1996–97 Liverpool F.C. season
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|FA Cup||Fourth round|
|League Cup||Fifth round|
|Cup Winners' Cup||Semi-finals|
Robbie Fowler (18)
Robbie Fowler (31)
|Average home league attendance||38,436|
|Premier League||4th||Robbie Fowler, 18|
|UEFA CWC||Semi-finals||Robbie Fowler, 7|
|FA Cup||Fourth round||Stan Collymore, 2|
|League Cup||Fifth round||Robbie Fowler, 5|
|Overall||Robbie Fowler, 31|
Liverpool led the Premiership for much of the season, and established a five-point lead at the top before New Year's Day 1997. However, the team were overtaken by Manchester United in the latter stages of the season, and it was United who ultimately won the league, though Liverpool squandered several more chances to reclaim the top position. The side were marred both by the rise of the "Spice Boys" culture, as well as by defensive aberrations; dropping points at their previously impregnable Anfield home. A 2-1 home defeat against bottom of the table Coventry City denied Liverpool the chance to return to top spot with six games to go, United having lost at home to Derby the previous day. Indeed, a win over United at Anfield in April would have put Liverpool top with just three matches to go, but United won 3-1 to effectively clinch the title. The title lost, Liverpool still went into the final match of the season in second place with a two-point lead over Newcastle and Arsenal, but a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday meant they ended up finishing 4th on goal difference, thus missing out on a place in the newly expanded UEFA Champions League and leaving Roy Evans and his team with a UEFA Cup place as scant consolation for a season which had promised much and giving rise to the phrase "finishing fourth in a two horse race".
In the cups there was more disappointment. Liverpool's UEFA Cup Winners' Cup campaign ended in the semi-finals with a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Paris St Germain. In the FA Cup they lost 4-2 to eventual winners Chelsea in the fourth round, having led 2-0 at half-time and squandered chances to extend their lead. Liverpool were knocked out in the Coca-Cola Cup quarter-finals by eventual finalists Middlesbrough.
The side were nevertheless praised for their attractive attacking style of football. Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler continued to excel for the club, and Fowler continued his prolific strike partnership with Stan Collymore, scoring 47 goals between them. Fowler's suspension for the final four games was a big blow and effectively ended any lingering hopes of title glory. Fowler also received a UEFA Fair Play award, for protesting that he had not been fouled by Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman when the referee awarded a penalty kick. The season also saw the debut of teenage prodigy Michael Owen.
Former defender Mark Wright stated in an interview that this was the season in the 1990s that the Liverpool team truly had the talent and opportunity to win the title but threw it away: "We did come close to winning the league a few times and we finished fourth one season when we were the best team. We were better than Manchester United, better than everyone, and we finished joint second but ended up fourth because of goal difference. That was the season we should have won the title and we all know that. I remember some of the games we lost and the way we dropped points against certain sides. David James dropped a few clangers and I remember them because in certain games he didn't have anything to do, then all of a sudden he thinks he's got to be involved in the game. He would come rushing out and all of a sudden you would be 1-0 down", he said.
Final league table
|14.||West Ham United||38||10||12||16||39||48||42|
Note: Middlesbrough deducted 3 points for failing to fulfil a fixture.
|Qualified for the Champions League|
|Qualified for the UEFA Cup|
|Qualified for the Cup Winners' Cup|
|Relegated to Division One|
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
|15||MF||Patrik Berger||Borussia Dortmund||£3,250,000||1 August 1996|
|28||MF||Nick Rizzo||Sydney Olympic||Free||1 September 1996|
|3||DF||Bjørn Tore Kvarme||Rosenborg||Free||10 January 1997|
|27||GK||Stephen Pears||Hartlepool United||Free||1 June 1996|
|18||MF||Phil Charnock||Crewe Alexandra||Free||6 December 1996|
|3||DF||John Scales||Tottenham Hotspur||£2,600,000||11 December 1996|
|17 August 1996 1||Middlesbrough||3–3||Liverpool||Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire|
|15:00||Ravanelli 26' (pen.), 36', 81'||Report||Bjørnebye 4'
|Stadium: Riverside Stadium
|19 August 1996 2||Liverpool||2–0||Arsenal||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|20:00 BST||McManaman 68', 74'||Stadium: Anfield
Referee: Gary Willard
|24 August 1996 3||Liverpool||0–0||Sunderland||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|4 September 1996 4||Coventry City||0–1||Liverpool||Coventry, West Midlands|
|19:45||Babb 68'||Stadium: Highfield Road
|7 September 1996 5||Liverpool||2–1||Southampton||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Magilton 68'||Stadium: Anfield
|15 September 1996 6||Leicester City||0–3||Liverpool||Leicester, Leicestershire|
|Berger 58', 77'
|Stadium: Filbert Street
|21 September 1996 7||Liverpool||5–1||Chelsea||Liverpool, Merseyside|
Berger 42', 49'
Myers 45' (o.g.)
