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1994 – Liverpool’s aborted re-numbering attempt

It’s always frustrating when you have a clear memory of something, but can’t corroborate it.

I could recall reading a piece on the coming season’s squad numbers in Match magazine in August 1994 – it was probably the only reason I, a loyal Shoot! reader, bought it – and the stand-out information was that Neil Ruddock was to switch from number 25 to 6 at Liverpool with Robbie Fowler moving from 23 to 12.

Of course, neither of these things happened, leading me to slightly doubt my memory. Liverpool, and Manchester United, did tidy up their numbering in the summer of 1996, and a comment by Andrew Hoare at the bottom of that piece did at least convince me that I wasn’t crazy.

Even with Andrew backing up my recollections, proof had to be found. Step forward, Rob Stokes. He has already been a source of good nostalgia on my other blog, Museum of Jerseys, and he came up with the goods again here. As you can see from the August 20, 1994 issue of Match, there were four clubs listed per page.

Closer examination of the Liverpool section reveals that there were other proposed changes which I had forgotten – Jamie Redknapp was to move to 8, with Steve McManaman moving to 11. Countering the players moving downwards, Don Hutchison went from 6 to 20, Paul Stewart 8 to 15 (a direct swap with Redknapp) and Mark Waters 11 to 18.

In the wake of Bruce Grobbelaar’s depature, David James moved to 1 and Danish goalkeeper Michael Stensgaard took James’s 13. In addition, Stig Inge Bjornebye was to go from 20 to 17, Steve Harkness 22 to 19, Lee Jones 24 to 23 and Phil Charnock 18 to 24.

In the event, the only change which materialised was James’s. Did the club – either manager Roy Evans or someone else – decide against the switches or did the Premier League prevent them?

A possible theory here is that Liverpool had no new kits for the 94-95 season (how alien a concept that seems nowadays), and changing the numbers of such popular players would have put a lot of replicas out of date. I could be very wrong, of course.

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1 Comment

  1. Andrew Hoare
    September 3, 2017 at 17:40 — Reply

    Based on the names given such as ‘Robbie’ Jones, ‘Stig’ Bjornebye and ‘Mike’ Thomas, I’d say this list was probably given to Match by someone at the club over the phone in an informal manner. I’d place the phone call somewhere prior to the 26th July 1994 (pre-season kick-off date). The list (if genuine and not made up at the Match magazine office on speculation) offers a good insight into Roy Evans’s plans for the 1994/1995 season.

    All players bumped down (Stewart, Walters, Hutchison) ended up either moving (Hutchison) or not finding a buyer and going on loan (Stewart/Walters). This suggests that as early as June 1994, Evans had already earmarked them for disposal. Julian Dicks is number 3 and would remain so until his departure in September/October of 1994. I’d say this list would surely have been done prior to the pre-season game at Bolton (26/7/94) as it was Dicks’s last game for club and was told he had no future after it.

    If the list was done after this date, I’m sure Bjornebye would’ve been given the number 3 shirt. This indicates there must’ve been some plans for Dicks at Liverpool in 94/95 or that Evans didn’t have enough faith in Bjornebye to be his first choice left back.

    Moving Ruddock directly to #6 suggests that the purchase of Babb/Scales in September 1994 must’ve been a re-assesment of the squads needs after analysing the pre-season and first few games of the season.

    Overall I think the inability to find buying clubs for Walters, Stewart and Hutchison before the season kicked-off was the reason for the abandonment of the re-jigged numbers project along with the cost. Roy Evans has suggested that in the past that around this time period the club would be issued with around 6-8 shirts for each player for the entire season (2 seasons in this case). Knowing Hutchison might not move to West Ham and no clubs willing to buy Walters/Stewart, it would be safer to stick with the status quo than re-jigg the numbers. Walters retuned to the side as a squad player in December 1994 after a spell on loan at Wolves wearing 11, Stewart, who didn’t play at all for the team the entire season, was featured on the bench towards the end of the season wearing 8.

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1994 – Liverpool’s aborted re-numbering attempt