Liverpool face Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City this weekend. Can Klopp’s Reds continue their impressive run? Simon Meakin takes us on a meandering run through Saturday’s big match, with the usual detours along the way.
So, the Red Machine keeps chug chug chug chug chugging along (borrowing the lyrics from the well known ditty “Big Red Combine Harvester,” as sung by my son at nursery school). It was one of my favourites of his nursery songs along with one about being a pirate in the Irish Sea (whether this was of the Redbeard Rum type or Somali Pirates trying to hijack the Isle of Man ferry was never specified).
But I’m now thinking that “Big Red Combine Harvester” is a football club nickname in waiting, and there is no reason why Liverpool shouldn’t claim it (better than trying to copyright the name of the entire City anyway). As far as I’m aware no-one has ever clarified what type of Red Machine we are meant to be – internal combustion engine? Japanese Bullet Train? Toaster? So, I’m going to be the first.
Is it the perfect metaphor for Henderson and Wijnaldum threshing in midfield? Do combine harvesters thresh? What is threshing? Or, is it Mane, Salah and Firmino combining up front with Van Djik sporting a flat cap and threatening people with his shotgun, telling them to “get orf my land?”
Now that I’ve sorted our new marketing strategy (in your face Ed Woodward and your noodle partners) back to the football. We’ve had two really tough, battling away wins since our last home game and probably ridden our luck a bit at times so hopefully a return to Anfield will mean a return to the sort of champagne football that Firmino delivered from the bench against Newcastle.
But it’s not going to be easy against Leicester. They are looking well placed for a shot at a top four finish partly due to the current inadequacies of most of the traditional “Big Six”. And, Leicester have form in this area, taking advantage of the inadequacies of all the Big Six to famously win the league only four seasons ago.
Looking back it seems even more dreamlike that they actually did that. No outsider has even come close to breaking into the top four since. For years beforehand I’d been willing a small team to actually break the monopoly (or should that be sexopoly? I’m now wondering what I’d find if I googled ‘sexopoly’?) of the same teams always qualifying for the Champions League. But none ever seemed to be able to manage the consistency to actually do so.
There is the exception of Everton, who forced us to go and win ‘old big ears’ in Istanbul, by qualifying for the Champions League themselves. Only for them to make an unholy mess of their one shot at glory. Then there was a period when Charlton, of all clubs, used to make an unlikely annual bid for the top four only to fall to pieces every February. And then Leicester not only did that, they went and won the bloody league.
The visit of Leicester also means the return of Brendan Rodgers to Anfield for the first time since his unceremonious sacking. Actually, I’ve no idea whether it was unceremonious or not to be honest. Given it wasn’t actually me who fired him. It just seems to be the law that you have to use that word to describe sackings but nothing else. It’s a bit like how a bottle of red wine always had to be described as a ‘decent red’ – usually in relation to Alex Ferguson’s post match routine, when it was seen as an affront to the ‘great man’ if the opposing manager failed to turn up to his office post-match with said decent red.
I’m not quite clear what ever became of those managers who dared show up with some white wine (why do you never hear of a decent white?), a couple of G&T’s or a few cans of Lidl own-brand scrumpy (Ian Holloway I’m looking at you).
I’ve no idea whether Brendan used to turn up with anything (I’d imagine if he did it would have an umbrella in it). But I’ve always felt he has never got the credit he deserved from Reds fans. Whether it’s because he took over from St Kenny, some of the pseudo- psychobabble he used to come out with in interviews. Or, is it because he is short and Klopp is tall? Is there a psychological caveman type thing subconsciously going on here? Or am I talking pseudo psychobabble bollocks?
Does this mean I should apply for the Leicester job, maybe? I don’t know. But he took what was arguably the worst performing Liverpool side in 50 years (yes I know we got to two cup finals but points wise it was the worst season since we got relegated in the 1950’s, and the football was bloody awful at times. Within two years had taken us to an ace of the title. There was an immediate improvement in the likes of Henderson and Stewart Downing (remember him?).
That’s the mark of a good manager. It’s not just about who you sign. It’s the improvements you make to the players you do sign (or inherit). This is an area where Klopp has been superb, Ferguson (grrrr) and his bottles of Rioja used to excel, and one of many areas where our chums from down the M62 seem to have lost their way in recent years.
So basically I think I’m saying this is going to be a tough one. Leicester were after all the only team, bar Man City themselves, to take a point from Anfield last season. So Big Red Combined Harvester 2 Leicester 1. Firmino and Milner to score, Maddison (a player I’d be very happy if we signed) to get their goal and Klopp having to fend off awkward allegations about his sheepdog running amok savaging the local livestock down Anfield Road, in his post match interview. .
Simon Meakin returns with his completely unique take on this weekend’s clash with Newcastle United.
It seems like an age since the previous preview, thanks to the International break. Normally, this is where having a second team to support usually comes in handy to get my fix of league action. This was foiled by Hereford surely setting a new world record for worst team ever to have to call a match off due to multiple international call-ups.
Not content with cornering the market in St Kitts and Nevis players, in the hope they’ll be the new Belgium, they had a guy who didn’t even get the chance to come off the bench and kick Shaqiri on behalf of Gibraltar. Although, checking the line-ups, ‘Big Shaq’ didn’t even manage to get on the Swiss bench in the first place (resist joke about him just being hidden behind some Micky Droy sized centre back or sitting under the bench) so I’m now wondering whether we’ve sustained yet another injury on international duty
Anyway the league finally returns and things are going pretty swimmingly so far. Still top of the league, still with a 100% record and having defeated our first top six rival with ease. If we beat Newcastle on Saturday that will be our 14th straight league win.
