Hansen was born in Sauchie, Clackmannanshire, Scotland, and attended Lornshill Academy and supported Rangers growing up. His Danish surname originates from his grandfather who came from Denmark.
At the age of 15, Hansen ran into a plate-glass panel after playing volleyball and was left with a large scar on his forehead. The glass was in a brand-new youth club that Hansen attended. During his two-hour hospital stay, he had 27 stitches in his head. He sued the education authority and won the case. Hansen stopped playing football between the ages of 15 and 17 and concentrated on playing golf, with aspirations of becoming a professional. His father and brother wanted Hansen to play football, so he accepted the offer of a trial with Hibernian when he was 17. Hibernian manager Eddie Turnbull offered Hansen a professional contract, but he refused because it would have stopped him from playing golf competitively.
Hansen cost Liverpool £100,000. He made his debut on 24 September 1977 in a league match at Anfield. Derby County were the visitors and was beaten by a single goal scored by Terry McDermott. Hansen hit his first goal the following month on 19 October during a European Cup 2nd round 1st leg tie at Anfield. He opened the scoring in the 14th minute as Liverpool demolished East German side Dynamo Dresden 5–1.
Hansen was put into the first team sporadically throughout the season. He was not on the side which lost the 1978 League Cup final replay to Nottingham Forest, but he was selected for the Liverpool side which won the 1978 European Cup Final 1–0 over FC Bruges at Wembley, on a goal by Kenny Dalglish. Hansen managed 18 appearances in the First Division that season, where Liverpool finished runners-up to Nottingham Forest.
The following season, 1978–79, Hansen was a regular in the team as Liverpool regained the league title. The team’s final points tally of 68 was a record under the two points for a winning system, and they conceded only four goals at home at Anfield. When long-serving club captain Emlyn Hughes was sold to Wolves, Hansen became an automatic first-choice central defender in the team, and Liverpool’s domination of English club football continued in the 1979–80 season with another league title.
In the 1980–81 season, Liverpool won two trophies but did not win a third consecutive league title as Aston Villa finished as English champions. Liverpool won their first League Cup in 1981, defeating West Ham United 2–1 in a replay at Villa Park. Hansen also won his second European Cup winners medal in 1981, Liverpool defeating Real Madrid 1–0 at the Parc des Princes in Paris on 27 May.
The league title returned to Anfield in the 1981–82 season, and Liverpool also retained the League Cup in 1982 with a 3–1 win over Tottenham Hotspur, although Hansen missed this victory with an injury. Liverpool did not retain the European Cup in 1982, surprisingly losing in the quarter-final to CSKA Sofia 2–1 on aggregate.
In the 1982–83 season, Liverpool once again took the league title and held on to the League Cup in 1983, defeating Manchester United 2–1 after extra-time in the final at Wembley. Bob Paisley, who signed Hansen for Liverpool in 1977, retired at the end of the 1982–83 season and was replaced as manager by long-serving coach Joe Fagan.
In the 1983–84 season, Liverpool completed a treble of trophies in Fagan’s first season as manager, winning the league title, League Cup and European Cup. Hansen was involved in a controversial incident in the League Cup final at Wembley when he appeared to handle a shot on the goal line. Despite protests from opponents and Merseyside rivals Everton, no penalty was given. Liverpool won the final after a replay at Maine Road.
Liverpool reached the 1984 European Cup final after beating Romanian champions Dinamo Bucharest 3–1 on aggregate in the semi-final. The first leg at Anfield was an ill-tempered affair with Liverpool captain Graeme Souness breaking the jaw of a Bucharest midfielder. Hansen played in the European Cup final victory over A.S. Roma, which Liverpool won on a penalty shoot-out after the match ended 1–1 in front of a crowd of 69,000 at Roma’s home stadium, the Stadio Olimpico.
Liverpool did not win a trophy in the 1984–85 season and was banned from all European competition after the 1985 European Cup Final which pitted Liverpool against the Italian giants Juventus at Heysel was preceded by rioting which caused the deaths of 39 people, including 32 Italian Juventus fans. Liverpool lost the match 1–0. Hansen would never play in a European tie again.
Manager Joe Fagan retired after the Heysel disaster, and Hansen’s friend, teammate, and fellow Scotsman Kenny Dalglish were appointed as player-manager. He gave Hansen the captaincy and the season ended in triumph, as in 1986 Liverpool became only the third side in the 20th century to complete a League and FA Cup “double”, following Tottenham in 1961 and Arsenal in 1971. Hansen lifted both trophies as captain and earned his first FA Cup winners’ medal, thereby completing the domestic set.
