DAVID Speedie was a signing that certainly raised a few eyebrows, when he was brought in by Kenny Dalglish. As it’s 25 years this week since he left Anfield we thought we’d have a look at 10 of the Reds maddest signings.
Spackers – yeah that was his nickname in the dressing room (legend has it) – was a real under the radar signing, who ended up having a really under the radar Liverpool career. Kenny Dalglish bought him as a squad player for £400,000 from Chelsea.
He appeared to be a really generic unspectacular midfield player. A performer with no obvious attributes whatsoever. My recollection is of taking a swift dislike to him in that way that a later generation took two looks at Lucas and and decided he wasn’t for them either. Spackers farted around the periphery of the team in an ultimately disappointing debut 86/87 season, in which we ended up throwing the league away to Everton.
Then Kenny went shopping in the summer of 87 and brought in John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton to augment recently signed John Aldridge. Spackers looked a boy lost amongst superstars as the 87/88 season caught light and Barnes, Beardsley and co started beating the whole top flight 4-0, week in week out.
Then a curious thing happened that no one really noticed happen. Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon, our central midfielders, started to pick up niggling injuries and missing games. In stepped Spackers. We sighed when we saw his name on the team sheet. Then after a few games people began to notice that we weren’t missing either of the first choice lads. Spackers was fitting in seamlessly. Quickly he actually became something of an asset. He became a player you actually quite liked.
He played in a number of games in a season some might herald as the most impressive in the club’s history. Nigel Spackman. Spackers. If you get the chance, always go back to watching Liverpool 5 Nottingham Forest 0, that season. If you get a chance, take time out too, to notice that slightly gawky looking lad with a mousy quasi 80s mullet of sorts. The lad efficiently and intelligently going about his business in our midfield engine room. That’s Nigel ‘Spackers’ Spackman. I’ll never forget him.
Kenny’s last signing as manager during his first spell at the helm, and one that raised many eyebrows – and worse, had people questioning the King’s sanity.
Time hasn’t been kind to this deal, and it’s perhaps a bit harsh that some have included Speedie in the worst signings of all time and the like.
It was undoubtedly left-field – this was a time when perceptions of what made a Liverpool player were still clearly defined in supporters’ minds. The fanbase broadly expected to be winning things and competing for the best and a 30-year-old Scot who had been banging them in for Coventry City didn’t really fit the bill.
But. But. Speedie was only at Anfield for six months (Graeme Souness wasn’t a fan and vice versa) in that time he scored away to Manchester United on his debut, hit two against Everton and finished with stats of six goals in nine starts, with five substitute appearances.
From memory, while it’s fair to say he wasn’t top quality, there was no questioning his attitude or effort.
Not only that, when he scored against the Blues, he celebrated in front of their fans and later claimed not to know where the Kop was. A big win for me, that.
“My Liverpool career was not ended by Kenny Dalglish’s departure, it was killed by Graeme Souness’s arrival,” said Speedie. “We just never got on with each other. I knew him from Scotland and I found him to be a real big head and you just don’t get away with being like that with me. The rest of my time at Liverpool was very uncomfortable. It still annoys me though when people say Robbie Keane has been the biggest flop at Anfield since me. I scored six goals in about 12 appearances and in the end the manager just did not like me.”
When Gary Mac signed the average age of Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool side was under 25, so for a 35 year old to come in was a huge surprise – he even admitted that himself! Where Gary Mac was concerned, age was just a number and he played an absolutely crucial role in the Reds famous treble win.
The Scot was a key part of what was probably Leeds’ greatest ever sides – featuring the likes of Gordon Strachan, Gary Speed and Eric Cantona – and was Coventry’s player of the year the season prior to his move, but he wouldn’t have featured on the wishlist of any Kopites – it just wasn’t in their considerations.
But he was boss. God was he boss. Brought in as an experienced head, he provided that and so much more. His freekick against the Blues at Goodison showcased just what he brought to the team. Intelligence and technique. But so much more.
We loved him. His sweet right foot. His Dortmund Pen. His Bradford goal. His Coventry goal. His Spurs peno. His Barca pen. His Derby goal. His baldy head. Oh Gary Mac…
I’ve always liked the tales of Liverpool being ruthless. Of letting players grow old on other club’s pitches. Of injured players being ignored. Of players being told to forget about medals the minute they had won them and to think about next year.
It all demonstrated a will to win. A steely determination to be the best. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice when your club is nice. When we forget about players being pieces of meat and remember the human bit.
Paul Jones is a Red. A Welshman who loves Liverpool. And he was a keeper who never dreamed of getting a chance to step out at Anfield as the man with the gloves for the Reds’ first team.
But that’s just what he did. Massive shorts pulled up high, he was able to clap The Kop and keep a clean sheet against Aston Villa after injuries to Chris Kirkland and Jerzy Dudek saw him signed on loan from Southampton in January 2004. At 36 years, eight months and 23 days old, he was the oldest player to make his debut for Liverpool since World War II. And he loved it. Which was boss.
He said: “I’d never touched the This is Anfield sign when I was an opposition player – I think that tradition should be reserved for Liverpool players – so to get to touch it and know that I was touching it as a Liverpool player meant everything.”
He played just one more game, away at Spurs, before warming the bench for two games. And that was it. But you’d take that wouldn’t you?
The Long Thin Pork Sausage.
The Fifth Beatle.
Slower than slow itself.