To put that into context, in a century or so of trying, no team in the top four divisions had ever won more matches in a row, until Pep turned up. It almost seems unfair that we won’t be able to count most of them this season purely on the basis that they happened last term. Bloody rules! Can’t Klopp just go the Queen and prorogue the Premier League?
Newcastle aren’t in a good place though. Man City got owners that desperately wanted to plough billions of pounds into an English football club, in order to distract from a record of human rights abuses back home. They also managed to break the only rule of English grammar that never gets broken, by having a country that forgot to put a U after it’s Q. One of these things convinced Jacob Rees-Mogg to make his kids support Liverpool in protest – can you guess which one kids?.
Newcastle, meanwhile, ended up with a bloke who searches his employees underpants when they leave work, in case they’re cunningly trying to make off with the stock by wearing it. Sadly for Newcastle fans, he doesn’t seem to believe in ploughing billions of pounds into an English football club to distract from underpants searches. And, so a club who remarkably became one of only two English clubs to break the world transfer record since the 1950’s with the signing of Shearer (the other one being United’s purchase of Pogba – har har. How’s that one working out then United fans?) now find themselves shopping in Poundland – relatively speaking of course.
This is the Premier League after all, and they have just signed a player from a shop that if you were being picky must have actually been called Forty Million Pound Land (where you can also presumably buy a bumper pack of eighty million Duracell batteries or an old DVD of Andy Townsend football bloopers). Mind you, all of that is not half as remarkable as discovering that the world transfer market was once shattered by Falkirk of all clubs, when they bought the excellently named Syd Puddefoot.
In terms of matches between the two teams it’s impossible to look any further than the pair of legendary 4-3’s in the 1990’s. Great though both games undoubtedly were, they did highlight the notoriously soft centre that prevented the Roy Evans era team really doing justice to the undoubted talent they had.
I was at the second match and while it was brilliant celebrating the last minute winner, I remember the sick feeling immediately beforehand when we appeared to be on the brink of blowing a 3-0 lead, thanks mainly to David James apparently hammering Super Mario Brothers the night before (not an excuse you ever heard Syd Puddefoot come out with I’d wager). That game was part of the run-in in 97, when we had a golden opportunity to haul in a stuttering Man United. If only we displayed a bit more steel. So, bitter-sweet memories there.
Newcastle are of course famous for pioneering the unique “Messiah” management structure. Some clubs might plump for Directors of Football, Head Coaches, or just plain and simple Managers. Yet every time Newcastle sack their manager (so quite regularly) there is am immediate demand to find a new Geordie Messiah.
They even had two of them one year and promptly got themselves relegated. Presumably the Board have to draw up an all Geordie shortlist containing Chris Waddle, Jimmy Nail, Cheryl Cole and at least one of Ant and Dec. Why is this? Bolton never put the call out for a new Boltonian Messiah when Big Sam left them. Florentino Perez doesn’t go looking for a new Madrid Messiah every time he has to fire the Real manager for not winning the Champions League.
To paraphrase Tom Baker’s sea captain in Blackadder (the brilliant Redbeard Rum) when asked whether it was usual practice not to have any crew – “Opinion is divided on the matter! All the other Chairman say you don’t need a Messiah. I say you do!”
Which brings us to the match prediction. So far I’ve got a 100% record in getting the winning margin right. But 0% in terms of the score or pretty much any of the scorers. Anyway, I’m thinking Newcastle being in a bit of a mess will be counteracted by the fact that their latest Messiah is actually a naughty boy called Steve Bruce, who has a very annoying record of generally avoiding getting beaten by us. But not counteracted that much. 3-0 to the reds with a goal apiece from Mane, Firmino and Salah – I’m really trying to make sure I get at least one goalscorer right this time. Oh, and a 14th league win on the bounce too.
Oh, and a message to Mike Ashley. You have a woman’s purse (which you never open). I’ll wager you’ve never had sixteen shipwrecked mariners tossing in it!
In his first home match preview of the season, Simon Meakin predicted a 3-0 win over Norwich City. He was pretty close, as the Reds defeated the Canaries 4-1. Here, he turns his focus onto the upcoming game against Arsenal, at Anfield. Brace yourselves though, this is not your average match preview.
Since we last spoke, we’ve won another European trophy at one in the morning, flown back from Istanbul, got another three points from a tricky away game and sit top of the league – so it’s all going pretty well so far.
But with all due respect to Norwich and Southampton, things step up a gear on Saturday when Arsenal roll into town. And what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Arsenal? No, not the Wenger, foreign manager, football revolution or brown paper envelopes addressed to a Mr G.Graham c/o Watford Gap services. No, it’s Gunnersaurus – the big green dinosaur in an Arsenal kit.
I should point out that I actually support two clubs (don’t shoot me!). I was born in Liverpool but partly grew up in Hereford. So I developed an attachment to the local team. Given that I supported Liverpool well before I even knew where Hereford was, a case could be made for me being the world’s most useless glory hunter.
Anyway, Hereford United used to have a mascot called Billy the Bull (until someone stole his head one day). And that seemed right for a club that size. You could bump into him at the burger van in Stevenage, busily devouring one of his mates. Knockabout lower league, jumpers for goalposts stuff. But mascots always seemed a bit beneath Liverpool to me. Whether that made us feel like footballing purists, or more like some pretentious Shoreditch hipster with his craft beer, old vinyl jazz records and his artisan Y-fronts made out of quinoa, I’m not sure.