|Leboeuf 85'||Stadium: Anfield
|29 September 1996 8||West Ham United||1–2||Liverpool||Newham, London|
|Bilić 15'||Collymore 3'
|12 October 1996 9||Manchester United||1–0||Liverpool||Trafford, Greater Manchester|
|Beckham 23'||Stadium: Old Trafford
|27 October 1996 10||Liverpool||2–1||Derby County||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Fowler 47', 51'||A. Ward 89'||Stadium: Anfield
|3 November 1996 11||Blackburn Rovers||3–0||Liverpool||Blackburn, Lancashire|
|Sutton 3' (pen.), 56'
|Stadium: Ewood Park
|16 November 1996 12||Leeds United||0–2||Liverpool||Leeds, West Yorkshire|
|Stadium: Elland Road
|20 November 1996 13||Liverpool||1–1||Everton||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Fowler 30'||Speed 82'||Stadium: Anfield
|23 November 1996 14||Liverpool||1–1||Wimbledon||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Collymore 1'||Leonhardsen 67'||Stadium: Anfield
|2 December 1996 15||Tottenham Hotspur||0–2||Liverpool||Haringey, London|
|Stadium: White Hart Lane
|7 December 1996 16||Liverpool||0–1||Sheffield Wednesday||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Whittingham 21'||Stadium: Anfield
|14 December 1996 17||Liverpool||5–1||Middlesbrough||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Fowler 1', 28', 77', 85'
|Fjørtoft 75'||Stadium: Anfield
|17 December 1996 18||Liverpool||4–2||Nottingham Forest||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Collymore 6', 63'
Lyttle 53' (o.g.)
|23 December 1996 19||Newcastle United||1–1||Liverpool||Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear|
|Shearer 28'||Fowler 45'||Stadium: St. James' Park
|26 December 1996 20||Liverpool||1–1||Leicester City||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Collymore 80'||Claridge 76'||Stadium: Anfield
|29 December 1996 21||Southampton||0–1||Liverpool||Southampton, Hampshire|
|Barnes 76'||Stadium: The Dell
|1 January 1997 22||Chelsea||1–0||Liverpool||Fulham, London|
|Di Matteo 43'||Stadium: Stamford Bridge
|11 January 1997 23||Liverpool||0–0||West Ham United||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|18 January 1997 24||Liverpool||3–0||Aston Villa||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|1 February 1997 25||Derby County||0–1||Liverpool||Derby, Derbyshire|
|Collymore 75'||Stadium: Baseball Ground
|19 February 1997 26||Liverpool||4–0||Leeds United||Liverpool, Merseyside|
Collymore 36', 37'
|22 February 1997 27||Liverpool||0–0||Blackburn Rovers||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|2 March 1997 28||Aston Villa||1–0||Liverpool||Birmingham, West Midlands|
|Taylor 83'||Stadium: Villa Park
|10 March 1997 29||Liverpool||4–3||Newcastle United||Liverpool, Merseyside|
Fowler 42', 90'
|15 March 1997 30||Nottingham Forest||1–1||Liverpool||Nottingham|
|Woan 30'||Fowler 4'||Stadium: City Ground
|24 March 1997 31||Arsenal||1–2||Liverpool||Islington, London|
|20:00 GMT||Wright 78'||Collymore 50'
Referee: Gerald Ashby
|6 April 1997 32||Liverpool||1–2||Coventry City||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Fowler 52'||Whelan 65'
|13 April 1997 33||Sunderland||1–2||Liverpool||Sunderland, Tyne and Wear|
|Stewart 53'||Fowler 33'
|Stadium: Roker Park
|16 April 1997 34||Everton||1–1||Liverpool||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Ferguson 65'||Redknapp 26'||Stadium: Goodison Park
|19 April 1997 35||Liverpool||1–3||Manchester United||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Barnes 19'||Pallister 13', 42'
|3 May 1997 36||Liverpool||2–1||Tottenham Hotspur||Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Anderton 5'||Stadium: Anfield
|6 May 1997 37||Wimbledon||2–1||Liverpool||Croydon, London|
|Owen 74'||Stadium: Selhurst Park
|11 May 1997 38||Sheffield Wednesday||1–1||Liverpool||Sheffield|
|Donaldson 75'||Redknapp 83'||Stadium: Hillsborough
Appearances and goals
|No.||Pos||Nat||Player||Total||Premier League||FA Cup||League Cup||CWC|
|3||DF||Bjørn Tore Kvarme||17||0||15||0||1||0||1||0||0||0|
|20||DF||Stig Inge Bjørnebye||52||4||38||2||2||0||4||0||8||2|
|Players transferred out during the season|