In an era when football matches are a constant part of life, cup fixtures still bring that little extra sparkle to the minds of players and fans alike. In the Capital One Cup this season, that sparkle has often translated into goal-scoring frenzies, and on the odd, special occasions, it produces a memorable solo performance from a player who may not always be the centre of attention. In this series, FFC takes a look at some stellar one-man displays…
Ronnie Whelan is an Anfield legend, helping the team dominate domestic football in the 1980s. Ronnie was a member of not one but THREE great Liverpool FC teams.
After joining the club, for a bargain £35,000 from Dublin club Home Farm, in September 1989 as a 17 year old, he had to wait 19 months for his League debut, against Stoke City in April 1981. It was his only appearance that campaign but he made it all the more memorable with a goal in the 3-0 win, at Anfield
He was voted the best young player of the year in his first full season, 1981-82, helped in no small way by his brace of goals in his very first Wembley appearance, the Football League Cup Final victory over Tottenham, 3-1. It was the start of his three consecutive League Cup winners` medals. Wearing the unfashionable number five short which he inherited from Ray Kennedy, Ronnie`s first goal cancelled out Steve Archibald`s opener then he put Liverpool 2-1 ahead and on the way to victory.
Ronnie also picked up the first of his six League Championship medals that inaugural season. Indeed he was integral to the team that recovered from a mid-table position at the turn of the year to string together a run of 11 successive league victories, playing in all of those wins and scoring four times. Ronnie seemed to make a habit of scoring against Spurs, especially, and grabbed the title winning goal in the final home game against the Londonclub.
After winning the 1984 European Cup and the subsequent arrival of John Barnes, Ronnie moved into the central midfield role his play defined. He was almost the perfect midfielder. He could tackle as well as any defender, and better than most. He could split any team with the full spectrum of passes from short range to 50 yards. He could head the ball though it wasn`t top of his skill set but above anything, he could score goals, 73 in his 493 appearances for Liverpool, a better return than many strikers and on a par with all but the highest midfield goal-getters.
Although he could score run of the mill goals Ronnie is best remembered, unless you are a Manchester United player or supporter, for his spectacular net busters, as in the 1983 League Cup Final, when 25 yard curler into the top corner left Gary Bailey catching fresh air several moments after the ball hit the back of the net. A bit of a paradox considering Ronnie had been a trainee at Old Trafford.
Ronnie Whelan`s achievements in his 15 years wearing a Liverpool shirt are suitably commemorated by him being voted into 30th position in the list of 100 Players who shook the Kop.
If Whelan was still playing today, you can be sure he’d of been banging them in throughout this year’s goal fest of a Capital One Cup much to the delight of Reds fans everywhere.