When it comes to discussions of the most clinical strikers ever to have put on the Reds shirt, one of the first names on that list is local lad John Aldridge.
A player who has dedicated so much of his life to the football club even after hanging up his boots. Still today, Aldo plays an active role in work like commentary for LFC TV and frequent participation in Legends events.
Aldridge’s Liverpool career was somewhat of a fairytale story as he must have thought the opportunity to play for his boyhood club had passed him by, but at the age of 28 in 1987, Kenny Dalglish brought the Irish international to Anfield.
Though it would be a slow start with limited opportunities, the departure of Ian Rush going into the 1987/88 season would be fruitful for Aldridge, who managed 29 goals in all competitions and 31 the following season respectively. And it was on this day 32-years ago when he would make his first appearance for Liverpool off the bench against Aston Villa in a First Division tie at Villa Park.
After slipping up against Leicester City the previous week, Liverpool needed a win to jump to second. And they got the most ideal of starts when just 40 seconds in, a direct forward pass from Alan Hansen fell to an unmarked Craig Johnston, who took the chance presented to him and produced an icy cool finish to give the away side a dream start.
It took 29 minutes for Villa to produce a response but it would be a Liverpool player that allowed them a route back into the game. Bruce Grobbelaar managed to parry a curling drive by Steve Hunt but unfortunately the ball would rebound back off Mark Lawrenson’s legs and scramble over the line as an own goal.
Villa would find more joy before the half was over as Paul Elliott, arguably their best performer on the pitch, put them 2-1 up just prior to the half time interval. Far from a ideal scoreline for a Liverpool side needing quick results in the league to keep up the title challenge. The Reds had a job to do in the second half and goalscorer Craig Johnston was substituted as a result of a sore back, allowing John Aldridge to make his debut for the club in the 46th minute.
The second half would be a fiery one, with four bookings made by the referee. After just over an hour of play, centre forward Paul Walsh – looking to get back into contention for an England national team call up – was released down the left flank by goalscorer (sadly in the wrong net) Mark Lawrenson and carried the ball a good 30 yards before striking an exceptional rising shot from the edge of the penalty area past Nigel Spink to level the score.
This would be the last talking point of the game meaning both sides would end with a point apiece at Villa Park, not the result Liverpool were hoping for as they failed to shorten the gap on Arsenal and Everton, however it could have been worse had Paul Walsh not produced that moment of magic to secure a draw.
Though Aldridge’s debut was not an eventful one for him personally, Reds fans would see in the following two years exactly what made him one of the great strikers in Liverpool history.