Houghton in the mid-1990s
|Full name||Raymond James Houghton|
|Date of birth||9 January 1962|
|Place of birth||Glasgow, Scotland|
|Height||5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)|
|1979–1982||West Ham United||1||(0)|
|1986–1997||Republic of Ireland||73||(6)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Raymond James "Ray" Houghton (born 9 January 1962) is a retired football player, and current analyst and commentator with RTÉ Sport. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Houghton played international football for the Republic of Ireland, for whom he qualified through his Irish father.
Houghton is particularly remembered by Irish fans for scoring two of the most important goals in the national team's history, which resulted in 1–0 victories over England in Stuttgart at the 1988 European Championship, and Italy at the Giants Stadium in New York at the 1994 World Cup. At club level Houghton is best remembered for his success in the Liverpool side of the late 1980s.
Houghton was born in Castlemilk, Glasgow but began his career in London at West Ham United where he came through the ranks and signed professional forms as a 17-year-old on 5 July 1979. Houghton's endeavour failed to make any impact at Upton Park and after 3 years, in which he made just 1 appearance as substitute, he was on the move. On 7 July 1982 he moved on to Fulham on a free transfer.
Malcolm Macdonald had Tony Gale (later a Premier League title winner with Blackburn Rovers), Paul Parker (who went on to win several major trophies with Manchester United, Gerry Peyton (Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper) and Ray Lewington (ex-Chelsea) to form a mixture of youth and experience which ultimately won Fulham promotion to the Second Division at the end of the 1981–82 season. He then added Houghton to the side that would try and keep the Cottagers in the second division. They did, and comfortably so; in fact for much of the 1982–83 season it looked as though Fulham would achieve back-to-back promotion campaigns, however, their form after the turn of the year dipped. One of the most memorable sequences of matches that happened whilst Houghton was at Fulham was the League Cup third round tie against Liverpool in 1983. The first game finished 1–1 at Craven Cottage as did the replay at Anfield, Fulham then won the toss to take the second replay back to the Cottage. Many observers believe Fulham had done enough to have beaten the reigning cup holders but had let the Reds off the hook with their failure to put away the chances they created. Liverpool won the game 1–0 with a 25-yard thunderbolt from Graeme Souness.
In May 1985, he made a guest appearance for Manchester United in Peter Foley's testimonial.
Oxford United F.C.
Jim Smith had taken Oxford United to the top tier of English football. When he left for Queen's Park Rangers F.C. in 1985, his replacement, Maurice Evans, looked to Houghton to help solidify their place in the league. He paid a bargain £147,000 for Houghton's signature on 13 September 1985. Houghton had played 145 times for Fulham and scored 21 goals. He made his U's debut the day after his signed, the 14 September in the 2–2 draw with Liverpool at the Manor Ground.
By the end of his first season at the Manor Ground, Houghton had helped to steer Oxford clear of the relegation places, (just staying up with a win on the final day of the season), but most notably scored the second goal in the club's 3–0 League Cup final victory over Jim Smith's new team QPR at Wembley.
At the start of the 1987–88 season, Oxford were beaten 2–0 by Liverpool, who then offered £825,000 for his services. The deal was done and Houghton took the place of Craig Johnston (who remained with the club until retiring at the end of the season) on the right side of Liverpool's midfield, unusually wearing the No. 9 shirt which striker John Aldridge, his former Oxford team-mate who had made the Anfield move himself a year earlier, had asked not to wear because of the pressure of replacing Italy-bound goalscorer Ian Rush.
Houghton was added to the new acquisitions Aldridge, Peter Beardsley and John Barnes to form one of the most exciting forward lines in the club's history. He made his Reds debut on 24 October 1987 in the 1–0 league victory over Luton Town at Kenilworth Road. His first goal for the club came on 4 November 1987 in the 1–1 draw with Wimbledon at Plough Lane. Houghton's 62nd-minute strike came just 2 minutes after he had come on as a sub for Johnston. It also kept up Liverpool's remarkable start to the campaign which saw the side rack up 29 unbeaten league matches from the start of the season.
