1988–89 Liverpool F.C. season

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1988–89 season
Manager Scotland Kenny Dalglish
First Division 2nd
FA Cup Winners
League Cup Fourth Round
Top goalscorer League: John Aldridge (21)
All: John Aldridge (31)
Average home league attendance 38,713
Home colours
Away colours

The 1988–89 season was the 97th season in Liverpool F.C.'s existence, and was their 26th consecutive year in the First Division, and covers the period from 20 August 1988 to 26 May 1989.

The season was overshadowed by the Hillsborough disaster on 15 April 1989. 94 of the club's fans died that day in a crush on the terraces in the semi-final of the FA Cup; a 95th fan died three days later and the death toll eventually reached 96 nearly four years later when another fan died having never regained consciousness.

Liverpool won the rescheduled FA Cup semi-final and went on to win the trophy by beating Everton 3-2 in the final, but were then denied the double for the second season running in even more dramatic fashion than the previous season, when a last minute Arsenal goal gave the visitors a 2-0 win at Anfield and sent the league title to Highbury on goals scored. They had spent much of the season on the fringes of the title race, frequently led by Arsenal and underdogs including Norwich City, Coventry City and newly promoted Millwall, but a late surge in form had seen them cruise back to the top of the league by the time of the penultimate league game.








Pos Player From Fee Date
DF England Nick Tanner England Bristol Rovers £20,000 01-08-1988
FW Wales Ian Rush Italy Juventus £2,800,000 18-08-1988
DF England David Burrows England West Bromwich Albion £550,000 20-10-1988
DF England Barry Jones England Prescot Cables £500 19-01-1989


Pos Player To Fee Date
MF England Nigel Spackman England Queens Park Rangers £500,000 02-02-1989
FW England John Durnin England Oxford United £250,000 10-02-1989

Diary of the season[edit]


After an unhappy season in Italy with Juventus, Ian Rush returned to Anfield on 18 August in a £2.8million deal - a record fee paid by a British club, and the third time in three weeks the national record had been broken. However, the Reds were not alone in signing a top striker to prepare for a title challenge - their close neighbours Everton had paid the previous national record of £2.1million a few days earlier for West Ham United striker Tony Cottee. The challenge from a resurgent Manchester United was likely to be stronger as well following their £1.8million recapture of Mark Hughes.

The season began on 20 August with a 2-1 win over Wimbledon, who had shocked them with a 1-0 win in the FA Cup final the previous May, in the FA Charity Shield. John Aldridge scored both of Liverpool's goals, and rather than relegate Aldridge to the bench on Rush's return, manager Kenny Dalglish altered the 4-4-2 formation to 4-3-3 in order for Rush, Aldridge and Beardsley to feature alongside each other in what was undoubtedly the finest attacking line-up in English football, complemented by wingers John Barnes and Ray Houghton.

Aldridge was on target again on the opening day of the season (27 August) as Liverpool triumphed 3-0 over Charlton Athletic at Anfield and Aldridge grabbed all three goals.[1]


September was a slightly disappointing month for the Reds, who began it well with a 1-0 home win over Manchester United at Anfield and finished it with an impressive 3-1 win at Southampton, but in between they were held to 1-1 draws by Aston Villa at Villa Park and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield. After five league games, they were second in the league behind Norwich City.[1]

As September ended, the Football League Cup quest began for Liverpool in the second round with a 1-0 home win over Walsall.[2]


October brought more frustration for a Liverpool side who lost 2-1 at home to struggling Newcastle United at the beginning of the month, and were also beaten by Luton Town and Nottingham Forest before the month was out. On the positive side, they did manage a league win - 2-0 away to West Ham United at the end of the month - and also managed to eliminate Walsall in the League Cup.[2] However, they had slipped to fourth in the First Division which was still being led by Norwich City, who had an eight-point lead over Liverpool and a six-point lead over second placed Arsenal. Millwall, in their first season in the top flight, were springing many surprises as they occupied third place, while regular contenders Nottingham Forest completed the top five. However, the much anticipated title challenge from Manchester United and Everton was not yet transpiring, as both clubs were in the bottom half of the table.[3]

Midfielder Jan Mølby was jailed for three months on a drink-driving charge on 17 October.


