29 Mar 2009

Liverpool FC's forgotten heroes: David Speedie

It always amazes me when I hear people disparage David Speedie as one of Liverpool’s ‘worst ever players’. He may have been an unfashionable signing, but Speedie was a very effective player for Liverpool in the latter stages of the 1990-91 season, scoring some big goals against the club's biggest rivals.

Eyebrows were raised across football when Kenny Dalglish signed Speedie at the end of January 1991. The press and pundits were unanimous in their scepticism, with the consensus being that Speedie was too old to make much of an impact.

It was no surprise that Speedie signed for Liverpool, as perhaps unknown to the majority of fans, there had been several earlier attempts to bring him to the club. Said Speedie:

“I’d known Kenny for years through the Scotland squad and it’s not as if we were strangers. He’d tried to sign me on three previous occasions but Coventry had refused to let me go. But by this stage they’d sacked John Sillett, the manager I worshipped, and I didn’t want to stay. I enjoyed my football wherever I was but the fact that it was Liverpool coming in for me was great.”

Prior to Speedie’s signing, Liverpool had won three, drawn six and lost one of their previous ten games. Points were being dropped in the first division, and it took the club two attempts to beat lowly Brighton in the FA Cup 4th round.

The prattle in the press was that Liverpool was a ‘club in crisis’. Of course, this was typical press exaggeration. Indeed, such a suggestion was laughed away by the Speedie himself :

"If you think this club is in crisis, you've never been to some of the places I have."

Speedie only made 14 appearances for the club, but Liverpool fans old enough to remember seeing the games he played in will agree with me when I state that he made a memorable impact!

Speedie scored on his debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford on the 3rd February 1991. John Barnes whipped in a sweet left wing cross and Speedie, unmarked in the area, powered a volley into the back of the net.

The game finished 1-1 but Speedie’s immediate impact gave the club and the fans a huge boost. Speedie described the United game as a ‘baptism of fire’ and his goal silenced scores of sniping critics.

A debut goal against Man United is enough to make any Liverpool player an instant hero, but six days after the United game, Speedie became a true hero of the Kop with two goals against Everton to help Liverpool to a well-deserved victory. In his own words:

“I’d never been a player that lacked confidence but I remember the Everton game was played at a frenetic pace. I got two goals that day but looking back I should have claimed a hat-trick. Jan Molby was credited with the other goal but it had taken a deflection off me on the way into the goal. These days if the ball hits you, you get the credit.”

Speedie continued: “My first goal came from a free-kick wide on the left from Molby. I’d already seen in training the kind of stuff that he could do, he had great accuracy with his passing, so I looked away, gave Jan the signal and ran into the centre where he picked me out.

“For the second, the ball was cleared and it fell to David Burrows. There were two men on the post but they stayed, Bugsy hit it and I deflected it into the net. The noise was incredible. I’d scored against the enemy and I was well happy.”

Liverpool played Everton again 8 days later in the FA Cup 5th round. Speedie started the game and had several good chances, but couldn’t break the deadlock as the team was held to a goalless draw.

In the replay, Speedie had to watch from the bench as the two sides played out one of the most exciting and entertaining games in Liverpool’s history – a 4-4 goal-fest at Goodison Park filled with everything that makes English football the most exciting and passionate in the world.

As exciting as the game was, the very next day was a shocking one for Liverpool fans as the footballing world was stunned by the resignation of Kenny Dalglish. King Kenny’s departure took place a mere 17 days after Speedie’s debut, and left the fiery Scot in limbo, basically quashing his Liverpool career before it had even begun.

Speedie was never given a chance by new Liverpool manager Graeme Souness, and his early promise and potential was, for the most part, wasted for the rest of the season. Speedie remembers the period well:

“My old mate Souey took over and we never really got on. His opinion of me was not the same as Kenny’s and the likes of Molby and myself ended up training with the kids at times. I had the choice of being left to rot in the reserves or moving on. I was not in control of my own destiny but what can you do?

“Graeme went on to win the FA Cup the following year but overall I felt that he made mistakes by letting some of the senior players like myself and Peter Beardsley go.”

Despite the friction with Souness, Speedie started his last 4 league games for Liverpool and managed 3 to excellent goals against Tottenham, his old club Chelsea and Leeds United.

The encounter with Leeds United at Elland Road particularly stands out as a real thriller of a game, with Liverpool winning 5-4 in a bonanza of incident, excitement and goals. After missing out on the 4-4 thriller with Everton, at least Speedie got to play in a humdinger of his own!

Speedie’s last game for the club was against Tottenham on the 11th May 1991. As stated above, he scored in that game, finishing his Liverpool career as he started it: scoring goals.

Despite basically being forced out of the club by Graeme Souness, Speedie has no regrets:

“I’d scored six goals in nine starts and three substitute appearances for Liverpool and I’d love to have stayed but football is a game of different opinions and you have to accept that. It’s all water under the bridge now.”

David Speedie should be remembered for his short but telling impact on the club, which could have been even greater if he’d been given a chance by Graeme Souness. Liverpool fans should never forget the goals he scored, especially his important goals against arch-rivals Everton and Manchester United.

In my eyes at least, anyone who scores against our biggest rivals deserves to be remembered!

David Speedie Club Statistics:

Signed - 30 January 1991
Fee - £675000
Bought from - Coventry
Debut - 03 February 1991 (v Manchester United)
First goal - 03 February 1991 (v Manchester United)
Last goal - 11 May 1991 (V Tottenham Hotspur)

Played – 14 (12 league / 2 FA Cup)
Goals – 6 (All in the league)


1. 03/02/91 - Man Utd 1-1 (St) D *
2. 09/02/91 – Everton 3-1 (St) W **
3. 17/02/91 – Everton (FA) 0-0 (St) D
4. 23/02/91 – Luton 1-3 (Sub) L

5. 27/02/91 – Everton (FA) 0-1 (Sub) L
6. 03/03/91 – Arsenal 0-1 (Sub) L
7. 09/03/91 - Man City 3-0 (St) W
8. 16/03/91 – Sunderland 2-1 (St) W

9. 01/04/91 – Southampton 0-1 (Sub) L
10. 09/04/91 – Coventry 1-1 (Sub) D
11. 13/04/91 - Leeds United 5-4 (St) W *
12. 04/05/91 – Chelsea 2-4 (St) L *

13. 06/05/91 - Nottm Forest 1-2 (St) L
14. 11/05/91 – Tottenham 2-0 (St) W *

Won (W) – 5
Lost (L) - 6
Drawn (D) – 3
Starts (St) - 9
Substitute (Sub) - 3
* = Goal scored

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