Probably one of the best Danish imports of the 1980s was not a well-advertised lager, but one of Liverpool’s most influential midfielders.
The footballer in question was big Jan Molby who came to Anfield in 1984 from Ajax Amsterdam after starting his career in his home town of Kolding.
Larger than life he certainly was, weighing in at just under 15 stone, and he quickly made the centre circle his own.
Schooled by the Dutch master Johan Cruyff during his two years at Ajax, Molby patrolled the Liverpool midfield with a swagger, pinging the ball round the pitch with ease.
He honed his skills at Ajax by continuously firing balls at the corner flag from the halfway line under Cruyff’s expert eye. Finding speedy wingers with precision passes was easy after that!
One of Molby’s greatest seasons with the Reds came 35 years ago this year when Liverpool not only won the league, but also beat Everton 3-1 in the 1986 FA Cup final at Wembley.
Molby was little short of imperious that day in May – the first ever all-Merseyside FA Cup final – being involved in all of Liverpool’s goals. Little wonder commentators named him man of the match.
It was Joe Fagan, Liverpool manager from 1983 to 1985, who signed the ‘Great Dane’ after a 10-day trial in August 1984. Molby then made his debut for the Reds in a 3-3 league draw against Norwich City at Carrow Road.
Born in the seaport of Kolding in southern Denmark in July 1963, Molby became captain of the city’s football team when he was 18.
He joined Ajax in July 1982, helping the side do the double of the Eredivisie (Dutch Premier League) and the KNVB Cup – the Netherlands equivalent of the FA Cup.
By this time, Molby had played for Denmark at Under 17, Under 19 and Under 21 levels. He won his first senior cap at the age of 18 against Norway in June 1982.
Molby went on to make 33 appearances for Denmark scoring two goals. Notable tournaments included the 1984 European Championships and the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
The highpoint of Molby’s Liverpool career was probably the 1985-6 season under new player-manager Kenny Dalglish. The Dane scored no less than 21 goals.
At times, Molby started as a third central defender, lying deep before making a massive impact by moving up to midfield as the opposition tired.
The tactic worked to great effect in the FA Cup final and helped the Reds do the double by topping the First Division with 88 points – two above Everton.
Around this time, Molby also started to establish a reputation as a successful penalty taker. He converted two spot kicks at Anfield in the 4-1 league victory against Tottenham Hotspur in September 1985.
He went one better in the 1986-7 season, scoring a hat-trick of penalties in the Reds’ 3-1 home win over Coventry City in the League Cup.
Molby’s Liverpool career took a downturn in the summer of 1987 when he suffered a foot injury forcing him to miss the first three months of the season.
He lost his place in central midfield to Ronnie Whelan and only resumed regular first-team football a season later playing in central defence as Alan Hansen was injured.
Another major setback occurred in October 1988 when Molby was sentenced to three months in prison for reckless driving.
He was back in the first team by January 1989, but picked up another injury in March which sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Molby was then in and out of the team under Dalglish and new manager Graeme Souness, although he figured prominently in the club’s UEFA Cup run during the 1991-2 season.
He also played in the Liverpool team that won the 1992 FA Cup by beating Sunderland 2-0 at Wembley.
Molby suffered another injury in October 1992 and played fewer and fewer matches for the first team. New manager Roy Evans eventually loaned him out to Barnsley and Norwich in the 1995-6 season.
The Great Dane left Anfield in February 1996 to take over as player-manager at Swansea City at the age of 32.
His record at Liverpool included 218 league appearances and 62 goals in all competitions – 42 of which were from the penalty spot.
Molby left Swansea in October 1977 and worked as a TV pundit before taking the reins at Conference side Kidderminster Harriers in April 1999.
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