Stanley Victor Collymore breezed into Anfield threatening to take Liverpool back to the pinnacle of the English game.
Collymore was the epitome of the modern day footballer, with the potential to become a great of the game. He had all the attributes; big, strong, with cheetah like acceleration, and possessed immense finishing quality.
The imposing striker had received positive football tutelage from real football men. At Crystal Palace he waited in the wings and observed the lethal Ian Wright, Mark Bright partnership before coming to the fore at Southend United.
At Nottingham Forest, Stan was tutored by Frank Clark after a £2.2 million transfer, scoring 22 league goals in his final season before a blockbusting British record transfer to Anfield in 1995.
That same season Manchester United had considered Collymore as a long term replacement for Mark Hughes, but opted for Andy Cole instead. Roy Evans was in a similar position with Ian Rush entering the twilight of his illustrious career, and with Everton expressing an interest, stepped in with an £8.5 million bid.
Stan’s first game against Sheffield Wednesday wielded a debut goal and the air buzzed with excitement and anticipation of the introduction of a swashbuckling new hero who would take up Rush’s mantle and spearhead the Reds to glory.
It didn’t quite happen as anticipated. Stan spent two years at Anfield, averaging a goal every two games before a £7million move to boyhood heroes Aston Villa in 1997. His record at Liverpool read 81 games, 31 goals.
Collymore’s partnership with Robbie Fowler is much celebrated, scoring a total of 55 goals between them in 1995/96, but during a transition period for the club it was the players’ 'Spice Boys' off field exploits that courted more publicity. Stan was subbed for Ian Rush during the F.A Cup final defeat to Manchester United that season.
In April 1996 Stan featured in what is arguably the greatest Barclays Premier League game ever. Kevin Keegan’s visiting Newcastle had at one point led the league by 10 clear points in their pursuit of a first title in 69 years.
They needed three points to peg level with leaders Manchester United. Fowler set Anfield alight with the opener, followed by two strikes from Les Ferdinand and David Ginola.
Fowler struck again to make it 2-2, before Faustino Asprilla lofted David James for 3-2. Enter Stan, who struck home Jason McAteer’s assist for 3-3. With the world and his dog settling for a point and share of the proceedings, Collymore snatched an astonishing last minute winner to send the Kop into frenzy.
The goal broke Kevin Keegan, and after the “I would love it if we beat them” rant, the defeat killed off any Geordie hopes of the League heading to Tyneside.
Terry Venables always had a penchant of nurturing mavericks, and he gave Collymore his England debut against Japan in the 1995 Umbro Cup. Sadly, Stan’s England career tailed off with a sub appearance against Brazil a week later and a third and last game for Glen Hoddle’s England in a 4-0 win over Moldova in 1997.
Unable to ward off the controversy that surrounded him, Stan retired at the age of 30 after spells with Villa, Leicester, Bradford and Oviedo. With the support of Oliver Holt, he penned his memoirs; 'Tackling My Demons.'
Stan suffered with depression and was often misunderstood and unsupported. It was not a condition that was viewed sensitively in the macho world of football, and led to a series of controversial episodes which threatened to completely derail him.
It is a measure of his resolution that Stan has found the inner strength to defeat the demons and launch a career as one of the most insightful, outspoken, honest and respected commentator and pundit in the game.
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