Nasal strips, ecru kits and star arrivals – Liverpool’s transformational 1996/97 season

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The 1996/97 season for Liverpool was one which saw a charge at the title fall at the final corner, but it was one which saw plenty of stunning goals and the debut of Michael Owen.

After a third-place finish in 1995/96 and a defeat in the FA Cup final, the Reds moved into the new campaign with confidence that they could continue to move up the table.

A bright start saw Liverpool cement their place in the top four and they were top on Christmas Day, only to stumble with the finish line in sight to end the season in fourth place.

Roy Evans’ side notched 62 goals in the Premier League in 1996/97, here are 10 takeaways from the campaign.

 

Berger hit the ground running…

Patrik Berger races over to the Liverpool fans after scoring his second goal

Liverpool’s business during the summer of 1996 was limited, with two free transfers and a £3.25 million Patrik Berger making the switch to Anfield.

Berger’s display at the 1996 European Championships impressed many and he continued in the same vein at Liverpool with two consecutive emphatic braces in just his second and third Premier League outing for the club.

Coupled with a goal the Cup Winners’ Cup, Berger was named player of the month in his first month as a Liverpool player.

Like the team as a whole, his influence waned as the season went on despite still pitching in with impressive performances.

 

Bjornebye, the assist maestro…

The former full-back was a popular figure at Liverpool during his spell between 1992 and 2000, and it remains that way to this day.

And in 1996/97, Bjornebye was at the heart of a lot of what the Reds did right in the opposition’s half – finishing the season with the most assists.

Acting as a wing-back, he supplied seven assists and scored two goals of his own in the league, which included one for Robbie Fowler’s winner in the memorable 4-3 win over Newcastle.

 

Another sublime away kit hits the pitch

Jamie Redknapp, Liverpool, 1997 (Matthew Ashton/EMPICS Sport)

It’s simple yet glorious in every way. It was the first season Reebok took over from Adidas and they did a stupendous job – wouldn’t mind seeing this one inspire future kits.

 

Salah and Man City was to Barnes and Southampton…

It was not one title contender against the other, but when the Reds made the trip to the south coast they were fighting to keep hold of the top spot.

As with Ederson moving out of the confines of his designated area looking to clear the danger in 2018, Dave Beasant was similarly trying to clear when he instead found John Barnes.

Mohamed Salah‘s was more of an emphatic lob back into the net, while Barnes; had you titling to the left so his rolling effort would avoid the upright.

But like the Egyptian’s strike, Barnes’ effort would prove the winner as his late goal would see the game end 1-0.

 

Fowler’s interesting nasal strips…

Liverpool, England - Wednesday, November 27th, 1996: Liverpool's Robbie Fowler in action during the 4-2 victory over Arsenal during the 4th Round of the League Cup at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

During the 1990s a fad made its way into football where funny-looking plasters took their place on an athlete’s nose as it was said to increase the ‘intake yield’ for any one breath.

The effectiveness was questioned but Fowler was readily seen using them and it certainly did him no harm…

 

But he kept a stronghold at the top…

London, England - Monday, December 2, 1996: Liverpool's Robbie Fowler and Tottenham Hotspur's Sol Campbell during the Premier League match at White Hart Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

…as he finished the season as leading goalscorer, with 18 in the league and 31 across all competitions.

His season’s tally was almost double that of the next best goal scorer in Stan Collymore as his star continued to shine.

At 21, Fowler was head and shoulders above those in a similar age bracket in his position with his finishing second to none, irrespective of which foot was required to complete the job, with his four-goal return in the 5-1 mauling of Middlesbrough a notable highlight during the season.

 

Carragher’s first start returns first goal

The academy graduate marked his first start in scintillating fashion as he scored a header in front of the Kop, setting the Reds on course for a 3-0 win.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Only 18 years old at the time, Carra was deployed in midfield and the goal would prove to be his first of just five in his entire career at Anfield which spanned over 17 years and 737 games.

 

Another debutant makes an instant impact…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 7, 1997: Liverpool's Michael Owen celebrates scoring from the penalty spot Manchester United during the FA Youth Cup match at Anfield. United won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool arrived to face Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in the penultimate game needing a win to deny Man United securing the title with a game to spare.

Evans’ side were down a goal at the break where a fresh-faced 17-year-old Michael Owen was then introduced.

While he was unable to salvage a victory after Wimbledon doubled their lead, he would breathe new life into his side and half the deficit to mark his debut with his first goal for the club, laying the foundations for a stunning run of form in the seasons to follow.

 

Redknapp’s ability with a deal ball is underrated

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

From Leeds United to Sheffield Wednesday, Jamie Redknapp unleashed some truly magnificent free-kicks during the 1996/97 season.

Power, precision and the element of surprise all aided in his success, with opposition goalkeepers only left to watch as the ball rifled into their own net.

 

Collymore bows out…

Liverpool's Stan Collymore congratulates Patrik Berger on his winning goal

After two seasons with the club, Collymore would be on the move once more in the summer of 1997 with Aston Villa parting with £7 million, making him Liverpool’s most expensive ever sale at the time.

His first season saw him strike up a lethal partnership with Fowler which returned 55 goals between them and, included his brace in the incredible 4-3 win over Newcastle before he again scored double digits.

Off the field, things turned slightly sour and the rise of Owen would see him squeezed out – he did bow out of Anfield with a goal, however, in the 2-1 win over Tottenham.

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