Before the Premiership emerged, there was the English Football League with the Football League First Division. And it was a game notorious for violence. But there were some marquee players, mostly English that blossomed at the likes of clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United.
The left-winger John Barnes played six years with Watford, scoring 65 times in 233 appearances. He played an instrumental in bringing the team into the top league of English football, finishing runner-ups to Liverpool in its inaugural season in the first division and 2nd place behind Everton in the 1984 FA Cup Final. Barnes transferred to Liverpool in 1987 where he appeared 314 times and scored 84 goals. He helped the Reds achieve 2 League titles, two FA cups, a League Cup, and is a 4-time Super cup winner, but also became a victim of racist abuse from his own fans.
Ian Rush is Liverpool’s leading goal-scorer with 346 goals in all competitions. The 1984 Footballer of the year helped the Reds win a European championship, 3 FA Cups, 5 League Cups, along with 5 English league titles. Considered one of the best Reds of all-time, the speedy center-forward was also a tireless defender.
The Anfield defender made 438 appearances in his thirteen seasons at Liverpool. With wonderful skill and tactical positioning, he served as a cornerstone of the Reds success that dominated the 80s. He helped Liverpool stock the trophy case, most notably with two consecutive league and League Cup doubles plus a European Cup in the 1984-85 season.
Tony Adams is an Arsenal legend, having played his entire 22-year career as center-back with the club, captaining 14 of them. He also remains the only player in Premiership history captain to win 3 titles in 3 different decades. Known as “Mr Arsenal,” Adams is one of 5 player statues commemorated at Emirates Stadium.
Gary Lineker became a goal machine for all the English clubs he played for: Leicester, Everton, and Tottenham in the late 1980s. He starred for Barcelona from 1986 – 1989. In his last seasons at Leicester City from 1984-1985, he tied for the league’s top goalscorer. With 24 strikes. He bagged 30 goals in 41 games the following year at Everton. After his return to the English league in 1989 from a successful stint at Barcelona, he signed for Tottenham where he won his first FA Cup.
The Manchester United midfielder played seven years for the Red Devils, accumulating 206 caps and scoring 47 times. A winner of two FA Cups and a 1983 League Cup final, he still holds the record for being the youngest player ever to score for Manchester United at 17 years of age.
Nicknamed “King Kenny”, the Scottish footballer Kenny Dalglish made 559 club appearances with Liverpool and scored 230 goals. He won both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year in 1983. Over the stretch of 13 seasons, he helped Liverpool win six domestic titles, the FA Cup, four League Cups, three European Cups and one UEFA Super Cup.
The Arsenal center-back David O’Leary played a remarkable 722 games with the Gunners, winning two First Division titles, two FA Cups, two Football League Cups, and an FA Charity Shield.
One of the most decorated English players of all time, the full-back Phil Neal made 455 appearances in over a decade with Liverpool. In total, he won 8 First Division titles, 4 League Cups, 5 Charity Shields, 4 European Cups, and both a UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup.
The Northern Irish footballer played on both London rivals squads Arsenal and Tottenham and won trophies for both sides. He helped the Spurs to an FA Cup, two League Cups, and a UEFA Cup. At Arsenal, he won the FA Cup. In 1983, he set a record in English football for being the first player ever to record 1,000 first team caps.
The longest-serving captain in Manchester United’s history for six years, midfielder Bryan Robson led the team in winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup, three FA Cups, and the Premier League twice in the latter stages of his career.