John Aldridge

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John Aldridge
John Aldridge.JPG
Aldridge in 2008
Personal information
Full nameJohn William Aldridge
Date of birth (1958-09-18) 18 September 1958 (age 62)
Place of birth Liverpool, England
Position(s) Striker
Youth career
1978–1979 South Liverpool
Senior career*
YearsTeamApps(Gls)
1979–1984 Newport County 170 (70)
1984–1987 Oxford United 114 (72)
1987–1989 Liverpool 83 (50)
1989–1991 Real Sociedad 63 (33)
1991–1998 Tranmere Rovers 243 (138)
Total673(363)
National team
1986–1996 Republic of Ireland 69 (19)
Teams managed
1996–2001 Tranmere Rovers
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

John William Aldridge (born 18 September 1958) is a former football player and manager. He was a prolific record-breaking striker best known for his time with English club Liverpool in the late 1980s.

Contents

His tally of 330 league goals is the 6th highest in the history of English football. [1]

Born in England, he represented Ireland at international level.

Club career

South Liverpool and Newport County

Aldridge took a long time to reach the top level of the English game. He began his career in the mid-1970s at non-league South Liverpool, before getting his break in the professional game when, aged 20, he signed for Newport County in the Fourth Division, on 2 May 1979 for £3,500.

When at Somerton Park, "Aldo", as he came to be known, played 198 times scoring 87 goals, a goal every 2+14 games, including a respectable 7 goals in just 12 FA Cup matches. He partnered Tommy Tynan and Dave Gwyther for four years at Somerton Park, helping Newport to promotion from the Fourth Division and Welsh Cup glory in his first season, and to reach the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup in his second.

His first season with County, 1979–80, had been highly promising with 14 goals from 38 games as his side won the Welsh Cup and gained promotion to the Third Division. A year later he featured in the side that achieved the famous European run, though in the league he was less impressive with seven goals from 27 league games. 1981–82 was a bit better as he scored 11 times in 36 games, but in 1982–83 he did better still with 17 goals from 41 games as County narrowly missed out on promotion to the Second Division. [2]

In 1983–84, with Tynan departed, Aldridge had scored 26 times by the end of February and County were still doing reasonably well in the Third Division. [3]

Oxford United

He was then sold to [4] Oxford United on 21 March 1984 when the club were preparing for their Third Division promotion run-in under the management of Jim Smith. He made his debut on 7 April 1984 coming on as a substitute in the 1–0 win over Walsall at Fellows Park. His first goal was in the 5–0 home win against Bolton Wanderers on 20 April 1984.

He was used sparingly in the run-in to the Third Division title but the following season forged a great partnership with Billy Hamilton and became the first Second player for 19 years to score 30 goals. His 34 goals (30 in the league) in 1984–85 broke the club's goalscoring record for a single season, as the Us gained promotion to the old First Division for the first time. Aldridge also picked up a Second Division title medal.

In his 27th year, Aldridge finally had the chance of play in the First Division, and he settled in well at the highest level. He was the third-highest scorer in the division (only surpassed by Gary Lineker and Frank McAvennie) and netted six goals in United's League Cup-winning run in 1986, which culminated in a 3–0 victory over Queens Park Rangers in the final at Wembley. This is Oxford's only major trophy to date. He was also impressive in the league, as his 23 goals from 39 games were crucial in Oxford avoiding relegation.

