"Red Machine" - the story of the dominant 80's Liverpool side

Published Add your comment

Football News

During the 1980s, Liverpool Football Club dominated English football, winning six league titles, two European Cups, two FA Cups and four League Cups.

In Red Machine, Simon Hughes interviews some of the most colourful characters to have played for the club during that period. The resulting interviews, set against the historical backdrop of both the club and the city, provide a vivid portrait of life at Liverpool during an era when the club’s unparalleled on-pitch success often went hand in hand with a social scene fraught with rows, fights and wind-ups.

Bush fighter Grobbelaar relates the story of how he broke Steve McMahon's nose in one night. A back up spell to Phil Parkes under the eye of ex Liverpool trainer Tony Waiters proved beneficial for the Jungleman's career before a certain Bob Paisley came calling.

"Grobs" welcome to Anfield was hardly worth a shout. Phoning Paisley from the airport he was asked if he knew where Manchester Victoria was and to get there. Phoning Anfield again he was asked by the club secretary if he knew where Liverpool was and told to make his way there. The young hopeful got the message and was rebuked after asking a Liverpool taxi driver if he knew where Anfield was.

He earned £45 a week and soon after breaking into the first team was blamed for successive European cup exits to CSKA Sofia and Widsew Lodz.

Grobbelaar's choice for the 80's finest keeper goes to Peter Shilton and says the boldest was John "Budgie" Burridge. Graeme Sharp was his fiercest opponent whilst the craziest was none other than the fabled Welshman Pat Van Den Hauwe.

"Toxteth Terror" Howard Gayle was Liverpool's first black player. The reputation of his neighbourhood was summed by Robbie Fowler who said: "Toxteth is the bogeyman of all inner cities."

Gayle's dad was from Sierra Leone and his mother from the Ethel Austin family. The union was a big no-no and the couple were excommunicated by the community, ending up in Toxteth. Gayle was a wayward youth who found an outlet through his football skills.

After impressing during his trials he recollects seeing Moran, Fagan, Bennett and Paisley smiling whilst talking to themselves.

It took a push from Phil Thompson before Gayle mustered the courage to ask for a pro contract.

A common theme in the book is the range of sentiments expressed towards Graeme Souness.

Gayle, who claims to be one of the first to shout out Kenny Dalglish for the vacant Blackburn Rovers hot seat is complimentary: "Souey symbolises what the club is about and why it achieved so much success and his attention to detail and helping younger players was fantastic."

Guardian reader Michael Robinson, affectionately knows as Robín in Spain, first visit to Anfield was in 1963 when he went along to watch Liverpool. At Brighton he played with Mark Lawrenson who he joined up with at Liverpool. Robinson didn't stay for long but he shared good rapport with "Kenneth" (Dalglish).

Robín, who says that says that "Margaret Thatcher had the same charm as the bubonic plague", narrates an interesting story of the bedrock defensive partnership between Lawrenson and Hansen who he described as the next stage of Franz Beckenbauer. The Irishman compares the duos contrasting styles: "Lawrenson was never on his feet and Hansen never needed to be on his bum. Lawrenson was brilliant but Hansen was a genius."

The European Cup winner is Spain's most famous TV star. He writes, directs and presents El Día Después (The Day After). Robín has never managed but did once have a very interesting job offer from notorious Club President Jesus Gil, who wanted him to assist the fabled Raddy Antic at Atletico Madrid.

Mackem David Hodgson was a sub during the 1985 European Cup final. He was seen by some as the long term replacement for Kenny Dalglish. They were different as players: "he was cleverer than me but I was faster than him. They saw me as a creator rather than scorer. Hodgson, who describes himself as an idiot left Ayresome Park to join the Reds on £450-per- week.

The Sunderland supporter feels Souness was the biggest fish of all: "Arrogant but that's just him. He's Graeme Souness for Christ's sake. He's one of the greatest players of all time."

The Gateshead man walked away from a career as a sports agent after the Dan Gosling switch saga to Newcastle.

John Wark, who tells a funny story of being mistaken for Souness, was the ultimate exponent of arriving late. The Glaswegian's greatest football regret was that he didn't play for Rangers although he nearly signed as a schoolboy for Celtic. Wark's favourite player was the iconic John Greig followed by Willie Johnston and Colin Stein.

Wark enjoyed an amazing adventure with Ipswich Town, pushing the club to amazing heights - "We feared nobody, except Liverpool."

The Escape to Victory star had attracted interest from Old Trafford after speculation that Bryan Robson was rumoured to be on his way to an Italian club. Wark felt he would have more of a chance of first team football at United but with Captain Marvel's transfer turning out be just a rumour "Johnny on the spot" joined Liverpool on £851 a week. He made a goal scoring debut at Watford.

Wark said that the players felt sick in the tunnel after hearing of fans dying at Heysel prior to kick off. In the end the game went ahead and the players felt it would be a "testimonial" for those who had lost their lives.

The game itself was a haze for Wark, who remembers Gary Gillespie tripping Juventus' Zbigniew Boniek and Michel Platini scoring the penalty winner to secure the trophy for the Old Lady.

There's a mention of Steve Nicol's strong Ayreshire accent which led him to pronounce "chops" rather than "chips." Nicol is also described poetically by Wark as the clubs biggest eater as well as the biggest buffoon.

