We’ve been lucky enough to have been sent an extract from Mark Platt’s new book The Red Journey, and judging by this, it’ll be an extremely good read for any Red.
Details on the book and where you can buy it are provided at the bottom.
Having endured a season without silverware and with Ian Rush leaving for Juventus the future wasn’t looking bright for Liverpool – until Kenny Dalglish responded by assembling one of the most exciting teams in Anfield history.
John Aldridge: I was the first part of the jigsaw, then came John Barnes and Peter Beardsley, and Ray Houghton shortly after. It just all gelled. It was a fantastic team to play in and be part of.
Steve McMahon: What a team. Magnificent. Aldo was born to score goals, that’s all he did. We used to have some great fun in training and off the pitch, but he could score goals.
Mark Lawrenson: You can’t replace Rushie but Aldo came damn well near to replacing him.
John Aldridge: Once Kenny had made the changes, to suit my way of scoring, getting chances from wide positions, with Barnesy and Craig Johnston, and later Ray Houghton, with Peter Beardsley in behind, we were just scoring for fun. It was good management.
Steve McMahon: He was wonderful to play with; you knew that anything in that six yard box he’d be there. He used to know exactly when the ball would go near post or far post, because Barnesy would put things on a plate for him.
Jan Molby: I had seen Barnes play for Watford and England, and thought he was okay. But then he came to Liverpool and I realised he was magnificent. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Playing out on the left, helping the left back and defend, getting forward, scoring goals, creating goals. As much as he was left footed he had a great right foot as well. He saw things but also had the ability to execute things.
Mark Lawrenson: Barnesy was just sensational, he had a spell for two or three years where he was as good as Kenny.
Steve McMahon: When we bought Barnesy he was a revelation. He was a great player at Watford but at Liverpool, he must have had his three best years in football, in my opinion he was the best in Europe at the time.
Alan Hansen: I think Barnesy, in all my years at Liverpool, would be in the top three or four players ever. I don’t say that lightly. He had everything. He had pace and he had strength. It used to be that when I picked the ball up at centre-half, the first person I looked for would be Dalglish, then when he retired and Barnesy came, the first person I looked for would be Barnesy.
John Barnes: If you’re a good player you are accepted at Liverpool. But I wasn’t the only one coming in at that time so it wasn’t that hard for me. Any dressing room is going to be happy if things are going well, and from day one things went well. We, the new players, all felt at home immediately. From the first week of training it was like we had been playing together forever.
Steve McMahon: Peter Beardsley came in as well, he was a wonderful player for Liverpool.
Jan Molby: I was excited about Beardsley: I really rated him as a footballer.
Mark Lawrenson: Peter could win a game on his own for you.
Jan Molby: Peter took that to a different level, he had ability and a sharp mind, he saw things and he tried things, and when they came off he was from a different planet.
John Barnes: As the club’s record signing, there was probably more pressure on Peter to perform than me but, you know, Peter did perform and exceptionally so.
Steve McMahon: We had quality all round and throughout the team, which is why I say that when one of the players had a bad day, there was always three or four others that would come into the equation. Teams couldn’t mark one or two players out of the game for Liverpool, because everyone could play.
Jan Molby: I broke a bone in my foot pre-season. The boys went off to Scandinavia and I was put in plaster. Kenny rings me and said come out, don’t sit at home, because in those days you did no rehab, you just sat in plaster for six weeks. As soon as I went out to Scandinavia and watched them play, I thought how good does this look? It was amazing, the way they were playing.
Kenny Dalglish: That team was fantastic. Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge, John Barnes, Ray Houghton, Steve McMahon, Ronnie Whelan – top quality in every position. Alan Hansen, Gary Gillespie, Steve Nicol, Barry Venison… it was just fantastic to watch them play and see their movement.
John Barnes: I didn’t play as an orthodox left-winger for Liverpool. I used to come in off the line, I used to play in the way that I always wanted to play, the position I thought was mine since I was eight, nine, ten years old.