So, imagine my surprise when I spotted something red and mascotty, pitchside, at the Charity Shield the other week. I was even more amazed when informed that we’d apparently had said mascot for a number of years. How the hell had I managed to miss what appeared to be someone who failed the auditions for Finding Nemo, on my trips to Anfield? I’m guessing it’s meant to be some sort of Liver Bird?
Are we operating the worlds first undercover mascot? Does he work for MI6? Shouldn’t he be getting into brawls with Fred the Red? Maybe I’m just too late getting out of the pub on match days? Not quite sure how I feel about this. But I guess I’m going to have to ditch the craft beer and vinyl, and embrace a new world of fizzy Carling and Ariana Grande.
But, back to Gunners. And, the old days of Don Howe, George Graham and boring boring Arsenal.
When I was a kid I thought it was the law that every game between us had to end in a low scoring draw or a dour 1-0 win – remember the FA Cup semi-final with what seemed like 17 replays? I remember being shocked at watching some footage of a game on Football Focus when we actually beat them 3-0 (think McDermott may have got at least one).
And, speaking of Footy Focus I was also secretly quite impressed as a child that Bob Wilson once actually played in goal for Arsenal. A TV presenter who also used to be a footballer! How could one man be so multi-talented? Surely no other footballer would ever be able to do that (well apart from Saint and Greavsie obvs!).
There was also THAT game in 89. I won’t dwell too much on that, other than to say that I once went to see Lofty out of Eastenders perform a one-man monologue of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch at the old Neptune Theatre on Hanover Street. The whole centrepiece to the show unfortunately turned out to revolve around Michael Thomas’s goal that night, and what a life-changing event that was for Lofty/Nick Hornby (even putting marrying Michelle Fowler in the shade).
Performing it in Liverpool showed some bravery (or foolhardiness) on Lofty’s part at least. Or, that he’d just never bothered checked the tour dates before signing up. What made it even more surreal was looking down the aisle and finding Michael Thomas himself, sitting about 3 seats down from me.
He was playing for us by this point but I did wonder whether he traipsed round the country watching every show, just to revel in hearing how he was the most important thing ever to happen in the life of Lofty/Nick Hornby.
On a more positive note, there was the 5-1 demolition under Rodgers. I’d taken my son swimming and checked the score when leaving the baths. We’d just gone 1-0 up. By the time we reached the car it was 2-0. We’d gone three up before we left the car park and got the fourth by the time I’d reached the main road. It was a slight anti-climax that by the time I actually got home for the second half everything was pretty much wrapped up.
So, on to this weekend’s game. This will I suspect, be a real test for us, as I think Arsenal have bought well this summer. Dani Cebollas (which if I remember rightly from my Spanish night classes means either horse or onion) looks to be a real find. Meanwhile, I heard somewhere recently that it was typical of the misfortune of Scottish football, that they had finally managed to produce two top class footballers in the same decade, only for them both to be left backs. I can safely say that one definitely is top class. Arsenal have just signed the other one. So, if he’s only half as good as Robbo, they’ll have a hell of a player.
Not sure the rest of the defence is still up to much mind. We’ve also – to my slight concern – looked less than water-tight at the back so far this season. So given this fixture has usually delivered goals galore (mostly ours) in the last few years, I’m going for another humdinger.
4-2 to the Reds with a couple from Mane, one from Firmino and Robertson, who will be fired up by finding an upstart Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mel Gibson-style pretender to his Scottish left back throne, will grab the fourth. Mr Onion-Horse may or may not get a consolation goal.
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Steven Scragg, author, and writer for This is Anfield and These Football Times, isn’t too impressed with Liverpool’s new 3rd kit. Here, he takes us through his passionately held views and extensive knowledge of Liverpool away kit lore.
I’ve given it some consideration; I’ve tried to allow it the benefit of the doubt. We won at Southampton in it, but still the unavoidable conclusion was one I’ve drifted towards since the very moment I first set eyes upon it. That third kit of ours really is crap. My name is Steven, and I’m an unashamed kit snob.
Liverpool should only ever consider four different versions of away kit. White shirt, black shorts and white socks, – with red socks an acceptable alternative, upon occasion – all-white, all-yellow, or all-grey/silver.
No other colour permutation is good enough.
Christ we’ve had some shocking away kits over the course of the last 28 years, since we took the radical step to go green, in 1991/92.
If you are under the age of 30 then you’ll not know how much commotion that green and white kit caused. To say it wasn’t universally embraced would be an understatement.
Since then, we have gone black, charcoal, ecru, green again, orange and purple, sometimes simultaneously. One fact remains however. We have never won a league title with a shit away kit. Think of the most iconic kits we’ve had, and it takes you to our Umbro days of the 1960s, 70s and 80s followed by the first coming of Adidas from the summer of 1985.
The best kits we’ve ever sported have been blessed by simplicity. Funny that, considering the best football we’ve ever played has always been laced with simplicity too.
From those all-red, round neck kits of the mid-1960s, to the Adidas/Candy offering that we won the 1989 FA Cup final in, our kits were unimpeachable. Even that white flecked variant of 1989 to 1991 has garnered for itself a retrospective respect, despite being widely moaned about at the time.