Aldridge is fondly remembered by Oxford fans for his role in Oxford United's unprecedented years of success between 1984 and 1986. He ended up playing 141 times for the Us, scoring 90 goals [4]  – a goal every 1+12 games – including 14 League Cup goals in just 17 ties. He scored four goals against Gillingham in the League Cup on 24 September 1986 and three hat-tricks, the first in the 5–2 beating of Leeds United on 24 November 1984. He also scored one of the two Oxford goals that defeated Manchester United in Alex Ferguson's first game as manager on 8 November 1986, maintaining his fine form into the 1986–87 season. [5]

Liverpool

An inevitable move to a bigger club finally came in January 1987. Liverpool were losing their chief striker Ian Rush to Juventus at the end of the 1986–87 season and needed a proven and experienced replacement. The Liverpool-born Aldridge was now recognised as one of the First Division's most competent scorers, and even bore a physical resemblance to Rush. He signed for Kenny Dalglish's side on 27 January 1987 for £750,000 and was initially used as a partner for Rush (filling a position previously occupied by player-manager Dalglish and fellow striker Paul Walsh) and as an occasional substitute. Dalglish had been interested in signing a number of other strikers including Chelsea's David Speedie and Arsenal's Charlie Nicholas for a number of months before settling on Aldridge. [6]

Liverpool ended the season trophyless, including a Wembley defeat to Arsenal in the League Cup final, for which Aldridge was ineligible.

By the time of his transfer to Liverpool in that 1986–87 league campaign, Aldridge had already scored 15 goals for Oxford in the space of 25 games. [2]

Aldridge made his debut for the Reds on 21 February 1987, when he came on as a 46th-minute substitute for Craig Johnston in the 2–2 league draw with Aston Villa at Villa Park. [7] His first goal for his new club came a week later on 28 February, in the 60th minute, the only goal of the game as Liverpool beat Southampton 1–0 in a league match at Anfield. [8]

Aldridge quickly demonstrated he could cope with the pressure of replacing Rush. After Rush left, Aldridge scored 26 goals in what turned out to be a magnificent season for Liverpool, including a strike in each of the first nine games, forming a 10-match scoring run as he had scored in his final league appearance of the previous season. [9]

He linked up with new signings Peter Beardsley and John Barnes to form one of the most exciting attacking lines in the club's history as Liverpool lost just twice in the League championship season and went unbeaten for the first 29 matches. Liverpool won the 1988 league title with just two defeats all season and a nine-point lead over their nearest rivals Manchester United, although the gap between Liverpool and their nearest contenders was considerably wider for much of the season. He was assigned with the number 8 shirt for the 1987–88 season, as manager Kenny Dalglish felt that giving Aldridge the number 9 (previously worn by Rush) would put the pressure on him, and the number 9 shirt went to winger Ray Houghton who had followed Aldridge to Anfield from Oxford later in 1987. (Aldridge actually favoured the number 8 as it was the number worn by his hero, Liverpool legend Roger Hunt.)

Aldridge scored both goals in the club's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, including a memorable volley from an outstanding team move. [10] He was also an efficient penalty-taker, but a predictable one too, which led to his season and that of Liverpool ending in heartbreak. With Wimbledon 1–0 up in the final at Wembley, midway through the second half, Liverpool were awarded a spot kick when Aldridge himself was fouled. Wimbledon goalkeeper Dave Beasant had anticipated that Aldridge would strike any penalty given in the FA Cup final to his left as Aldridge had gone that way with every one of his kicks that season, never failing to score. Aldridge did, as predicted, place the penalty to Beasant's left and the keeper sprang across to save it. [11] He became the first keeper to save a penalty in the FA Cup final at Wembley. Aldridge's failure was his first penalty miss for Liverpool. He was substituted shortly afterwards as Liverpool lost 1–0.

