Where are they now? The Liverpool and Arsenal teams that played the 1989 title showdown

Where are they now? The Liverpool and Arsenal teams that played the 1989 title showdown

Hint: a lot of them went into TV punditry.
Apr 3rd 2015, 

WITH LIVERPOOL TAKING on Arsenal this weekend in a game that’s crucial for both sides, there’s no better time to reflect on perhaps the most memorable game ever between these two teams.

On the last day of 1988-89 season, league leaders Liverpool faced second place Arsenal, with the Gunners needing to win by at least two goals to deny Liverpool the title.

Against the odds, a last-minute Michael Thomas goal sealed the Gunners’ 2-0 victory, earning them an unlikely triumph.

More poignantly, with the Hillsborough tragedy occurring just six weeks previously, the match has been described as “the night football was reborn”.

With that in mind, we recall the players who made this occasion so special and see what they’re up to these days.

Liverpool team:

GK: Bruce Grobbelaar – Made over 400 appearances in his 13 years at Liverpool, the former Zimbabwe international is now a coach at Ottawa Fury FC in the North American Soccer League following spells as manager of Supersport United, Manning Rangers and Umtata Bush Bucks.

RB: Steve Nicol – Played at Liverpool from 1981 to 1994, he made 343 appearances for the Reds after being signed by Bob Paisley from Ayr United. He most recently managed New England Revolution for almost 10 years in the MLS, and now works as a commentator for ESPN.

CB: Gary Ablett – One of the less experienced members of this team, Ablett eventually made a controversial move to Everton. After retiring, he coached Liverpool reserves and Stockport County, before sadly passing away in 2012 following a 16-month battle with cancer.

CB: Alan Hansen – Left Liverpool and retired in 1991 following persistent knee injuries. He since went on to become one of the game’s best-known pundits, before retiring from his TV work after the 2014 World Cup.

LB: Steve Staunton – Joined Aston Villa in 1991 before enjoying a second spell at Liverpool and then went back to Villa again. He has since had a number of coaching roles, including an ill-fated spell as Ireland boss and has also worked as a pundit for Sky Sports.

RM: Ray Houghton – Like his international teammate Staunton, he left for Villa, before dropping down the leagues toward the end of his career. He now works as a pundit for RTÉ and Sky Sports among others.

CM: Ronnie Whelan (c) – Signed by Bob Paisley for £35,000 just before his 18th birthday, Whelan would go on to become a Liverpool legend. He won six League title medals, three FA Cups, a European Cup and three Milk Cups, before ending his career at Southend. He now works as a football pundit, and previously served as manager of clubs including Southend United and Olympiakos Nicosia.

CM: Steve McMahon – Left Liverpool in 1991, going on to play for Man City and Swindon. He managed the latter, before taking over as Blackpool coach in 2000. He has since pursued a media career, working as a pundit in Singapore and starring in reality shows among other endeavours.

LM: John Barnes – Raheem Sterling is not the first Jamaican-born winger to make a big impact at Liverpool — John Barnes was a teenage star at Watford before making a move to Anfield for £900,000 in 1987. Barnes proceeded to score 84 goals in 314 appearances, and left Liverpool in 1997, enjoying short spells at Newcastle, Charlton and Celtic thereafter. He had a brief, largely unsuccessful spell in management, coaching Celtic, Tranmere and Jamaica, and now works as a pundit for ESPN and SuperSport.

CF: John Aldridge – Scored 50 goals in 83 appearances for Liverpool and made the move to Real Sociedad at the end of that season, proving a success in Spain as well, before ending his career at Tranmere. Aldridge has since worked as a pundit for various media organisations and in 1998, published an autobiography, John Aldridge: My Story.

CF: Ian Rush – Managed 346 goals in all competitions during his two spells at the club and was voted third in the club’s list of best-ever players, Liverpool had never lost in the league with Rush and Aldridge starting until the Arsenal game. After a brief spell as manager of Chester City, he has worked mainly as a pundit.


Barry Venison – Left Liverpool for Newcastle and went on to play for Galatasaray and Southampton, before initially doing punditry for ITV and Sky Sports. He has since launched an online sports memorabilia auction site, re-locating to the US in the process.