Liverpool’s away kits were no different in this respect. The classic white shirts, black shorts, white socks combination wasn’t veered away from on a full-time basis until the all-yellow with red pinstripes effort arrived for the 1981/82 season. Meanwhile, the red with white pinstripes version didn’t appear until 1982/83.
Despite a change in style in 1984/85, we remained yellow until the dawning of our 1985 association with Adidas, who brought back the classic white shirt for 1985/86, except going all-white for the double-winning season, before the black shorts made a comeback the following campaign. Although white had made its return, Adidas retained all-yellow as a third kit until 1987/88. It was a thing of great beauty and was used only occasional, usually at Southampton and West Ham.
The all-yellow kit, often viewed as an inherently 1980s thing for Liverpool, actually made its first appearance in the late-1960s, while it was also used during the 1979 FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United, during an era when the FA insisted all colour-clashes, on neutral territory, would be settled by both teams wearing away colours, a ruling that saw both teams in the 1980 and 1982 FA Cup finals wearing their away kits.
The issue for Liverpool and Manchester United in 1979 was that both teams away kits were white shirts and black shorts. Rather than yield on one team wearing their home colours, Liverpool were required to come up with a third kit.
1987 saw such problems being blown out of the water by the introduction of that all-silver/grey away kit. Largely mistrusted on its release, the football played in 1987/88 served to make it a classic away kit, simply by association to an iconic team. We wore variations of it for the next four years. Our third kit became white shirts, with red shorts and socks. We’d wear it at Villa Park and Upton Park.
That green and white 1991/92 oddity aside, it was the Premier League era that ushered in a spate of awful away kits in random colours, punctuated only when Liverpool’s various kit manufacturers have brought back updated versions of those classic away kits of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Crap football also plays its parts in how fondly, or not, a kit is remembered. We had some decent away kits in our most abject campaigns.
When it comes to kit etiquette, another very modern bone of contention is the unnecessary use of away colours. When Tottenham Hotspur travelled to Manchester City for the ‘El VARico’ last Saturday, both teams took to the field in differing shades of blue kits. An abysmal situation for the colourblind.
Liverpool have even partaken in this type of ill-behaviour. We should always wear red, unless we travel to face a team that also plays in red. There needs to be an automatic 3-point deduction for any team recklessly using their away or third kits unnecessarily.
Unfortunately, now there is a contractually agreed amount of times away and third kits must be used by teams, to act as an advertisement, primarily to make children ask their parents for one. It is all about product placement. You know football has completely lost itself to commercialism, when a team wears an away kit and the colour-clash is more of a problem than it would have been had they just worn their home kit instead.
This misses a trick however. The beauty of a third kit was that it would be rarely used, which in turn made it much more alluring to supporters. For instance, there used to be something quite mystical about Norwich City’s away kit, as unless they were sharing a division with Watford, then they could play an entire season without the need to wear their away kit.
Kit couture encompasses the broader spectrum of football for me. Away colours of rival teams from my childhood should never be relinquished. Everton’s second strip should always be all-yellow, with Umbro diamonds along the sleeves, Manchester United should always be in white shirts and black shorts, Manchester City should always be in red and black stripes, Arsenal should always be in yellow shirts and blue shorts, and so on, and so forth.
One thing is for sure however. That new Liverpool third kit just isn’t Liverpool enough.
George Scott, one of Shankly’s first signings, continues his amazing story. In this instalment, we hear about his life after Liverpool, a chance encounter with Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Kissinger, killing time in a biscuit factory and the enduring power and influence of Bill Shankly.
I had never earned more than £50.00 per week at Anfield, despite having been on the verge of the first team. However, I received a signing on fee of £1,200 on returning to Aberdeen in 1965. This was the era when a new Mini cost £534, and I took my windfall and bought one with cash, immediately driving it out of the showroom.
Aberdeen were my home town club. I had supported them since childhood. So, imagine my joy when I scored on my debut against Glasgow Rangers. We won 2-0 at Pittodrie in front of 28,000 fans and I received rave reviews. There were nine full Scottish internationals in the Rangers team that day, including the Rangers and Scotland captain John Greig.
I remember nutmegging Greig and hearing his Glaswegian accent following me around the pitch. In very basic terms, he was requesting the name of the hospital I would prefer to wake up in, if I ever did it again.
I thought I was really on the way to justifying Bill Shankly’s faith in my ability and at last making the breakthrough into the big time. Unfortunately the difference between success and failure in football can sometimes be wafer thin. Half way through my first season, having cemented my place in the first team at Aberdeen and starting to score goals, I suffered a serious cruciate-ligament injury and was released at the end of the season in May 1966.
After starting the season with such high hopes I was out of work at the age of 21 having left school at fifteen years of age, with nothing to fall back on and having no qualifications other than football.
After being released by Aberdeen at the end of that 1965 season, I returned to Liverpool to live with my girlfriend’s family. I would spend many weeks training on my own to regain my fitness.
I got a job for a few months in Crawford’s, a biscuit factory, throwing ropes round pallets of biscuits and loading them on to wagons. The factory workers were brilliant, always wanting to hear stories about the great Bill Shankly.
Then in June 1966, I received a call from a representative of the South African Premier League club, Port Elizabeth City FC, telling me I had been recommended to them by Bill Shankly. Thanks again to the great man’s recommendation, another £1,000 signing on fee came my way and my wife Carole and I got married on July 30th 1966 (the same day that England won the World Cup). We flew to South Africa on 8th August 1966 to join Port Elizabeth FC.
