Liverpool's All-Time Best Wingers

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistAugust 14, 2013

Liverpool's All-Time Best Wingers

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    With Stewart Downing completing his move to West Ham United, Liverpool wingers have been in the news lately.

    The former Middlesbrough and Aston Villa man wasn't able to join the ranks of those who have succeeded in the wide positions for the Reds, and so it will be left to the likes of youngsters Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe to see if they can prove to be long-term successes.

    But who are the stars on the flanks for Liverpool?

    Here, we look at 10 wonderful wingers in the order that they made their debuts.

Billy Liddell

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    In eight out of nine seasons between 1949/50 and 1957/58, Billy Liddell was Liverpool’s top scorer.

    It was that sort of record that saw the club often dubbed “Liddellpool” back then, and the Scot―who was capable of playing in several positions but chiefly featured on the wing―helped fire the club to the league title in 1947 and the FA Cup final in 1950.

    Powerful, athletic and strong, Liddell embodied so much of what 1940s and '50s football was about, and anyone who watched him play spoke of a terrific footballer who frequently dominated matches.

    He is Liverpool’s fourth-highest goalscorer of all time with 228 goals, while he places 12th on the Reds' appearance list having turned out 534 times for the club.

Ian Callaghan

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    That fact that Jamie Carragher retired this summer still 120 appearances short of Ian Callaghan’s Liverpool record of 857 tells you that it will probably never be beaten.

    Once he broke into the team having turned 18 in 1960, Callaghan was a trusted member of Shankly’s squad.

    Frequently used on the right wing, the local lad’s dependable nature took him all the way from the Second Division to England’s World Cup-winning squad of 1966.

    As well as the 857 appearances, Callaghan won five First Division titles, two FA Cups, two UEFA Cups and two European Cups during his time with the club, scoring 68 goals along the way.

    That appearance record will always ensure that Callaghan retains a place in Liverpool folklore, and it is a deserving place too.

Peter Thompson

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    After Peter Thompson tormented Bill Shankly’s Liverpool playing for Preston North End in the FA Cup, the legendary Reds boss knew that he had to sign the young winger.

    Shankly eventually brought the left-sided 21-year-old to Anfield in 1963, and Thompson went on to enjoy a decade with the Reds, playing a key role in a team that won two league championships and the historic 1965 FA Cup, the club’s first.

    Thompson’s impressive wing play eventually earned him a place in the England squad for the 1970 World Cup, and by the time he left Anfield in 1973 he’d amassed a huge 415 Reds appearances, putting him 25th on the club’s all-time appearance list.

Steve Heighway

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    These days the notion of “intelligent footballers” means a player making a clever or incisive pass here and there, but Steve Heighway’s case was different.

    Having failed to rise above anything but non-league football, the Dublin-born Heighway decided to head to the University of Warwick to study economics and politics in 1966.

    He was studying for his finals when Liverpool’s scouts spotted him playing for lowly Skelmersdale United in 1970, but Bill Shankly wasted no time in snapping up the 22-year-old winger and catapulting him into the big time.

    The left-winger shone over 11 years at Anfield and was a crucial part of the squad that won five league titles and three European Cups.

    Heighway also scored in two FA Cup finals for the Reds, once in a defeat against Arsenal in 1971 and then again in the win over Newcastle three years later.

    He later returned to Anfield as director of the Academy, serving for 18 years and winning three FA Youth Cups.

Ray Kennedy

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    Shankly’s leaving present to Liverpool was the signing of Arsenal forward Ray Kennedy in the summer of 1974, but the Scot’s predecessor, Bob Paisley, had other ideas in mind for the new man.

    Giving him the No. 5 shirt and placing him on the left flank, Paisley converted Kennedy into a goalscoring wide midfield player, and a Liverpool star was born.

    He won five league titles, three European Cups and a UEFA Cup over his eight-year career at Anfield, often weighing in with crucial goals such as the away strike against Bayern Munich in the European Cup semi-final in 1981.

    As one of Liverpool’s key players of the 70s, Kennedy was much loved, and there was real sadness at the club when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease during his later career at Swansea and Hartlepool.

    Reds supporters―as well as those at Arsenal―have frequently raised money to help pay for his treatments.

