Dean Nicholas Saunders (born 21 June 1964) is a Welsh football manager and former professional footballer who played as a striker in a career which lasted from 1982 until 2001.

Dean Saunders
Saunders, Dean 2019.jpg
Saunders in 2019
Personal information
Full name Dean Nicholas Saunders[1]
Date of birth (1964-06-21) 21 June 1964 (age 55)[1]
Place of birth Swansea, Wales
Height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Playing position Striker
Youth career
1980–1982 Swansea City
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1982–1985 Swansea City 49 (12)
1985Cardiff City (loan) 4 (0)
1985–1987 Brighton & Hove Albion 72 (21)
1987–1988 Oxford United 59 (22)
1988–1991 Derby County 106 (42)
1991–1992 Liverpool 42 (11)
1992–1995 Aston Villa 112 (37)
1995–1996 Galatasaray 27 (15)
1996–1997 Nottingham Forest 43 (5)
1997–1998 Sheffield United 43 (17)
1998–1999 Benfica 17 (5)
1999–2001 Bradford City 44 (3)
Total 618 (190)
National team
1986–2001 Wales 75 (22)
Teams managed
2008–2011 Wrexham
2011–2013 Doncaster Rovers
2013 Wolverhampton Wanderers
2014–2015 Crawley Town
2015 Chesterfield
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

He played for Liverpool and Aston Villa in the 1990s, and set a new British transfer record when he joined the former from Derby County. He began at his hometown club Swansea City before also playing for Brighton, Oxford United, Bradford City, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United as well as spells at Galatasaray and Benfica.

He was capped 75 times at senior level for Wales between 1986 and 2001, scoring 22 times, making him one of the nation's highest-scoring and most-capped players of all time, although Wales never qualified for any major international competitions while Saunders was playing for them.

Following his retirement from playing in 2001, he entered football coaching and then management, firstly of non-league Wrexham (2008–2011) and since then of Doncaster Rovers (2011–2013), Wolverhampton Wanderers (2013), Crawley Town (2014–2015), and Chesterfield (2015).

Playing careerEdit

Early careerEdit

Saunders was born in Swansea[1] and began his career with Swansea City, where his father Roy had been a player and coach, signing as an apprentice on leaving school in 1980.[citation needed]

He turned professional in the summer of 1982, after Swansea had finished sixth in their debut season as a First Division club.[citation needed] Swansea were relegated in 1982–83, and Saunders made his debut in the 1983–84 season.[citation needed] A goalless four-game loan spell at local rivals Cardiff City also came in 1984–85, before he signed for Second Division club Brighton & Hove Albion on a free transfer on 7 August 1985.[citation needed]

Brighton and OxfordEdit

The striker was a success at the Goldstone Ground, scoring 14 league goals in his first season.[citation needed] He scored six goals from 30 league games in 1986–87 before a £60,000 move took him to the First Division with Oxford United.[citation needed] He was an instant success as his six goals in the final 12 league games secured First Division survival.[citation needed]

He scored 12 goals in 37 games during the 1987–88 season (during which Maurice Evans was dismissed as manager and replaced by Mark Lawrenson) but it was not enough to prevent Oxford from going down in bottom place after three seasons in the top flight.[citation needed]

He began the 1988–89 season still in the Second Division, with manager Mark Lawrenson and chairman Kevin Maxwell agreeing that they would only sell Saunders if Oxford failed to win promotion at the end of the season.[2] However, he was sold to Derby County for £1 million on 28 October 1988 prompting Oxford manager Mark Lawrenson to resign in protest over Saunders' sale.[3]

Derby CountyEdit

Saunders made his Derby County debut on 29 October 1988 against Wimbledon in a First Division fixture at the Baseball Ground in which he scored twice.[citation needed] In his first season at his new club he scored 14 goals in 30 games to help Derby finish fifth in the 1988–89 First Division table — their highest finish since they were league champions in 1975 — but they were unable to compete in the UEFA Cup due to the ban on English teams in European competition following the Heysel Disaster of 1985.[citation needed] He added 11 league goals to his name in the 1989–90, but Derby slumped to 16th place.[citation needed]

During the 1990–91 season he netted 17 league goals but Derby still went down in bottom place with just five league wins all season.[citation needed] Their relegation saw most of the country's top clubs queue up in their bid to capture Saunders' services, and Everton were favourites to sign him, and there were also approaches from Aston Villa's new manager Ron Atkinson, and Nottingham Forest's Brian Clough.[4] Saunders ended up at Liverpool, who paid a then English record fee of £2.9 million for Saunders on 19 July 1991 to make him Ian Rush's new strike-partner following the departures of David Speedie and Peter Beardsley.[citation needed]


