By Joe Pepper.
The Liverpool number 7 shirt is a garment perhaps like no other in sport. Legends’ sweat drips from its fabric, the whiff of greatness afflicting all who wear it, its burden woven into nylon by generations of yore.
The list of names speaks for itself – Dalglish, Beardsley, Keegan, McManaman, Callaghan, Case, Suarez – and Tanner! The number 7 at Liverpool is not to be trifled with. Names like “CR7” might be appropriate for posers who wear the 7 at other clubs, but at Anfield the prospect is unthinkable.
Nobody embodied the spirit of what it means to be a Liverpool number 7 more than Peter Beardsley. For those too young to recall, or who were born before Richard Keys and Andy Gray single-handedly improved English football, Peter Beardsley was perhaps the CR7 of his day. Perhaps, that is, with one small difference – the entire manifestation of his existence. Humble, dedicated and mercurial, Beardsley was a player who defined your outlook on the game. If you didn’t like Beardsley, you didn’t like football. FACT!
Of all Liverpool number 7s, it is perhaps only Beardsley who will not be remembered first and foremost as a Liverpool player. Such was the premature nature of his departure from Anfield, Evertonians and Geordies now recall his skills with equal affection, the latter especially so as one of Tyneside’s favourite sons. If longevity at the club was discounted as a factor, his place in the pantheon of Liverpool greats would undoubtedly be higher still. Without question, the zenith of Beardsley’s powers came at Anfield. As the orchestrator in chief of one of the finest sides in English football history, Beardsley dazzled the imagination, and reached heights matched by few. Simply put, the only domestic contemporaries of Beardsley who could claim to be better than him were his teammates, and most of them would not.
But for an extraordinary decision by Graeme Souness to sell him in 1991, the history of Liverpool FC in the Premier League era might have been so different. As it was, a spell at Everton and later a return, phoenix-like, to Newcastle became Beardsley’s legacy.
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