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John William Aldridge (born 18 September 1958 Liverpoolmarker, Englandmarker) is a former Republic of Irelandmarker international footballer and football manager. He was a prolific record-breaking striker best known for his productive time with Liverpool in the late 1980s, and for being the first man to have a penalty kick saved in a Wembleymarker FA Cup Final.

Club career

Early days

Aldridge took a long time to reach the top of the game. He began his career in the mid-1970s at non-league South Liverpoolmarker, before getting his break in the professional game when, aged 20, he signed for Newport County on 2 May 1979 for £3,500.

When at Somerton Parkmarker, "Aldo", as he came to be known, played 198 times scoring 87 goals, a goal every 2¼ games, including a respectable 7 goals in just 12 FA Cup matches. He partnered Tommy Tynan and Dave Gwyther for four years at Somerton Parkmarker, helping Newport to promotion from the Fourth Division and into the European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals. In 1983-84, with Tynan departed, Aldridge had scored 26 times by the end of February and County were by then a competent Third Division side .

Oxford United

He then joined, for £78,000, Oxford United on 21 March 1984 when the club were in the pre-1992 Third Division. He made his debut on 7 April 1984 coming on as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Walsall at Fellows Parkmarker. His first goal was in the 5-0 home win against Bolton Wanderers on 20 April 1984.

He was used sparingly in the run-in to the Third Division title but the following season forged a great partnership with Billy Hamilton and became the first Second Division player for 19 years to score as many as 30 goals. He broke the club's record number of goals in a season in 84/85 as the U's gained promotion to the pre-1992 First Division; he scored 34 goals with 30 coming in the league.

In Division One he was the third-highest League scorer and netted six goals in United's League Cup-winning run in 1986, which culminated in a 3-0 victory over QPR in the final at Wembley. This is Oxford's only major trophy.

John Aldridge is fondly remembered by Oxford fans for his role in Oxford United's unprecedented years of success between 1984 and 1986. He ended up playing 141 times for the U's scoring 90 goals, a goal every 1½ games, including 14 League Cup goals in just 17 ties. He scored four goals against Gillingham F.C. in the League Cup on 24 September 1986 and three hat-tricks, the first in the 5-2 beating of Leeds United on 24 November 1984.


Liverpool were losing their chief striker Ian Rush to Juventus at the end of the 1986/87 season and needed a proven and experienced replacement. Aldridge even bore a physical resemblance to Rush. He signed for Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool on 27 January 1987 for £750,000 and cut his teeth with the club as a partner for Rush (filling a position previously occupied by player-manager Kenny Dalglish and fellow striker Paul Walsh) as Liverpool ended the year trophyless, including a Wembleymarker defeat to Arsenal in the League Cup final, for which Aldridge was ineligible.

Aldridge made his debut for the Reds on 21 February 1987, when he came on as a 46th-minute substitute for Craig Johnston in the 2-2 league draw with Aston Villa at Villa Parkmarker. His first goal for his new club came a week later on 28 February; it came in the 60th minute and was the only goal of the game as Liverpool beat Southampton 1-0 in a league match at Anfieldmarker.

If people wondered whether Aldridge was up to the job of replacing Rush and could cope with the pressure, they soon didn't need to. After Rush left, Aldridge scored 26 goals in what turned out to be a magnificent season for Liverpool, including a strike in each of the first nine games. He linked up with new signings Peter Beardsley and John Barnes to form one of the most exciting attacking lines in the club's history as Liverpool lost just twice in the League championship season and went unbeaten for the first 29 matches. The 1988 title was won with some comfort. He was assigned with the number 8 shirt for the 1987-88 season, as manager Kenny Dalglish felt that giving Aldridge the number 9 (previously worn by Rush) would put the pressure on him, and the number 9 shirt went to winger Ray Houghton who had coincidentally also been Aldridge's team-mate at Oxford.

Aldridge scored both goals in the club's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, including a memorable volley from an outstanding team move. He was also an efficient penalty-taker, but a predictable one too, which led to his season and that of Liverpool ending in heartbreak. With Wimbledon 1-0 up at Wembleymarker, midway through the second half, Liverpool were awarded a spot kick when Aldridge himself was fouled. Wimbledon goalkeeper Dave Beasant had anticipated that Aldridge would strike any penalty given in the FA Cup final to his left as Aldridge had gone that way with every one of his kicks that season, never failing to score. Aldridge did, as predicted, place the penalty to Beasant's left and the keeper sprang across to save it. He became the first keeper to save a penalty in the FA Cup final at Wembley and Aldridge became the first player to miss one (though not the first to miss in any FA Cup final: Charlie Wallace missed the target with a spot-kick in the 1913 final playing for Aston Villa against Sunderland). Aldridge's failure was also his first penalty miss for Liverpool. He was substituted shortly afterwards as Liverpool lost 1-0.

