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Raymond James Houghton (born 9 January 1962 in Glasgowmarker, Scotlandmarker) is a retired Scottish-bornmarker footballer who represented the Republic of Ireland at international level, qualifying through his Irishmarker father. Houghton is remembered by Irish soccer fans for being the scorer of two of the most important goals in the national team's history, which resulted in 1-0 victories over England in Stuttgartmarker at Euro 88, and Italy at the Giants Stadiummarker in New Yorkmarker at USA 94. At club level Houghton is best remembered for his success in the great Liverpool side of the late 1980s.

Early career

Houghton was born in Scotland but began his football career south of the border in Londonmarker at West Ham United where he came through the ranks and signed professional forms as a 17 year-old on the 5 July 1979. Ray's endeavour failed to make any impact at Upton Parkmarker and after 3 years, in which he made just 1 appearance as substitute, he was on the move. On 7 July 1982 he moved on to Fulham on a free transfer and it was there that his name grew as a young, hardworking ballplayer in midfield.

Fulham F.C.

Malcolm MacDonald had the likes of Tony Gale (later a Premier League title winner with Blackburn Roversmarker), Paul Parker (who went on to win several major trophies with Manchester United, Gerry Peyton (Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper) and Ray Lewington (ex-Chelsea) to form a mixture of youth and experience which ultimately won Fulham promotion to the Second Division at the end of the 1981-82 season. He then added Houghton to the side that would try and keep the Cottagers in the second division. They did, and comfortably so; in fact for much of the 1982-83 season it looked as though Fulham would achieve back-to-back promotion campaigns, however, their form after the turn of the year dipped and they had to be content with just cementing their spot in the division.

One of the most memorable sequences of matches that happened whilst Ray was at Fulham was the Milk Cup 3rd round tie against Liverpool in 1983. The first game finished 1-1 at Craven Cottagemarker as did the replay at Anfieldmarker, Fulham then won the toss to take the second replay back to the Cottage. Many observers believe Fulham had done enough to have beaten the reigning cup holders but had let the Reds off the hook with their failure to put away the chances they created. This would prove to be their downfall as Liverpool won the game 1-0 with a 25 yard thunderbolt from Graeme Souness. Liverpool would go on to retain the trophy, beating Everton in the first ever all Merseyside final after a replay.

Houghton's own form was decent enough with his industrious manner and creativity making other sides sit up and take notice.

In May 1985, Houghton made a guest appearance for Manchester United in Peter Foley's testimonial.

Oxford United F.C.

Jim Smith had taken Oxford United to the top tier of Englishmarker football. When he left for QPR in the summer of 1985, his replacement Maurice Evans looked to Houghton to help solidify their place in the league. He paid a bargain £147,000 for Houghton's signature on the 13 September 1985. Houghton had played 145 times for Fulham and scored 21 goals. He made his U's debut the day after his signed, the 14 September in the 2-2 draw with Liverpool at the Manor Groundmarker.

By the end of his first season at the Manor Ground, Houghton had helped steer Oxford clear of the relegation places, (just staying up with a win on the final day of the season), but most notably scored the second goal in the club's 3-0 League/Milk Cup final victory over Jim Smith's new team QPR at Wembleymarker.

At Oxford, Ray's career remained admired but still not spectacular, as if nobody at one of the game's biggest clubs was quite sure whether to take a chance on him. In fact it wasn't until another memorable appearance for Oxford that his break finally came.

Liverpool F.C.

At the start of the 1987-88 season, Oxford were beaten 2-0 by Liverpool, who then offered £825,000 for his services. The deal was done and Houghton took the place of Craig Johnston on the right side of Liverpool's midfield, unusually wearing the No.9 shirt which striker John Aldridge, his former Oxford team-mate who had made the Anfield move himself a year earlier, had asked not to wear because of the pressure of replacing Italy-bound goalscorer Ian Rush.

