RAWK Reviews #2 - Season 1994-95
Posted by Crosby Road South and Nick on May 23, 2013, 04:56:16 PM
The 1994/95 season was the first full season under the leadership of Roy Evans who had taken over the managerial reins from Graeme Souness in the Spring of 1994 after one FA Cup giant killing too many at the hands of Bristol City. The previous season had seen Liverpool finish a lowly 8th place, losing 3 of their last 4 home games in front of the old standing Kop and it’s fair to say expectations were the lowest they had been in years. The glimmer of hope was the emergence in recent seasons of some talented youngsters. Could this be the season where the likes of Steve Mcmanaman, Robbie Fowler, Rob Jones and Jamie Redknapp could break out from being promising young talents to something more dependable?New Arrivals and Playing Style
Prior to the dramas of the Transfer Window, Liverpool transfer speculation back then was a lot more low key. The only arrival in the summer was promising young Danish keeper Michael Stensgaard. Sadly, a cruel injury at the hands of a particularly rough ironing board meant we never saw him in action. The only other arrivals came in early September with the season already under way and signalled a change in the way Liverpool would play. In came Phil Babb from Coventry, fresh from his World Cup heroics alongside Paul McGrath for £3.6m and the understated John Scales from Wimbledon for £3m.
Their additions saw Liverpool switch to a new formation, playing three centre backs (for the most part Babb and Scales played alongside Neil Ruddock) with Rob Jones and Stig Inge Bjorneybye enjoying the role of wing backs. In Midfield John Barnes anchored things alongside either Jamie Redknapp of Michael Thomas creating a free role for Steve Mcmanaman to flourish in. He was the main creative input in the team, playing behind Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler. Mark Kennedy would follow on Deadline Day in March, signed from Millwall.August
Any fears held over the summer about this being a long season were knocked firmly on the head on the opening day as Liverpool travelled to Crystal Palace. They were 2-0 in no time at all and ran out 6-1 winners, kicking off the season in real style with a brace each for Mcmanaman and Rush to go alongside goals for Molby and Fowler. Could Liverpool build on their promising start in their first home game against Arsenal? The answer was an emphatic ‘yes’ beating Arsenal 3-0 the impudent Robbie Fowler scoring a 4 minute hat trick in the first half to make history by scoring the fastest ever top flight hat trick, a record that still stands to this day.
The final game of August saw Liverpool win away at Southampton, so often an unhappy hunting ground for the Reds, Fowler and Barnes scoring past old team mate Bruce Grobbelar in a 2-0 win. The result saw Liverpool end August with a 100% record and tucked in nicely in 4th place.September
After the unexpected success of August, September brought expectations down to earth a little. A frustrating 0-0 at home to West Ham (see, they’ve been happening for years!) was followed by an unfortunate 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford against the Champions Manchester United. Liverpool played very well in the first half, with Redknapp hitting the bar but United scored late on to take the points. You may remember this game as the one where Ruddock turned down Cantona’s collar after a running battle that had gone on all game. Phil Babb was introduced as a sub to make his League debut and unfortunately the goals came not long after!
The final game of the month saw the Reds take a decent point away at a promising Newcastle side with Ian Rush grabbing a second half equaliser. Liverpool finished the month in 6th place. September also saw the start of our League Cup campaign. Back then, the opening round was played over 2 legs and Liverpool enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 home win over Burnley with Scales and Fowler on target.October
October was a busy month and saw some very entertaining football as Evans bedded in his new defenders into his 3 centre back system. The month kicked off with a resounding 4-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday as the Reds fought back from a goal down at the break. Mcmanaman thought he had scored his first senior hat trick, only for one of his goals to be later ruled as a Des Walker own goal. Mcmanaman, so angry at having the goal taken away from him later tracked down the Wednesday defender in question and physically assaulted him, proving that actually, you sometimes can beat Des Walker.*
*This may be bollocks.
The following week Liverpool were in the goals again, beating Aston Villa 3-2 at home, Fowler scoring a couple of beauties and Ruddock slamming in a third. Inevitably for a young side that was still learning a new system there were bumps along the way and despite playing very well defeat came in the next game 3-2 away at high flying Blackburn where the SAS of Shearer and Sutton proved a real handful. We did score a cracker in this game, John Barnes with a beautiful scissor kick.
This setback proved shortlived as Liverpool returned to form with a 3-0 win over Wimbledon played in monsoon conditions at Anfield – Mcmanaman, Fowler and Barnes again amongst the goals. Another victory on the road followed, 3-1 at Ipswich with Barnes scoring from outside the box with his right foot and Fowler again proving himself to be one of the League’s brightest young talents by scoring two more. The month finished on a low note with a 2-1 defeat at QPR on Halloween, Barnes scoring for the 4th League game in a row. That defeat saw the Redmen end October in 5th place, 6 points off the top.
