Picking a Liverpool Best XI from the 1990s

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2013

Picking a Liverpool Best XI from the 1990s

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    Liverpool's team has evolved several times since the inception of the Premier League, sometimes by force after a change of manager and on occasion just through the natural evolution of a club.

    The early days of the Premiership during the 1990s saw the likes of Graeme Souness and then Roy Evans in charge as manager, before Gerard Houllier saw out the decade in sole charge.

    Faces changed drastically on the playing staff too, and though the decade was nowhere near as successful as the previous 20 years had been, the Reds still managed a couple of pieces of silverware; as the 1992 FA Cup final and the 1995 League Cup final both ended in victory.

    There were more than a few "close calls" for Liverpool during the decade too, thanks to plenty of top talent who passed through the club's ranks.

    Here is Liverpool's team of the 1990s.

Goalkeeper

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    David James


    How hilarious were Liverpool's goalkeeper jerseys in the 90s?!

    Bruce Grobbelaar started the decade as the Reds' No. 1 goalkeeper but David James, signed from Watford, quickly established himself as first pick from around 1992.

    James was challenged toward the end of the decade by Brad Friedel, but by and large he was undisputed in his position.

    Sloppy errors dogged part of his Anfield career, but James was an agile, athletic and confident shot stopper. His distribution ranged between excellent and based on the lunatic fringe, but James saved the Reds points more often than he cost them.

Full-Backs

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    Rob Jones and Steve Nicol

    The full-back positions are actually easy to select.

    Stig Inge Bjornebye provided several seasons of solid service, while the likes of David Burrows and Vegard Heggem were also quality players.

    The two stand-out candidates though are Rob Jones for the right side, and Steve Nicol on the left.

    Jones signed from Crewe and man-marked a young Ryan Giggs out of the game on his debut, going on to make 39 appearances in his first season. Jones was one of the finest attacking full-backs in the country in his initial years at the club, before injury robbed him of the chance to have a long and successful career.

    On the opposite side, Nicol was approaching the end of his Liverpool career. He played his last game in 1994-95 season, but was a regular in the seasons before that.

    Nicol was versatile, calm in possession and an experienced winner.

    He would be in many fans' team of all time, let alone of the 1990s.

Central Defenders

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    Mark Wright and Jamie Carragher

    Alright, let's get the obvious out of the way—Jamie Carragher didn't play most of the decade at centre-back, and his best spell was played at right-back, but he certainly spent a large enough portion of his time in the middle to warrant being picked.

    Especially when considering the alternatives.

    The likes of Neil Ruddock, Phil Babb, Glynn Hysen and John Scales had their moments, but none would be considered amongst the greats of Liverpool defenders.

    Carragher was young, at times rash and his inexperienced showed itself at inopportune moments—but his ability was also always on show, he was always committed, and frequently saw off the challenges of new arrivals to keep his place in the team one way or another.

    He was part of the early back-three system Liverpool used, playing centrally, and also featured in central midfield.

    Alongside Carragher, Mark Wright is a certain pick.

    He was a stalwart of the Liverpool teams during the 1990s, playing 210 games for the club altogether between 1991 and 1997.

    An England international who played at World Cup '90, Wright captained the side for a spell and brought leadership and composure on the ball as well as a great aerial presence at the back.

    Wright could read the game as well as anyone and the Reds missed his presence when he had lengthy spells on the sidelines.

Central Midfielders

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    John Barnes and Jamie Redknapp

    Liverpool still had midfielders such as Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton and Jan Molby on their books at the start of the 90s, but they were on the decline through age or injury and did not play as a great part in the team as they had previously.

    One who transcended the 80s and 90s squad with distinction, albeit in different roles for the team, was John Barnes.

    Arguably one of the top five players to have ever graced the Anfield pitch in Red, Barnes made the transition from flying winger to controlling central midfielder after injuries robbed him of his pace, but his passing, ability to dictate play and experience were invaluable to a Liverpool team in transition.

    Barnes was still a regular up to the end of the 1996-97 season, before the legend was allowed to leave the club.

    Alongside Barnes is another player whose time at the club was interrupted by injuries, and time has perhaps not allowed Jamie Redknapp to be viewed with quite the appreciation he deserved.

    Those who came before him won more, and those who have arrived on the scene since—Steven Gerrard in particular—might have been better too, but Redknapp was a classy and hugely capable midfielder who also became club captain.

    A regular from 1992-93 onwards, Redknapp played over 300 times in his decade at the club and was an integral piece of the squad. He would have achieved much more if not for injury.

Wingers

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    Steve McManaman and Patrik Berger

    Steve McManaman is one of those few players to have a cup final named after him, following his scintillating and match-winning performance in the 1995 League Cup final victory over Bolton Wanderers.

    The attacking midfielder played either as a winger or in a more central, attacking role for the Reds and was one of the most skilful dribblers of the ball Anfield has seen. Often he was the sole creative spark for the side, carving out opportunities for his forwards and leaving defenders bamboozled.

    He made his debut right at the start of the decade and played at least 40 games each season in all but two of the years up until 1998-99.

    The opposite flank might be a position up for debate. The Reds didn't play with wingers all the time, with Roy Evans opting for a wingback system, so Mark Walters was one of the only early 90s wide men.

    Later on Mark Kennedy made fleeting appearances, Jason McAteer started centrally, drifted wide and ended up at full-back, and Oyvind Leonhardsen was used as a wide midfielder too.

    Patrik Berger was a mid-90s arrival who was exciting, instinctive, possessed of an explosive shot and who loved to dribble with the ball, on occasions too much.

    The floppy-haired Czech started life at Anfield as a forward before later playing as a central attacking midfielder, and finally settling on the wing.

    His spell at the club was interrupted by form and fitness issues, but when he was on fire there were few moments which got the Kop to their feet quicker than Berger lining up a shot from range.

Strikers

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    Robbie Fowler and Ian Rush

    Not too much discussion to be had here; two of the club's best strikers of all time overlapped for a period in the 1990s, with Ian Rush seamlessly handing over possession of the No. 9 shirt and title of main goalscorer to Robbie Fowler.

    Rush was still playing 50 games a year for Liverpool by the end of 1994-95, though the next season proved to be his last as Stan Collymore was handed significant playing time after signing for the Reds.

    The greatest goalscorer in the club's history hit 346 goals for the Reds, a feat which is likely to stand as the best for a long time yet.

    Rush also scored in one of Liverpool's two finals that decade, in the 2-0 win over Sunderland in the '92 FA Cup final.

    By 1993-94 Robbie Fowler had broken into the side and the two enjoyed a year or two of playing together, before Fowler really became the club's best striker after Rushie's age caught up with him.

    Maybe the most natural finisher the club has ever produced, Fowler scored for fun—left foot, right foot, headers; outside the box, penalties, tap-ins, they all went in for the man they called God on the terraces.

    A succession of forwards played at the Reds during the 90s, some who made an instant impact and some who disappointed. Karl-Heinz Riedle, Collymore, Ronnie Rosenthal, Nigel Clough and, at the end of the decade, Michael Owen.

    None though, whether during the 90s or afterwards, came close to emulating the success in front of goal and genuine ability that Rush and Fowler—two of the greatest Reds strikers ever—had during that decade.

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