In the final part of our countdown of the best-ever Irish Liverpool players, we look at the two greatest Boys in Green to have lined out at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp brings his Champions League finalists, potentially with new €50m signing Fabinho in tow, to face Napoli at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium in August in what has become familiar territory for the Premier League side in recent years.
In the conclusion of our four-part series, we look at the strong ties that bind Liverpool and Ireland with the best Irish contributors to the club’s illustrious history.
2. Steve Heighway (1970-1981)
With over four decades of service to the club in playing and non-playing roles, there are few figures as synonymous with Liverpool as Steve Heighway.
At 22, the Dubliner was a relatively late starter in the world of professional football, and by obtaining a degree in economics he was at least prepared if his dream never materialised. Nonetheless, manager Bill Shankly took a chance on Heighway and as the midfielder took to First Division football like a duck to water, it was soon clear that the risk would pay dividends.
Along with the likes of Kevin Keegan and John Toshack, Heighway became a major symbol of a new era at Liverpool, the ageing side of the 1960s transformed by Shankly into a younger and more technical outfit as the manager looked to build a side capable of conquering Europe. A pacy winger in the classical sense, but still with enough of a unique style to mix it up, Heighway was a nightmare for opposition defences with his marauding runs down the left flank, and had a big hand in the club’s stellar decade in European competition.
With his career winding down after over a decade at the club, Heighway joined US side Minnesota Kicks in 1981 before retiring from the professional game soon after. In all, he made 475 appearances for the club in his time at Anfield, winning four First Division titles, two European Cups, two UEFA Cups, one FA Cup and one League Cup.
Heighway later joined the Liverpool backroom team in 1989, and was a prominent figure in the club’s youth structure for more than fifteen years. Under his watch as head of youth development, Liverpool stars such as Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard all came through the ranks.
1. John Aldridge (1987-1989)
With star striker Ian Rush set to join Juventus in 1987, Liverpool’s need for a prolific replacement for the Welshman was obvious. Oxford United striker John Aldridge, already a relatively experienced first division goalscorer at the time, was signed for £750,000 midway through Rush’s final season at Anfield.
Although Aldridge had proven himself as a goalscorer with Oxford, moving to Anfield was a huge step-up in expectation – to that end, manager Kenny Dalglish gave the Ireland forward the number eight jersey so as not to give him the added pressure of filling Rush’s number nine. Neither he nor the fans had cause to worry, however, as he scored 26 goals in 36 league games as the Reds claimed the First Division title in 1988.
Rush returned to Liverpool in the summer of 1988, which naturally raised concerns as to how the two similarly-styled strikers could play together. It was a massive challenge, but Aldridge’s better form in front of goal meant that, more often than not, he was preferred to Rush in the attack and ended the campaign with 31 goals in all competitions. Unfortunately for him, a Kop legend like Rush was never going to be kept out of the side for long – therefore Dalglish sanctioned a £1m move for Aldridge to Real Sociedad in September 1989.
Aldridge packed plenty into his near three-year spell on Merseyside, to the point where if it was not for Rush’s return, he would probably be considered to be even more of a club legend. As it was, he scored 63 goals in 104 games in all competitions, and left the club with a First Division and FA Cup medal in his back pocket.
Aldridge can now be seen and heard as a regular pundit and co-commentator on Liverpool’s in-house television channel LFC TV.