The following season was tough and eventful for Aldridge. Rush failed to settle in Italy and Liverpool paid £2.8million to bring him back to Anfield just before the season kicked off. This led to natural speculation that Aldridge would be surplus to requirements, but manager Kenny Dalglish disproved this by regularly playing the two together (despite reservations that the two were stylistically too similar to be strike partners) and, indeed, it was Aldridge who enjoyed the better form during the season, with Rush struggling to re-acquaint himself in his familiar surroundings and also being hindered with injury problems. In the Charity Shield match against Wimbledon at Wembley, Aldridge started the match and mildly laid his FA Cup ghosts to rest by scoring both goals in a 2–1 win. Aldridge maintained his hot scoring streak with Aldridge often playing alongside both Rush and Beardsley in attack, while Rush missed a number of games through injury or started games on the bench due to injury problems. In the first league game of the season a week later, he scored a hat-trick in a 3–0 away win over Charlton Athletic. [12] He scored another league hat-trick on 14 March, in the 5–0 home win over Luton Town, which took his league tally for the season to 15 goals. He reached the 20-goal mark on 13 May in a 2–1 win at Wimbledon, and would finish the season as the club's top scorer with 22 goals in the league, eight in the FA Cup, two in the League Cup, and two in the Charity Shield, amounting to 34 in all competitions. [12]

When 96 Liverpool away fans were crushed to death in the Hillsborough disaster of 15 April 1989 during an FA Cup tie held in Sheffield against Nottingham Forest, Aldridge, as a native Liverpudlian and boyhood supporter of the club, was deeply affected by the tragedy. He attended the funerals of many of the victims, gave support to the injured and the bereaved, and publicly contemplated giving up the game.

He returned to play in the re-arranged FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, which Liverpool won 3–1 at Old Trafford. In the final at Wembley against Merseyside rivals Everton he made up for his penalty failure a year earlier by scoring after just 4 minutes with his first touch of the ball. Ironically, it was Rush who ultimately sealed the win when he replaced Aldridge and scored twice in extra time to earn Liverpool a 3–2 victory. He had scored 21 league goals that season, and 31 in all competitions – making him one of the highest scorers in the league that season.

The "double" of League championship and FA Cup, achieved by Liverpool in 1986 but denied to them by Wimbledon in 1988, was again possible, with a decider against Arsenal to come at Anfield. Aldridge played in a game which would guarantee Liverpool the title as long as Arsenal didn't win by two clear goals but, 1–0 down in injury time, Liverpool conceded another goal to Michael Thomas with virtually the last kick of the season thus losing the League. Aldridge sank prostrate on to the turf, inconsolable, when the final whistle sounded, and reacted angrily when Arsenal defender and Irish teammate David O'Leary helped him to his feet.

Aldridge played 104 times for his boyhood favourites scoring 63 goals — 50 of them in the Football League. [13]

Real Sociedad

The following season Rush was fully settled back into the Anfield groove and, with Dalglish reverting to a 4–4–2 formation with Rush and Beardsley as first choice strikers, Liverpool accepted an offer of £1million from La Liga side Real Sociedad in early September 1989, with Aldridge having played twice in the league for Liverpool that season.

This transfer made Aldridge the first non-Basque player to sign for Sociedad in several decades as they abandoned a selective recruitment policy. [4] [14] [15] Before he left Liverpool, he was given a special run-out as a substitute during the club's record-shattering 9–0 win over Crystal Palace in order to score a penalty in front of the Spion Kop. He threw his shirt and boots into the crowd at the end and signed for Real Sociedad the next day on 13 September 1989.

Aldridge was a hit at Atotxa (then Real Sociedad's stadium) scoring 40 goals in 75 appearances over two seasons, [14] with the club encouraged to make more English signings in 1990, namely Dalian Atkinson and Kevin Richardson. Despite his success, some Real Sociedad fans initially did not accept him because he was a foreigner: insulting graffiti was written on the stadium and a fan spat on the floor when Aldridge passed in the street, and his family found it hard to adapt to the different lifestyle in the Basque country. [16] Aldridge handed in a transfer request in 1991 to the newly appointed manager John Toshack – another former Liverpool striker. [17]

Tranmere Rovers

A return to Merseyside on 11 July 1991 with Tranmere Rovers was Aldridge's next step. He repaid the bargain price of £250,000 as he scored a club-record 40 goals in his first season at Prenton Park – scoring his 40th goal against former club Oxford United. Tranmere, who were playing in the Second Division for the first time in more than 50 years, achieved a mid-table finish in the league.