November was another month of underachievement for Liverpool, who were unbeaten in four games but only managed to win two of them, and ended the month still only fourth in the league, though they had managed to cut the gap between themselves and leaders Norwich City to six points. Arsenal and Millwall were still second and third respectively. After managing to eliminate Arsenal in the League Cup third round, Liverpool's quest for the trophy ended in the fourth round when they were thrashed 4-1 by relegation threatened West Ham United at Upton Park.[4]


December brought yet more frustration for the Reds, who managed a 1-0 win at Derby County on Boxing Day, but could only managed 1–1 draws with Everton and Arsenal, and suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Norwich City. However, they were now standing third in the league, with new leaders Arsenal six points ahead of Liverpool and a point ahead of second placed Norwich City. Millwall's surprise challenge was continuing as they ended 1988 in fourth place, while Everton's resurgence had taken them to fifth place.[5]

On a more positive note, Jan Molby was available for selection again at the beginning of the month after serving half of his prison sentence for drink-driving.


1989 began on a disappointment note for Liverpool, who were beaten 3-1 by Manchester United on New Year's Day at Old Trafford in a game dominated by 19-year-old United midfielder Russell Beardsmore. This left Liverpool fifth in the table and just one point and one place ahead of Alex Ferguson's improving side. They were now nine points behind leaders Arsenal and second placed Norwich City, and two points behind Millwall and Everton.[6]

The FA Cup quest began at Brunton Park on 7 January, when Liverpool eliminated Fourth Division Carlisle United 3-0. Three weeks later they met Millwall in the fourth round at The Den and won 2-0, but their dreams of a unique second double were still looking doubtful as a less than brilliant month meant they were still fourth in the league and nine points adrift of leaders Arsenal, who had a game in hand. Norwich City were still second and Coventry City had now leapfrogged them to occupy third place, though Everton had suffered another setback and now stood ninth.[7]


February was a quiet month at Anfield, as bad weather restricted them to just two first team games. The first, at St James' Park in the league, saw them draw 2-2 with struggling Newcastle United and fail to improve on their fifth place standing.[8] The second, however, gave more cause for celebration as Liverpool took on Hull City in the FA Cup fifth round at Boothferry Park and came away as 3-2 winners.[2]


March saw what were arguably Liverpool's finest performances of the season yet. They were victors in all six league games, the best game being a 5-0 home win over Luton Town on 14 March, and a 1-0 home win over Derby County on 29 March meant that they ended the month in third place - five points behind leaders Arsenal and with a game in hand. Norwich City were still second, but the Reds were just two points behind them. Millwall and Nottingham Forest completed the top five, while Manchester United and Everton were heading for mid table mediocrity after giving the Reds a serious run for their money earlier in the season.[9]

The FA Cup quarter-final on 18 March saw the Reds take on Third Division underdogs Brentford at Anfield, and any talk of a giant killing feat was quickly silenced as the Reds triumphed 4-0. This gave them a semi-final clash with Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough on 15 April.[2]


The events at the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough on 15 April overshadowed Liverpool's season - and in general the whole English football season - as it became the worst tragedy to hit English sport and the worst day of Liverpool's history. A crush of Liverpool fans in the Leppings Lane end of the stadium as the game kicked off turned into a scene of carnage as it became apparent that people were being injured, and after six minutes the match was cancelled. It was soon clear that people were dying, while those lucky enough to survive managed to escape by climbing over the security fences (against which many of the dead and injured were crushed) and others managed to haul themselves to safety in the seated area above the behind-goal standing zone. Within a couple of hours, there was talk of more than 30 deaths, and by the evening it was clear that the death toll was well over double that amount. 94 fans died that day - 93 at the stadium and a 94th on their way to hospital. The death toll reached 95 on 19 April when 14-year-old Lee Nichol died in hospital from his injuries. A 96th fan - Tony Bland - died in March 1993 after being in a coma for nearly four years. For a while, it looked as though the 1988-89 FA Cup would be cancelled in memory of the victims, but it was soon decided that the competition would continue.[10]

In the league, the Reds managed comfortable wins over Norwich City, Sheffield Wednesday and Millwall to go top of the table above Arsenal on goal difference.[11] However, there was no league action that month after the Hillsborough tragedy.[2]


Liverpool's first competitive game after the tragedy at Hillsborough finally came on 3 May, when they drew 0-0 with Everton in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. By now, Arsenal had overtaken them and built up a five-point lead with four games remaining, though Liverpool had a game in hand.[12] However, the next four league games were all won by Liverpool and they entered the final game of the season with a three-point lead over Arsenal.[13] Ironically, their opponents in the final game of the season were Arsenal at Anfield, and only a win with a margin of two or more goals would see Arsenal prise the league title away from Liverpool. As 90 minutes loomed, Arsenal had a 1-0 lead but if it stayed that way Liverpool would seal the title by a single goal. However, Arsenal midfielder Michael Thomas scored with the last kick of the game and Arsenal sealed the league title by the narrowest possible margin.

