Liverpool FC’s long and mutually beneficial relationship with Ireland will be renewed this summer when Jurgen Klopp’s side come to Dublin.
The Reds will be in action at the Aviva Stadium in August when they do battle with Serie A giants Napoli as part of their pre-season preparation, following the success of a similar friendly against Athletic Bilbao last year.
The stadium is expected to be packed to the rafters once again as Irish fans come out in force to watch Liverpool in action.
Down the years, there has been no shortage of excellent Irish players who have plied their trade for the famous Merseyside club in some of their most successful sides. The links continue to this day with the likes of Glen McAuley, Corey Whelan and Caoimhin Kelleher playing for the youth sides, and defender Conor Masterson even making the matchday squad towards the end of this season.
As part of a new feature, every Thursday we will look at the best of the Boys in Green in Red, counting down the top ten Irish players to have lined out for the Anfield side. This week we look at #10 and #9.
10. Phil Babb (1994-2000)
Having featured for Ireland at the 1994 World Cup, Liverpool paid Coventry City £3.6m (a British record for a defender at the time) for Babb’s services in 1994. The centre-back went on to make 170 appearances in his time at the club, with his one and only goal coming against his former club Coventry. He also played a role in the League Cup-winning side of 1995, and the Premier League title race of 1996 and 1997.
Big things were expected of Babb when he arrived at Liverpool but, unfortunately (and through no fault of his own), he joined at a particularly lean period for the club, as the glory days of the previous decades were giving way to a relatively barren 90s. However, on his day the defender was still capable of turning in performances of high quality – though his consistency was not high enough for Roy Evans’ successor Gerard Houllier to warm to him fully.
The arrivals of Sami Hyypia and Stephane Henchoz in 1999 spelt the end of Babb’s Anfield career; he was moved on to Tranmere Rovers on loan in 2000 before signing for Sporting CP that summer.
9. Jason McAteer (1995-1999)
Having impressed Roy Evans in the 1995 League Cup final with Bolton, the versatile midfielder was snapped up for £4.5m that same summer. McAteer almost joined Blackburn Rovers, then Premier League champions and managed by Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish, but he chose Liverpool instead having supported them in his youth.
McAteer was a first-team regular for most of his time at the club, with his versatility in many roles meaning that Evans tended to favour him in a right wing-back role. The Ireland man was part of an immensely talented group of entertaining players in that era, with the likes of Robbie Fowler, Stan Collymore, Jamie Redknapp and Steve McManaman, and it’s probably fair to say that their talent isn’t celebrated as highly as it should be because of the lack of trophies that were forthcoming in that decade.
Like Babb, McAteer was part of Houllier’s cull in the late 90s, being moved on the Blackburn Rovers for £4m in 1999.
In all, McAteer made 100 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, but left having failed to win a trophy with the club. He is still highly thought of at Anfield, though, and regularly appears in Legends matches with other high-profile past Liverpool players.
Check back next Thursday as we continue our countdown of ‘ The 10 Best Irish Liverpool Players’.