In 1991–92, Saunders partnered Rush – who was also his strike partner for Wales – in attack, backed by young Steve McManaman which saw the club win the FA Cup for the fifth time in its history in manager Graeme Souness' first full season in charge.[citation needed]

Saunders scored 23 goals in all competitions, though just 10 of these were the league where the club only managed a sixth-place finish - one of their lowest positions since their current top flight tenure began in 1962.[citation needed] He became the first Liverpool player to score four goals in a European fixture when he did so during a 6–1 home win over Kuusysi Lahti in the UEFA Cup first round first leg on 18 September 1991 that was their first European fixture after their six-year ban.[citation needed] He also scored twice against FC Tirol in the third round first leg and a hat-trick in the return game.[5]

Saunders finished as the club's top scorer for the 1991-1992 season.

Aston VillaEdit

On 1 September 1992, Saunders became Aston Villa's record signing in a £2.5 million deal that reunited him with former Liverpool players Steve Staunton and Ray Houghton at Villa Park.[citation needed] He managed six goals in his first four league games including two on his home debut against the club who had sold him; he also scored the winning goal at Anfield later in the season.[citation needed]

Here, he developed a strong partnership with Dalian Atkinson until the latter suffered an injury midway through the season.[citation needed] Linking up with Dwight Yorke, Saunders continued scoring as Villa challenged for the inaugural Premier League title but the team ultimately finished runners-up behind Manchester United.[citation needed] He ended the campaign with 16 goals in total with 12 in the league, one being a 35-yard strike against Ipswich.[citation needed]

Saunders and Villa found goals harder to come by in the league in the following season and he only managed 10, three coming from hat-trick scored against Swindon.[citation needed] He did however manage six more in cup competitions, with his goals against Birmingham City and Tranmere helping Aston Villa reach the 1994 League Cup Final where they beat Manchester United 3–1, as Saunders scored twice to end Villa's 12-year wait for a major trophy.[citation needed]

Despite his best goalscoring season for the club with 17 goals, the 1994–95 season saw Villa finish only one place short of relegation — two years after they had come one place short of the league title.[citation needed] At one stage during the campaign Saunders recorded a run of seven goals in six games, including braces against Wimbledon in a 7–1 victory, and Sheffield Wednesday.[citation needed] His final Villa goal came against Leicester City and despite not scoring in his final twelve appearances for the club he was named the Supporters' Player of the Year.[citation needed]


As part of new Villa manager Brian Little's rebuilding programme, which resulted in many players of the Ron Atkinson era being sold, Saunders was off-loaded to Turkish club Galatasaray on 1 July 1995 for £2.35 million (a large sum for a 31-year-old player), where he reunited with his former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness. In fact, according to Shelley Webb's book Footballers' Wives Tell Their Tales, the first Saunders' wife Helen knew of the move was when she went to Turkey with him one weekend, to find that by Monday he had signed for the Istanbul club and this was her new home.[citation needed]

In the 1996 Türkiye Kupası final, Saunders scored the only goal of the first-leg before scoring an equalising goal in extra-time of the away leg against rivals Fenerbahçe S.K. to win the cup for Gala.[6]

Later careerEdit

Saunders spent one season at Galatasaray, before he returned to the Premier League with Nottingham Forest in 1996 for £1.5m.[citation needed] His only season at the City Ground was a disappointment with a shortage of goals which contributed to Forest's relegation before joining Sheffield United in Division One.[citation needed] Whilst at Sheffield United he is remembered for an ingenious passage of play which resulted in a cheeky goal for his team.[citation needed] In a game against Port Vale, Saunders chased a long ball down with Vale keeper Paul Musselwhite, Musselwhite won the race and knocked the ball out for a throw in, only for Saunders to quickly pick it up and throw it onto the keeper's back, and then proceed to curl it into the goal from 25 yards.[7]

Saunders remained at Sheffield United for two years before another spell abroad with Benfica (again under Souness) before moving back to the Premier League with newly promoted Bradford City.[8] He remained at Bradford for two years until the end of the 2000–01 season, when Bradford were relegated from the Premier League.[citation needed] It was the eighth time in his career that Saunders had been involved with a club during a season of relegation.[9]

International careerEdit

Saunders was one of the Wales national team's most prolific goalscorers.[citation needed] He scored on his international debut, aged 21 in a 1–0 friendly win against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on 26 March 1986, the first of 75 caps.[citation needed] He scored 22 international goals, putting him fourth on the all time Wales list behind Ian Rush, Ivor Allchurch and Trevor Ford.[10] Among his list of goals was the only goal of the game to defeat Brazil in Cardiff in 1991.[citation needed] He won the last of his 75 caps as a substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on 28 March 2001, a few months short of his 37th birthday.[10]

