Liverpool’s first ever Premier League XI: Where are Rush, Saunders and McManaman now?

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Time really does fly, doesn’t it? Especially in top-level football.

Last month marked the 30th anniversary of Liverpool’s first Premier League game, a 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest in Sky Sports’ first ever ‘Super Sunday’ offering. 

Teddy Sheringham’s first-half goal, his last in a Forest shirt as it turned out, settled matters at the City Ground, the game offering a window into the kind of problems that would beset the Reds under Graeme Souness during a season that would see them finish sixth, some 25 points adrift of champions Manchester United.

From a Liverpool perspective, the 'Class of 92' was far from a vintage one, but where are they now, some three decades on?

GOAL reveals all…

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    David James

    James was one of two Reds debutants that day at Forest, and by the time he retired from playing in 2014, he had amassed more Premier League appearances (572) than any other goalkeeper in the competition’s history.

    Indeed, at the time of writing only four players – Gareth Barry, Ryan Giggs, Frank Lampard and James Milner – have racked up more games. James played more than 250 games for Liverpool before representing Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth with distinction.

    He finished his career in India with Kerala Blasters and is now a successful and erudite television pundit.

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    Nick Tanner

    One of a number of players signed from lower league clubs during Kenny Dalglish’s final years in charge at Anfield, defender Tanner, who arrived from Bristol Rovers, would go on to make 59 appearances for Liverpool after making his debut in 1989.

    Most of those came during that first Premier League campaign, when he played 45 times in all competitions, but a persistent back problem meant he was forced to retire in 1994, aged only 29.

    He tried his hand at scouting and in management with non-league clubs such as Almondsbury Town and Mangotsfield, and can often be found summarising Liverpool games for BBC Radio Merseyside.

    His book From A Field to Anfield was released in 2017.

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    David Burrows

    A left-back who arrived from West Brom in 1988, Burrows would make nearly 200 appearances for the Reds and is one of only a handful of players to have represented both Liverpool and Everton in the Premier League.

    He also played for the likes of West Ham, Coventry, Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday before retiring in 2003 due to injury.

    He now lives in Dordogne, France, where he and his wife rent out holiday properties.

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    Steve Nicol

    One of Liverpool’s all-time greats, the versatile Nicol made more than 450 appearances for the Reds and won eight major honours, as well as being named Footballer of the Year in 1989.

    He left for Notts County in 1995 and later played for Sheffield Wednesday, West Brom and Doncaster before moving to the USA in 1999.

    There, he would carve out a hugely successful coaching career, spending nine years in MLS with New England Revolution, where he won the North American SuperLiga and US Open Cup. He now works as a television pundit for ESPN

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    Ronnie Whelan

    Another great of Liverpool’s 1980s dominance, known for his penchant for big goals, Whelan made close to 500 appearances and captained the Reds on more than 80 occasions.

    He finished his career with Southend United, where he spent a season as player-manager before taking the job full-time. He then had spells with Panionios in Greece, guiding them to the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and with Apollon Limassol and Olympiakos Nicosia in Cyprus.

    He can now be found regularly on LFCTV, Liverpool’s in-house television channel.

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    Mark Wright

    One of the stars of England’s 1990 World Cup campaign, centre-back Wright was signed from Derby in the summer of 1991 and captained the Reds to FA Cup victory in his first season on Merseyside.

    Injuries would hamper him thereafter, though he played superbly under Souness’ successor Roy Evans, and he was forced to retire in 1998 aged 34. 

    He went into management, enjoying spells with Southport, Oxford United and Peterborough, as well as three separate stints with Chester and a short bash with Maltese outfit Floriana.

    Wright regularly appears on LFCTV and the after-dinner speaking circuit, but away from football, he and his wife Sue are foster carers and have done much to raise awareness around the subject through a series of campaigns and fundraisers with Foster Care Associates.

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    Dean Saunders

    The son of ex-Liverpool defender Roy, Saunders became the Reds’ record signing when arriving from Derby in 1991 for £2.9 million ($3.3m).

    He would spend only one full season with the club, despite scoring 23 goals in all competitions, and was sold to Aston Villa shortly after the start of the 1992-93 campaign.

    The Welshman would go on to enjoy success with Villa, and would later be reunited with Graeme Souness at Galatasaray, Benfica and as first-team coach with Blackburn and Newcastle.