October saw further progression in the League Cup with a 4-1 win at Turf Moor giving us a 6-1 aggregate win over Burney, Redknapp scoring a couple. This was followed up with a hard fought 2-1 win over Stoke in Round 3, this time Rush scoring two.November
November started with Liverpool bang in form and ended with what was to be the start of a 5 match winless streak in the league. The early part of the month was good though, a 1-0 home win to the newly promoted but impressive Nottingham Forest with a poacher’s finish from a suspiciously blue rinsed looking Robbie Fowler followed up with a 3-1 dismissal of a pre-Abramovich Chelsea. Fowler inevitably with two more and Ruddock with the 3rd.
After an international break Liverpool’s good form came to an abrupt halt as they ran into the newly appointed Joe Royle and his ‘Dogs of War’ in the Merseyside Derby. Everton were bottom of the table at the time but new signing Duncan Ferguson, in a rare period of fitness (insert Tampon gaga here) bullied our defenders and we were well beaten. It was to be the start of a long winless streak against our dear neighbours that was only to be ended in the Spring of 99 by a grass eating/line snorting Robbie Fowler. The result seemed to knock us out of our slick stride as teams realised we could be roughed up a bit and a disappointing home draw with Spurs followed, do I need to mention that Fowler scored? Despite the wobble we finished the month in 4 place, still just 6 points off the summit.
November also saw one of our finest results of the season – a magnificent 3-1 win away at Blackburn in the League Cup with Rushy rolling back the years to score a hat trick taking his cup tally to 5 and securing progress into the Quarter Finals.December
December was a reversal of the previous month as our 6 League games saw us start the month slowly but finish very strongly. Dull draws with Coventry away (1-1) were followed up with goalless draws at home to Palace and away at Chelsea. Thankfully our lethargy proved to be shortlived and after a 2-1 Boxing Day win at struggling Leicester the Reds kicked on, beating Man City 2-0 at home (Fowler scoring a screamer after missing an earlier penalty) and then winning 2-0 away at Leeds on New Year’s Eve. Fowler (again) and Redknapp with the goals. As memory has it, a young Crosby Nick also scored that evening. Happy New Year to all! The win at Leeds sent us into the New Year in 3rd place with 42 points from 22 games.January
January saw mixed results in the League combined with further progression in both Cup competitions. A 4-0 crushing of Norwich kick started the year, another 2 for Fowler, Scales and Rush also getting in the act was inexplicably followed up with a 1-0 home defeat to a Godawful Ipswich side. I still curse the name of Adam Tanner whenever I hear it (which is never…). The final League game of Januray was a 0-0 home draw with Everton (yep, we had those back then too). The draw kept us in 3rd place but now 9 points off the top where Blackburn and United were turning things into a two horse race.
The League Cup campaign was still going swimmingly. A well worked free kick routine saw Ian Rush score his 47th League Cup goal for the Reds and defeat Arsenal 1-0, sending us through to our first League Cup Semi since 1987. The FA Cup was a nervy affair. After lower League defats at the hands of Bolton and Bristol City, it was Birmingham’s turn to make a B line (arf) for Anfield after a 0-0 draw at St Andrews. The replay was a nervy affair. A 1-1 draw saw the match go to Penalties where thankfully we prevailed. Ricky Otto scored Birmingham's equaliser that night.
The game was famous, as I’m sure you all know for my Dad winning a Runners Up prize on the Golden Goal scratchcard. He would have won but Redknapp’s strike hit the post, rebounded back in off the keeper. The prize was a ‘signed’ football, ‘signed’ by such luminaries as I____ R__h, J__n B____s and loads of other indecipherable ‘authentic’ names. I still treasure it to this day! The 4th round saw us return to Burnley where we secured a nervy 0-0 draw and another replay at Anfield.February
Februray was a solid if uneventful month in the League. Fowler rescued a point for the 10 men Reds away at Nottingham Forest after Babb was earlier red carded. Scales then did the same at home to QPR before the month ended on a high with a 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday, Barnes and Mcmanaman scoring. We finished the month in 4th place, the gap to the top now 15 points as the top two relentlessly pulled away from the rest.
Our Cup success was threatening to turn the season into our most successful in years and made February very busy. The First Leg of our league Cup semi final was a real poor performance at home to lowly Crystal Palace but the Reds were rescued by a 90th minute winner by…have a guess…Robbie Fowler who celebrated by turning his shirt back to front, inadvertently revealing himself to be a massive fan of hip hop pioneers Kriss Kross. It’ll never catch on we thought, and despite him doing it once or twice more, the celebration was duly retired while he worked on something to celebrate the life and works of Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince instead.