Liverpool failed to win a trophy in the 1986–87 season, losing the League Cup final at Wembley when Arsenal defeated them 2–1, while Merseyside rivals Everton took the league title. In the 1987–88 season they lost just twice in the league winning the title with Hansen as skipper. Liverpool also reached the FA Cup final but was denied a second “double” when they were beaten 1–0 by Wimbledon in one of the competition’s biggest shocks. Two days later, 31,000 attended Anfield for Hansen’s testimonial match against an England XI preparing for UEFA Euro 1988.
Hansen was restricted to just six league appearances in the 1988–89 season as a result of a dislocated left knee sustained in a pre-season friendly against Atlético Madrid in Spain. Hansen played in the 1989 FA Cup final at Wembley, which Liverpool won 3–2 in extra-time against Everton, though Hansen did not lift the trophy as captain. The honor was given to teammate Ronnie Whelan who had deputized in Hansen’s absence through injury and retained the role even after the club’s first-choice captain was fit again. Hansen did not have any objections to Whelan keeping the captaincy that season.
After winning the 1989 FA Cup, Liverpool was denied a second “double” in four seasons when they lost the League title to Arsenal on 26 May 1989. Michael Thomas scored a crucial last-minute goal for Arsenal at Anfield that gave the North Londoners a 2–0 win. This resulted in Arsenal winning the league title on goals scored after the two teams had finished the season with the same number of points and exactly the same goal difference.
Hansen made more appearances the following season but his persistent knee problems continued to affect his fitness although he still captained Liverpool to another League title, which made it eight individually for Hansen, which was a record at the time. The club came close to the “double” yet again but lost an FA Cup semi-final 4–3 in extra-time to Crystal Palace at Villa Park.
Hansen was unable to play in any competitive games during the 1990–91 season (when Liverpool finished second in the league and was trophyless for only the third time since Hansen’s arrival 14 years earlier) and he retired in March 1991, a month after Kenny Dalglish resigned as manager. At this stage, Ronnie Moran was the caretaker manager until the appointment of Graeme Souness in the permanent position shortly afterward.
In Hansen’s playing career for Liverpool, his winner’s medals include 8 league titles, 3 European Cups, 2 FA Cups, and 4 League Cups.
National team career(Scotland):
Having previously appeared for the under-23 side, Hansen made his full debut for Scotland on 19 May 1979 in a British Home Championship match against Wales in front of 20,000 spectators at Ninian Park, Cardiff. Scotland manager Jock Stein gave debuts to four Scottish players that day – George Burley, John Wark, Paul Hegarty, and Hansen. Hosts Wales won the match 3–0 against a somewhat inexperienced Scottish line-up, with striker John Toshack scoring a hat-trick for Wales.
Hansen’s second Scotland cap came the following month on 2 June 1979 in a prestigious Saturday afternoon friendly match at Glasgow’s Hampden Park against reigning World Champions Argentina. On the hottest day in Glasgow for 30 years, the 61,000 sun-drenched crowds at Hampden Park saw the South Americans beat Scotland 3–1, with an 18-year-old Diego Maradona scoring his first international goal for Argentina in a virtuoso display of skill and trickery. In an interview in 2007, Hansen said that Maradona was “without a shadow of a doubt the best player I came up against. He was virtually unplayable – even at 18.
Hansen played for Scotland in the 1982 World Cup in Spain. The team failed to progress beyond the qualifying group, having drawn 2–2 with the USSR when Scotland needed a win to progress in the tournament. An accidental collision between Hansen and central defensive partner Willie Miller allowed USSR striker Ramaz Shengelia to score the Soviets’ second goal.
A formidable Scotland central defensive partnership was formed between Willie Miller and Alex McLeish of Aberdeen, who were managed by Alex Ferguson. Ferguson, who took charge of the national team after the sudden death of Jock Stein, dropped Hansen from the squad for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Hansen disagreed with the decision, as he felt that his form in the 1985/86 seasons (when Liverpool had won a league and cup double) was near his best. Hansen had played infrequently for Scotland before the tournament and had often withdrawn from squads. Hansen won the last of his 26 Scotland caps in 1987.
First Division (8): 1978–79, 1979–80, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1985–86, 1987–88, 1989–90
FA Cup (2): 1985–86, 1988–89
LeagueCup (4): 1980–81, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84
Super Cup (1): 1986
FA Charity Shield (6): 1977 (shared), 1979, 1981, 1982, 1986 (shared), 1989
European Cup (3): 1977–78, 1980–81, 1983–84
UEFA Super Cup (1): 1977
PFA First Division Team of the Year (6): 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1986–87, 1987–88, 1989–90
English Football Hall of Fame: 2006 Scottish
Football Hall of Fame: 2007
Football League 100 Legends