Liverpool went on to coast to the League title by the end of 1988, with Houghton contributing some fantastic displays as a marauding creator from the flank. He scored his share of goals too (though he was also renowned for missing great chances from close range) and contributed the first goal in the memorable, era-defining 5–0 win over Nottingham Forest which was later described as the performance of the century and was complimented by the game's greats such as Tom Finney
Houghton did his bit in the run to that season's FA Cup final too, scoring the winner in a hotly contested fifth round tie at derby rivals Everton and then clipping home a shot on the turn as Liverpool romped past Manchester City 4–0 in the quarter final. In the final, Liverpool surprisingly lost to Wimbledon and missed out on the "double".
The following season, Houghton was again a regular as Liverpool battled towards another League and FA Cup "double", though they again would be denied. More important matters than football affected Houghton and his team-mates in April 1989 however, as the Hillsborough disaster on 15 April claimed 94 lives (with the death toll eventually reaching 96). Upon returning to the game Liverpool went win the Cup with a 3–2 extra-time victory over Everton but lost the League title with virtually the last kick of the season in the title decider at Anfield against Arsenal.
The following year Houghton and Liverpool regained the title when they finished 9 points ahead of Aston Villa, although Houghton managed just 19 out of 38 league appearances in the 1989–90 season and scored just once.
He played 32 times in the 1990–91 season, scoring seven goals. The Reds began the season in outstanding form as their best start ever saw them win their first eight league games (including a 4–0 demolition of north-west rivals Manchester United in mid September) and they remained top of the table until being overtaken by Arsenal in January. The Reds were still in contention for both the league title and FA Cup when manager Kenny Dalglish stunned the footballing world by announced his resignation on 22 February 1991. Ronnie Moran stepped up from the coaching staff to take over as temporary manager, but by the time Graeme Souness took over as manager in April the league title was virtually wrapped by Arsenal and an FA Cup exit to Everton had helped make sure that 1990–91 would be a trophyless season for the Reds – a rare occurrence at Anfield since the first half of the 1970s.
Houghton picked up another FA Cup winners' medal with Liverpool in 1992 and also had his best return in goals during his time at Anfield, finishing as the club 2nd highest goalscorer with 12 goals (only bettered by Dean Saunders). However, new Reds manager Graeme Souness was bringing in his own players and allowed Houghton to leave, partly due to the fact that a highly promising young player on the right side of midfield was emerging in the shape of Steve McManaman.
Aston Villa F.C.
After 202 appearances and 38 goals in his 5 successful years at Liverpool Houghton joined Aston Villa for £900,000, with Villa manager Ron Atkinson fending off attempts by Chelsea manager Ian Porterfield to bring Houghton to West London.
This would be the only trophy that he won during his time at Villa. He did come close to collecting another title medal in his first season at Villa Park, as Villa had led the league at several stages of the campaign, but were eventually pushed into runners-up place by Manchester United, who were crowned champions by a 10-point margin. Houghton played a total of 117 times for Villa, scoring 11 goals.
Crystal Palace F.C.
On 23 March 1995 (transfer deadline day) Houghton left Villa Park to join Crystal Palace. Palace paid £300,000 for the Irish international hoping that his experience would help Palace stave off relegation from the Premier League and progress in the FA Cup, but they were relegated (despite finishing fourth from bottom as the division was being reduced to 20 clubs) and eliminated at the semi-final stage in the respective competitions.
Houghton made his Palace debut, as a 33-year-old, on 1 April 1995 in the 2–1 win over Manchester City at Selhurst Park. One of Houghton's best performances for the South London club was on 28 September 1996 in the 6–1 thrashing of Southend United in a Division One fixture at Selhurst Park. Houghton was at the heart of everything Palace did, and scored a goal in the 38th minute. He spent just over two years at Palace, playing 87 times and scoring 8 goals.