Houghton was added to the new acquisitions Aldridge, Peter Beardsley and John Barnes to form one of the most exciting forward lines in the club's history. He made his Reds debut on 24 October 1987 in the 1-0 league victory over Luton Town at Kenilworth Roadmarker. His first goal for the club came on 4 November 1987 in the 1-1 draw with Wimbledon at Plough Lanemarker. Ray's 62nd minute strike came just 2 minutes after he had come on as a sub for Johnston. It also kept up Liverpool's remarkable start to the campaign which saw the side rack up 29 unbeaten league matches from the start of the season.

Liverpool went on to coast to the League title by the end of 1988, with Houghton contributing some fantastic displays as a marauding creator from the flank. He scored his share of goals too (though he was also renowned for missing great chances from close range) and contributed the first goal in the memorable, era-defining 5-0 win over Nottingham Forest which was later described as the performance of the century and was complimented by the game's greats such as Tom Finney and Michel Platini.

Houghton did his bit in the run to that season's FA Cup final too, scoring the winner in a hotly-contested fifth round tie at derby rivals Everton and then clipping home a shot on the turn as Liverpool romped past Manchester City 4-0 in the quarter final. In the final, Liverpool surprisingly lost to Wimbledon and missed out on the "double" with Houghton putting in one of the game's more disappointing individual displays.

The following season, Houghton was again a regular as Liverpool battled towards another League and FA Cup "double", though they again would be denied. More important matters than football affected Houghton and his team-mates in April 1989 however, as the Hillsborough disaster on 15 April claimed 94 lives (with the death toll eventually reaching 96). Houghton, like the rest of Liverpool Football Club, was commended for the way he conducted himself during this harrowing period, he attended numerous funerals and comforted the victims families and friends.

Upon returning to the game Liverpool went win the Cup with a 3-2 extra-time victory over Everton but lost the League title with virtually the last kick of the season in the title decider at Anfield against Arsenal. The following year Houghton and Liverpool regained the title when they finished 9 points ahead of Aston Villa.

Houghton picked up another FA Cup winners' medal with Liverpool in 1992 and also had his best return in goals during his time at Anfield, finishing as the club 2nd highest goalscorer with 12 goals, however, new Reds manager Graeme Souness was bringing in his own players and allowed Houghton to leave.

Aston Villa F.C.

So after 202 appearances and 38 goals in his 5 successful years at Liverpool Houghton joined Aston Villa. Villa signed him on 28 July 1992 for £900,000, he made his debut on the 15 August in the 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town at Portman Roadmarker.

He again won the fans over with his robust style and helped Villa win the League Cup on 27 March 1994, although he was an unused sub as his Villa teammates beat Man Utd 3-1 at Wembley.

This would be the only trophy that he won during his time at Villa. He did come close to collecting another title medal in his first season at Villa Parkmarker, as Villa had led the league at several stages of the campaign, but were eventually pushed into runners-up place by Manchester United, who were crowned champions by a 10-point margin.

Houghton played 117 times for Villa in which he scored 11 times.

Crystal Palace F.C.

On 23 March 1995 (transfer deadline day) Houghton left Villa Parkmarker to join Crystal Palace. Palace paid £300,000 for the Irishmarker international hoping that his experience would help Palace stave off relegation from the Premier League, however, although they finished fourth from bottom of the league they were relegated as the Premier League was being reduced to 20 clubs. He was unable to play in the FA Cup semi-final, as he had already played for Aston Villa earlier in the competition.

Ray made his Palace debut, as a 33 year-old, on 1 April 1995 in the 2-1 win overManchester City at Selhurst Parkmarker. One of Houghton's best performances for the South London club was on 28 September 1996 in the 6-1 thrashing of Southend United in a Division One fixture at Selhurst Park. Houghton was at the heart of everything Palace did, and scored a goal in the 38th minute.

He spent just over two years years at Palace, playing 87 times and scoring 8 goals.

Reading F.C.