Coaching careerEdit

After his playing retirement Saunders initially became a coach at Blackburn Rovers working alongside his former manager Graeme Souness.[11] He moved with Souness to Newcastle United in 2004, initially in the role of striker coach, and then later becoming first-team coach.[12] When Souness was sacked on 2 February 2006 due to a run of poor results, his entire backroom team including Saunders were also replaced.[13]

Saunders started the Certificate in Football Management course at the University of Warwick Business School in June 2007 and [14] holds the UEFA Pro Licence coaching badge.[15] In June 2007, he was appointed assistant manager to John Toshack for the Wales national football team, and remained in the role until Toshack's departure in September 2010.[16]

Managerial careerEdit


On 2 October 2008, Saunders was appointed as manager of Conference Premier club Wrexham, taking over from Brian Little to become the side's fourth manager in 22 months.[citation needed] He was allowed to combine the role with his position as assistant manager of Wales.[17]

Saunders made several signings in the summer of 2010, and after an uncertain start, the team finished in the play-off positions.[citation needed] They failed to win promotion though, after Luton Town defeated them 5–1 on aggregate in the semi-finals.[citation needed] After the club received a takeover at the conclusion of the season after several years of financial instability, Saunders signed a new contract.[18]

Despite his new deal Saunders remained at Wrexham for only ten matches of the following season, during which he led the team to second place, before he moved to Doncaster Rovers of the Championship.

Doncaster RoversEdit

On 23 September 2011, Saunders was named manager of Doncaster Rovers following their sacking of Sean O'Driscoll.[19] His first match gave the club their first win of the season and their first in 20 games, when they beat Crystal Palace 1–0.[20] Despite this opening victory a run of poor results saw a section of fans call for Saunders to be sacked as Doncaster remained at the bottom of the league.[21]

His attempts to keep Doncaster in the Championship came to an end on 14 April 2012 as they were relegated following a 4–3 home defeat by Portsmouth at the Keepmoat Stadium, ending their four-year stay in the Championship.[citation needed] In the transfer window Saunders said " I'm going to try and bring the best to the club (Doncaster Rovers) and I'm targeting Championship quality".[citation needed]

On 14 July 2012 Saunders made a brief return to playing as he came off the bench to score in Doncaster's 4–2 friendly victory over Cleethorpes Town.[22]

Following their relegation to League One Saunders oversaw a promotion challenge which put the club joint top of the division by early January, but on 6 January 2013 Doncaster gave Championship club Wolverhampton Wanderers permission to talk to Saunders with the prospect of him becoming the club's new manager.[23]

Wolverhampton WanderersEdit

On 7 January 2013 Saunders was confirmed as the new Wolves manager on a one-year rolling contract, succeeding Ståle Solbakken less than 48 hours after his dismissal, with both his assistant manager Brian Carey and fitness coach Mal Purchase at Doncaster also making the move to Molineux.[24] Saunders' first match brought a 1–1 draw against Blackburn Rovers on 11 January 2013.[25]

Despite announcing that he believed the team could still challenge for promotion,[26] it was not until his tenth game in charge that Wolves recorded a victory.[27] By the final months the team firmly lay in a relegation battle that ultimately proved unsuccessful, with their first relegation to the third tier since 1984–85 being confirmed on the final day of the season with defeat at Brighton.[28]

Saunders stated that he hoped to remain in the job and "sort the club out from top to bottom",[29] but his contract (as well as his assistant's) was terminated three days after relegation was confirmed, following only four months in the job.[30]

Crawley TownEdit

On 27 December 2014, Saunders was named as interim manager of Crawley Town after John Gregory stepped down due to health problems.[citation needed]


On 13 May 2015, Saunders was appointed the manager of Chesterfield on a two-year contract following Paul Cook's departure for Portsmouth.[citation needed]

His first game in charge bought a 3–1 win at home against Barnsley and other notable results included a 2–1 win at then leaders Walsall in October, a 2–0 win at promotion chasers Millwall and a 4–1 win at FC United of Manchester in the FA Cup.[citation needed]

However, after four consecutive league defeats and dramatic drop in the form and style of play, Chesterfield announced on 28 November 2015 that they had parted company with Saunders following a 4–0 home defeat to Swindon Town, that left them in 16th place.[31]

Managerial statisticsEdit

As of 28 November 2015
Team From To Record
G W D L Win %
Wrexham 2 October 2008 22 September 2011 155 64 44 47 041.29
Doncaster Rovers 23 September 2011 7 January 2013 73 26 18 29 035.62
Wolverhampton Wanderers 7 January 2013 7 May 2013 20 5 5 10 025.00
Crawley Town 27 December 2014 12 May 2015 24 8 4 12 033.33
Chesterfield 13 May 2015 28 November 2015 23 8 2 13 034.78
Total 295 111 73 111 037.63

Personal lifeEdit

Saunders lives in Cheshire, where his closest neighbour was Gary Speed, his former international teammate. Following Speed's death, Saunders described himself as 'flabbergasted' upon hearing the news.[32][33]

Saunders' son Callum is also a professional footballer. In 2018 Callum Saunders signed a professional contract with Nantwich Town.

