Jan Molby is a former Danish professional football player who spent much of his football career at English club Liverpool, even acquiring something of a Scouse accent in the process.
Jan started his senior playing career at the biggest football club of his hometown of Kolding, where he became team captain at the age of 19, before joining Ajax Amsterdam, where he won the Dutch Championship in 1983.
Liverpool, manager Joe Fagan, invited Jan to have a 10-day trial and finally signed him on 22 August 1984. He made his debut three days later on the 25th in the 3-3 league draw with Norwich City at Carrow Road.
His first goal for Liverpool came on the 1 December 1984 in the 3-1 league defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He failed to shine for Liverpool in his first season as the team endured a comparatively poor season, failing to win the Football League Championship for the first time in 3 years.
In 1985/86, new player-manager Kenny Dalglish put faith in Jan, installing him as a regular in the first team. Having lost the league title to Liverpool a week earlier, Derby rivals Everton were looking for revenge and took a 1-0 lead into the half-time break, courtesy of a Gary Lineker strike. After the break Liverpool began to make inroads into the Blues’ defence, led by Jan. In the 57th minute, he set up the equaliser for Ian Rush and followed that up 6 minutes later by setting up Craig Johnston to take the lead. Jan was also involved in the third goal, when Rush latched on to a chipped pass from Ronnie Whelan to put the final out of Everton’s reach and complete the double.
He remained a regular in the team in 1986/87, in which Liverpool finished 2nd in the League. During their Littlewoods Cup run, which ended with a 1-2 defeat at Wembley against Arsenal, he scored a hat-trick of penalties in a 4th round replay at Anfield against Coventry City, an achievement witnessed by a 6 year-old Steven Gerrard attending his first Liverpool match. Jan scored another penalty against Coventry in a league match at Anfield the following Saturday.
During pre-season training in the summer of 1987, Jan suffered a foot injury, which turned out to be a crucial turning point in his career. He missed the first three months of the 1987/88 season, and with the arrival of John Barnes to play on the left wing, Jan´s place in central midfield was taken by Ronnie Whelan. Whelan’s partnership with McMahon proved a great success and, although Whelan was himself injured later in the season, Jan´s return to fitness came too late to resume his place in midfield, which went to Nigel Spackman for the rest of the season. He was never again an automatic choice in midfield under Dalglish as Whelan & McMahon became the first choice partnership.
In 1988/89, he returned to regular first team football, playing in central defence in the absence of the injured Alan Hansen. However, in October 1988 he was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for a driving offence. The club decided to stand by him, and he returned to the first team in January 1989 in Hansen’s continued absence, but suffered another injury in March which kept him out for the rest of the season.
In the following season, 1989/90, Jan was a frustrated figure, unable to command a first team place despite often impressing during his occasional appearances. He started only 12 of 38 league games, although he enjoyed a successful return to the team in the championship run-in, deputising for the injured Whelan.
Later that season, after Liverpool had knocked Brighton out of the FA Cup, Brighton manager Barry Lloyd expressed bemusement in a BBC post-match interview, that Jan was not being selected regularly. Jan was very close to signing for F.C. Barcelona in November 1990, after a fee had been agreed of £1.6 million and he had agreed a four-year contract. When he scored a penalty in a 4-0 home win over Luton Town it was expected to be his farewell to the Liverpool fans. However, this was followed by a breakdown in negotiations and he remained at Anfield.
Another injury to Whelan in a home league game against Everton gave Jan another chance to re-establish himself, and he enjoyed his longest run of matches for four years, but after the subsequent injury to McMahon and the surprise resignation of Dalglish, Liverpool could only finish runners-up in the league, despite having won their first nine matches of the campaign.
After initially extolling Jan’s virtues, new manager Graeme Souness went through a change of heart early in the 1991-92 season, snubbing him as Whelan & McMahon again started in midfield. However, after Whelan suffered another injury, he turned to Jan, who went on to feature heavily in the Liverpool side that season, starring in the UEFA Cup and playing an important part in their FA Cup winning season.
After suffering injury against Manchester United early in the 1992/93 season, Jan´s career began to decline. He had suffered from fluctuating weight for most of his career, routinely gaining weight when injured and unable to train. This led to longer recovery periods being required, so his injuries led to an absence of at least 3 months.
Over the first three Premier League seasons, he started just over 30 games and all his goals came from penalties. Early in 1995/96, manager Roy Evans loaned him out to Barnsley and in February 1996, he left Liverpool to take over as player-manager of Swansea City.
While at Liverpool, he scored a total of 62 goals, 42 of which were from penalties. During Jan’s time with Liverpool, he only failed to score three times from the penalty spot. His record as a penalty-taker in the top flight is thought to be second only to Matthew Le Tissier. He still holds the club record of the most penalties scored by a Liverpool player.
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