Houghton signed for Reading on a free transfer on 15 July 1997. He made his debut the following month on 9 August in the 1-1 league draw with Bury at Gigg Lanemarker.

He spent a season at Elm Parkmarker and another at Reading's new home, the Madejski Stadiummarker, which saw him rack up 56 appearances in which he scored just 1 goal. Reading would prove to be Houghton's last professional club, he had played 723 times during his career scoring 93 goals.

Stevenage Borough F.C.

Houghton wound his career down at Stevenage Borough in the Nationwide Conference.

He signed for Stevenage 24 September 1999 but only made three appearances before he finally retired from the game on 31 May 2000.

Republic of Ireland

Houghton qualified to play international football for the Republic of Ireland through his Buncranamarker, Donegalmarker-born father. He earned his first cap in Jack Charlton's first match as manager, a 1-0 defeat by Wales in a friendly international at Lansdowne Roadmarker on 26 March 1986.

In the summer of 1988, Houghton was selected for the Irishmarker squad which had reached its first ever major finals, the European Championships in West Germanymarker. The first group game on 12 June was against an England team that included Gary Lineker, Bryan Robson and Houghton's club mates Peter Beardsley and John Barnes. Houghton scored with an early looping header to win the game 1-0, his first goal for Ireland.

Ireland failed to get through the group stage after a draw against the USSR and a defeat against eventual champions The Netherlands.

Houghton was selected for the Irish squad which qualified for the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italymarker. They were once again drawn in the same group as England, which included Lineker, Robson, Beardsley and Barnes as well as Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle. The game finished in a 1-1 draw. The Irish also drew with both Egypt, 0-0, and The Netherlands, 1-1, finishing on the same points (3), goal difference (0), and goals scored (2) as the Dutch. Both teams progressed to the second round, along with England who topped the group.

On 25 June Ireland faced Romania at the Stadio Luigi Ferrarismarker in Genoamarker. Following a hard earned 0-0 draw, the game went to penalties with Houghton scoring the second penalty kick to help Ireland win 5-4 and qualify for the quarter-finals. Ireland were defeated 1-0 by the host nation Italy in a closely fought match.

Houghton was selected in the Irish squad for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United Statesmarker and was once again the goalscoring hero in a shock victory. In the 11th minute of the group E match at Giants Stadiummarker, New Yorkmarker/New Jerseymarker on 18 June Houghton hit a looping shot into the net to defeat Italy, gaining revenge for the defeat Ireland had suffered at the hands of the Italians four years earlier. Ireland were knocked out of the tournament at the next stage by The Netherlands.

Houghton's final appearance was as a substitute in the 1998 FIFA World Cup play-off match with Belgium in Brusselsmarker. Ireland lost the match 2-1 (3-2 on aggregate) with Houghton scoring his final international goal. He had represented Ireland 73 times scoring 6 goals.

Houghton has now taken up post as an ambassador for the Football Association of Ireland.

Punditry

Houghton is now in demand as a pundit on the game, working for outlets such as RTÉmarker in Ireland, talkSPORT and Sky Sports and Sportsxchange in the UK. Since 2002 he has also worked for Sports Interactive as a consultant on their PC & Xbox 360 game Football Manager.

Fan Favourite

Throughout his career Ray became a fan favourite wherever he played, a true gentleman whose workrate and honesty was much admired. This fact was underlined in the summer of 2006 when he finished in 52nd place in the poll 100 Players Who Shook The Kop. More than 110,000 Liverpool supporters from all over the world voted for their top 10 Reds of all time on the official Liverpool Football Club web site.

Ray is the last Scottish born footballer to score against England.

Honours

Oxford United

Winner

Liverpool

Winner

Runner Up

Aston Villa

Winner

References

  1. https://www.tribune.ie/article/2004/jun/06/the-man-who-scored/
  2. http://www.rte.ie/sport/soccer/2008/0721/houghton.html


External links




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