Peter Beardsley – Departed Liverpool in 1991 for Everton, and also had spells at Newcastle, Bolton and Fulham among several other clubs. He is now a coach at the Magpies, and was even linked with the Ireland assistant post in 2007, when former Toffees boss Howard Kendall expressed an interest in the main job.


Kenny Dalglish – Briefly returned to the club as manager in 2011, following periods in charge of Blackburn, Newcastle and Celtic, having ended his first spell as manager of the club in 1991.

Soccer- Barclays League Division One - Trophy - 1989 Source: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

(Arsenal’s Michael Thomas and David Rocastle with the Football League Championship trophy in 1991)
Arsenal team:

GK: John Lukic – Had two spells at both Leeds and Arsenal, making 668 league appearances in total. He currently works as a freelance goalkeeping coach and after-dinner speaker.

SW: David O’Leary – Made a record 722 appearances for Arsenal before finally leaving in 1993. A subsequent managerial career encompassed spells at Leeds, Aston Villa and Al-Ahli.

RB: Lee Dixon – A hugely consistent full-back who played for Arsenal from 1988 all the way up until his retirement in 2002. He has since worked as a football columnist and pundit.

CB: Tony Adams – Mr Arsenal, a one-club man who made over 500 appearances in total at the club, while Adams was captain of the team by the age of 21. His management career has been underwhelming so far, with short spells at Wycombe Wanderers, Portsmouth and Azerbaijan side Gabala.

CB: Steve Bould – Left the club in 1999 after a highly successful spell there. One of the few players here who has kept a relatively low profile since finishing his career, Bould worked at the Arsenal Academy as Head Youth Team Coach and is now the club’s assistant manager.

LB: Nigel Winterburn – Another player who was at Arsenal for the long haul, Winterburn eventually left in 2000 and had a three-year spell at West Ham. He has since worked as a coach at Blackburn.

MF: Michael Thomas – Controversially left Arsenal for Liverpool in 1991 after falling out with Gunners boss George Graham, he went on to make over 100 appearances for the Anfield club, before finishing his career with short stints at Benfica and Wimbledon. After retiring, he reportedly set up a security service, ‘Stop Taking the Michael,’ with fellow former footballer Nigel Spackman.

MF: David Rocastle – Made the move to reigning league champions Leeds but left after just one season, with injuries and loss of form leading to other largely unsuccessful spells at Man City, Chelsea and Malaysian team Sabah. He announced he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in February 2001 and tragically died a month later at the age of 33.

MF: Kevin Richardson – Left Arsenal in 1990 and also played for Everton, Watford, Aston Villa, Coventry City, Southampton, Barnsley and Blackpool. After retiring, he went into coaching, and had a spell as assistant to Steve Staunton at Darlington in 2009.

MF: Paul Merson – Made 289 appearances for Arsenal between 1985 and 1997, leaving shortly after Arsene Wenger’s arrival and playing for a number of other clubs, including Portsmouth and Aston Villa. He briefly managed Walsall, but now works full time as a pundit for Sky.

CF: Alan Smith – Yet another player-turned-pundit, he scored 86 goals in 264 appearances for Arsenal before retiring in 1995. Like former teammate Merson, he is a regular on Sky Sports’ football shows these days.


Perry Groves – Left Arsenal in 1992, and had short stints at Southampton, Dagenham and Redbridge and Canvey Island before retiring. He is now a well-established pundit for a number of media organisations, while he has become a cult favourite with Arsenal fans, who fondly commemorate the ex-player with the song ‘We all live in a Perry Groves World’ to the tune of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.

Martin Hayes – His career went downhill after leaving Arsenal in 1990. Hayes played just seven times for Celtic and had a couple of brief stints at lower-tier sides. He’s been in management since 1999, coaching non-league clubs including Dover Athletic.


George Graham – Later went on to manage Leeds and, controversially, Tottenham. Since leaving Spurs, he has been linked with a number of managerial posts, and has appeared sporadically as a pundit on Sky Sports.

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