Fowler’s finishing & Evans’ 3-5-2 – Liverpool’s 1995/96 was thrilling entertainment

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

It was a hit-and-miss season for Liverpool in 1995/96, but one marked by some sublime goals by Robbie Fowler and an impressive debut campaign for Stan Collymore.

Roy Evans made progress in his first full season in charge of the Reds in 1994/95, most notably with the club’s fifth League Cup triumph, and there was optimism heading into 1995/96.

It ended with a third-placed finish in the league and a defeat to Man United in the FA Cup final, with Liverpool qualifying for the Cup Winners’ Cup.

Here are 10 takeaways from Liverpool’s 70 league goals from the 1995/96 campaign.

 

Fowler’s blonde hair was atrocious…

VLADIKAVKAZ, RUSSIA - Tuesday, September 12, 1995: Liverpool's Robbie Fowler in action against FC Alania Spartak Vladikavkaz during the UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg match at Republican Spartak Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? He was 20, so we’ll let him off…

 

…but his finishing was sublime!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 6, 1996: Liverpool's Robbie Fowler in action against Rochdale during the FA Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 1995/96 campaign was Fowler’s top-scoring season, with 36 in all competitions.

He netted 28 in the league, at least twice the amount of any other Liverpool player, with Collymore the next-closest with 14.

This included four in the 5-2 thrashing of Bolton in September, a hat-trick to down Arsenal in December and a pair of braces against United.

Fowler still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves as a striker, with few in the Premier League era able to match his array of finishes—with his left, his right and his head, from range, in the box and improvised.

 

Collymore made a big early impact

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 6, 1996: Liverpool's Stan Collymore celebrates scoring the second of his hat-trick of goals against Rochdale during the FA Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The summer of 1995 was a big one for Collymore, on the back of a stunning season as Nottingham Forest finished third in the top flight.

A debut for England was followed by an £8.5 million move to Liverpool, as the Reds shelled out a British record fee for the 24-year-old.

He may now be a polarising figure, but his early impact on Merseyside cannot be underestimated, as he forged a devastating partnership with Fowler up front to close out Ian Rush’s glittering spell at Anfield.

His goalscoring debut at home to Sheffield Wednesday set the tone for a powerful striker with the world at his feet—and it is a shame his time with the club ended so soon.

 

The away kit is an underrated gem

VLADIKAVKAZ, RUSSIA - Tuesday, September 12, 1995: Liverpool's Neil Ruddock celebrates after a 2-1 victory over FC Alania Spartak Vladikavkaz during the UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg match at Republican Spartak Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The green-and-white panels may be of their time, but it would be great to see Nike pay homage in one of their future kits.

 

Did Wilder study Evans’ system?

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 6, 1996: Liverpool's manager Roy Evans against Coventry City during the Premiership match at Highfield Road. Coventry won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The use of ‘overlapping centre-backs’ in football parlance has become increasingly frequent since the rise of Sheffield United under Chris Wilder.

But how often did Mark Wright drive forward from his position on the right of Evans’ back three?

Evans’ 3-5-2 clearly needed more solidity, but it was devastating when it worked and with a few tweaks could have led Liverpool to significant honours.

 

Schmeichel got the runaround at Anfield

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 6, 1996: Liverpool's Robbie Fowler in action against Rochdale during the FA Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Peter Schmeichel was one of the most formidable goalkeepers of the Premier League era, but he was humbled by Fowler’s double at Anfield in December.

First, a wonderful curling free-kick over and beyond the wall left the Dane rooted and screaming at the likes of Eric Cantona, Andy Cole and a young David Beckham.

Then a stunning counter-attack in the second half ended with the No. 23 turning in the box and chipping the ‘keeper with remarkable composure to seal a 2-0 win.

United, of course, ended the season as champions—but it was a game Liverpool fans could cherish.

 

They don’t make bobbles in the box like they used to

Everything about Collymore’s pea-roller screamed easy save for Tim Flowers…but a dodgy pitch had other ideas.

It was a cruel opener, as the ball took a wicked bobble and bounced over the awaiting goalkeeper, and the sheepish look on Collymore’s face said it all.

The striker would make up for it later with a brilliant free-kick into the bottom corner, but that early calamity ultimately decided a 3-2 win for Liverpool.

 

Deep-lying Barnes was a masterstroke

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 6, 1996: Liverpool's captain John Barnes in action against Coventry City during the Premiership match at Highfield Road. Coventry won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In his prime, John Barnes was a dazzling winger who bamboozled defences with his speed and skill.

But by 1995, he was into his 30s and had lost the burst of pace that defined his game, prompting a shift into the middle of the park.

As playmaker, Barnes was hugely influential, as Evans was able to extract more from his No. 10 before a move to Newcastle in 1997.

 

Rush got his swansong

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 6, 1996: Liverpool's Stan Collymore celebrates scoring the third of his hat-trick of goals with team-mate Ian Rush against Rochdale during the FA Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The emergence of Collymore and Fowler saw Rush’s game time increasingly diminished in 1995/96, which proved his last of 15 seasons with Liverpool.

Rush only played 20 times in the league that campaign, starting half of those, with just one of those starts coming in the second half of the season.

That came at Maine Road, on the final day of the Premier League, with the Welshman due to leave on a free transfer after the FA Cup final the following weekend.

Liverpool’s all-time top goalscorer marked it with a brilliant strike, which helped consign Man City to the drop as the Reds ended the season third in the league—a fitting end with his last of 346 goals.

 

That 4-3 win was incredible

Stan Collymore, Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle, 1996 (Picture by: David Kendall / PA Archive/Press Association Images)

It is considered the Premier League‘s greatest-ever game for a reason: the 4-3 comeback win over Newcastle in April 1996 had it all.

The defending may have been, by Evans’ admission, “kamikaze,” but Liverpool’s attacking play with mesmeric, led by the outstanding Steve McManaman.

A frenetic pace brought a pulsating tie, decided by Collymore’s 92nd-minute winner; it’s just a shame Liverpool’s video doesn’t include that iconic commentary.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Fan Comments