10 Torben Piechnik – The likeable Dane arrived at Anfield during a difficult period for the club. Manager Graeme Souness was struggling to get things right, and the club was in a transitional period. Even with a bonus code few would have backed the Reds to win anything,
Souness needed a centre half, but money was tight. He’d spent plenty already, and most of his signings had not worked out. Now the club were rebuilding the Kemlyn Road stand, and the cost of that had an impact on Souness’ budget. If he wanted to buy, he’d have to sell first. So Dean Saunders was offloaded to Villa, and Piechnik arrived from FC Copenhagen for somewhere in the region of half a million quid.
He’d been an integral part of the Danish side that had shocked the football world by winning the 1992 European Championships, a tournament they hadn’t originally even qualified for. Hopes were high that Piechnik could have a similar impact at Anfield to that of his compatriot, Jan Molby. Those hopes were short lived.
His debut came, ironically, against Aston Villa and Saunders. The Welsh striker gained his revenge on Souness by scoring twice in a 4-2 Villa win. It was a game which will forever be remembered for a glaring miss by Ronny Rosenthal, but it was a sign of things to come for poor old Torben. He struggled to cope with the English game, and had real trouble dealing with any strikers with pace. He was slow on the turn, you could say that milk turns quicker than Torben, and he was often exposed as the reds held a high defensive line.
His most humiliating moment came in the 1993/94 season at St James’ Park when he was hauled off at half time as Andy Cole had a field day, hitting a hat-trick in the opening half hour of the game. The Dane didn’t play for the club again, and was released by Roy Evans at the end of that season. In total he played 27 games for the club, not all of them bad it should be said.
He was far from a success at Anfield, yet there was something very likeable about him. He was never booed or jeered by the crowd, probably because everyone recognised how hard he tried and what a good guy he was. I remember travelling to Chesterfield for the return game after the 4-4 at Anfield, and the terraces were bouncing to the ‘Torben Piechnik – Teddy Bears picnic’ song. “La la la la la la la la, la la la la la la la la, la la la la la la la la Torben Piiiiiiiiiechnic” Good times…
Torben always made a point of staying on the field after the game and applauding the fans (a bit like they way Dirk Kuyt does now), and that meant he was cut a lot of slack. How can you boo someone like that? I liked Torben, even though I could see he was pretty crap. ‘Crap’ is harsh, as clearly he was a decent player, he just wasn’t Liverpool standard, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying and I respect him for always giving his all.
I actually bumped into him in ‘Top Man’ in town a few months after he’d left. I said ‘hello’ and asked how come he was back in Liverpool. He said he was back to watch a game at Anfield because he had a free weekend, and he was also going to the club’s Christmas party. He may have been crap, but he still ruled. God bless you Torben!