Instant hero after Speedie impact

HE may have only played a dozen games during his short spell at Liverpool but six-goal David Speedie managed to follow up a debut strike against Manchester United at Old Trafford with a brace in his Anfield bow against Everton.

A striker who performs those sort of feats becomes an instant Kop hero and while Speedie is still remembered fondly by Liverpool supporters, fate decreed that his Anfield career would be over within a matter of months.

Born north of the border in Glenrothes on February 20 1960 but raised in Yorkshire, Speedie was a professional footballer who experienced hard graft before he got his big break in the game.

After working as a coalminer, Speedie played for Barnsley, Darlington, Chelsea and Coventry City before arriving at Anfield.

Despite a sound reputation, Speedie could have been forgiven for thinking that a move to one of the game’s true giants had passed him by as he approached his 31st birthday in 1991 but Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, a former Scotland international team-mate, made a surprise swoop to bring him to the reigning league champions.

Speedie reveals that the transfer did not come as a shock to him, as there had been several earlier attempts to take him to Anfield.

He said: “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.”

Although there were a few raised eyebrows among some observers about the wisdom of Dalglish recruiting the veteran striker, Speedie silenced the critics on his debut at Old Trafford as he made an instant impact, scoring in a 1-1 draw against Manchester United.

His Anfield bow came just six days later, against neighbours Everton, and Speedie continued where he’d left off against Liverpool’s other great rivals.

He said: “It was a baptism of fire for me with my first two games coming against Manchester United and Everton but I’d scored at Old Trafford so that stood my in good stead for the derby.

“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 added: “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.”

Despite Speedie’s prolific start to his time at Anfield, his Liverpool career was over almost as soon as it got going as he became a casualty of a new regime.

Just eight days later, the two great Mersey rivals clashed again at Anfield in an FA Cup fifth round encounter.

Without the cup-tied Speedie’s golden touch, Liverpool were held to a goalless draw and Speedie then had to sit in the stands as a frustrated spectator as the two sides took part in their most enthralling clash of modern times – a 4-4 humdinger after extra time in a Goodison replay.

Following the game, Dalglish stunned the football world by resigning as Liverpool manager – just 17 days after Speedie had made his debut.

A Dave Watson goal ensured that Everton eventually took the spoils 1-0 in a second Goodison replay but Speedie soon had bigger worries on his mind as he headed on a collision course with new Liverpool manager Graeme Souness.

He said: “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.”

Speedie added: “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.”

It was Don Mackay who saved Speedie from his Anfield dream come nightmare by bringing him to Blackburn Rovers but he was soon reunited with Dalglish, who took over at Ewood Park soon after and the following season they led the club back into the top flight to become founder members of the Premier League.

Speedie went on to play for Southampton and Leicester City, as well as having loan spells at Birmingham, West Brom and West Ham before winding down his career with several non-league clubs.

He is now back in Yorkshire where he helps to run a company called Lightyear Recruitment as well as travelling the country for sports consultancy.

Copyright - Liverpool Daily Post

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