Aldridge made his debut for Rovers aged 32 on 17 August 1991 scoring both the goals in the 2–0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion at the Goldstone Ground. In seven years as a Tranmere player, he eventually amassed a total of 294 appearances for the Birkenhead club scoring 174 goals, a goal every 1.7 games, including 22 goals from just 25 League Cup ties. Aldridge retired at the end of the 1997-98 season, fittingly scoring a brace in his last ever game as a professional against Wolverhampton Wanderers. [18]

His goals also helped them reach their highest position ever in the league – top-six finishes in the second tier in 1993, 1994 and 1995 – which delivered playoff places each time, but all of them ended in semi-final defeats. This meant that Tranmere could not make it to the Premier League, and Aldridge missed out on the chance of a return to the top flight. At Tranmere, Aldridge also came close to the chance of winning another major trophy – something which would have been unthinkable at Prenton Park just a few years earlier – as they took Aston Villa to a penalty shoot-out in the 1993–94 League Cup semi-finals before bowing out to the eventual competition winners. Coincidentally, Villa had tried to sign Aldridge 18 months before turning their attention to Dean Saunders (the player who had replaced him at Oxford a few years earlier) instead.

During his career in England alone he played 739 games, scoring 411 times, an incredible goal every 1.8 games.

On 12 March 1996, with the resignation of John King after nine years as manager, he became player-manager of Tranmere, finally giving up playing and concentrating on the management side two years later. In 889 career appearances, he scored a record 476 goals, a tally not matched by any goalscorer in post-war English football to this day.

He had a decent start to his managerial career, as a fine finish to the 1995–96 season put Tranmere's Division One survival beyond all doubt. [19]

Tranmere were involved in some memorable runs and giant-killing acts in cup competitions, including reaching the 2000 Football League Cup Final (which they lost to Leicester City) and consecutive FA Cup quarter-finals in 2000 and 2001. During the 2000 League Cup Final, Aldridge slapped the face of Leicester's Theo Zagorakis after he applauded the referee's decision to send off Clint Hill. [20] The slap was seen by FA officials and he was charged with misconduct; [21] Aldridge said about the slapping incident: "I felt he [Zagorakis] had disrespected Clint on one of the biggest occasions of his career so I slapped him". [20] Tranmere were relegated into English football's third tier in 2001. Aldridge resigned in March 2001 just before Rovers went down, and almost 20 years on has not returned to management. [22]

International career

Aldridge had already been recruited to play for the Republic of Ireland by the time he was approached by Liverpool at the start of 1987, qualifying through his grandmother, who was from Athlone. [23] (When the Football Association of Ireland came looking for him they found out that Ray Houghton, who also played for Oxford at the time, was also eligible.) He made his debut on 26 March 1986 against Wales at Lansdowne Road in a 1–0 defeat. [24] The match was the first under new manager Jack Charlton.

That summer, Aldridge played for the Irish side which had qualified, under Jack Charlton, for Euro 88 in West Germany, their first-ever major finals. They duly beat England 1–0, and drew 1–1 with the USSR, but went out of the competition after a defeat by eventual champions the Netherlands. [25] Aldridge was struggling at international level at this time – he was playing well as a team performer, and Charlton was never unhappy, but it took him 20 matches to score his first international goal, which came against Tunisia at Lansdowne Road on 19 October 1988. [26]

Aldridge withdrew himself from Ireland's World Cup qualifying tie with Spain at Lansdowne Road on 26 April 1989, as he felt unable to participate in the game due to his grief over the Hillsborough disaster. [27] The game ended in a 1–0 win for Ireland. [28] Aldridge finally scored his first goals at competitive level when he scored twice in a 2–0 win away over Malta, which sealed Ireland's qualification for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

Aldridge played a crucial role in Ireland's path to the quarter-finals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. Though he had finally opened his goal account for his country, he failed to score at the World Cup (although he had a goal disallowed in a 1–1 draw with the Netherlands) and Ireland lost to the host nation in the last eight. Aldridge played every game but was substituted in all of his five appearances.

