for the big occasion and won 53 caps for Ireland in his long career.
Ray Houghton (28): Glasgow-born Republic of Ireland international (73 caps) who was secured from Oxford United in the summer of 1987, costing £ 825,000. A foraging and intelligent midfielder, Houghton could also score spectacular goals for club and country.
Jan Mølby (26): Central midfielder who had power and passing ability although lacked pace. Danish international, 33 caps, who was part of his country’s 1986 World Cup squad. Often failed to convince his manager during a decade at Anfield.
Steve Nicol (28): Joined Liverpool in 1981 from Ayr United for £ 300,000. A versatile and dependable player who could play in defence or midfield, he took time to establish himself at Anfield but went on to make 343 Football League appearances. Capped by Scotland 27 times.
Steve McMahon (28): Signed by Liverpool in September 1985 from Aston Villa for £ 350,000. Started his career with Everton but joined Villa in 1983. A combative player, he was named in the PFA XI for the First Division in 1989-90. Left the club in 1991 for Manchester City, by which time, he had won 17 caps for England.
John Barnes (26): One of the outstanding players of his generation, Barnes joined Liverpool in the summer of 1987 from Watford for a fee of £ 900,000. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he was capped by England 79 times between 1983 and 1995, rising to prominence on the international stage after an individual goal for England against Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. He was named FWA Footballer of the Year in 1990 and was Liverpool’s top scorer in the league with 22 goals.
Ian Rush (27): In his second spell with Liverpool after spending one year at Juventus in 1987-88. One of the great goalscorers of the 1980s, Rush had more competition after returning to Anfield, but still scored over 140 goals in that period to add to the 200-plus scored before he moved to Italy.

Football League Appearances

Ablett, G 13+2 Grobbelaar, B 38 Rosenthal, R 5+3
Aldridge, J 0+2 Hansen, A 31 Rush, I 36
Barnes, J 34 Houghton, R 16+3 Staunton, S 18+2
Beardsley, P 27+2 Hysén, G 35 Tanner, N 2+2
Burrows, D 23+3 McMahon, S 38 Venison, B 25
Dalglish, K 0+1 Marsh, M 0+2 Whelan, R 34
Gillespie, G 11+2 Nicol, S 21+2

Goalscorers: Barnes 22, Rush 18, Bearsley 10, Rosenthal 7, Nicol 6, McMahon 5, Gillespie 4, Aldridge 1, Houghton 1, Hysén 1, Mølby 1, Whelan 1, Own Goal 1. Total: 78

Football League Results

Aug 19 Manchester City Home W 3-1 Barnes (pen), Beardsley, Nicol 37,628
Aug 23 Aston Villa Away D 1-1 Barnes 35,796
Aug 26 Luton Town Away D 0-0 11,124
Sept 9 Derby County Away W 3-0 Rush, Barnes (pen), Beardsley 20,034
Sept 12 Crystal Palace Home W 9-0 Nicol 2, McMahon, Rush, Gillespie, Beardsley, Aldridge (pen), Barnes, Hysén 35,779
Sept 16 Norwich City Home D 0-0 36,885
Sept 23 Everton Away W 3-1 Barnes, Rush 2 42,453
Oct 14 Wimbledon Away W 2-1 Beardsley, Whelan 13,510
Oct 21 Southampton Away L 1-4 Beardsley (pen) 20,501
Oct 29 Tottenham Hotspur Home W 1-0 Barnes 36,550
Nov 4 Coventry City Home L 0-1 36,433
Nov 11 Queens Park R Away L 2-3 Barnes 2 (1 pen) 18,804
Nov 19 Millwall Away W   2-1 Barnes, Rush 13,547
Nov 26 Arsenal Home W 2-1 McMahon, Barnes 35,983
Nov 29 Sheffield Wednesday Away L 0-2 32,732
Dec 2 Manchester City Away W 4-1 Rush 2, Beardsley, McMahon 31,641
Dec 9 Aston Villa Home D 1-1 Beardsley 37,435
Dec 16 Chelsea Away W 5-2 Beardsley, Rush 2, Houghton, McMahon 31,005
Dec 23 Manchester United Home D 0-0 37,426
Dec 26 Sheffield Wednesday Home W 2-1 Mølby, Rush 37,488
Dec 30 Charlton Athletic Home W 1-0 Barnes 36,678
Jan 1 Nottingham Forest Away D 2-2 Rush 2 24,518
Jan 13 Luton Town Home D 2-2 Barnes, Nicol 35,312
Jan 20 Crystal Palace Away W 2-0 Rush, Beardsley 29,807
Feb 3 Everton Home W 2-1 Barnes, Beardsley (pen) 38,730
Feb 10 Norwich City Away D 0-0 20,210
Mar 3 Millwall Home W 1-0 Gillespie 36,427
Mar 18 Manchester United Away W 2-1 Barnes 2 (1 pen) 46,629
Mar 21 Tottenham Hotspur Away L 0-1 25,656
Mar 31 Wimbledon Home W    3-2 Barnes, Own goal, Rush 37,027
Apr 3 Southampton Home W 2-1 Rush, Gillespie 33,319
Apr 11 Charlton Athletic Away W 4-0 Rosenthal 3, Barnes 13,892
Apr 14 Nottingham Forest Home D 2-2 Rosenthal, McMahon 37,265
Apr 18 Arsenal Away D 1-1 Barnes 33,395
Apr 21 Chelsea Home W 4-1 Rosenthal, Nicol 2, Rush 38,431
Apr 28 Queens Park R Home W 2-1 Rush, Barnes (pen) 37,758
May 1 Derby County Home W 1-0 Gillespie 38,038
May 5 Coventry City Away W 6-1 Rush, Barnes 3, Rosenthal 2 23,204

FA Cup: Semi-Finals
Football League Cup: Round Three
Average home attendance: 36,875

Photo: PA

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