Welcome back to Last Word On Football’s look at some of Liverpool’s most iconic figures. From players to managers, we look at who has an impact during their time at the club that no Liverpool fan will ever forget. Next up is the prolific and local lad John Aldridge.
Aldridge spent just two and a half years at Liverpool, but he made a huge impact in that time. He notched 63 goals in 104 appearances for the Reds collecting four major trophies.
Icons of Liverpool: John Aldridge
Arrival From Oxford United
Aldridge became a Liverpool player in January 1987 after Liverpool paid Oxford United £750,000. The striker had already proved his worth in the first division scoring 15 goals in 25 matches for the U’s.
Dalglish had initially signed Aldridge to replace Ian Rush who would be departing Liverpool at the end of the 1987/88 season. However, the two eventually played together before Rush did eventually depart.
Aldridge’s arrival continued Dalglish’s route of signing young, promising English players and utilising Liverpool’s growing academy. Aldridge had to wait a month before making his debut which came in a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa at Villa Park. The striker scored his first Liverpool goal a week later in a narrow win against Southampton.
Aldridge’s first six months at Liverpool saw him score just twice in ten appearances as he slowly started to settle into his new surroundings.
A Memorable Season
The 1987/88 season was a fantastic campaign for Aldridge as he collected his only league title with the Reds and notched a stunning 26 league goals. His first full season at the club saw him notch 29 goals in 45 appearances.
Aldridge also formed a deadly attacking trio with new recruits, Peter Beardsley and John Barnes. The vibrant trio fired Liverpool to league glory and a record-breaking unbeaten run. The Reds went unbeaten in their first 29 league games of the season. Dalglish’s decision to put faith in young players worked a treat as Liverpool stormed to the title finishing nine points clear of closest challenger Manchester United.
Aldridge was enjoying himself enormously as he proved he was capable of filling Ian Rush’s boots. He scored in each of Liverpool’s first nine league games and completed the season with 26 goals in 36 league games.
The Goals and Trophies Continued to Flow
The 1988/89 campaign began with more silverware as Liverpool collected the 1988 community shield. While Liverpool would miss out on the 1988/89 league title, the Reds would triumph in the FA Cup beating bitter rivals Everton.
Goals continued to flow for Aldridge who was emerging as one of the league’s most prolific strikers. Aldridge notched 21 goals in 35 games as Liverpool finished second in the league. His overall tally saw him score 31 goals in 47 games.
However, the season will be remembered for the Hillsborough disaster which affected Aldridge enormously. Aldridge attended the funerals and memorial services for several victims. He also supported the injured and bereaved and even thought about retirement. Aldridge scored the opening goal in the FA Cup final and dedicated his goal to the victims of the disaster.
However, the league would elude Liverpool after a dramatic defeat to Arsenal. Liverpool needed a win by two clear goals but lost the match. This left Aldridge crestfallen on the pitch which led to a clash with Arsenal’s David O’Leary.
A season full of ups and downs for Aldridge but one which saw him continue his prolific goal-scoring run.
Losing His Place in the Team
The 1989/90 season would prove to be Aldridge’s last for the club. Aldridge made just two appearances before deciding to depart the club. His final piece of silverware was the 1989 community shield.
Dalglish’s change of system to incorporate more midfielders and utilise his wide players saw Aldridge drop out of the team. He had fallen behind Ian Rush and Peter Beardsley in the pecking order and decided his time at Anfield was up.
After 63 goals and 104 appearances for Liverpool, Aldridge departed in autumn 1989 joining Spanish giants Real Sociedad. The San Sebastian club paid Liverpool £1 Million for the striker whose departed disappointed many Liverpool fans.
Despite the fans’ disappointment, they gave Aldridge a terrific send-off. Dalglish gave him a final appearance in a thunderous win over Crystal Palace. Aldridge scored a penalty in the match which would prove to be his 63rd and final Liverpool goal.
John Aldridge: The Liverpool Fan Who Became a Liverpool Icon
While his spell was very short at Liverpool, Aldridge left Liverpool a legend. He was one of the most clinical finishers Liverpool have had. He formed one of Liverpool’s greatest ever attacks with Peter Beardsley and John Barnes.
Aldridge will be fondly remembered for his brilliant goals, valiant performances, and true passion for his boyhood club. He is truly one of Liverpool’s own and one of their greatest ever strikers. John Aldridge is a true Liverpool icon.