    He embarked upon a managerial career of his own with the likes of Wrexham, Doncaster, Wolves, Crawley and Chesterfield, and worked in punditry until being jailed in 2019 for failing to provide a roadside breath test after being stopped on suspicion of drink-driving.

    His prison sentence was overturned on appeal, and he was instead given a suspended sentence, 30-month driving ban and ordered to do 200 hours’ community service.

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    Paul Stewart

    The second of the Reds’ debutants against Forest, Stewart was signed from Tottenham in a £2.3m ($2.6m) deal but failed to recreate the form he had shown at White Hart Lane, or before that at Manchester City and Blackpool.

    After a series of loans and only 42 appearances, he left the club permanently in 1996, joining Sunderland. He later played for Stoke City and Workington.

    In 2016, he revealed that he had been a victim of sexual abuse as young footballer, and that it had driven him to drink and drugs during his professional career.

    His autobiography, Damaged, was released in 2017, and he has since worked with an online training firm, High Speed Training, to put together a free course for sports coaches and parents to help them spot and report signs of abuse.

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    Ian Rush

    The greatest goalscorer in Liverpool’s history, Rush netted 346 times in 660 appearances across two spells with the Reds between 1980 and 1996, and remains involved with the club in an ambassadorial role to this day.

    His legacy at Anfield will be assured forever. He is the all-time record goalscorer in Merseyside derby matches, scored in three separate FA Cup finals and won 14 major honours as well as being named PFA Player of the Year, Footballer of the Year and winning the European Golden Boot award in 1984.

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    Mark Walters

    A Souness favourite, mercurial winger Walters was brought to Anfield from Rangers in 1991 and would often provide flashes of inspiration in a team which largely struggled.

    He eventually departed for Southampton in 1996 having had loan spells with Stoke and Wolves, and he would play non-league football beyond his 40th birthday. 

    He later worked as a youth coach with first club Aston Villa, and coaches in schools on behalf of the Football Association while working in property development.

    In 2021, he released a BBC documentary exploring the history of black footballers in Scotland, detailing his own experience of racism while playing under Souness for Rangers.

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    Michael Thomas

    A villain who became a hero in the eyes of Liverpudlians. At Arsenal, Thomas scored the goal which snatched the title away from the Reds in dramatic fashion in the final game of the 1988-89 season, but just over two years later he was at Anfield, signed by Souness in a £1.5m ($1.7m) deal.

    He endeared himself to his new fans with a spectacular goal in the 1992 FA Cup final, and would go on to be a solid player, making 163 appearances before leaving to join up with Souness at Benfica in 1998.

    Now 55, Thomas is back at Liverpool, with his company, Phoenix Sport & Media Group, having teamed up with the Reds’ academy to launch an innovative partnership which offers fully-paid training and education courses to current and ex-players, aimed at helping them find new pathways should their playing careers end. Thomas works at Liverpool’s academy, mentoring players aged 10-14.

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    Mike Hooper

    Nicknamed ‘Hooperman’, the ginger-haired goalkeeper, who boasted a degree in English literature and listed bird-watching among his hobbies, spent eight years at Liverpool after signing from Wrexham in 1985.

    He made a total of 73 appearances for the Reds before joining Newcastle in 1993. He retired three years later, however, aged only 32, and has since been reported to have worked as a nightclub doorman.

    He was an unused substitute in the Reds' first Premier League game.

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    Steve McManaman

    One of the best and most underrated players to have represented the Reds in the Premier League era, McManaman made more than 350 appearances for Liverpool between 1990 and 1999 before leaving on a free transfer to join Real Madrid.

    There, he helped Los Blancos to two Champions League triumphs, scoring in the 2000 final against Valencia in Paris. He finished his career in England with Manchester City and is now a commentator and pundit for BT Sport, while working regularly with the Reds’ academy as a mentor.

    He replaced Rush at half-time in that game against Forest.

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    Ronny Rosenthal

    The original ‘Rocket Ronny’, Israeli international Rosenthal arrived at Anfield from Standard Liege in the spring of 1990 and made an instant impact, scoring a perfect hat-trick – right foot, left foot, header – on his full debut and helping the Reds clinch the league title with seven goals in his first eight games.

    He never really scaled those heights again, and though he did net a memorable last-minute winner in a Merseyside derby, Rosenthal is best remembered for a remarkable miss against Aston Villa in 1992. 

    He joined Tottenham in 1994, finished his playing career at Watford and now works as a football scouting consultant.