Having latched on to the pass and rounded the 'keeper, Ronnie Rosenthal prepared to roll the ball into an empty net. Little did he realise he was about to be immortalised with one of the greatest misses of all time for Liverpool against Aston Villa...
For some reason, in the early Nineties and after nearly 20 years as an alarmingly successful double glazing salesman my father decided he was going to retrain as an Acupuncturist. This involved four years of long, monthly trips from the Scottish Borders to Leamington Spa, a situation seemingly bereft of any benefit for anyone. That is unless you are a football starved fifteen year old Aston Villa fanatic. Yes, that’s right folks, Aston Villa fanatic, in the Scottish Borders, a love affair born the moment David Platt let rip with his Roy of the Rovers goal against Belgium in Italia 90.
Understandably, my old man wasn’t keen on me tagging along on a monthly basis so we worked out a few fixtures in a season that would be worthwhile and one of these was the home game against Liverpool on 19th September 1992. The bright sunny afternoon that greeted us was only matched by the mood of optimism around the red bricks of Villa Park. The Villans were going well that year under Ron Atkinson and ten days earlier we’d signed Dean Saunders for the thumping sum of £2.5 million from Liverpool and the Welshman was due to make his home debut for Aston Villa against his former employees that very day.
Liverpool, wearing an unforgivably awful green away top, started better than us and were ahead through Mark Walters low strike and beginning to run the show in midfield through Redknapp and Marsh. Cue Saunders almost inevitable goal as he nipped in on the left to beat David James high at the near post, sending three quarters of the ground into rapture. Liverpool, focused after a typically forthright shellacking from Souness then picked up straight where they’d left off. Turning the screws in midfield until a through ball put Ronnie ‘Supersub™‘Rosenthal in on goal for the moment that defined his career legacy.
On the long, largely silent drive home on the Sunday me and my Dad would occasionally glance at each other, smile- laugh even, shake our heads and ask the unanswerable question “how did he miss that?”
At this point, my reluctant father and I had stepped out of the throng and into the aisles of the Holte End behind this very goal. Holding approximately 18,000 of the 38,000 crowd that day and being one of the last terraces in the Premier league to succumb to seating the place was jumping after Deano’s heroics. We all stood frozen as Rosenthal side stepped our centre half Shaun Teale, a moustachioed ‘traditional’ centre half who looked like he worked in a warehouse during the week. Israel’s finest then ghosted past Nigel Spink, who’d rushed off his line to leave an open goal in front of us, ready to claim the lead for Liverpool. Hammer cocked, trigger pulled, crossbar under sided, colossal, enormous, all encompassing, killer, killer miss. Holte End stunned. Seconds of silence broke into huge donkey braes and euphoric cheering. Better than a goal, better than a hat trick. Total humiliation.
Villa went on to win 4-2 with goals from Dalian Atkinson, Saunders again and Garry Parker. Liverpool’s consolation goal was scored, somewhat ironically, by Rosenthal but no one can remember the goal, not even poor Ronnie I imagine. Me I went home happy, even managing to randomly bag Bruce Grobbelaars autograph on our way back to the car. On the long, largely silent drive home on the Sunday me and my Dad would occasionally glance at each other, smile- laugh even, shake our heads and ask the unanswerable question “how did he miss that?”. Needless to say games after that failed to live up to that day and two seasons later my Dad graduated, Ron Atkinson was sacked and Ronnie Rosenthal was shipped to Spurs. I’ll always thank Ronnie Rosenthal for that moment, for that whole weekend and most of all for that miss.
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