When I came in Peter would go wide so we had a good movement and understanding. We just had intelligent players who could play that way.
So that is why I think Liverpool were very fortunate because I don’t think we envisaged that happening – me not playing as a left-winger, Peter Beardsley not staying in that position, just to play with John Aldridge, us moving around – and one of the biggest factors to that working was Ray Houghton because he came to play on the right as a typical Liverpool right-sided midfield player.
Mark Lawrenson: Little razor was an absolute bonus, he was the archetypal Liverpool midfielder playing on the right, he was just a bundle of an energy, never gave the ball away, lots of vision. Those signings were all top drawer.
John Aldridge: He [Kenny] must have had the easiest job in the world with that team. He put it all in place, so he’d already done the hard job. There was no team talks as such, he’d make you aware of one or two of the opposition beforehand, but as a manager you don’t have to say much when your team is winning every game.
Kenny Dalglish: It was about individual ability within a team framework and the training we did, not least the five-a-sides.
John Barnes: We didn’t play at home for the first three games. We had to play away at Arsenal which we won, I can’t remember where else, but we played really, really well. By the time we got to Anfield to play the first game the crowd had taken to me, so it was just fantastic.
John Aldridge: It just clicked from that first game at Highbury. I think we quickly realised it was going to be good, the pattern of play was very fluent, very attractive and we all had an extra expectancy that season.
Peter Beardsley: It was the beginning of an incredible run which saw us equal the First Division’s best- ever start, the 29-match unbeaten record which Leeds had set up fourteen years earlier.
John Barnes: We played QPR in October. They were top of the table and that was a fantastic day. We took them to pieces and I managed to score two cracking goals. More importantly, the result put us top of the table for the first time that season, even though we still had games in hand over the other sides.
By Christmas, the pundits had already crowned us champions but we never got carried away, it was always just a case of taking one game at a time. The unbeaten run was great but we knew it would come to an end at some point. Unfortunately, it came against Everton, but it’s how you react and, fortunately, we’d react the same whether we won or lost.
Steve McMahon: We knew nine times out of ten that we’d win the game. And the best thing about that team as well was that we could mix it up. If people wanted to say before the game do you want a scrap, do you want a fight or do you want to play football?
We’d say it’s up to you, we can do both, and we had the players to do that, and that made us a great team. It was wonderful knowing that we all had confidence in each other to play. We were a proper team.
Ray Houghton: It was simple. At most clubs when you get the ball you only have one or two options, but all of a sudden I had eight or nine. The staff instilled in us the importance of workrate and earning the right to play, but when you look at that team everyone was quality.
Peter Beardsley: I scored the goal against Spurs that actually clinched the championship when the season still had a fortnight and four more games to go. Ray Houghton played the ball across to me on the corner of the 18-yard box.
I cut inside Gary Mabbutt and bent the ball inside the far post past Bobby Mimms. Anfield erupted in a mass of red and white. The fact that the supporters were used to success did not make it any less sweet.
Gary Gillespie: The 1988 side was even better than the double team. There was talent all over the pitch. Barnes, Beardsley, Aldridge, teams just couldn’t cope. We knew we were going to win, it was a case of how many goals today.
John Barnes: The unfortunate thing is that we were obviously not in Europe. That is one challenge I would have really looked forward to with that Liverpool team. I know AC Milan had a very good side around this time – with Gullit, Van Basten and Riijkaard – but I’d like to think we’d have been good enough to win one, maybe two, of those European Cups. Who knows?
John Aldridge: AC Milan were the dominant team in Europe then but I’d have fancied us against anyone. Gullit, Van Basten and co… no problem, they would certainly have known they’d been in a game against that Liverpool team, take it from me. I think Van Basten even said that they knew they only won it so many times because we weren’t in it.
You can buy The Red Journey by Mark Platt via this link: www.decoubertin.co.uk/RedJourney