The following season was tough and eventful for Aldridge. Rush failed to settle in Italy and Liverpool negotiated a cut-price deal to bring him back to Anfieldmarker. This led to natural speculation that Aldridge would be surplus to requirements, but manager Kenny Dalglish disproved this by regularly playing the two together (despite reservations that the two were stylistically too similar to be strike partners) and, indeed, it was Aldridge who enjoyed the better form during the season, with Rush struggling to re-acquaint himself in his familiar surroundings. In the Charity Shield match against Wimbledon at Wembley, Aldridge started the match and mildly laid his FA Cup ghosts to rest by scoring both goals in a 2-1 win. Aldridge maintained his hot scoring streak while Rush often had to content himself with a place on the bench.

On 15 April 1989, 96 fans were killed at Hillsborough and Aldridge, as a native Liverpudlian and boyhood supporter of the club, was deeply affected by the tragedy. He attended every funeral he could and publicly contemplated giving up the game. Ultimately, he returned to the fray and scored two goals in the re-arranged semi-final (once again versus Nottingham Forest) at Old Traffordmarker as Liverpool won 3-1. He courted controversy with the third goal, an own goal by Forest defender Brian Laws: Aldridge was criticised for ruffling the distraught player's hair and laughing in celebration.

Aldridge fully redeemed himself for his penalty failure a year earlier by scoring in the FA Cup final at Wembley against Merseyside rivals Everton after just 4 minutes with his first touch of the ball. Ironically, it was Rush who ultimately sealed the win when he replaced Aldridge and scored twice in extra time to earn Liverpool a 3-2 victory. He had scored 21 league goals that season, and 31 in all competitions - making him one of the highest scorers in the league that season.

The "double" of League championship and FA Cup, achieved by Liverpool in 1986 but denied to them by Wimbledon in 1988, was again possible, with a decider against Arsenal to come at Anfieldmarker. Aldridge played in a game which would guarantee Liverpool the title as long as Arsenal didn't win by two clear goals but, 1-0 down in injury time, Liverpool conceded another goal to Michael Thomas with virtually the last kick of the season thus losing the League. Aldridge sank prostrate on to the turf, inconsolable, when the final whistle sounded, and reacted angrily when Arsenal defender and Irish teammate David O'Leary helped him to his feet.

Aldridge played 104 times for his boyhood favourites scoring 63 goals - 50 of them in the Football League.

Real Sociedad

The following season Rush was fully settled back into the Anfield groove and Liverpool accepted an offer of £1,000,000 from Basque side Real Sociedad for Aldridge. This would make Aldridge the first non-Basque player ever to sign for Sociedad. Before he left Liverpool, he was given a special run-out as a substitute during the club's record-shattering 9-0 win over Crystal Palace in order to score a penalty in front of the Spion Kop. He threw his shirt and boots into the crowd at the end and signed for the Basques the next day, 1 September 1989.

Aldridge was a hit at Atotxa, then Real Sociedad's stadium, Donostia - San Sebastiánmarker, scoring 40 goals in just 63 appearances. Despite his success, his family were finding it hard to adapt to the different lifestyle in Basque country. Aldridge handed in a transfer request in 1991 to the newly appointed manager John Toshack after just two seasons with the club.

Tranmere Rovers

A return to Merseyside on 11 July 1991 with Tranmere Rovers was Aldridge's next step. He repaid the bargain price of £250,000 as he scored a club-record 40 goals in his first season at Prenton Parkmarker - scoring his 40th goal against former club Oxford United.

Aldridge made his debut for Rovers aged 32 on the 17 August 1991 scoring both the goals in the 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion at the Goldstone Groundmarker. He eventually amassed a total of 294 appearances for the Birkenheadmarker club scoring 174 goals, a goal every 1.7 games, including 22 goals from just 25 League Cup ties.