The FA Cup continued to be slow progress for the Reds. A narrow 1-0 replay win over Burnley saw us through to the 5th Round and our old Cup nemesis Wimbledon. After falling behind at home, Fowler equalised to secure a replay where the old school duo of Barnes and Rush sent us through to the Quarter Finals.March
A solid 7 points from our 4 League games in March kept us in the running for a UEFA Cup slot although by the end of the month we had slipped to 5th behind the runaway top two, and Newcastle and Forest. The month began with an excellent 2-0 win over Newcastle, Fowler and Rush on target. Signs of inconsistency were still there however and this was followed up with a 3-2 defeat at home to Coventry, Peter Ndlovu earning himself a place on future pub quiz questions alongside Mark Viduka and Kevin Lisbie by scoring a hat trick.
Thankfully this glitch was out of our system in time for the next game and we beat United 2-0 at home to put a real dent in their title challenge. Redknapp opened the scoring with a fine individual goal and United’s misery was complete late on when Steve Bruce’s Fathead got in the way.
The month ended with a 0-0 draw at Spurs that seems so forgettable I have absolutely no recollection of it taking place. Perhaps both teams just agreed on a 0-0 and our players had a night out on the tiles instead?
In the Cups our first Wembley final for 3 years was secured with a 1-0 second leg win away at Palace, Fowler again the matchwinner. Sadly our FA Cup dreams were ended with a 2-1 defeat at home to Spurs. A 1-0 half time lead (Fowler would you believe) was overturned with Klinsmann scoring a very late winner in front of the Kop before being applauded off the pitch.April
April began with the League Cup Final with a trick tie against League One (ye olde 2nd Division) Bolton. A dangerous side as we knew only too well and one containing young talents like Alan Thomson and Jason McAteer. Thankfully our own youngsters weren’t too shabby and the game was dominated by a nerveless performance from Steve Mcmanaman who followed his Man of the Match appearance in the 92 FA Cup Final with another one here. Scoring both goals, both from mazy dribbles that the Bolton defence couldn’t handle. Bolton pulled one back late on through Thomson but we held on comfortably enough to secure our 5th League Cup and our first since 1984. It also guaranteed a return to European football in the UEFA Cup for the following season.
Unsurprisingly our League form became increasingly erratic after our Cup triumph. April saw us play 6 times in the League, winning 4 and losing 2. The wins came against Southampton (3-1) away at Arsenal (Fowler in the 90th minute), Leicsester (2-0 Fowler and Rush) and Norwich (2-1 and a rare goal for Harkness). In between came defeats at home to Leeds (0-1) and away to Man City (1-2). We finished April in 4th place.May
With a cup won and European qualification assured the season looked set to meander to a low key finale. A 0-0 away at Wimbledon was followed up with two more away trips to Villa and West Ham (there was Claret every fackin’ where as Danny Dyer probably didn’t say). The performances were disappointing, losing 0-2 and 0-3 respectively as our performances were increasingly more ‘phoned in’.
This meant there was just one game left in the season, at home to Blackburn. So far, so routine. However there was a bit more riding on this than usual. Blackburn, under the management of King Kenny were duking it out with the ever loveable Manchester United for the Title. United started the day 2 points behind but with a superior Goal Difference meaning and kind of slip up from Blackburn would hand United the title if they could win at West Ham. In the build up to the game all talk was of Liverpool rolling over and giving Blackburn the win they would need to win the title. We paid lip service to doing a professional job but given current form and given the love for Kenny and antipathy towards United it didn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility that we’d not turn up.
As it was the scenario played out perfectly. Alan Shearer put Blackburn ahead. Not long after West Ham took the lead against United. In a 2nd half of unrelenting tension things changed though. Barnes equalised for Liverpool. United equalised at West Ham. United had to win to stand a chance, but one more goal for them would steal the title for them. The crowd at Anfield were a bag of nerves on all sides. United missed chance after chance. Eventually they ran out of time. In one last twist, just seconds after the final whistle blew at Upton Park, Redknapp larruped in a 30 yard free kick. It wouldn’t have actually made a difference to proceedings had United won but for a split second no-one knew what to do…then news came through of the score at Upton park and bedlam ensued. Liverpool had done their bit, played well and beaten the newly crowned champions. King Kenny had won the League with Blackburn. Fair to say Anfield was a happy place.
So we finished the season with a great win – cementing 4th place, our highest finish since 1990/91.
Still in his teens, Robbie Fowler ended the season as our top scorere with 31 goals in all competitions. Alongside him, Ian Rush banged in 19 to give them a half century between them. Mcmanaman scored 9, including his cup winning brace at Wembley and proved himself to be a real creative force. Goals flowed from Midfield too as Barnes (9) and Redknapp (5) kept things ticking over.
The season probably surpassed expectations and set us up nicely for the following campaign where Fowler and Mcmanaman would hit even greater heights.
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