The last time the Liverpool Premier League smashed the British transfer record was in the summer of 1995, and considering how the financial landscape of football has altered since then, it’s possible that it won’t ever happen again. The Anfield coffers were raided on three prior occasions—under the approval of Kenny Dalglish, Peter Beardsley, and Dean Saunders—to bring a top-tier forward to L4 and convey to the rest of the league that the Reds meant business.
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The three record purchases in question saw varying degrees of success, but the most recent instance of Liverpool splurging in this way was on one of the English game’s most erratic talents, and, more than 25 years later, reflection on his time on Merseyside still leaves one wondering what might have been had a Reds team with such rich potential lived up to its undeniable promise.
The extravagantly gifted Stan Collymore arrived at Anfield for £8.5 million in July 1995, surpassing the £7 million Manchester United had paid Newcastle for Andy Cole seven months earlier, with the hope that he might be the last piece of the jigsaw to restore Liverpool to power following the Old Trafford club’s dominance of the opening years of the Premier League.
Collymore would only spend two seasons with the Reds during a time now largely viewed through the frustrating prism of wasted opportunity, despite there being sparkling moments that hinted that a club initially seemingly left behind by a new brand of football and breed of footballers was ready. Despite more than respectable goal totals for him and strike partner Robbie Fowler amid some of the most daring entertaining football seen at Anfield in years, Collymore would spend only two seasons with the Reds.
Following Liverpool’s disastrous first two Premier League seasons, in which they finished sixth and ninth, manager Graeme Sourness was replaced by Roy Evans, the “last of the Boot Room guys,” who was promoted from within. With his strength, speed, and eye for goal, he scored 22 goals in 1994–1995 to help newly promoted Forest finish third in the Premier League and earn his maiden England cap against Japan in the Umbra Cup, the summer’s prelude to Euro 96.
As the Souse coach’s innovative tactical scheme of playing three central defenders with wing-backs started to work best with a Liverpool squad that featured an intriguing blend of young talents like Fowler, Steve McManaman, Jamie Red Knapp, and Rob Jones, experienced older heads like Ian Rush, John Barnes, and Michael Thomas, and shrewd defensive minds like John Barnes and Michael Thomas, silverware returned to Anfield with the League Cup won following Wembley victory over Bolton Wanderers during Evans.
There was a genuine expectation that 1995–96 would see Liverpool build on the undeniable promise of the previous season and launch a credible assault on the league title with the absence of the championship trophy from Anfield already stretching to half a decade. The League Cup victory had secured the Reds a return to Europe in the UEFA Cup.
Many fans hoped measures would be taken to bolster the young but raw talents of a strike force led by 20-year-old Fowler who had slammed home 31 goals in all competitions the previous season. Rush, the legendary striker who as the club captain had lifted the trophy at Wembley, is set to turn 34 soon into the new season.
After starting his career with his local non-league team Stafford Rangers, Collymore, then 24, gained experience playing in the league with stints at Southend United and Crystal Palace before joining Nottingham Forest for £2.2 million in 1993, where he spent the following two years establishing himself as one of the nation’s most promising young strikers.
Even though FA Cup holders Everton had agreed to a fee with Forest and held talks with Collymore, once the Reds made their interest known, it quickly became clear that Anfield would be the player’s final destination. Collymore was hot property and destined to be targeted by the country’s top clubs, but Liverpool had decided that he was the man they wanted.
Evans, who was on vacation in St. Lucia at the time, learned of Collymore’s decision through a coded message from a hotel receptionist, who simply said, “the Man from Del Monte,” due to the high-profile nature of the transfer and the desire of Liverpool to keep things under wraps until the deal was sealed. One bidder expressed his expectation for the establishment of a fantastic partnership between Stan and other teams. For more to know about Liverpool Vs Nottingham Forest Tickets Click here.
He interrupted his family’s holiday to finalise the deal and took a flight back to Liverpool. The cloak-and-dagger aspect was vital, even if it did give people the impression that I was a trader in canned fruit, he later acknowledged to LFC History. After a period of fast decline, the circumstances were ideal for the most expensive player in British football to help restore the nation’s most successful club, and he could not have begun any better. We had to pay what the market would bear because we needed him.
“Collymore said, “I didn’t want to look back on my career and feel I hadn’t accomplished as much as I may have done. “One of the reasons I came here was for that. I want to win, and I think Liverpool will help me accomplish it sooner rather than later. When I first met Joe Royal [at Everton], I was quite impressed. He discussed several topics that I found interesting, but the fact that the new Liverpool players are so talented affected my choice.”
After Fowler was unexpectedly benched for Liverpool’s season opener against Sheffield Wednesday at Anfield, Rush and Collymore led the line, and just after the hour mark, Collymore scored the game’s lone goal with a strike that demonstrated the depth of his special talent and demonstrated why the Reds were willing to spend so much money on him.
Collymore turned Julian Watts one way and then another after receiving a pass from Barnes while facing the goal and being surrounded by three opponents. He then moved away from Chris Waddle before curling a low drive with his allegedly weaker left foot past goalkeeper Kevin Pressman and into the bottom corner of the net.
You only get what you pay for in this world, and Liverpool has paid the top price for a top finisher, said commentator Clive Tyldesley to match of the Day viewers later that night. He dashed out to celebrate in front of the Centenary Stand before being surrounded by ecstatic teammates and fans. Stan Collymore scores after one hour in his Liverpool career.
When Collymore returned to Anfield with Villa in September 1997, he was booed and said it was the “lowest point of my football career.” Collymore’s words soon after showed that the regret of his time at Liverpool persisted in him. “They are the most amazing supporters in the world,” said Collymore, “and I would love the chance one day to go back to Anfield, either as a fan or maybe to go onto the pitch and say thank you to everyone.” The finest experience of my career was playing for them.
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