His goals also helped them reach their highest position ever in the league - top-six finishes in the second tier in 1993, 1994 and 1995 - which delivered playoff victories each time, but all of them ended in semi-final defeats. This meant that Tranmere could not make it to the Premier League, and Aldridge missed out on the chance of a return to the top flight. At Tranmere, Aldridge also came close to the chance of winning another major trophy - something which would have been unthinkable at the club just a couple of years earlier - as they took Aston Villa to a penalty shoot-out in the 1993-94 League Cup semi-finals before bowing out to the eventual competition winners. Coincidentally, Villa had tried to sign Aldridge 18 months before turning their attention to Dean Saunders (the player who had replaced him at Oxford a few years earlier) instead.

During his career in Englandmarker alone he played 739 games, scoring 411 times, an incredible goal every 1.8 games. In 1996, he became player-manager of Tranmere, finally giving up playing and concentrating on the management side two years later. In 889 career appearances, he scored a record 476 goals, a tally not matched by any goalscorer in post-war English football to this day.

Tranmere were involved in some memorable runs and giant-killing acts in cup competitions, including reaching the 2000 League Cup final (which they lost to Leicester City) and consecutive FA Cup quarter-finals in 2000 and 2001. However, they were relegated into English football's third tier in 2001, where they have since remained. Aldridge resigned just before Rovers went down, and has yet to return to management.

International career

Aldridge had already been recruited to play for the Republic of Ireland (RoI) by the time he was approached by his boyhood club Liverpool at the start of 1987. When the Football Association of Ireland came looking for him they found out that Ray Houghton was also eligible, as he also played for Oxford at the time. That summer, Aldridge played for the Republic side which had qualified, under Jack Charlton, for Euro 88 in West Germanymarker, their first-ever major finals. They duly beat England 1-0 and drew 1-1 with the USSR but still went out of the competition after a defeat by eventual champions Holland. Aldridge was struggling at international level at this time - he was playing well as a team performer, and Charlton was never unhappy, but it took him 20 matches to score his first international goal, which came against Tunisia at Lansdowne Roadmarker.

Aldridge was a success with Sociedad and also played a crucial role in the RoI's path to the quarter-finals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italymarker. Though he had finally opened his goal account for his country, he failed to score at the World Cup and the Republic lost to the host nation in the last eight. Aldridge played every game but was substituted in all of his 5 appearances.

Aldridge's international career with the RoI is best remembered for an off-pitch incident at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Trailing 2-0 to Mexico in a group game in Orlando, Floridamarker, manager Charlton tried to send Aldridge on as a substitute but was delayed by an official's sluggishness. Manager and player both launched expletive-laden tirades which were clearly heard by television viewers, with Aldridge having to be restrained from attacking the 4th official and a FIFA representative. Both were punished after the game, but when Aldridge finally was allowed on, after 6 full minutes of trying, he scored a goal to give the Republic a chance to get back into the game. Despite the RoI losing the game 2-1, Aldridge's goal was crucial in securing qualification for the second round. All four teams in the group had finished with the same number of points and the same goal difference. The Republic's qualification was at the expense of Norway, who had scored one goal fewer.

Career after football

Aldridge is now a pundit with various media organisations - most notably with Radio City 96.7 where he summarises on the station's Liverpool commentaries home and away. He also continues to play in the Liverpool veterans' team. In 1998, he asked Hyder Jawad to ghost-write his autobiography. John Aldridge: My Story was published by Hodder & Stoughton the year after.

He has recently gained media celebrity in Ireland by appearing in RTE'smarker Charity You're A Star competition. Despite not having a natural singing voice, John won the competition and in the process raised money for his nominated charity Temple Street Children's Hospital.

Aldridge was a crowd favourite everywhere he went, especially on Merseyside where being a local lad helped his cause. This was confirmed when a poll conducted by the official Liverpool Football Club web site during the summer of 2006 placed him in a respectable 26th position. 110,000 Liverpool supporters worldwide took part in the poll named '100 Players Who Shook The Kop,' where they were asked to name their favourite Reds of all time.

In March 2008, Aldridge took part in the autobiography audio CD series 60 minutes with John Aldridge. He spoke in depth about his career with 60 minutes presenter David Knight and later took part in a major signing session, signing 2000 copies of the CD in support of the Everyman appeal charity.[97483]

Aldridge currently has a partnership in a bar called Aldo's on Victoria Street in Liverpool. The bar is a firm favourite with Irish Liverpool fans coming over to watch the Reds play.

Career honours

Playing honours

Newport County

Oxford United


Managerial honours

Tranmere Rovers


  1. Newport County A-Z of transfers

External links

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