After the improvements made by the team in the 1995/96 season, Liverpool
continued their good league form into the 1996/98 season. The club finally challenged
for the whole campaign, finishing joint second in terms of points with Newcastle and
Arsenal, but slipping back to fourth after goal difference was considered. The club
were also finally back in Europe, representing England in the Cup Winners Cup,
qualifying because FA Cup Winners Manchester United were in the main European
Competition. Liverpool made it to the Semi-Final where they faced Paris St Germain.
The reds disappointed in France and lost the first leg, and effectively the tie, 3-0. A
spirited performance in the second leg saw Liverpool score two goals, but they couldn’t
quite manage a third and crashed out the competition.
Reebok replaced Adidas as the kit manufacturer at the start of the 1996/97 and
immediately opted for a retro look by choosing an oval badge based on the 1965 FA
Cup shirt. Unlike the majority of Adidas shirts, Reebok released both long and short
sleeve replicas to the general public. The collar was much thicker than previous shirts
(aside from the 1995/96 home jersey) and was occasionally stitched down on player shirts to
avoid any ‘Cantona-type’ fashion statements, although this is not the case here. The seasons
can be differentiated by the name and numbers on the rear. In the 1996/97 season Liverpool
used names and numbers manufactured by Reebok themselves. At the start of the
1997/98 season, all Premier League teams would use a standard set of names and
numbers made by Chris Kay and his team at Lextra.
This shirt was worn by Michael Owen in the 1997/98 season. The exact season is
known because the numbers on the rear were not produced by Lextra until post
1996/97. Owen is one of the few players who can really divide Liverpool fans. There are
pockets of fans who absolutely adore the pint-sized striker, and pockets who despise
the man, and player. During his time at Liverpool, Owen notched up 158 goals in 297
games, with his finest hour coming in the 2001 FA Cup final. Trailing 1-0 to Arsenal with
minutes left, Owen used his explosive pace and lightening reactions to seal a
memorable 2-1 victory, scoring both goals. Owen left Liverpool in 2005, accused by
many fans for cheating the club to increase his own wallet. By refusing to sign a new
deal, and allowing his contract to run down, Owen was sold at a cut-price deal of
£8million and pocketed a six-figure weekly salary. He was then sold for over double this
price one season later by Real Madrid. This shirt is from his debut season, and
regardless of your personal about regarding Michael Owen the person, this is without
doubt a great piece of Liverpool history.
Player shirts from both seasons can be differentiated by the larger Carlsberg logo
found on the chest of the shirts (Player shirts feature a logo 27cm wide). In 1996/97
genuine player shirts had different numbers than those attached to replica shirts.
Replica shirt numbering had a small Liverpool at the bottom of each number. For player
shirts this Liverbird was removed and the number left blank. Genuine shirts from
1996/97 had Lextra numbers made from ‘fusion-felt’, which were 10 inches tall.
< BACK >