That’s what they said about him, Mauricio Pellegrino, when he arrived at Liverpool. I can’t be sure about the former – his Spanish nickname – but he really did love The Beatles and he was slower than slow itself. I saw him against Crystal Palace and Andy Johnson in 2005 and it was absolutely breathtaking. I saw him dismantled at home to Middlesbrough. Szilard Nemeth making mincemeat of him first half.
There is a story though – the players go back into the dressing room at half time and start making Pellegrino’s excuses for him. Not his fault, boss, I could have offered more cover, boss.
Rafa Benitez substituted him.
But he also made him first team coach in 2008 and the signing makes sense in that context. Benitez was essentially signing an additional coach as a player, someone who had worked with his training methods before, someone who could help them pick up what needed to be picked up. An extra brain. That there weren’t a load of legs left wasn’t that important to Benitez. Well, not until half time against Middlesbrough anyway.
He is now manager of Alaves, the team he left Liverpool for in 2006.
Reckon he’d be a great pint, you know…
Good feet for a big man. Those words were rarely more apt. But, in hindsight the move made very little sense. A six foot seven target man was not the type of striker the Reds had ever gone for – not least Rafa Benitez – though the manager had stated that he was looking for an aerial threat up top, and Crouch appeared to fit the bill.
He struggled to start with. No goals in 10 league games. But then he got a double against Wigan at Anfield and would add a further 11 in all competitions, as he helped the Reds to the 2006 FA Cup final – scoring the only goal in a win over United and twice in the 7-0 win over Birmingham.
He gave us enjoyment. He took part in the 2006 FA Cup final, scored the winner against Chelsea in the 2006 Charity Shield, scored a great hat trick in a 4-1 win over Arsenal and twice in the 8-0 win over Besiktas at Anfield. Add to that the fact that he’s a great bloke and you’ve got a great signing.
He’s big, he’s red, his feet stick out the bed…
The second coming, obviously. Fowler enjoyed a wonderful seventeen years at Liverpool before he moved to Leeds, without being given the proper chance to say goodbye to the Anfield crowd. That was until he was re-signed by Rafa on a free in 2006.
It certainly came as a surprise to Liverpool fans, but a very pleasant surprise. Fowler was a legend at the club, born in Toxteth and with 330 appearances and 171 goals from his first spell, he was already a player that Kopites held close to their hearts.
In his second spell at the club he scored 12 goals in 39 appearances, but would miss out on an FA Cup winner’s medal due to being cup-tied from his time at Manchester City. He left on a high at the end of the 2006/7 season by getting to say a proper goodbye to the Anfield crowd after the final game of the season at home to Charlton.
He wasn’t in the squad for the 2007 Champions League final against Milan, but he can definitely feel he played some part in helping them get there.
Soto the Greek. What a man. Signed at 30 years of age for £2m from AEK Athens, where he had previously intended to play out his career. However, when Rafa came calling Soto couldn’t resist.
With Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger above him in the pecking order it was always going to be a big ask for him to nail down a starting spot. But when he did play he was a man mountain. He was more than happy to put his body on the line for the cause. He was a colossus in the air – which he showed at both ends of the field, occasionally being used as a plan B attacker when the Reds were under the cosh.
Big Soto won player of the month in January and then got sent off for a meaty tackle on Marouane Fellaini in the Merseyside derby just days later – though the Belgian could’ve also been accused of being reckless, despite coming off the worse of the two. That’s just who Soto was.
Unfortunately, Soto’s lack of pace was becoming more and more apparent in the latter stages of his Liverpool career. It all came to a head when he brought down Braga’s Mossoro in the box to give the Portuguese side a 1-0 first leg lead – which they saw out to dump the Reds from the Europa League. Shortly after he left for Wolfsburg. An unfortunate end for Soto the Greek.
Always felt like a sentimental signing. Lambert was a goalscorer, of that there was no doubt. But, he never seemed the right fit. The fans took to him well. A Kirkby-born lad, who had played for the Reds at youth level before being released at the age of 15, being given the chance of a lifetime to represent his boyhood club at first team level.
It didn’t come off. Though, to be honest, not many would’ve expected it to. Brendan Rodgers style of quick passing required a mobile striker – Rickie didn’t quite fit this description. When I say quite I mean at times it was like watching him run through treacle. Seems a good bloke, though. Still scored a few goals, which he will no doubt cherish.
He scored in consecutive games – a 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace and a 2-2 draw away to Ludogorets. Hardly blockbuster games, but you can’t take that away from him. Nor would anybody try. After just one season he left for West Brom, not the way he would’ve hoped his return to the club he loves would’ve turned out. But I’m sure he savoured every minute of it.
Out of the blue. Completely and utterly out of the blue. He was once a prospect, but at that point it seemed he was doomed to be one of those players who was loaned out everywhere but never managed to make an impression. His latest was Southampton.
His last appearance for the Saints was in a 6-1 defeat to the Reds, in which he endured a torrid time as big Divock Origi ran rings around their whole defence. But then, just over a month later, they had agreed to terminate his loan to allow him to go to Liverpool.
It seemed an OK move. The Reds were in the midst of a horrific injury crisis, and were down to the bare bones in the centre back spot. Jürgen Klopp saw Caulker as someone who could do a job if needed. His aerial ability was the attribute that stood out the manager. So much so that he was brought on as a makeshift striker when the Reds were trailing 3-2 to Arsenal at Anfield.
That was about all we saw of Steven Caulker – barring a full 90 in a goalless FA Cup fourth round draw at home to West Ham (a real cracker of a game). The Reds surprisingly – by which I mean completely unsurprisingly – didn’t make his loan move permanent.
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