What is Liverpool’s best Irish XI of all time?

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Ray HOUGHTON (links, IRL) erzielt per Kopfball das Tor zum 0:1-Siegtreffer fuer die Iren, Aktion, England - Irland ENG - IRL 0:1 am 12.06.1988 , Fussball Europameisterschaft EM 1988 in Deutschland

It’s St Patrick’s Day and as Rousing The Kop’s resident Paddy (don’t dare quote me on that), I thought it would be fitting to put together my All Time Irish XI. Team selection is based on reputation or my own memories of each player on the club and/or international stage.

Ireland and Liverpool have always shared a bond, this is no surprise considering it is often said Liverpool is the closest city to Ireland’s Capital (This phrase may or may not be true but let’s go with it). There’s a real sense of pride and individuality shared by both the Dubs and the Scouse.

Sometime during the Summer of 2016 I watched a video on a certain LFC fan channel where they expressed a view of feeling Scouse before English or before British. They spoke about how their city was built on a relationship with those beyond the shores of their nation and I couldn’t help but feel as though they may as well be speaking about the Dubs. Replace Scouser with Dub, replace scouse with coddle and replace the Mersey with the Liffey and it they may as well have been.

As much as I would love to sit here and come up with an All Time XI of Dubs to play for Liverpool, it just isn’t possible or fair or even a good idea. In truth, Liverpool Football Club has a long storied history of Irish players.

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To clear up the specifics, the qualifications for making this team will be based on which national team the player turned out for. As great a history as Liverpool has of great Irish Players, The Irish national team has an equally great history of British players choosing to wear the Green National jersery.

There is one exception to this rule who has made the team through a sociopolitical grey area and it is with this man we will begin.

GK – Elisha Scott

Elisha Scott was a Northern Irish born footballer and Liverpool’s longest serving player. (Yes I am well aware that N.Ireland and Rep.Of Ireland are not the same, but at the time – let’s not get into it). Born in 1893, a year after Liverpool FC was founded, Scott would represent the club first from 1912-1915 (28) and again from 1919-1934 (402) making a neat total of 430 appearances.

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Scott did also represent Ireland at international level making a total of 31 appearances between 1920 and 1936. What makes Scott’s career all the more impressive is he is one of many players of his generation to have their career interrupted by WWI. Scott would go on to manage Belfast Celtic after his retirement and win 32 trophies between 1936 and 1949, including 10 league titles.

Legend.

RB – Steve Finnan

There may be better Liverpool right-backs, there may be better Irish right-backs (he may even play for Everton at the moment) but the LFC RB I first knew was Steve Finnan. He was ever-present during the mid-naughties and was in the Starting XI of the 2005 Champions League Victory.

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His goal against West Brom in 04/05 meant he was one of only 2 players to score in each of England’s top 5 leagues. He left Liverpool for Espanyol and obscurity in 2008 but would return in 2010 for Jamie Carragher’s testimonial.

At international level, Finann made 52 appearance’s for the Rep.Of Ireland scoring twice and appearing as Ireland’s first choice RB during their 2002 World Cup Campaign (it was glorious). Injury limited his involvement between 2004 but was once again a regular by 2006.

CB – Mark Lawrenson

Lawrenson arrived at Liverpool as a club record signing of £900,000 (isn’t that cute). He would go on to form a dominant defensive partnership with Alan Hansen during Liverpool’s greatest period of success. Lawrenson made 332 appearances in total for Liverpool scoring 18 goals in total.

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He scored the 5th goal in the famous 5-0 win over Everton, mostly known for Rush’s 4. His Liverpool and footballing career ended in 1988 with 10 major titles to his name. He made the first of his 39 national caps at just 19 years old. His versatility meant he played as a fullback, in midfield and occasionally at Centre Half.

He scored 2 goals in an 8-0 win over Malta and most famously in Jack Charlton’s first competitive match as Irish Manager in a 1988 European Qualifier against Scotland. A far better player than Pundit.

CB – Steve Staunton

I’m resisting a strong urge to simply write “The Gaffer” and leave it at that.

As a player, Staunton was a solid member of a fiercely strong Liverpool side and he played his part in various League and cup runs. He was signed by Kenny Dalglish in 1986 from his hometown club Dundalk at 17 for £20,000. Remarkably, his first goals for the club came in his 2nd full season, scoring a hattrick against Wigan.

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He was the youngest player of Ireland’s first ever World Cup squad, playing in every game as a left back, despite becoming known as a capable centre-half. He would also play in each of Ireland’s matches in the 1994 World Cup and would later go on to Manage Ireland.

Arguably his greatest contribution as a member of Liverpool FC came during the Hillsborough disaster, comforting the bereaved on the pitch and attending funerals of the victims.