Due to the Hillsborough tragedy, the English league season had been extended by two weeks and this meant that several clubs - including Liverpool - played twice after the FA Cup final.

The re-scheduled FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest was staged at Old Trafford on 7 May, and Liverpool won 3-1. This booked them their second all-Merseyside final with Everton in four seasons. John Aldridge, Liverpool's leading scorer that season, opened the scoring in the fourth minute, and Everton failed to respond until the 89th minute when Stuart McCall jabbed in a late equaliser to force extra time. Aldridge had come off in the 73rd minute to be replaced by Ian Rush, who restored Liverpool's lead in the 95th minute, only for Stuart McCall to respond with his second goal in the 102nd minute to equaliser once again. However, Rush scored the winner two minutes later, meaning that he had scored twice in both of the all-Merseyside FA Cup finals.

Had Liverpool won the league title as well, they would have become the first team to repeat the double. But as had happened the previous season (when they had won the league title but been pipped to the FA Cup in the final) they were beaten to this unique honour at the final hurdle.

Final Table[edit]

Pos Team Pld W D L F A W D L F A F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 38 10 6 3 35 19 12 4 3 38 17 73 36 37 76
2 Liverpool 38 11 5 3 33 11 11 5 3 32 17 65 28 37 76
3 Nottingham Forest 38 8 7 4 31 16 9 6 4 33 27 64 43 21 64
4 Norwich City 38 8 7 4 23 20 9 4 6 25 25 48 45 3 62
5 Derby County 38 9 3 7 23 18 8 4 7 17 20 40 38 2 58
6 Tottenham Hotspur 38 8 6 5 31 24 7 6 6 29 22 60 46 14 57
7 Coventry City 38 9 4 6 28 23 5 9 5 19 19 47 42 5 55
8 Everton 38 10 7 2 33 18 4 5 10 17 27 50 45 5 54
9 Queens Park Rangers 38 9 5 5 23 16 5 6 8 20 21 43 37 6 53
10 Millwall 38 10 3 6 27 21 4 8 7 20 31 47 52 - 5 53
11 Manchester United 38 10 5 4 27 13 3 7 9 18 22 45 35 10 51
12 Wimbledon 38 10 3 6 30 19 4 6 9 20 27 50 46 4 51
13 Southampton 38 6 7 6 25 26 4 8 7 27 40 52 66 –14 45
14 Charlton Athletic 38 6 7 6 25 24 4 5 10 19 34 44 58 –14 42
15 Sheffield Wednesday 38 6 6 7 21 25 4 6 9 13 26 34 51 –17 42
16 Luton Town 38 8 6 5 32 21 2 5 12 10 31 42 52 –10 41
17 Aston Villa 38 7 6 6 25 22 2 7 10 20 34 45 56 –11 40
18 Middlesbrough 38 6 7 6 28 30 3 5 11 16 31 44 61 –17 39
19 West Ham United 38 3 6 10 19 30 7 2 10 18 32 37 62 –25 38
20 Newcastle United 38 3 6 10 19 28 4 4 11 13 35 32 63 –31 31


First Division[edit]

