A week on and I’m still smarting. But getting there. Quite a few things happened on this day 2nd June in days gone by. Two birthdays, a new contract signing and a new player. First, the birthdays.
On This Day 2nd June
Mark Lawrenson was born in Preston on this day 2nd June 1957. Today he is 61 years of age.
Lawro signed for us from Brighton back in 1981 for a then sizeable fee of £900,000. In those days Lawrenson was recognised as being a bit of a versatile player. Upon signing for Liverpool, Lawrenson went to forge a formidable centre-back partnership with Alan “Jockey” Hansen. This pairing were so good you could feel a fair degree of sympathy for Gary Gillespie. He was third choice effectively in support of Hansen and Lawrenson, but he was quality as well.
Gillespie did play a fair few games though and in some instances, Lawrenson played in midfield now and then.
In his time at Liverpool, Lawrenson won the European Cup in 1984 in Rome, five league titles, three League Cups and one FA Cup.
Nowadays everyone will recognise him as being a Match Of The Day pundit.
Who else had a birthday on this day 2nd June?
Remember Mark Walters?
The king of the stepover was born on this day 2nd June 1964. Walters had his moments at Anfield but, in all honesty, he never really reached the heights we all thought and hoped he would. Walters signed from us when he followed manager Graeme Souness down south from Glasgow Rangers.
Probably his highlights were his goals against Auxerre and Manchester United in the 1991/92 season. To a lesser degree Auxerre was one of the classic European nights at Anfield. We were 2-0 down from the first leg and the attendance that night I seem to remember was about 25,000 or so. Nevertheless the crowd did their bit that night. The Kop was rocking. It was a brilliant atmosphere.
Jan Molby (penalty) and Ray Houghton drew us level on aggregate. Attacking The Kop in the second half, Walters buried the winner late on to trigger pandemonium in The Kop.
You can see the highlights below.
So, who signed a new contract on this day 2nd June?
On this day 2nd June 2006 Rafa signed a new four contract that would keep him at Anfield until 2010. I think it’s fair to say that Rafa hit the ground running when he joined us didn’t he. Winning the Champions League in that epic in Istanbul in 2005, followed by an FA Cup victory against West Ham in 2006 was a brilliant start.
The Holy Grail of the title however eluded him. He did get really close though in the 2008/09 season. We finished second to Manchester United, four points behind. Draws really did us that season. We only lost two league games all season but drew 11 (compared to Yernited’s 4 defeats and 6 draws). It shows how damaging those draws were. We actually did the double over United (2-1 at home and 4-1 away at Old Trafford) and yet still didn’t win the title.
Our goal difference was better as well.
I know football can be a series of “what ifs” and “maybes” when you look back, but I remember thinking at the time of the two games that may have cost us the title. Those games were Stoke at home and Stoke away. Yes, we could look to other draws, but these in particular demonstrate the old adage of “so near but so far”.
Both games against Stoke ended up 0-0. In the game at Anfield “we wuz robbed”. In just the 2nd minute Stevie G swung in a free-kick from wide on the left, by the touchline, Annie Road end. No-one touched it and it sailed into the net. Cue celebrations. The celebrations went on for some time, to such an extent, the players were making their way back to the centre circle when the goal was belatedly disallowed.
I don’t think it was conclusively confirmed as to why it was disallowed. Added to that “dodgy” decision Stoke cleared off the line as well in the last minute.
Two points lost.
In the return at Stoke we huffed and puffed. Having said these were the games that title winners win ugly as they say. And an ugly win was on the cards when Stevie G again burst through on his own bearing down on the Stoke goal in injury time. He dinked the ball over the keeper only to see it hit the inside of the post and stay out.
Two points lost.
We lost the title by four points but we had a goal difference. Fine margins indeed. Two incidents over a season ultimately cost us. I know all fans can fine tooth comb a season for “what ifs” but these stood out for me at the time.
Anyway, it wasn’t to be.
Who did we sign on this day 2nd June?
On this day 2nd June 1997 we signed Norwegian midfielder Oyvind Leonhardsen from Wimbledon. The fee was in the region of £3.5m. A very industrious player. He reminded me to some extent to Ray Houghton. Similar style, similar build but Houghton was the better player.
Nevertheless he was a popular figure with the fans. In his two seasons at Anfield he played 49 times and scored 7 goals. Upon leaving Liverpool he went to Tottenham Hotspur.
No doubt there would have been more goings on on this day 2nd June, but these are the ones that stand out for me.