There, I won the 1967 South African Premier League title. Bill wrote to me in South Africa a number of times. One of his letters that I still have today, sent me the best wishes of everyone at Anfield and ended with the words:
“By the way we are still winning the five a side games, no wonder with five referees in our team”
In 1968 I received a visit in Port Elizabeth from the then Chairman of Liverpool FC Mr Sydney Reakes, who conveyed the best wishes of Bill Shankly and all of the staff at Liverpool FC to me. He told me that if I returned to the UK he was confident that Bill would fix me up with a club in England.
On my return to England, I remembered Mr Reakes words, and I nervously went to Anfield in October 1968 to try to see Shankly. I saw Roger Hunt in the car park as I approached the player’s entrance, and Roger said Bill was in his office and would be delighted to see me.
When I entered the stadium and made my way down to Bill’s office, I heard his unmistakable Jimmy Cagney staccato voice chatting to a reporter who I think was Colin Wood of the Daily Mail. Or, it may have been Dave Horridge of the Daily Mirror.
As soon as Bill saw me the reporter was immediately dismissed and Bill invited me in to his office. The conversation went like this. “Mr Reakes tells me your team have won the championship and you have set South Africa alight scoring goals, so what are your plans George?”
I said that I was married and that I had a young son who was barely four months old and I wanted to return to play in the UK. “Where do you want to play son”?I said “Anywhere Boss I replied” Bill replied “I tell you what son, how about Tranmere Rovers”
He then picked up the phone and called David Russell who was then the manager of Tranmere Rovers and, in his inimitable Shankly way,
“I have a boy here. Just come back from South Africa, where he was the leading scorer in their Premier League. And he was the best player ever to play for my reserve team.”
It was just incredible.
Within five minutes, and on Shankly’s word, the Tranmere Rovers manager had committed himself to giving me a month’s trial on first-team wages.
When I went over to Prenton Park that afternoon, Mr Russell said to me,“I hope you can play son.”Without having seen me play and purely on Shankly’s word he put me in the first team for Alan King’s testimonial match at Prenton Park against Derby County.
Derby were about to become the English First Division Champions under Brian Clough. They boasted players like Archie Gemmell, Peter Shilton, Kevin Hector, Alan Hinton, Alan Durban John O’Hare and Dave McKay.
I played regularly in the Tranmere Rovers first team over the next two seasons, but more importantly I was able to settle back into the UK with my wife and begin to build a successful life on Merseyside. It was all thanks to Bill Shankly.
I was playing third division football, but we used to get crowds of 10,000 or more on a Friday night. I enjoyed it at Prenton Park, and I went on to make many appearances in the first team in the next two years including a great FA Cup run to the fifth round in 1969. We eventually lost in extra time to Northampton Town after a replay.
Northampton were then drawn at home against Manchester United and lost 8-2, with the great George Best scoring 6 goals.
However, I was now approaching the dreaded age of 30. Having done nothing but play professional football since I was 15 years of age, I knew that I needed to find another job. I couldn’t play football forever.
In those days you got to 30 and you were on the way down. Most of us had left school with no qualifications, so didn’t have many options. Opening a pub was the main route lads went for, as there wasn’t much punditry work around then.
While still at Tranmere I saw an advert for a Nestle sales-rep job. Interviews were taking place at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool city centre and I went along. I almost didn’t go through with it and was about to walk out. Then, I thought Shanks would never do that. So I stayed.
When they asked me for a reference I showed them the one that Bill Shankly had written for me. Once they realised it was genuine, that did the trick. So I became a part-time footballer, while at the same time working in sales with Nestle. And from that point on, I never looked back.
Stan Storton had left Tranmere to become manager of the Northern Premier League team Ellesmere Port Town. He asked me to join them as a semi-professional, on a three year contract. I had a tough decision to make. My sales position meant being trained in a new career and a company car. Combining that with my non-league contract meant I’d be earning more than I was at Tranmere.
To their surprise, I ended my full-time contract with Tranmere and joined Ellesmere Port. It was the best decision I could have made.
I went from strength to strength in sales. I had a career spanning 46 years, and I retired in 2006. It included a great spell in the 80s, selling and marketing Elizabeth Taylor’s perfume range throughout the UK and the Channel Islands. In this role I was fortunate enough to meet her on a number of occasions, in London and at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
I was responsible for the marketing and distributing her perfume in England and the Channel Islands and I was there with some other members of my sales team. While she was chatting to us her personal assistant, who carried a stopwatch to make sure everything went to schedule, came over and told her she had a guest. It was US politician Henry Kissinger.
We just sat there in disbelief as he walked in and they started talking. It was a brief taste of a different world.
I am now happily retired with my wife of 53 years Carole. Carole and I have two sons, Gavin and Craig, and I am enjoying retirement, playing golf, watching Liverpool FC, and enjoying my four grandsons aged 17, 16, 15, and 9.
Bill Shankly signed me for Liverpool in 1960 and started my football career off in the best possible way. He sold me to Aberdeen in 1965, enabling me to return to my home town, gain financial stability and have a great spell at the club I supported as a boy.
In 1966, he recommended me to Port Elizabeth City. It was an act that enabled me to continue my football career abroad. It also gave me the resources needed to get married. I had two wonderful years in South Africa.
Finally, he then personally recommended me to Tranmere Rovers in 1968. That allowed my wife and I to return to the UK with our baby son, who was only four months old at the time. We could also buy our own house and settle on the Wirral.
