Friday, May 25, 2007

100 Person Who Shock The Kop - NO 30: Ronnie Whelen


At number 30 in our ’100 Players Who Shook The Kop’ countdown is influential midfielder of the 1980’s Ronnie Whelan.
Four years after our ground-breaking '100 Days That Shook The Kop', we are delighted to invite you to enjoy our new '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series – the definitive countdown of the 100 players who have made the biggest impact at Liverpool.

Over 110,000 supporters have all nominated their own personal Top 10 players in order of impact made and now the definitive top 100 countdown is underway.

Every player who has made the top 100 – and there are some surprises in there - will be honoured on this website via the e-Season ticket console with a specially produced video clip, including archive footage and exclusive interviews.

Since 1892 hundreds of players have represented this club but everyone has their own particular favourites so don't expect this list to be based solely on talent. The greatness of a player can be measured in many ways – obviously, his ability on the pitch is the most important, but 100 PWSTK is much more than that. It's about the impact the individuals chosen have had on this club, be it for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was because of their unique rapport with the crowd, a specific incident that has never been forgotten or anything else that has left a lasting impression.

Name: Ronnie Whelan

Years at Liverpool: 1979 to 1994
Position: Midfield

Date-of-birth: 25/9/1961
Birthplace: Dublin

Signed from: Home Farm

Games: 494
Goals: 73

Honours: First Division Championship (1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84, 1985/86, 1987/88, 1989/90), European Cup (1984), FA Cup (1986, 1989), League Cup (1982, 1983, 1984), Charity Shield (1982, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990), ScreenSport Super Cup (1986)

Given the fact he netted some of the most important and spectacular goals for Liverpool during a decade that saw an unprecedented amount of silverware brought back to the Anfield trophy cabinet, it remains a mystery why Ronnie Whelan was never fully appreciated by the Reds faithful. He shot to prominence as 'the Milk Cup kid' in the early eighties thanks to his match-winning performances in successive final victories over Tottenham and Manchester United and went on to be a pivotal figure in the Liverpool team that took football domination in this country to previously unscaled heights. A cultured left-sided midfield player, Whelan had spent three summers training with Manchester United as a youngster but when he finally moved across the Irish Sea on a permanent basis it was to take up residence on Merseyside. He arrived as a fresh-faced rookie in 1979 after catching the eye of Liverpool's scouts while playing for his local side Home Farm. Manager of the time Bob Paisley viewed him as 'one for the future' and immediately despatched him into the club's all-conquering reserve set-up, where Roy Evans was entrusted to help nurture the young Dubliner's precocious midfield talents. Even at this level, competition for places was intense and, at first, he vied for the left-midfield berth with fellow youngster Kevin Sheedy. Before long, however, Whelan was knocking on the door of the first team and when an injury to Ray Kennedy provided him with a rare opportunity for a senior outing he didn't disappoint, netting early on in his debut as Stoke were beaten in a Friday night fixture in front of the Kop. With Kennedy soon moving on Whelan seized his chance and finally established himself as a regular in the first eleven during the 1981/82 season. It was to be a campaign of great change at Anfield as Paisley blooded several youngsters but it was to end on a glorious high for Whelan and the team. It has long since passed into Kop folklore how, on his first appearance beneath the twin towers, he almost single-handedly turned the League Cup Final against Tottenham in Liverpool's favour, netting twice as the Reds came from behind to record a famous 3-1 triumph. And if this was not enough, he followed that up by getting his name on the scoresheet against the same opposition as the title was clinched and before deservedly walked away with the PFA Young Player of the Year award. Incredibly, Whelan repeated his Wembley heroics the following year when his sublimely curled effort past Gary Bailey secured another League (Milk) Cup success. But still, he failed to receive the acclaim that was afforded to some of his more famous team-mates. Not that it bothered him. In typical Liverpool fashion Whelan got on with his job. Late equalising goals in FA Cup semi-finals against Man United and Portsmouth further confirmed his reputation as a man for the big occasion. Tigerish in the tackle and possessing an impressive range of passing he remained a consistent performer as trophy after trophy was adorned with red and white ribbons. His qualities were highly valued by the Liverpool management and in 1989 he was the number one choice to take over the captaincy from Alan Hansen. In his latter years at the club Whelan switched to a more central midfield role but injuries began to take their toll and his effectiveness was reduced. In 1994 he finally called time on a glorious 15 years at Anfield to embark on a brief career in management but is always given a warm welcome when returning to his spiritual home. The passing of time, it seems, finally enabling most fans to fully appreciate just what a great player he was.

Sold to: Southend United (September 1994)

Claim to fame: Scoring two on his Wembley debut

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