LB – Jim Beglin

Beglin was the last signing made by Bob Paisley, and although his first appearance came on the left side of midfield, he would eventually claim the LB spot under Kenny Dalglish as the suitor to Alan Kennedy. He scored his first goal for the club in a 4-0 win over Panathinaikos but unfortunately a severe knee injury as a result of a poor Gary Stevens tackle effectively marked the end of his LFC career.

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He managed just 15 appearances for the Rep.Of Ireland before being forced to retire in 1991 as a result of his knee injury aged just 27. He now works as a pundit for BT and NBCSN as well as featuring on Pro Evolution as a commentator.

RM – Ray Houghton

“Who put the ball in the English net?”

Ray Houghton debuted for LFC in October 1987. He scored his first goal on November 4th, an equaliser against Wimbledon, which would help maintain a 26 game unbeaten league run. He wore the number 9, shouldering the pressure of replacing an Italy bound Ian Rush. He scored 38 goals in 202 total appearances and won 2 league titles and 2 Fa cups during his 5 years at the club.

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He represented Ireland 72 times scoring 6 goals, the first of which came in Ireland’s first appearance at a major tournament, 1988 European Championship. The goal, a looping header, came against England and sealed an historic victory for Ireland. He would go on to represent Ireland in both the ’94 and ’98 World Cups.

CM – Ronnie Whelan

Whelan signed for Liverpool in 1979 from Dublin side Home Farm. He was part of the 1983 side who retained both the League title and Cup. He helped his side to a 2-1 win over Manchester United in the Cup final by scoring a long-range effort.

He was an Integral member of the team that saw Treble glory in 1984 but it was after a trophyless 1985 that he would eventually move into the centre of the park.

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He took charge of the captaincy during Hansen’s 88/89 injuries and lead the side through the difficult time following the Hillsborough disaster, and would lift the FA Cup after defeating Everton even after Hansen’s return. He played for LFC between 1979 and 1994 making a total of 493 appearances and scoring 71.

He represented Ireland at all levels, making 53 senior appearances scoring 3 goals.

CM – Jason McAteer

In 1995, MacAteer left Bolton Wanderers for Liverpool in a £4.5million deal. He was part of the somewhat infamous Spice Boys but was a capable Central Midfielder who could deputise at fullback. McAteer played during a period of underachievement for the club but his passion for both club and country have made him somewhat of a fan favourite (at least amongst Irish fans).

In his 10 year international career, McAteer made 52 appearances for Ireland playing in both the ’94 and ’02 World Cups. However, my fondest memory of McAteer came after his retirement.

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Following Jon Walters’ successful penalty against Bosnia to secure a place in the France 2016 Euros, footage surfaced of McAteer, arms folded, back to pitch, eyes closed as Walters stepped up. The celebration that followed sums up the passion which McAteer brings to the game.

LM – Steve Heighway

You don’t get your name in songs for nothing.

A strong winger with pace and ample ability with his right or left foot, Heighway is the kind of winger that every fan wants at their club. Heighway was part of Bob Paisley’s new generation of players signed to rejuvenate his ageing squad of the 1960s.

Heighway made a total of 444 appearances in all competitions for the Reds, scoring 76 goals, many of which against big sides in big games.

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His quality at club level meant the relationship between LFC and the Rep. Of Ireland national team at times showed no lack of friction. He would make just 34 appearances for Ireland and surprisingly fail to score for his national side.

ST – John Aldridge

After briefly partnering the departing Rush, Aldridge would go on to form one of Liverpool’s best attacking partnerships with John Barnes and Peter Beardsley. Fearing the number 9 would add unneeded pressure on Aldridge, Dalglish instead gave Aldridge the number of his hero and a number he would also help bring hero status to, the number 8.

After the Hillsborough tragedy, Aldridge gave great consideration to giving up the game before ultimately returning and helping seal FA glory, scoring in the final against Everton.

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Like many others, his international career was far less successful. Although he was never seen as a poor performer, it did take him a surprising 20 games to score his first international goal. Despite this he would play his part in various major tournament qualifications.

ST – Robbie Keane

Here we have the reverse of John Aldridge.

By all accounts Keane’s time on Merseyside was disappointing. A boyhood Red, the Irish legend’s Liverpool dream never really got going, finding the net just 7 times in 28 appearances.

There isn’t much you can say about Keane’s Liverpool career, he wouldn’t make it on to most shortlists of All Time LFC XIs, but it is his undeniable greatness at international level that justifies his leading the line here.

Keane was part of Ireland’s Golden Generation of youth football, and in the U18s side to capture European Glory in 1998. He would go on to make 146 appearances for Ireland and became the country’s all-time leading goalscorer on 24 August 2016, scoring in a 4-0 win over Oman. This brought his total to 68 goals, level with Germany Legend Gerd Muller.

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