To mark Liverpool’s return to the Aviva Stadium later this summer, we continue our countdown of the greatest Irish players to grace the pitch at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp brings his Champions League finalists to the Aviva Stadium in August, where the likes of young defender Conor Masterson will be itching to line out in front of a home crowd.
Last week, we kicked things off with a look at the Liverpool careers of Phil Babb and Jason McAteer, two players who plied their trade on Merseyside under Roy Evans in the mid to late 90s.
This time around, we’re going back a bit further to a more trophy-laden era at the club as reach the half-way point in our ranking.
8. Jim Beglin (1983-1989)
Thanks to his commentary work with George Hamilton on RTE Sport. Beglin has one of the most recognisable voices in Irish football – but there was a time when the Waterford native was popular on these shores for a different reason.
Signed from Shamrock Rovers for £20,000 in 1983, Beglin was slowly integrated into the Liverpool side before becoming a regular at left-back under Kenny Dalglish and, having started in the European Cup final defeat in 1985 (the year of the tragic events at Heysel), went on to play a big role in the double-winning side of 1985/86 as a highly-efficient operator on the left side of defence and midfield.
Unfortunately, his Anfield spell was to be cut short by a mistimed tackle by Everton’s Gary Stevens, resulting in a horrific leg-break for the Ireland international. Beglin never fully recovered from that setback and went on to damage knee cartilage in a comeback game in 1988 – all but ending his Merseyside tenure.
He joined Leeds United in 1989, but his knee injury flared up time and again to the point where his career was cut short at the age of 27. In all, he made almost 100 league appearances in his time at Anfield, winning one league title and one FA Cup there.
7. Steve Staunton (1986-1991, 1998-2000)
Just like Beglin, Staunton was plucked from the League of Ireland as a youngster for £20,000, and just like Beglin, his integration into the first team was a gradual one. Once he did finally make his mark for the senior side, however, he proved his worth to the side time and again.
A versatile performer, Staunton was the John O’Shea of his day in terms of being able to do a job in a number of positions. He played a big and impressively consistent role in what was a particularly strong defence in the title-winning squad of 1989/90.
UEFA rules regarding foreign players in European squads signalled the end of his first spell at Anfield, with Graeme Souness deeming him surplus to requirements and selling him to Aston Villa for £1.1m in 1991.
Staunton returned to Anfield in a surprise free transfer in 1998, but his second spell at the club wasn’t as successful. He enjoyed a solid first season in what was a disappointing Premier League season overall for the club, but he struggled to get a look-in under Gerard Houllier’s defensive restructuring the following year. After a loan spell with Crystal Palace, he rejoined Aston Villa in 2001.
Collectively, Staunton made almost 150 Liverpool appearances across his two spells, winning one league title and one FA Cup.
6. Ray Houghton (1987-1992)
Trying to stand out in a midfield that features the savage talent of John Barnes was always going to be a struggle, but Houghton more than held his own in that swaggering Liverpool side of the late 80s.
Houghton joined Liverpool from Oxford in 1987 for £825,000, settling into the right wing almost immediately in the famous number nine shirt vacated by Ian Rush’s departure to Juventus, and was part of a strong Irish contingent that also included Ronnie Whelan, Mark Lawrenson and John Aldridge.
Houghton’s intelligence on the ball was a sight to behold, and his creative ability and penchant for important goals on the right were huge assets in the side’s first division title victories in 1998 and 1990.
With the team in transition in the early 90s, Souness sold Houghton to Aston Villa for £900,000. In all, the Ireland legend made over 150 league appearances in five very successful years at Liverpool, picking up two league titles and two FA Cups in his spell on Merseyside.