Ireland failed to qualify for Euro 92, despite going through their group unbeaten. Aldridge scored 3 times in qualification, all 3 goals coming in Ireland's opening 5–0 win over Turkey at Lansdowne Road. Despite this setback, Aldridge helped Ireland to qualify for the 1994 World Cup: he scored 6 times in qualifying including a hat-trick in a 4–0 win over Latvia.

Aldridge's international career with Ireland is also remembered for an off-pitch incident at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Trailing 2–0 to Mexico in a group game in Orlando, Florida, manager Charlton tried to send Aldridge on as a substitute but was delayed by a perceived sluggishness from the officials. Manager and player both launched expletive-laden tirades which were clearly heard by television viewers, with Aldridge having to be restrained from attacking the 4th official and a FIFA representative. Both were punished after the game, but when Aldridge finally was allowed on, after 6 full minutes of trying, he scored a goal to give Ireland a chance to get back into the game. Despite losing the game 2–1, Aldridge's goal was crucial in securing qualification for the second round. [29] All four teams in the group had finished with the same number of points and the same goal difference, Ireland's qualification was at the expense of Norway who had scored just one goal fewer.

Aldridge continued to play for Ireland in the qualifying stages of Euro 96. Despite a strong start to the group, Ireland failed to qualify. Aldridge scored twice in a 3–0 win away to Latvia in Ireland's opening game and was also on the scoresheet in a 4–0 away win against Northern Ireland. In Ireland's final home game of the group Aldridge scored twice against Latvia in a 2–1 win but Ireland failed to qualify after finishing second and losing a subsequent playoff to the Netherlands at Anfield in December 1995. Aldridge at this time was one goal short of the 20-goal record held by Frank Stapleton but, despite playing in the early stages of qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, he failed to score again to match the record and retired in 1996 to concentrate on managing Tranmere Rovers. His final game was a 3-0 against Macedonia on 9 October 1996 when he came on as a substitute.

Overall, Aldridge scored 19 goals in 69 matches spanning over a decade; 8 of his 19 goals came against Latvia.

Career after football

Aldridge is now a pundit with various media organisations – most notably with Radio City 96.7 where he summarises on the station's Liverpool commentaries home and away. He also continues to play in the Liverpool veterans' team. In 1998, he asked Hyder Jawad to ghost-write his autobiography. John Aldridge: My Story was published by Hodder & Stoughton the year after.

In 2006, he gained media celebrity in Ireland by appearing in RTÉ's Charity You're A Star competition. Despite not having a natural singing voice, Aldridge won the competition and in the process raised money for his nominated charity Temple Street Children's Hospital. [30]

Aldridge was a crowd favourite everywhere he went, especially on Merseyside where being a local lad helped his cause. This was confirmed when a poll conducted by the official Liverpool Football Club website during the summer of 2006 placed him in 26th position. 110,000 Liverpool supporters worldwide took part in the poll named '100 Players Who Shook The Kop', where they were asked to name their favourite Reds of all time.

In March 2008, Aldridge took part in the autobiography audio CD series 60 minutes with John Aldridge. He spoke in depth about his career with 60 minutes presenter David Knight and later took part in a major signing session, signing 2000 copies of the CD in support of the Everyman appeal charity. [31]

Up to 2009, Aldridge was in a partnership in a bar called Aldo's on Victoria Street in Liverpool. The bar was a firm favourite with Irish Liverpool fans coming over to watch the Reds play.

Aldridge is a patron of A.F.C. Liverpool, a non-league football club set up by Liverpool F.C. fans in 2008.