John Barnes

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    It is doubtful that, in his prime, there were many better English footballers than John Barnes.

    Signed from Watford in 1987, Barnes almost instantly became a revelation on the Reds’ left wing, with his combination of pace, power and finishing ability leading to him scoring an astonishing 75 goals in his first four seasons at Anfield.

    Given plenty of tensions around at the time, the Jamaica-born Barnes was seen as a trailblazer for black footballers in England, and he continued to make a huge impact over a Reds career that saw him win two league championships and two FA Cups.

    He was twice named as the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year, and he moved inside to the centre of the field and was often named captain in the latter stages of his career with the Reds.

    It was on the wing where he’d excelled initially, though, with his place in Liverpool legend long since established before the last of his 407 appearances in 1997.

Ray Houghton

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    Not a conventional winger, Houghton nonetheless often took up a wide right position in the Liverpool side following his arrival in 1987.

    With John Aldridge taking the No. 8 shirt to avoid comparisons with predecessor Ian Rush, Houghton wore No. 9 as he formed a lively attacking quartet with John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Aldridge.

    What followed was what many determined to be one of the greatest Liverpool sides of all time, as Houghton won the first of his two league titles with the club to go with two FA Cups.

    A fiercely determined character, the Republic of Ireland international remained a Red until 1992, before going on to score a famous winner for his country in a win over Italy at the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

Steve McManaman

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    The Liverpool sides of the 1990s don’t often get the credit they deserve, and much of their stylish attacking football came courtesy of Steve McManaman.

    A locallyproduced talent, McManaman was a breath of fresh air when he broke into the Reds side as a teenager in 1990, with his mazy dribbles coming in from the wing often leading to chances and goals for his good friend and fellow young star Robbie Fowler.

    This period wasn’t the most successful in Liverpool’s history, but McManaman played a part as the Reds beat Sunderland to lift the 1992 FA Cup before his virtuoso display and two superb goals earned the Reds a 2-1 victory over Bolton in the 1995 League Cup final.

    Fine goals such as the lung-bursting, length-of-the-pitch run and finish against Celtic in the UEFA Cup in 1997 were a trademark from the tricky winger, who had begun to court interest from some of the continent’s finest clubs in the late 90s.

    The failure to agree to a new contract at Anfield led to him becoming one of the first high-profile players to exploit the Bosman ruling, and in 1999 he left for Real Madrid, where he won the Champions League twice.

Patrik Berger

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    Supporters already knew what to expect from Czech international Patrik Berger following his impressive performances at the Euro 96 finals in England, where he played at Anfield and scored a penalty in the final at Wembley.

    Berger scored twice on his Liverpool debut at Leicester and quickly impressed supporters thanks to his all-action style and lethal left foot.

    Also capable of playing upfront, he scored a hat-trick against Chelsea in a 4-2 win in 1997 and was a regular contributor to the goals for column throughout his first four seasons with the Reds―with many of the strikes spectacular ones.

    Injury struck in 2000, though, and although Berger was still part of the squad that clinched the historic cup treble under Gerard Houllier―he supplied the pass for Michael Owen to win the FA Cup against Arsenal―he was no longer a vital member of the squad.

    He stayed for a couple more years before eventually leaving for Portsmouth in 2003, ending his Reds career with 196 appearances and 35 goals.

Luis Garcia

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    Not strictly a winger, no, but Luis Garcia was nonetheless responsible for providing Liverpool fans with plenty of thrills from all positions during his three years at Anfield.

    As one of the key arrivals of Rafael Benitez’s first-ever summer recruitment session in 2004, the Spaniard was an instant hit as his blend of elegant tricks and flicks lit up a side who surely didn’t know what they were about to achieve.

    Garcia scored goals against Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus (brilliantly) and then Chelsea as the Reds somehow navigated their way to the Champions League final, with the latter goal earning a chapter to itself in the Liverpool history books.

    The former Barcelona man played the whole final against AC Milan in Istanbul, but he was forced to miss the following year’s FA Cup final win over West Ham through suspension after his goal had again beaten Chelsea in the last four.

    His third season was curtailed by injury before he moved back to Spain with Atletico Madrid in 2007, leaving a trail of fine memories behind.