I greatly admired Kevin Sheedy and always envied him in a blue shirt. Howard Kendall signed the youngster from under the Reds noses and he became an important component in the rampaging Everton team. Sheedy played with Southall, Ratcliffe, Stevens, Steven, Gray, Sharp, Bracewell, Van Den Hauwe and Adrian Heath. He oozed sophistication but was considered too casual to replace the buccaneering Ray Kennedy at Anfield.

An abiding memory is when he gave the Kop the V sign after scoring a glorious free kick at Anfield in 1987. Despite arguments that Sheedy was serving his own tribute to Ted Rogers ala 3,2,1, Sheedy admitted to the Blue Kipper fanzine in 2002 that emotions had got the better of him : "It was just the way I felt at the time, it was a great free kick and being at the Kop end it just seemed the thing to do. It got me into trouble though."

Fellow Irishman Stevie "Stan" Staunton was one of my favourite Anfield full-backs. During his first spell the ex-Dundalk star had even played up front after Kenny Dalglish had insisted he could cut it, scoring a pre-season hat trick.

Staunton was culled by Souness after receiving a 1.1 million bid from Ron Atkinson at Aston Villa. Under FIFA's foreigner rules the Rep of Ireland star was deemed to be of foreign status. Souness had two English full backs in the squad and with clubs limited to a quota if foreigners Stan became surplus to requirements.

Stan admits that he was so devastated that for years he didn't bother to follow the Liverpool match scores. As a young fan I was gutted to see him go but was delighted when he return under Roy Evans. They say you should never go back and when Gerard Houllier became co- manager Staunton's days were once again numbered.

"I was crap mate," says Skippy Craig Johnston. At Ayresome Park he was labelled by Jack Charlton as "the worst player I've ever seen," and being told that it would be in his best interests to "f*** off."

Johnston rang his mum in Australia and to spare her the heartache he told her that Jackie had said that he "was one of the finest footballers he'd ever seen in his life."

Despite the ruthless remarks Johnston agreed with the World Cup winners assessment. He asked himself how he would become a better footballer and started to watch and take an interest in Graeme Souness during training in order to develop himself.

It led a to a turnaround in form to the extent that Brian Clough called to sign Johnston for Nottingham Forest. Twenty minutes later another call - this time from Bob Paisley. It seemed Liverpool were in the market as they were on the verge of selling Jimmy Case. The rest is history.

Johnston has found a niche as a photographer but hopes to manage a club too.

Skippy is a Liverpool icon. He describes Dalglish as "the leader in the dressing room" and fell out with Joe Fagan. He wrote "The Pride of Merseyside" which came fourth in the charts.

Johnston also wrote, paid for and did the video for the "Anfield Rap." He is the brains behind the Predator boot worn by David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Steven Gerrard. Reebok and Nike rejected him but Adidas snapped him up. Not appreciating the boots' true potential Johnstone sold the idea for a mere 2% of the total action.

Southerner Spackman played 63 times for Liverpool. When he said he would always support Liverpool a section of Chelsea fans lobbied for the removal of the "Spackman hospitality entrance."

He was replaced at the bridge by Hazard - Micky not Eden. At Liverpool there were midfielders aplenty and things were tough, however the fans took to the ex-Chelsea man and drew parallels with Gotham's caped crusader. "NaNaNaNaNaNaNa Spackmaaan" the Kop screamed.

Spackman's greatest memory is Stevie Nicol's antics and the 5-0 whitewash of Nottingham Forest in 1988. Steve McMahon's tackles are described as so Machiavellian that only the deceased knew he'd been done.

He was hotheaded and after Ronnie Whelan skipped ahead of him in the pecking order in 1989 his request for a transfer was granted and subsequently joined QPR before moving onto the Souness revolution at Rangers. Spackman rekindled fond memories - "Souness turned them into Liverpool by playing the Liverpool way" he said.

Ronnie Moran also offers a unique insight to this exciting time in the club’s history.

The book finishes with a chapter on "genius". John Barnes felt that being from a middle class background and being educated at the reputable Marylebone Grammar left him more sheltered from racism in general.

Barnes justifiably feels that he wasn't given enough time in management and speaks of the Watford heydays under Graham Taylor. The Maracana genius thrived under the total chaos regime at Vicarage Road.

After his move to Liverpool Barnes went up another level in form. He was described by Bobby Robson as the "greatest enigma" but it was obvious that the styles in play were the primary reasons for this.

The Reds played to his strength, passing the ball out left at any given opportunity. With England the number of passes declined. Barnes' contribution was needed but not sought as much. There was also the equally talented Chrissie Waddle on the right to accommodate too.

Barnes has been in the managerial wilderness for a long time and surely deserves another crack at the helm of another football club.

Red Machine is an enjoyable read for all football fans alike. It doesn't include the obvious big names but it's nice to read about the smaller voices in the dressing room.

The players candid, ribald and sometimes scathing recollections provide an antidote to the media-coached, on-message interviews given by today’s players.

Red Machine: Liverpool FC in the '80s: The Players' Stories - Simon Hughes. Published by Mainstream Publishing, part of Mainstream.

Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here:

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE:

Kenny Dalglish

Article Comments

Read more

Report author of article

Please let us know if you believe this article is in violation of our editorial policy, please only report articles for one of the following reasons.

Report author


This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

Want more content like this?

Like our GiveMeSport Facebook Page and you will get this directly to you.

Already Subscribed to Facebook, don't ask me again

Follow GiveMeSport on Twitter and you will get this directly to you.

Already Following, don't ask me again

Like our GiveMeSport Page and you will get this directly to you.

Already Subscribed to G+, don't ask me again