John Aldridge was allegedly involved in the News of the World hacking scandal in the mid-2000s. "They tell me I was hacked five or six years ago. I have no idea why they should go after me. I'm not exactly high profile." [32]

Aldridge opened a Twitter account in March 2011. However, he was soon involved in angry exchanges with Manchester United supporters after referring to them as "scum", [33] and eventually closed his account. A year later he revealed that he had returned to the site. [34]

He is a regular contributor to match analysis and phone-in shows on LFC TV and also writes a column for the Sunday World and the Liverpool Echo .

Career statistics

Club

ClubSeasonLeagueCupLeague CupContinentalOther [35] Total
DivisionAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoals
EnglandLeague FA Cup League Cup Europe OtherTotal
Newport County 1979–80 Fourth Division 38141000524416
1980–81 Third Division 277104242213812
1981–82 361210213913
1982–83 41175231615521
1983–84 28205321233727
Total170701351154215721389
Oxford United 1983–84 Third Division8484
1984–85 Second Division 423021635034
1985–86 First Division 39232185525431
1986–87 251510463021
Total10472521814005213290
Liverpool 1986–87 First Division102102
1987–88 362662314529
1988–89 35216652124731
1989–90 210021
Total835012883001210463
Spain La Liga Copa del Rey - Europe OtherTotal
Real Sociedad 1989–90 La Liga 2816663422
1990–91 351720414118
Total633386417540
EnglandLeague FA Cup League Cup Europe OtherTotal
Tranmere Rovers 1991–92 Second Division43224322
1992–93 First Division31213121
1993–94 34213421
1994–95 33243324
1995–96 45274527
1996–97 431810424820
1997–98 1450000145
Total24313810420000248140
TotalsEngland61033031154124422111707382
Spain633386417540
Career totals67336339214124832111782422

* Other – Welsh Cup (with Newport County), Charity Shield, Full Members Cup, Football League Trophy & Play-Off Games

International

Republic of Ireland [36]
YearFriendliesCompetitiveTotal
AppGoalsAppGoalsApp Goals
1986304070
1987105060
1988315081
1989205272
1990207393
1991103040
1992316495
1993006262
1994105464
1995005252
1996101020
Total17252176919

Republic of Ireland international goals

GoalDateVenueOpponentScoreResultCompetition
1.19 October 1988 Lansdowne Road, Dublin, IrelandFlag of Tunisia.svg  Tunisia 3–04–0 Friendly
2.15 November 1989 Ta' Qali National Stadium, Attard, MaltaFlag of Malta.svg  Malta 1–02–0 1990 World Cup Qual.
3.2–0
4.17 October 1990Lansdowne Road, Dublin, IrelandFlag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 1–05–0 Euro 1992 Qual.
5.3–0
6.5–0
7.25 March 1992Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 2–12–1Friendly
8.26 May 1992Flag of Albania.svg  Albania 1–02–0 1994 World Cup Qual.
9.9 September 1992Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia 2–04–0
10.3–0
11.4–0
12.9 June 1993 Daugava Stadium, Riga, Latvia 1–02–0
13.8 September 1993Lansdowne Road, Dublin, IrelandFlag of Lithuania.svg  Lithuania 1–02–0
14.24 June 1994 Citrus Bowl, Orlando, United StatesFlag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 1–21–2 World Cup 1994
15.7 September 1994Daugava Stadium, Riga, LatviaFlag of Latvia.svg  Latvia 1–03–0 Euro 1996 Qual.
16.3–0
17.16 November 1994 Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern IrelandUlster Banner.svg  Northern Ireland 1–04–0
18.11 October 1995Lansdowne Road, Dublin, IrelandFlag of Latvia.svg  Latvia 1–02–0
19.2–0

Honours

Player

Newport County

Oxford United

Liverpool

Individual

Manager

Tranmere Rovers

See also

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References

  1. England – All-Time Topscorers – All Football League Divisions (and Premiership) rsssf.com, retrieved 2 April 2011
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