Liverpool’s 1996 FA Cup final team wasn’t half bad.
Solid citizens Mark Wright and John Scales protected a young David James in goal, Jamie Redknapp and Steve McManaman provided flair and style in midfield. Up front Robbie Fowler was a goal machine and his strike partner Stan Collymore had pace and a lethal shot on left or right peg.
But measured against Manchester United’s Class of 92 they never stood a chance. Without a stern taskmaster like Alex Ferguson to whip them into shape, off-the-field distractions proved to be a little too much for the team dubbed the ‘Spice Boys’. Liverpool and United met in the 1996 FA Cup final with the latter emerging winners thanks to an Eric Cantona goal.
As good as that Liverpool team was their legacy boils down to one thing: the horrific white Armani suits they wore pre-match for the 96 cup final. It was the biggest fashion disaster to happen to Merseyside since the shell suit – and somehow it epitomised all that was right and wrong about that side.
It’s now been 20 years since Liverpool and Manchester United’s 1996 battle – so here’s what’s happened to the 11 men in white suits who were good, but not quite good enough.
James won 53 caps for England and played to the grand old age of 44. His Liverpool career didn’t always go smoothly – erratic form and frequent error earned him the nickname “calamity” (he even blamed mammoth Nintendo sessions for lapses in concentration), but as the years rolled on James established himself as a fine keeper. In 2014 he was player-manager for Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters FC, and these days he’s a pundit for BT Sport.
What a time the 90s were for Jason McAteer. Shampoo adverts, the cover of FIFA 96 with Ronald de Boer and a multi-million pound move from Bolton to Liverpool, the team he supported as a boy. McAteer played in two World Cups for Republic of Ireland and notched up a further 200 league appearances for Blackburn, Sunderland and Tranmere. He served as assistant manager for the latter in 2009, but the coaching career eventually gave way to punditry work for ESPN and LFC TV.
Jones began his career at Crewe Alexandra before getting a high-profile move to Liverpool when he was just 19. After an eight year stint on Merseyside – where he played for Graeme Souness, Roy Evans and Gérard Houllier – he moved to West Ham but never made a senior appearance. Despite being Welsh-born, Jones won eight caps for England before retiring at 27. He now runs a chain or nursery schools in Warrington and turned author for an autobiography called Robbed.
A hero of England’s World Cup 1990 side, Wright was one of the more experienced heads in Liverpool’s Spice Boys side. After returning from football in 1998 he embarked on a management career that took in Southport, Oxford United, Chester City (for three stints), Peterborough and Maltese side Floriana. Nowadays he’s behind Premier Legends, a company that gives people the chance to join ex-Premiership stars for stadium tours, corporate tournaments and personal appearances.
Scales established himself as part of Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang before getting a £3.5 million move to Liverpool in 1994. He spent two years on Merseyside, which led to three England caps in 1995, before heading to Tottenham and Ipswich. He coached England at the Danone Nations Cup in 2007 (a tournament for kids 10-12) and later managed the England Beach Soccer side.
Slotting into the left-side of Liverpool’s three-man defence, Babb spent six seasons with Liverpool before heading to play in Portugal for Sporting CP. Capped 35 times for the Republic of Ireland, Babb retired in 2004 before managing Hayes & Yeading United from 2013 to 2015. He’s also the victim of one of the most painful goalpost collisions ever captured on TV. What a nutcracker.
The Beckham before Beckham. Redknapp could land a pass on a sixpence and possessed a thundering right-foot strike – unfortunately his career was blighted by injuries and he only managed 314 league appearances before retiring in 2005. Now he’s a regular Sky Sports pundit and features as team captain on A League Of Their Own.
In his prime Barnes was legendary for Watford, Liverpool and England. As his pace waned he moved into a central midfield holding role, eventually leaving Merseyside for Newcastle then Charlton. Barnes managed Celtic (unfairly sacked with a 65.5% win rate), Jamaica (winning the Caribbean Cup in 2008) and Tranmere (sacked after three wins in 12, he had that coming). Barnes’ greatest career triumph, though, is probably his sensational rap contribution to New Order’s World In Motion.
Beloved by the Kop, Fowler banged in 128 Premier League goals for Liverpool before the emergence of Michael Owen put him in the shade. After Merseyside he played for Leeds, Manchester City, Cardiff and Blackburn before a two-year stint in Australia. He finished his playing career in Thailand for Muangthong United. Seven goals from 26 England caps isn’t a bad return, either. These days he’s one of the wealthiest ex-footballers thanks to a vast property portfolio. Lend us a fiver, Robbie?
Lightning fast and prolific for Nottingham Forest, Collymore made a British transfer record £8.5 million switch to Liverpool in 1995 but was never able to replicate his Tricky Trees form. Stints at Aston Villa, Leicester and Bradford followed Liverpool before he finished his career at Real Oviedo. Post-playing Collymore appeared in Basic Instinct 2 with Sharon Stone and has supported depression charities after battling personal demons. Now he’s a pundit for TalkSport and is a must-follow on Twitter.
A skilful winger, McManaman burst through the Liverpool academy under Kenny Dalglish where he won an FA Cup, League Cup and featured in England’s Euro 96 team. After Anfield he went to Real Madrid on a Bosman transfer and hoovered up two La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues. McManaman returned to the Premier League for two season in 2003 with Manchester City before retiring to take up punditry. He’s a lead analyst for BT Sport, where his dress sense frequently causes a stir.