In August 2019 Dean Saunders was jailed for 10 weeks, but freed after one day pending an appeal, for refusing to provide a roadside breath test, following reports that he had been driving erratically.[34][35][36] The sentence was overturned on appeal, and replaced with a suspended sentence and community work.[37]


  1. ^ a b c "Dean Saunders". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  2. ^ "My own goal: Mark Lawrenson". The Independent. London. 15 January 1995. Archived from the original on 11 September 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  3. ^ Football Sporting Heroes
  4. ^ "Dean Saunders on Brian Clough". Talksport. 2 September 2016.
  5. ^ The all time playing records Archived 22 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine Liverweb
  6. ^ "Least said Souness forgotten". When Saturday Comes. 15 September 1996.
  7. ^ "Sheff Utd 2 Port Vale 1". Sporting Life. 28 March 1998. Retrieved 10 February 2010.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Football: Middlesbrough 0 Bradford City 1 - Jewell glitters with pride". The Independent. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Saunders parts with Bradford". BBC Sport. 23 May 2001. Archived from the original on 20 July 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Saunders calls it a day". BBC Sport. 18 May 2001. Archived from the original on 5 October 2008.
  11. ^ "Saunders to coach Blackburn". BBC Sport. 22 May 2003. Archived from the original on 4 October 2008.
  12. ^ "Saunders joins Newcastle". BBC Sport. 8 September 2004. Archived from the original on 5 October 2008.
  13. ^ "Newcastle dismiss manager Souness". BBC Sport. 2 February 2006. Archived from the original on 15 February 2009.
  14. ^ "Squad of 17 players & managers sign up to WBS professional football management course".
  15. ^ Herbert, Ian (9 December 2008). "Dean Saunders: The only way is up". London: The Independent. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  16. ^ "Saunders is new Wales number two". BBC Sport. 30 June 2007. Archived from the original on 3 October 2008.
  17. ^ "Saunders named as Wrexham chief". BBC Sport. 2 October 2008. Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
  18. ^ "Dean Saunders to remain Wrexham boss after takeover". BBC Sport. 23 September 2011. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013.
  19. ^ "Dean Saunders replaces Sean O'Driscoll at Doncaster". BBC Sport. 16 May 2011. Archived from the original on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  20. ^ "Doncaster 1-0 Crystal Palace". BBC Sport. 24 September 2011. Archived from the original on 20 July 2014.
  21. ^ "MATCH REPORT: Doncaster Rovers 0 Millwall 3". 21 March 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  22. ^ Bradley King (14 July 2012). "Bumper crowd sees Doncaster down undaunted Owls". Pitchero. Archived from the original on 20 July 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  23. ^ "Dean Saunders Statement". Doncaster Rovers F.C. 6 January 2013.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ Phil Cartwright (7 January 2013). "Dean Saunders: Wolves appoint Doncaster Rovers boss". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013.
  25. ^ "Wolves 1-1 Blackburn". BBC Sport. 11 January 2013. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  26. ^ "Wolves can still fight for promotion, says new boss Dean Saunders". Express & Star. 7 January 2013. Archived from the original on 4 April 2013.
  27. ^ "Millwall 0–2 Wolves". BBC Sport. 6 March 2013. Archived from the original on 8 March 2013.
  28. ^ "Wolves chairman Steve Morgan says club have failed their city". BBC Sport. 4 May 2013. Archived from the original on 7 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  29. ^ Ged Scott (27 April 2013). "Wolves manager Dean Saunders wants to stay at struggling club". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 1 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  30. ^ "Wolves sack Dean Saunders". BBC Sport. 7 May 2013. Archived from the original on 7 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  31. ^ "Spireites part company with Saunders". Chesterfield FC. 28 November 2015.
  32. ^ "Gary Speed: Friends' shock over Wales manager's death". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  33. ^ "Gary Speed: Saunders 'flabbergasted' by death". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  34. ^ "Ex-footballer jailed for refusing breath test". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 28 August 2019. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  35. ^ "Dean Saunders: Former Liverpool player jailed for refusing drink-drive breath test". Sky News. 29 August 2019. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  36. ^ "'You can't even stand up', officer told Saunders". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  37. ^ "Dean Saunders wins breath test jail term appeal". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 4 October 2019. Retrieved 16 November 2019.

External linksEdit