Joe Gomez may not be in the position he would have hoped in his seventh campaign with Liverpool, but the defender has at least joined one exclusive club…
Liverpool’s likeable No. 12 has struggled for the game time he might have expected this season, with the well-managed fitness of a resurgent Joel Matip and the breakthrough of Ibrahima Konate pushing him down the pecking order.
But in his 15 appearances so far, Gomez has managed to break through into an exclusive – if unenviable – quintet.
Since Brendan Rodgers brought him to Anfield from Charlton in 2015, Gomez has won five major trophies with the Reds and even worn the captain’s armband twice, yet after 136 first-team appearances, he’s still waiting for his first goal for the club.
Having come close on various occasions without getting over the line (literally), earlier this season Gomez broke into the top five for most appearances without a single first-team goal, going all the way back to 1892.
Obviously, this is including outfield players only – not that Alisson would care!
Here, we take a look at the others who make up the top five, as well as the two men Gomez has overtaken this season…
7. Willie Steel
Liverpool games without a goal: 128
Not too much is known about Willie Steel, who made 128 appearances for Liverpool during the barren 1930s.
Remarkably consistent, he missed only four league games between his December 1931 debut and the end of the 1933/34 season.
For all his reliability, however, he had failed to bag a single goal by the time of his 1935 departure to Birmingham, for whom he also never scored.
After a 10-year spell of management in Scotland, Steel left football behind in 1964, and passed away in 1990.
6. Jim Harley
Liverpool games without a goal: 131
A tough Scotsman who made his debut six months after Steel’s departure, despite being at Anfield for 14 years Harley managed only three more appearances than his compatriot.
The small matter of the Second World War played a large part in this, during which Harley served as a Royal Navy Commando and earned military honours at Dunkirk, although he also found time to play 62 wartime fixtures for the Reds, scoring three goals.
While he never notched an official strike, Harley won the league in 1947, and was known for a bizarre variety of extracurricular activities – including winning the New Year’s Day Powderhall Sprint, a legendary Scottish athletics competition, and being arrested more than once for ‘brawling’.
One team-mate even recalled how he would turn up to training bloody and bruised from several fights the night before.
It truly was a different era…
5. Joe Gomez
Liverpool games without a goal: 136 (and counting)
At only 24, there’s still plenty of time for Gomez to expunge himself from this list, but with rumours of a summer exit becoming more plausible, he might want to get his name on the scoresheet sooner rather than later.
Scoring the winner at Wembley? The semi-final strike to take us to Paris? No time like the present, Joey.
4. Tom Cooper
Liverpool games without a goal: 160
Slightly ahead of our current centre-back is Tom Cooper, a Stoke-born right back as opposed to a fez-wearing comedian.
Another 1930s regular, Cooper (known as Snowball on account of his silvery hair) had suffered from injuries in a way that Gomez would surely empathise with, having both his knee cartilages removed whilst at Derby County.
Nevertheless, he managed a credible 160 games for Liverpool and 15 for England (who he also captained) before the outbreak of World War II.
Having enlisted in the Royal Military Police, Cooper was tragically killed aged just 36, when his motorbike collided with a bus.
Described as “one of the finest full-backs English football has known,” Cooper left an off-field legacy, with all despatch riders required to wear a motorcycle helmet as a result of his death.
His is a name that should therefore be remembered for a skilful, but sadly truncated, career.
3. Stephane Henchoz
Liverpool games without a goal: 205
A much more familiar name for most Liverpool fans, Stephane Henchoz was brought to L4 by Gerard Houllier in 1999, in the same summer as Sami Hyypia, Titi Camara, Vladimir Smicer and Dietmar Hamann.
But while those four went on to hit 75 goals between them over the next 10 years, Henchoz made 205 appearances without once etching his name onto the scoresheet.
That’s not to say his five-and-a-half years at Anfield weren’t a success, as the Swiss more than played his part in the 2000/01 treble season, and the Super Cup and Charity Shield victories that followed.
The FA Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium was a particularly memorable occasion, with Henchoz committing a pair of handballs that mercifully went unpunished by referee Steve Dunn!
A rock at the back alongside Hyypia, the two H’s nearly helped Liverpool to the league title in 2002, but sadly Henchoz’s career became something of a metaphor for Houllier’s Liverpool, petering out in underwhelming circumstances.
Injuries took their toll, Igor Biscan took his place, and although there were intermittent flashes of success, Henchoz’s best days were behind him and he moved to Celtic in January 2005 after Rafa Benitez made clear he was surplus to requirements.
There was one final swansong for Henchoz, though, with a goal at last in a pre-season friendly in Connecticut in 2004 – against Celtic, ironically.
Brief spells at Wigan and Blackburn followed before he retired in 2008 to take up a career in coaching, sporadically taking up the reins at various teams in his native Switzerland in between sporadic appearances for the Liverpool Legends.
2. Rob Jones
Liverpool games without a goal: 243
Another comparatively recent face, Rob Jones followed in the footsteps of his league title-winning grandfather Bill when he made his debut for the Reds in 1991 – in a Man of the Match performance against Man United, no less!
Jones went on to break into Graeme Souness’ side as a regular starter, including both the 1992 FA Cup and 1995 League Cup finals.
Jones has a reputation as another player whose career was derailed by injuries; it’s true that shin splints ruled him out of England’s pitiful showing at Euro ’92, but he had still made 214 appearances for Liverpool by the end of the 1995/96 season.
It was all downhill from there, though, as recurrent back problems limited him to just 29 across the next three years, and the fans’ favourite was duly shipped out to West Ham where, after a single appearance in the Intertoto Cup, he retired at 28.
“He has to go down as one of the best, if not the best, signings I made at Liverpool,” Souness later reflected, adding that “he should have been a 15-year man for the club because he was good enough to do that.”
Perhaps if he had, a goal or two would eventually have come his way, but instead, he sits second on this list, four ahead of his grandad’s one-time team-mate Jim Harley.
1. Ephraim Longworth
Liverpool games without a goal: 370
One of the best defenders in Liverpool’s long history, it’s probably fair to say that right-back Ephraim Longworth’s record of 370 official games without a goal will probably never be beaten.
Like Cooper, he captained England, becoming the first Liverpool player to do so, and like Harley he can claim a small number of unofficial goals for the club, scoring three in 121 wartime fixtures during the First World War.
If it wasn’t for that conflict, which began four years after his debut, he would surely have played even more games for the club, but even so, he was still turning out in a red shirt in 1928 – almost 18 years after his first appearance!
Signed from Leyton for a reportedly club-record fee, Longworth played 145 times in his first four seasons with Liverpool, helping them to their first FA Cup final in 1914 and, after the Armistice, winning back-to-back league titles in 1922 and 1923.
When he finally retired at the end of the 1920s, Longworth joined the club’s coaching staff before passing away in 1968.
A pre-war icon, he came in 72nd in 2006’s ‘100 Players Which Shook The Kop’ poll.
By all accounts stoical about his legendary lack of goals, one can only wonder what he would make of his modern successors like Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“I don’t disagree with any full-back going forward when he sees the open door as it were,” Longworth told the Liverpool Echo.
“But as a rule it is wrong for full-backs to wander. There is the vital necessity of defence to be remembered and any defence spreadeagled is asking for a peck of trouble.”
Perhaps, more than a century on, Joe Gomez has heeded these words?
Let’s hope not, and that Liverpool’s much-loved Londoner is lacing up his inaugural shooting boots very soon.