Date Opponents Venue Result Scorers Attendance Report 1 Report 2
27-Aug-88 Charlton Athletic A 3–0 Aldridge Goal 23'52'54' 21,389 Report Report
03-Sep-88 Manchester United H 1–0 Mølby Goal pen 38' 42,026 Report Report
10-Sep-88 Aston Villa A 1–1 Houghton Goal 64' 41,409 Report Report
17-Sep-88 Tottenham Hotspur H 1–1 Beardsley Goal 78' 40,929 Report Report
24-Sep-88 Southampton A 3–1 Aldridge Goal 31' Beardsley Goal 47' Mølby Goal pen 84' 21,046 Report Report
01-Oct-88 Newcastle United H 1–2 Gillespie Goal 3' 39,139 Report Report
08-Oct-88 Luton Town A 0–1 12,117 Report Report
22-Oct-88 Coventry City H 0–0 38,742 Report Report
26-Oct-88 Nottingham Forest A 1–2 Rush Goal 58' 29,755 Report Report
29-Oct-88 West Ham United A 2–0 Rush Goal 69' Beardsley Goal 80' 30,198 Report Report
05-Nov-88 Middlesbrough H 3–0 Rush Goal 44' Aldridge Goal 75' Beardsley Goal 87' 39,489 Report Report
12-Nov-88 Millwall H 1–1 Nicol Goal 15' 41,966 Report Report
19-Nov-88 Queens Park Rangers A 1–0 Aldridge Goal 28' 20,063 Report Report
26-Nov-88 Wimbledon H 1–1 Houghton Goal 63' 36,188 Report Report
04-Dec-88 Arsenal A 1–1 Barnes Goal 46' 31,863 Report Report
11-Dec-88 Everton H 1–1 Houghton Goal 30' 42,372 Report Report
17-Dec-88 Norwich City H 0–1 34,225 Report Report
26-Dec-88 Derby County A 1–0 Rush Goal 17' 25,213 Report Report
01-Jan-89 Manchester United A 1–3 Barnes Goal 70' 44,745 Report Report
03-Jan-89 Aston Villa H 1–0 Whelan Goal 66' 39,014 Report Report
14-Jan-89 Sheffield Wednesday A 2–2 Nicol Goal 76' Aldridge Goal 77' 31,524 Report Report
21-Jan-89 Southampton H 2–0 Aldridge Goal 73' Rush Goal 78' 35,565 Report Report
04-Feb-89 Newcastle United A 2–2 Aldridge Goal 15' Rush Goal 50' 30,966 Report Report
01-Mar-89 Charlton Athletic H 2–0 Beardsley Goal 14' Aldridge Goal pen 88' 30,283 Report Report
11-Mar-89 Middlesbrough A 4–0 Beardsley Goal 19' Houghton Goal 37' Aldridge Goal 79' McMahon Goal 88' 25,197 Report Report
14-Mar-89 Luton Town H 5–0 Aldridge Goal 34'pen 42'76' Beardsley Goal 69' McMahon Goal 74' 31,447 Report Report
22-Mar-89 Coventry City A 3–1 Barnes Goal 11' Aldridge Goal 28' Whelan Goal 56' 23,807 Report Report
26-Mar-89 Tottenham Hotspur A 2–1 Aldridge Goal pen 50' Beardsley Goal 64' 30,012 Report Report
29-Mar-89 Derby County H 1–0 Barnes Goal 2' 42,518 Report Report
01-Apr-89 Norwich City A 1–0 Whelan Goal 21' 26,338 Report Report
08-Apr-89 Sheffield Wednesday H 5–1 McMahon Goal 8' Beardsley Goal 42'66' Houghton Goal 57' Barnes Goal 80' 39,672 Report Report
11-Apr-89 Millwall A 2–1 Barnes Goal 21' Aldridge Goal 41' 22,130 Report Report
03-May-89 Everton A 0–0 45,994 Report Report
10-May-89 Nottingham Forest H 1–0 Aldridge Goal pen 81' 39,793 Report Report
13-May-89 Wimbledon A 2–1 Aldridge Goal 59' Barnes Goal 73' 14,730 Report Report
16-May-89 Queens Park Rangers H 2–0 Aldridge Goal 45' Whelan Goal 57' 38,368 Report Report
23-May-89 West Ham United H 5–1 Aldridge Goal 20' Houghton Goal 63'80' Rush Goal 84' Barnes Goal 90' 41,855 Report Report
26-May-89 Arsenal H 0–2 41,718 Report Report

FA Cup[edit]

Main article: 1988-89 FA Cup
Date Opponents Venue Result Scorers Attendance Report 1 Report 2
07-Jan-89 Carlisle United A 3–0 Barnes Goal 33' McMahon Goal 65'84' 18,556 Report Report
29-Jan-89 Millwall A 2–0 Aldridge Goal 57' Rush Goal 63' 23,615 Report Report
18-Feb-89 Hull City A 3–2 Barnes Goal 15' Aldridge Goal 52'53' 20,058 Report Report
18-Mar-89 Brentford H 4–0 McMahon Goal 15' Barnes Goal 62' Beardsley Goal 79'82' 42,376 Report Report
07-May-89 Nottingham Forest N 3–1 Aldridge Goal 3'58' Own Goal Goal 72' 38,000 Report Report


