Forgotten Heroes: John Aldridge

It was like a worthy but run of the mill county cricketer taking over from prince of batsmen Viv Richards, or a rookie rider climbing into the saddle of master jockey Lester Piggott; when John Aldridge replaced ian Rush as Liverpool centre forward public expectations were not especially high. But scouser John had the perfect response. He scored so freely that Rushie was not missed, and when the prodigal hero did return after a frustrating year with Juventus in italy, he found claiming the role of Reds goalscorer-in-cheif was no formality. Indeed, a hefty slice of the Welshman’s first campaign back at anfield was spent on the bench as he languished in the shadow of his so-called stand it.

John had achieved a lifetime ambition of joining liverpool in january 1987 when, with Rushies departure in the offing, Kenny Dalglish signed him from Oxford United for ”
700,000. His ‘˜Manor Ground’ strike rate of 1.5 goals every two games might have made him one of the most feared strikers in the land yet, strangely, there was wipespread reticence in recognising his acheivements. True, he had never played for a glamour club, and his style was efficient rather than flashy, but that record – which included 18 months of 1st division experience – would surely have made it suprising if he had failed at anfield, instead of provoking the amazementin many quarters which followed his success.

In his 1st half term as a Red, John started only 2 league matches but, significally scored in both, although it was not until 1987/88 that the headlines started coming his way. Even when he netted in the opening 9 league games – admittedly 6 of those were from the penelty spot – he was given only a fraction of the acclaim that was bestowed on John Barnes. As the season went on, however, it gradually dawned on the media that perhaps the unobtrusive front-runner who had finished so many flowing moves, was actually a clinical finisher, and should be given his fair share of credit. Afer all, his finishing was leathal, and he was better in the air than Rushie. His selfless running created countless openings for messrs Barnes and Beardsley, and if John could match neither the balls skills of his team mates, or the pace of his predecessor he made up for it with the positional sense of a born opportunist. Add to that his inbuilt passion for Liverpool – never more evident than in his utter devastation on missing THAT penalty in the 88 cup final – and his all round value becomes apparent.

Despite the triumphs of his 1st full term at anfield, in which he scored 26 times on the way to winning a title medal, it was widely predicted that he would shuffle out of the limelight when Ian Rush returned for the 1988/89 season. Once again John confounded the pundits. Rushie spent most of the opening league game against Charlton at selhurst park in the dugout, before replacing not Aldo, but Beardsley; John meanwhile went on to score a Hat-trick! That performance set the tone for the campaign which Aldo outscored Rushie. And he capped his Reds career by scoring the opening goal in the 1989 FA Cup final against Everton.

Come the 89/90 season it was clear Dalglish had a choice to make between the 2 men. Not suprisingly he chose to offload Aldo. Not before he had one last moment of glory before joining Real Sociedad for ”
1 million. Just days before his september move, the redmen where 5-0 up against Crystal Palace at anfield, when they won a penelty. the Kop roared his name, and the manager submitted to their demands. He stepped up and scored. The man whom the critics had continually expected to fail, had succeded to the last.

Where ever Also played, and at whatever level, he had that knack of scoring goals, a natural gift. It is tempting to imagine what he may have acheived had he of stayed at Anfield past 1989?

Aldo is a true liverpool hero, and a true red. He is one of us.

Article Copyright (c) Roper 2003

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