Bill was a major influence on my life. His passion and enthusiasm lit up the game, and the standards he set have inspired me over the last 59 years. I owe him so much and I am grateful and very lucky that I crossed his path.
Even though I was within a whisker of the first team in 1964/65, I understand why he had to let me go. Bill looked after me over the years and that shows the caring nature of the man. It also shows his commitment to anyone who showed enthusiasm and gave of their best at all times. It is no wonder he is so revered and he will never be forgotten.
What a man he was and what an unforgettable character. There will in my view never be anyone like him again.
Simon Meakin channels his inner Ronnie Corbett, as he looks forward, backwards and sideways to this Friday’s clash with Norwich City, at Anfield.
Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home. That’s apparently what Norwich stands for according to my mate.
Many Liverpool supporters I know – particularly those from Liverpool itself it seems – appear to operate a policy of strict neutrality when it comes to other teams. With the obvious exceptions of Everton, Man United, probably Chelsea and whoever we are fighting with for the title, fourth place or whatever. City were never really that much of a rival until the last few years, despite being Mancs. I get the impression that most Liverpool fans don’t really care who wins between say Sunderland and West Brom.
Whereas I’ve always had a different view. I’ve always had certain favourites and other teams I’ve disliked throughout the leagues. Usually for absolutely no rational reason whatsoever. For example, I’ve always quite liked Middlesbrough, never liked Sunderland; Rochdale good, Stockport, I can’t be doing with them.
Some have remained constant, others have ebbed and flowed. Maybe it’s because they went from playing beautiful flowing, football to being a bunch of cloggers or vice versa. I really don’t like Mansfield purely because of the derogatory comments one of their fans posted about Liverpool supporters after we played them in the cup a couple of years back.
The point of all this is that I have a favourite other Premier League team. And it’s Norwich. I’m not sure whether it’s because I liked their kit, or because they were the first team I ever saw at Anfield back in 1978 aged 7. We won the game 3-0, although I thought we’d only won 2-0 until my Dad put me right. Oh, and I remember being really impressed that their goalkeeper was called Kevin Keelan, which was pretty much the same as Kevin Keegan in my book.
It’s certainly not because of any connection with Norwich. I’ve only ever been there once, to see a girl I’d met in the Blue Angel. It didn’t really work out. Took about three days to get there, she drank too many beers and ended up chucking up everywhere, and I think at one point suggested I should “consort” with her mate instead. On the plus side I did see Gonch out of Grange Hill in the pub (possibly engaged in a hair-brained moneymaking scheme to sell toast or something). So it wasn’t all bad.
Whatever the reason I’ll admit to a little bit of a warm glow when they got promoted back to the top flight. So, once Friday is out of the way, I’ll be wishing them well for the season ahead and hoping that they do more of a Wolves than a Fulham. They’ve even got a German manager so what could possibly go wrong!
Norwich were also the last ever team to play at Anfield when they still had standing on the Kop. I can’t remember much about the game to be honest other than we were awful, and we lost. I’d always thought the score was 1-2 but on checking it turns out it was 0-1. I really don’t have a good track record with remembering Norwich scores. What I do remember is the price of the ticket. £7. And Liverpool’s promise that the move to an all-seater stadium would most definitely not lead to a big hike in ticket prices. Oh no sir. Not ever. I’ll file that one along with the claim that Paul Stewart was going to be the next Ian Rush!
My favourite Norwich game though had to be the prior season when we beat them 4-1. Thanks in no small part to a dominant central midfield performance from a pair of 19-year-old starlets named Redknapp and Hutchison which led me boldly to predict we were looking at England’s central midfield partnership for the next ten years. And, if it wasn’t for Redknapp’s terrible luck with injuries, I think I’d have been proved right. Well, that and the fact that Hutchison mysteriously turned out to be Scottish, and that he seemed to devote more of his time to sticking Budweiser labels on his cock in Labinsky’s than actually playing football.
I must point out that during my in-depth research for this article, I’ve discovered that Hutchison was actually 21 at the time, which slightly messes up the narrative. Most of the rest of my in-depth research however involved reading a Daily Express article with Louise Redknapp talking about getting over her split from Jamie. Talk about investigative journalism at it’s finest! Move over Woodward and Bernstein. I’m taking over! And, of course Louise, in the reasonably likely event you’re reading this, I’m up for a pint if you need someone to talk to. Unless you’ve moved to Norwich. I’m not doing that drive again.
Back to the football. My other favourite Norwich memories have to be Luis Suarez related. And the fact he pretty much scored at least a hat trick against them every single time he played them. Best of all were the four goals he scored against them in the December during the ill-fated Rodgers championship bid. That run-up to Christmas saw Suarez at his absolute zenith in my opinion, as he drove us to the top of the league on Christmas Day. His fourth best goal that night was worthy of being a Match of the Day goal of the month contender. I defy anyone, anywhere to show me a goal that good that doesn’t even make the players best three goals of the night.
Anyway, time for a match prediction. Last time we played them was in a lunatic 5-4 win in Klopp’s early days at the club. Lallana grabbed a last-minute winner, after we almost managed to shoot ourselves in the foot against a side tumbling into the Championship. We’ve learned how to defend a bit since then though. So I can safely say that won’t happen again unless Van Dijk falls down a well. I’m going for a comfortable 3-0 to ease us into the season. A Bobby double and a late Keita pile-driver after coming off the bench.
By Simon Meakin
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George Scott became one of Bill Shankly’s first signings in 1960. He spent five years at Liverpool Football Club, walked out at Wembley in the 1965 Cup Final as a member of the squad, and was top scorer in the second team three years running. He left with a personal letter of recommendation from Shankly himself.