Main article: 1989 FA Cup Final

20 May 1989
15:00 BST
Liverpool 3–2 (a.e.t.) Everton
Aldridge Goal 4'
Rush Goal 95'104'
McCall Goal 89'102'
Wembley Stadium, London
Attendance: 82,800
Referee: Joe Worrall (Cheshire)
GK 1 Zimbabwe Bruce Grobbelaar
CB 2 England Gary Ablett
LB 3 Republic of Ireland Steve Staunton Substituted off 90'
RB 4 Scotland Steve Nicol
CM 5 Republic of Ireland Ronnie Whelan (c)
CB 6 Scotland Alan Hansen
CF 7 England Peter Beardsley
CF 8 Republic of Ireland John Aldridge Substituted off 73'
RM 9 Republic of Ireland Ray Houghton
LM 10 England John Barnes
CM 11 England Steve McMahon
DF 12 England Barry Venison Substituted in 90'
FW 14 Wales Ian Rush Substituted in 73'
Scotland Kenny Dalglish
GK 1 Wales Neville Southall
RB 2 England Neil McDonald
LB 3 Wales Pat Van Den Hauwe
CB 4 Wales Kevin Ratcliffe (c)
CB 5 England Dave Watson
CM 6 England Paul Bracewell Substituted off 59'
RM 7 Scotland Pat Nevin
CM 8 England Trevor Steven
CF 9 Scotland Graeme Sharp
CF 10 England Tony Cottee
LM 11 Republic of Ireland Kevin Sheedy Substituted off 78'
MF 12 Scotland Ian Wilson Substituted in 78'
MF 14 Scotland Stuart McCall Substituted in 59'
England Colin Harvey

Match rules

  • 90 minutes
  • 30 minutes of extra-time if necessary
  • Replay if scores still level
  • Two named substitutes
  • Maximum of two substitutions

League Cup[edit]

Date Opponents Venue Result Scorers Attendance Report 1 Report 2
28-Sep-88 Walsall H 1–0 Gillespie Goal 44' 13,924 Report Report
12-Oct-88 Walsall A 3–1 Barnes Goal 30' Rush Goal 72' Mølby Goal pen 83' 28,994 Report Report
02-Nov-88 Arsenal H 1–1 Barnes Goal 66' 44,071 Report Report
09-Nov-88 Arsenal A 0–0 54,029 Report Report
23-Nov-88 Arsenal A 2–1 McMahon Goal 61' Aldridge Goal 87' 21,708 Report Report
30-Nov-88 West Ham United A 1–4 Aldridge Goal pen 34' 26,971 Report Report

FA Charity Shield[edit]

20 August 1988
Liverpool 2–1 Wimbledon
Aldridge Goal 23'69' Report
Fashanu Goal 17'
Wembley Stadium, London
Attendance: 54,887
Referee: J Martin
GK 1 Zimbabwe Bruce Grobbelaar
CB 2 Scotland Gary Gillespie
LB 3 England Barry Venison
RB 4 England Gary Ablett
CM 5 Republic of Ireland Ronnie Whelan
CB 6 England Alex Watson
CF 7 England Peter Beardsley
CF 8 Republic of Ireland John Aldridge
RM 9 Republic of Ireland Ray Houghton
LM 10 England John Barnes
CM 11 England Steve McMahon
GK 12 England Mike Hooper
FW 13 England Charlie Boyd
DF 14 Republic of Ireland Steve Staunton
MF 15 Denmark Jan Molby
MF 16 England Nigel Spackman
Scotland Kenny Dalglish
GK 1 England Simon Tracey
CB 2 England John Scales Substituted off
LB 3 Republic of Ireland Terry Phelan
MF 4 England Vaughan Ryan
CB 5 Wales Eric Young
RB 6 England Peter Cawley
FW 7 England Terry Gibson
MF 8 England Carlton Fairweather
FW 9 England John Fashanu Substituted off
CM 10 Northern Ireland Lawrie Sanchez
MF 11 England Dennis Wise
DF Wales Andy Clement Substituted in
FW England Robbie Turner Substituted in
England Bobby Gould

Mercantile Credit Centenary Trophy[edit]

Date Opponents Venue Result Scorers Attendance Report 1 Report 2
29-Aug-88 Nottingham Forest A 4–1 Venison Goal 50' Molby Goal pen 70' Houghton Goal 75' Barnes Goal 84' 20,141 Report Report
20-Sep-88 Arsenal A 1–2 Staunton Goal 80' 29,135 Report Report