KEITH EDWARDS, like all good strikers, always knew when a goalscoring landmark beckoned.
So, after finding the net for the fifth game running in Hull City colours as Bradford City were dumped out of the FA Cup at Valley Parade, he could not resist a quick glance at the fixture list.
Edwards was desperate to match his previous best scoring run of eight consecutive matches, set during a goal-laden first spell at Sheffield United that included winning two Golden Boots.
The Tigers, the striker discovered on checking the schedule, faced Leicester City and Shrewsbury Town in their next two league outings.
Then came the fifth round of the Cup, meaning whoever Hull were paired with in the draw could, in theory, stand between Edwards and the matching of his own personal best. Cue City landing arguably the toughest tie imaginable.
“We got Liverpool and I thought, ‘Well, that’ll do me’,” laughs the 61-year-old when talking to The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s 30th anniversary of the East Riding club doing battle with the then reigning English champions.
Edwards duly kept his run going with a brace in both victories over Leicester and Shrewsbury. Those six points, together with beating Barnsley and Bournemouth the previous month, meant Hull welcomed Kenny Dalglish’s all-conquering side to Boothferry Park sitting 14th in the old Second Division table.
Few gave the hosts a prayer against John Barnes, Peter Beardsley et al but that did not stop Cup fever sweeping the city.
“Liverpool were the top team back then,” recalls Edwards, who had returned to Boothferry Park for a second spell towards the end of the previous season.
“Drawing them in the FA Cup was huge. For the first time I could remember, Hull was truly buzzing about the football club.
We honestly could not have done any more. Other than maybe bring Eddie on for the final ten minutes.Keith Edwards
“We even had half a dozen players go into the city centre to do some promotional thing. I can’t remember exactly what but it was great, because it showed the level of interest there was in Hull City. We had never done that before.”
Such was the interest piqued by the prospect of Liverpool’s first visit to Hull for a little over 15 years that vouchers giving priority for Cup tickets were issued at the previous week’s home game.
A crowd of 11,472 – a little over 5,000 up on Boothferry Park’s average gate for the season – duly rolled up to watch Edwards extend his scoring run to seven matches with two goals in a 3-0 victory over the Shrews, Billy Whitehurst netting the other.
City were ready to welcome their illustrious visitors.
“Liverpool were the top team in the country back then,” remembers Eddie Gray, Hull’s manager in the 1988-89 campaign. “Very hard to beat but wonderful individual players.
“A bit like they are now, with the attitude, ‘If you score three, we will get four’. The whole city was excited about the tie. I was the same. I played in a lot of big games (for Leeds) against Liverpool but that day was still one that gave me a thrill.
“Mind, as good as it was to see all the excitement during the build-up, Don (Robinson, then City’s chairman) took things a bit far. I came in on the morning of the game to find a big banner on the opposite side of the pitch from the main stand.
“It read, ‘Go get them Rambo’. The chairman had done it about Billy Whitehurst. I said, ‘Don, you can’t have that on Match of the Day against Liverpool’.”
If Liverpool were not aware of Whitehurst before kick-off, they soon were. Not only did a forward who plundered 99 goals in a 12-year career find the net during a first half that ended with City leading 2-1 but he also created the other goal for his strike partner.
“I loved playing with Billy,” says Edwards. “He has this reputation, even now. But I always prefer to talk about his ability. That gets overlooked all the time.
“He was always struggling with his ankles but led the line brilliantly and had a great touch. I owed so many of my goals to Billy.
“I created a lot of chances for Billy as well but the difference was he missed most of them. Mind, I never say that when he is anywhere near me. I also hope he does not live locally any more so won’t read this in The Yorkshire Post.
“Seriously, he was the perfect strike partner. I loved it when we both scored, like we had in the previous round against Bradford. They were two of our best goals.
“We had a great laugh together, too. Jan Molby was in the Liverpool defence that day. Molby was a big unit and I said to Billy beforehand, ‘If we have to run round him, it will be like running to the Humber Bridge and back’.”
John Barnes silenced Boothferry Park on 15 minutes with a deft header. But a capacity crowd soon found its voice as Whitehurst capitalised on a Gary Ablett slip to level just after the half-hour. Then came Edwards’ big moment on the stroke of half-time.
“Billy knocked the ball down and their lad (Molby) knelt down,” he says. “He definitely handled it and everyone was screaming for a penalty but I just whipped the ball in.
“I was glad the referee never blew. With Bruce Grobbelaar in goal, I don’t know if I would have fancied the penalty. He would probably have given me those wobbly legs he used in the European Cup final.”
Boothferry Park was understandably rocking as the players left the field moments after Edwards had taken his tally of goals to 12 in eight games.
There was, however, to be a sting in the tail as Liverpool hit back to triumph via a second-half double from John Aldridge.
“We gave them an inch and they took a yard,” says Edwards. “We gave it everything and almost got an equaliser late on but it wasn’t to be.
“We honestly could not have done any more. Other than maybe bring Eddie on for the final ten minutes. He had been retired five or six years but was still usually first pick when we played five-a-side in training.
“The lads would argue as to which team could have the gaffer. ‘You had him on your side last week, we want him this time’. Good times.”
City’s league form collapsed in the wake of the Cup exit. The next six games were lost and the season ended with the Tigers just one place above the relegation zone. Gray was sacked that summer. One bright spot, however, was Edwards winning the Second Division Golden Boot after netting 24 league times.
“That year was a very emotional time for me,” he adds. “My mum died and I had to miss a couple of games over Christmas, which I never did usually.
“But I just was not in any fit state to play. I remember knocking on the gaffer’s door and just bursting into tears.
“So, to come back in the New Year and go on that scoring run, ending with a goal against Liverpool, was very special.”
Boothferry Park silenced by John Aldrige brace
BOOTHFERRY PARK was truly rocking as Hull City left the field at half-time 30 years ago today.
With good cause, too, as the Tigers were leading 2-1 against one of the finest club sides English football had seen.
Liverpool were the reigning champions and had only been denied a League and Cup double the previous May by Wimbledon’s shock Wembley triumph. Kenny Dalglish’s men were determined to make amends by going one better in 1988-89 but were staring at an almighty Cup upset in East Yorkshire thanks to first-half goals from Billy Whitehurst and Keith Edwards.
John Aldridge did come to the Reds’ rescue with a second half double but City had played their part in a true Cup classic.
“The game was on a knife-edge right up to the final whistle,” recalls then manager Eddie Gray. “There were times we looked capable of going 3-1 up but Liverpool were such a good team.
“I wish we could have got a replay for the boys, in the end. Every player dreams of playing at places like Anfield and those boys deserved it for that performance.”
Hull City: Hesford, Brown, Jobson, Buckley, Jacobs; Payton (Saville), De Mange, Roberts, Askew; Whitehurst, Edwards.
Liverpool: Grobbelaar, Ablett, Gillespie (Watson), Nicol, Burrows, Beardsley, Molby, Hougton, McMahon, Barnes, Beardsley, Aldridge.