Tales of Anfield Road is honoured to bring you his story, unedited and in his own words.It is moving, entertainment and informative.
In 1944 my mother was engaged, married, gave birth to me and was widowed all in that year.
My father was killed in Normandy, two months before I was born, whilst serving in the Gordon Highlanders. It was left to my Mum and my Granddad and Grandmother to raise me until the age of five, when my mother remarried a wonderful man who became my father until he passed away in 1991.
In late 1959 I was playing for Aberdeen Schoolboys and my footballing ability had been spotted by a man named Jim Lornie. Jim was caretaker at my school and also a scout for Liverpool FC. The Dons [Aberdeen] were my heroes. Initially I only wanted to play for them. Then, when I was 15, Liverpool came along. The furthest I’d been up to that point was just down the road to Dundee.
Jim persuaded my mother to reluctantly let me travel to Liverpool for a week’s trial. After playing in a trio of games for the clubs “C” team against Blackpool, Everton and Preston I was invited to Anfield to sign for the club as an apprentice professional.
My grandmother asked Bill Shankly “Where exactly is Liverpool?” Shankly’s reply was instant: “We’re in the second division now but we’ll be in the first division next year make no mistake about that.” Such wit and confidence made an instant impression on me. My mind was made up, I was only going to one club.
Bill Shankly was born in the mining village of Glenbuck in South West Scotland, 103 years ago. It is now almost 60 years since he arrived on Merseyside to take over the manager’s job at Liverpool FC.
He was a fantastic character who was full of charisma, passion, drive, enthusiasm and humour. Bill possessed an undefinable God given charisma that rubbed off on everyone who crossed his path.
He had a tremendous passion in his voice. He loved boxing and gangster movies. I always thought he seemed to model his harsh staccato style of speaking on one of his great cinema idols Jimmy Cagney (with a Scottish Accent of course).
In January 1960, at 15 years of age, I was waved off to Liverpool at Aberdeen Station by my Granddad, with nothing more than a small suitcase, £20 in my pocket and a head full of dreams. Sadly the next time I came home was to attend his funeral as he passed away a few months later.
This still saddens me greatly today. I was 350 miles from home and about to become one of Bill Shankly’s first signings at Anfield. I arrived at Lime Street Station along with Bobby Graham and Gordon Wallace, where we were met by Joe Fagan and Rueben Bennett. Rueben was an amazing character who used to tell some wonderful stories of his days playing as a goalkeeper in Scotland.
We drove along Scotland Road with Joe and Rueben and Joe said “this is the famous Scotland Road, and there is a pub on every corner and woe betide you boys if we find you in any of them”.
We arrived shortly at 258 Anfield Road. This was to be my lodgings for the next few years. The large house was only a stone’s throw from the Kop.
My first wage as an apprentice professional was £7.50 per week, of which I gave £3.50 to my landlady for my lodgings and sent £2.00 per week home to my Mum in an envelope to help the family out. I was left with £2.00 per week, which was enough in those days for a young man to have a great time for a week in Liverpool. That included being able to watch The Beatles start their career playing live in the Cavern in Mathew Street.
In May 1961, outside the secretary’s office, I found a complete record of the week’s wages to be paid into Barclays Bank in Walton Vale for every player and member of staff at Anfield. Unbelievably the total wage bill for every player and all of the coaching and managerial staff at Liverpool Football Club was five hundred and thirteen pounds, thirteen shillings, and two pence.
The following day we were taken up to Anfield and introduced to two young lads. One of them had a face like a map of the Andes and looked much older than his age, which was only fifteen like us. He had a fairly gruff Scouse accent. The other lad was tall and dark haired and seemed a little shy. Bill said “I want you to meet Tommy Smith and Chris Lawler, boys”. We all signed as apprentices the same week.
After two years as an apprentice professional, I signed full time professional forms for Liverpool on my 17th birthday, 25th October 1961.
We reached the FA Youth Cup final v West Ham United in 1962/3, losing 6-5 over the two legged final. We won 3-1 at Anfield and lost 5-2 after extra time, at Upton Park. The winner was a highly disputed late goal, where we were robbed by the referee, Jack Taylor. He later went on to referee the World Cup final in 1970, in Mexico City.
Finally Shankly put all of us, Bobby Graham, Alf Arrowsmith, Tommy Lawrence Gordon Wallace, Phil Tinney, Tommy Smith and Chris Lawler in for our reserve team debuts at Old Trafford, in the semi-final of the Lancashire Senior Cup against Manchester United, in 1962/3. And, we won 5-2. Bill was ecstatic.
We were like his version of the Busby Babes, and we had beaten a very experienced Manchester United team on their own turf. We lost the final 2.1 against Burnley at Turf Moor, who fielded virtually their entire first team. We also had to play with ten men for most of the match, after Tommy Lawrence had to go off injured. I did score our only goal though.
The 1960s was a period where there were only black and white television pictures; there were no mobile phones, no computers, no sky television and no action replays, no all seating stadiums. The player’s shirts had no names on them and were numbered from 1 to 11 and there were no substitutes allowed.
There were no agents, foreign managers or foreign players. The players played for the love of the game. It was a different era. The pitches were muddy and you could get away with murder when the referees back was turned. They never had fifteen cameras following every move and incident like they have now.