He spent a season at Elm Park and another at Reading's new home, the Madejski Stadium, which saw him rack up 56 appearances in which he scored just 1 goal against Manchester City. Reading would be Houghton's last professional club, he had played 723 times during his career scoring 93 goals.
Stevenage Borough F.C.
Houghton wound his career down at Stevenage Borough in the Nationwide Conference. He signed for Stevenage 24 September 1999 but only made three appearances before he finally retired from the game on 31 May 2000.
Houghton qualified to play international football for the Republic of Ireland through his Buncrana, Donegal-born father. He earned his first cap in Jack Charlton's first match as manager, a 1–0 defeat by Wales in a friendly international at Lansdowne Road on 26 March 1986.
In the summer of 1988, Houghton was selected for the Irish squad which had reached its first ever major finals, the European Championships in West Germany. The first group game on 12 June was against an England team that included Gary Lineker, Bryan Robson and Houghton's club mates Peter Beardsley and John Barnes. Houghton scored with an early looping header to win the game 1–0, his first goal for Ireland.
Houghton was selected for the Irish squad which qualified for the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. They were once again drawn in the same group as England, which included Lineker, Robson, Beardsley and Barnes as well as Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle. The game finished in a 1–1 draw. The Irish also drew with both Egypt, 0–0, and The Netherlands, 1–1, finishing on the same points (3), goal difference (0), and goals scored (2) as the Dutch. Both teams progressed to the second round, along with England who topped the group.
On 25 June Ireland faced Romania at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. Following a hard earned 0–0 draw, the game went to penalties with Houghton scoring the second penalty kick to help Ireland win 5–4 and qualify for the quarter-finals. Ireland were defeated 1–0 by the host nation Italy in a closely fought match.
Houghton was selected in the Irish squad for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States and was once again the goalscoring hero in a shock victory. In the 11th minute of the group E match at Giants Stadium, New York/New Jersey on 18 June Houghton hit a looping shot into the net to defeat Italy, gaining revenge for the defeat Ireland had suffered at the hands of the Italians four years earlier. Ireland were knocked out of the tournament at the next stage by The Netherlands.
Houghton's final appearance was as a substitute in the 1998 FIFA World Cup play-off match with Belgium in Brussels. Ireland lost the match 2–1 (3–2 on aggregate) with Houghton scoring his final international goal. He had represented Ireland 73 times scoring 6 goals.
In 2008, Houghton was part of the three man team along with Don Givens and Don Howe appointed to head-hunt the new international manager. After interviewing several candidates, Houghton and the team ultimately nominated Giovanni Trapattoni to the FAI.
Houghton is now in demand as a pundit on the game, working for outlets such as RTÉ in Ireland, and talkSPORT, Sky Sports, Sportsxchange in the UK and LFC TV. Since 2002 he has also worked for Sports Interactive as a consultant on their PC and Xbox 360 game Football Manager.
In 2005, he was given an honorary degree by the University of Huddersfield, for his services to sport. He joined actor Tim Brooke Taylor and former Olympic swimmer Adrian Moorhouse in collecting degrees.
He contributed to RTÉ Sport's coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He is known for his heavy use of hindsight as a co-commentator. He was also part of RTÉ Sport's coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup where he was a co-commentator.
Throughout his career Houghton became a fan favourite wherever he played, a true gentleman whose workrate and honesty was much admired. This fact was underlined in the summer of 2006 when he finished in 52nd place in the poll 100 Players Who Shook The Kop. More than 110,000 Liverpool supporters from all over the world voted for their top 10 Liverpool players of all time on the official Liverpool Football Club web site.
- Oxford United
- Football League First Division (2): 1987–88, 1989–90
- FA Cup (2): 1988–89, 1991–92
- FA Charity Shield (2): 1989, 1990
- Aston Villa
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