Friday, July 29, 2011

GMF tribute to an Anfield legend

Alan Hansen was one of the most decorated players in the game

By Emdad Rahman

Original articleAlan Hansen was rejected by Geoff Twentyman after a youth trial. Jocky returned a few years later at a cost of £100,000 to serve Liverpool with a gallant style of play that was rare within Britain’s Isles.

Hansen, of Danish stock, excelled at different sports as a youngster. He once said: “In Scotland at that time, you either played football or you played football.”
The highly promising youngster from the Central Lowlands had turned down studying at the University of Aberdeen to join big Brother John at Partick Thistle. Jocky watched the Jags defeat European giants Celtic in the 1971/72 League Cup Final.
After winning the Scottish First Division, Hansen caught the eye of Bob Paisley. He left the Jags to join Liverpool to add flair to an airtight defence after replacing Emlyn Hughes to partner Phil Thompson.
In those days every successful English team brimmed with Scots, and Hansen would form Paisley’s Scottish triumvirate with Souness and Dalglish.
Jocky debuted in a 1-0 win over Derby in 1977 and scored his first for the Reds a month later during a 5 goal European drubbing of Dynamo of Dresden. 1978 saw the miserly back four set a record of conceding a measly 16 goals in 42 League games. 

Hansen was so assured and calm that he could launch into a fifty fifty with a class of iced water balanced on his head. Surrounded by rugged and ruthless defenders, the cultured centre back displayed a brand of passing and inclination to starting attacks from the back more associated with Dutch Total Football.
Hansen was tough as nails but silky in his movement. A skilful passer, his elegant forays were the springboard for many attacking moves. That coupled with outstanding positional play and intelligent reading of the game made him one of the most supreme defenders in Britain.
With Scotland choosing to select home based defenders, Hansen was limited to 26 caps. Fergie also dropped him from the Mexico 1986 World Cup squad.
Hansen’s blackest day was on the 15th of April 1989. He wrote in his autobiography: “In the opening few minutes of Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough on Saturday 15 April 1989, I felt happier than I could have anticipated.
Two months short of my thirty-fourth birthday, I had been out of Liverpool's first team for nine months…
“The Liverpool fans gave me a tremendous reception as I came on to the pitch, and I made a great start to the game. In those opening minutes, I hit three good passes – two long balls over the top of the Forest defence to Steve McMahon and the other to Peter Beardsley, who hit a shot against the Forest bar.
“All my fears about my fitness evaporated. I felt as if I had never been away. Then, suddenly, I started to fall into the blackest period of my life.
“Seconds later Hillsborough became a death chamber as 95 of the Liverpool followers, who packed the central terracing behind the goal at the Leppings Lane end, were crushed to death in the worst crowd disaster in the history of English sport.
"One person spent some two years on a life-support machine before his death so the toll finally reached 96. The number of broken hearts was incalculable.”
During a fabulous career Jocky collected three European cups, Eight League Championships, two F.A Cups, three League Cups and six Charity Shields. His distinguished career resulted in  620 appearances scoring 14 goals.

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