One of my first memories of Bill was not long after my arrival at Liverpool when we were standing in the centre circle at Anfield, while he was showing my stepfather and myself around what was a rather dilapidated stadium at the time. Bill said:
“Your boy is lucky to be here Mr Scott. This place will become a bastion of invincibility and they will all come here and be beaten.”
My father worked at the time as a gardener for the Aberdeen City Council, and during the conversation Bill asked him the question “Who are you with Mr Scott?” My Dad replied “I work for the City Mr Shankly,” whereupon Bill responded by saying in his best James Cagney voice, “What league do they play in?”
As Apprentice professionals, after cleaning the first team’s boots, painting the stands and clearing the rubbish from the Kop we used to play 5-a-sides in the car park behind the main stand every Monday morning. The opposition in these games was usually Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Ronnie Moran and Reuben Bennett. Our side was Bobby Graham Gordon Wallace, Tommy Smith, Chris Lawler, and me. We never ever won those games because Shanks and company would have played until dark to make sure they got the result.
The first team won the league in 1964. I had made the most appearances for the reserves, and I was top scorer by some way. The week before the celebration dinner Peter Thompson encouraged me to ask for a wage rise, so I nervously went in to see Shanks to plead my case.
Bill said it was not normal practice to award increases in the playing season but in my case he would make an exception. He gave me an envelope, which he asked me not to open it till I got home. When I opened the envelope it contained a £15.00 voucher for a mohair suit from a men’s outfitters in London Road.
The next day I asked Joe Fagan about it and Joe said Bill had told him I had been in to see him and that he wanted me to look as smart as the first team at the celebration dinner at the Adelphi Hotel at the end of the month. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
During the three years 1963, 1964, and 1965 I went on to make 138 appearances in the reserve team at Anfield, scoring 34 goals. I had the most appearances and scored the most goals in the reserve team over that period. I was then included in Shankly’s first team squad for the 1964 preseason tour of North America and was sure I’d get a chance to play because there were so many matches.
Unfortunately I sustained an injury and the club signed Phil Chisnall from Manchester United. Phil went instead of myself. I was gutted as it was my big chance to break through at last. But it was not to be. I’d even got my club suit, bag and all the equipment for the trip. Shanks let me keep the suit, said it would be a collector’s item someday. I gave it to my mother to mind and she accidentally gave it to the Salvation Army.
It was so different then from the Liverpool of the modern era. When reporters asked Bill Shankly what the team was he used to reply “Same as last season”In the 1964/65 season I ended the season at Liverpool as leading goal scorer in the second team at Anfield for the third successive season, but still could not break in to the first team. I was with the squad for the cup final when we won the FA Cup at Wembley and this was the first time that Liverpool had ever won the Cup.
It was a fabulous occasion, the greatest day in the clubs history at that time. I remember walking on the Wembley pitch with Bill Shankly Bob Paisley and Peter Thompson an hour and a half before the game. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck when Bill looked at the Liverpool fans behind the goal and said to Bob Paisley. “Bob we can’t lose for these fans, it is not an option”
I remember that wonderful reception at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, and trip home on the train where we drank champagne from the FA Cup, and once we passed Crewe you could not see the buildings for flags and bunting. When we arrived at Lime Street station there must have been over 500,000 people in the streets as we made our way to the town hall for the official reception. I stood behind Shankly on the town hall balcony and it was absolutely electrifying.
At the time I was in digs with the great Liverpool winger Peter Thompson. When we eventually got home to our digs later, I found a letter from the club waiting for me from Mr Shankly.
I opened it thinking that I had been permanently promoted to the first team squad, and that 1966 would be my big breakthrough year. However, I was brought right back to reality when I saw that the letter stated that, at a board meeting of the Directors of Liverpool FC, it had been decided to accept an offer from Aberdeen for me for £12,000. It was a good sum in those days and it ensured that I received £1,200 signing on fee. I used it to purchased a brand new Mini for £535 (God knows how much the same car would cost today).
On the Monday morning, I went in to see the great man as I was very upset. I asked him why he was letting me go as, having been top scorer in the reserves for three seasons, I thought I could break in to the first team. He then proceeded to make the most wonderful sacking any manager has ever implemented.
He said to me “George son, there are five good reasons why you should leave Anfield now.” I was puzzled and asked what they were.
“Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Smith, and Thompson” he replied “The first team forward line, they are all internationals son”.
I was in tears and it was then that he showed his motivational powers, humanity and his greatness when he said the words I will never forget. “George son always remember at this moment in history you are the twelfth best player in the world.”
When I asked what he meant by this outrageous statement, he replied. “The first team here at Anfield son is going to be the greatest team in the world and you are the leading goal scorer in the reserves, I have sold you to Aberdeen go back home and prove me right.”
He could see how upset I was and came round from his desk put his arms round my shoulder and said to me. “Son you have been here with me since the start but it’s time for you to move on. Think of yourself as the foundation stone of the Liverpool cathedral. No one sees it but without that stone the cathedral doesn’t get built.”
I don’t know how he came up with these statements that inspired people. He was just a working class ex miner from that little village in South West Scotland Glenbuck. It was amazing. He told me I was the best player ever to play for his reserve team. He also gave me a written reference that day, which is my proudest possession to this day. This is what it said:
“George Scott played for my football club for five years from 1960 to 1965 and during that time he never caused anybody any trouble.
I would stake my life on his character.
This reference has helped me more than I can say throughout my life.
George Scott, 2019
Coming soon, on Tales of Anfield Road, George’s time at Aberdeen and more Anfield memories.