Liverpool vs Everton: Oleg the Serf, Bubonic Plague and the Smurfs

Featured

By Simon Meakin

OK.  So at the start of an insanely busy and hugely crucial month it’s that lot from down the road up next.  Despite Alisson clearly getting a bit bored and deciding to liven things up by channelling his inner Grobbelaar, we start December maintaining our eight point lead at the top but more crucially are now 11 whole points ahead of Man City (and 14 clear of an increasingly irrelevant Chelsea).  Leicester may now be our nearest rivals but it’s still City I’m most wary of.  I simply don’t trust the blighters not to suddenly perform some sort of witchcraft or hocus-pocus like deciding to reel off 20 wins on the bounce.  Can’t take your eyes off them for a second, I tell you.

If we can make it past the Sheff Utd game at the end of the Christmas and New Year period with our lead more or less maintained, and hopefully having (finally) won the World Club Championship, got through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League and our kids having got us through to the semis in the League Cup then I’ll be a very happy man (I don’t subscribe to this trying to get knocked out of cup competitions early to concentrate on the League – I want to win everything!  In particular it would seem a waste of the lunatic win over Arsenal if we went out with a whimper).

And so we’re in rude health as we face our blue-hued friends (I suspect I mean friends here in the same way that Boris Johnson constantly refers to “our European Friends” every time he talks about Brexit).  Although I have made them sound more like the Smurfs.  Proper or Barron Knights version (“Where are you all coming from?  We’re from Dartmoor on the run!) available.

It’s still not clear by the time we get to Wednesday whether Marco Silva will still even be in charge as Everton are clearly not in rude health (lots of rude words raining down from the Gwaldys Street yes, I’ll grant you that).  This is despite allegedly winning the last couple of transfer windows.  I hadn’t previously been aware this was a thing and I’m not sure whether it means they get awarded an actual window to go into their ever bulging trophy cabinet, along with the arched window from Playschool and some of those ones Ted Moult used to flog possibly? 

Or, maybe their trophy cabinet is just made out of windows?  All the better to see their massive haul of big shiny cups. They’ll be searching for their first win at Anfield since approximately 1276 when Oleg the Serf, returning after six weeks out with bubonic plague, scored a controversial winner which was allowed to stand after Martin Atkinson’s VAR review took two hours, mainly because he had to catch and slaughter his own chicken in order to read it’s entrails.

I have to admit at this point that I had a narrow escape from being a poor benighted Everton fan myself, given that my Mum came from a long line of Blues (despite having been born in Anfield).  Luckily she was never really interested in football (as far as I can work out she has only ever been to one match, the main highlight of which was “Rowdy” Yates attempting to throttle a Fulham player. 

She still gets affronted when I tell her that Everton are not my second club (or third club really – she does accept the Hereford supporting bit) as she seems to work on the principle that how much you support a club should be in direct proportion to how close the ground is to where you were born.  I’ve decided to go with this and adopt an irrational hatred of Robbie Fowler’s Brisbane Roar on the basis that Brisbane is a “good hike” from Fazakerley Hospital. 

My Mum also claims that my Dad’s family must have been the Black (Red?) Sheep of the Scotland Road catholic community, given she swears blind that Everton were the catholic club, but I’ve met many people who seem to think it was the other way round.  I’m beginning to suspect that there was no actual religious split at all.  Liverpool were famously formed by a breakaway group from the Everton club (after an argument about whether it was better to win the Champions League on a regular basis vs winning the transfer window and sacking your manager every October) so I’m kind of guessing they probably all went to the same church anyway.  But I’m sure someone with far more knowledge of the history of both clubs can put me right on this.

Highlights against Everton?  Too many to choose from, from Rushy’s four goals to Origi’s comical winner last season.  But one of my favourites has to be Gary McAllister’s 40 yard last minute winner in 2001 which was crucial in sparking off the late surge to snatch our first ever qualification for the Champions League (although I’m told we might have previously done alright in the same competition in a previous guise). 

It’s interesting to speculate what would have happened to Gary’s old club had he not scored that goal as it effectively condemned Leeds to their near-death spiral given it turned out “Publicity” Pete Risdale had mortgaged the house, including posh goldfish and Seth Johnson, on Champions League qualification.  We probably wouldn’t have got Harry Kewell for a start and then where on earth would we be?

Another favourite memory dates from the last Merseyside derby with standing on the Kop, when leaping forward to celebrate coming from behind to lead 2-1 courtesy of Brisbane Roar’s (Booo!) Robbie Fowler, the entire Kop seemed to part in front of me and I went hurtling about 20 rows forward before actually finding some supporters to crash into.  It took me most of half time to actually battle back up to my mates.  And looking at the fixtures that season I think that must have been the last ever goal I celebrated on that old Kop.  Don’t think I made it to another game until the last day against Norwich when we failed to score at all.  The last goal that standing Kop ever did celebrate turns out to have been by Julian Dicks of all people.  Penalty against Ipswich.  Now there’s a quiz question you never knew the answer to.

I do have to admit that this game doesn’t quite carry the same weight it did when I was living in Liverpool and surrounded by Everton fans at work (along with a Stoke fan who pooh-poohed the idea of it being a proper derby at all on the basis that the players never got hit in the face by pasties hurled from the crowd – apparently par for the course in the world famous Potteries derby – I do wonder if in the big Truro-Falmouth Cornish derby they throw Wedgwood China at the players instead?). 

But we still need to win it of course.  I’ve given up trying to predict clean sheets at Anfield so I’m going to go for a 2-1 win because that’s what we win all our games by these days.  Let’s say Firmino and Wijnaldum.  Late scrappy consolation from Richarlison.  Everton manager sacked again (Where is Marco Silva coming from?  He’s from Goodison on the run!).

Liverpool vs Brighton: Lady luck, black cats and Kloppmobiles

Featured

By Simon Meakin

Since my last blog, we’ve kept our long unbeaten Premier League run (and our long unbeaten run against City at Anfield) going in ultimately magnificent style last week. Although, it has to be said we rode our luck a bit early on. And, I’m trying to remember whether there is some sort of grammatical rule about the maximum number of sets of brackets allowed in a single sentence – (I’m not sure my old English teacher “Hipster” Hothersall would be approving of this).

Salah’s goal in particular was fabulous, evoking memories of the goal my Dad used to rave about above all others in the 1970’s, Terry McDermott’s famous header in the 7-0 demolition of Spurs.  Watching it again it’s amazing how similar they are.  For David Johnson’s raking crossfield ball and Heighway’s sublime cross just insert Trent and Robbo.  It’s the first thing that came up when I typed Terry Mc into YouTube. 

I didn’t even type the “Dermott”.  Although I clearly needed to include the “c” as disgracefully when I only typed Terry M he’s shunted down to third place behind a bloke playing Boogie Woogie piano at St Pancras station and some sort of American TV Evangelists with what appeared to be the world’s worst Irish accent (despite coming from Dallas).  Neither of this pair of jokers I wager ever even managed to get on to the subs bench v Spurs.

Crucially, we followed the City win up by somehow dredging up yet another win against the odds at Palace.  I’m not sure what the opposite of running over a black cat is but I’m sure Klopp must have done it recently.  Maybe he found a squashed black cat in the road while out cruising the streets of Formby in the Kloppmobile (most likely with the windows rolled down, Wayfarers on and listening to “Summertime” by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince while on the way to Waitrose) and took it to the vet? 

Whatever it is, Lady Luck seems to be smiling on us.  The old adage says that winning while not playing well is the true sign of champions, but I’m fairly sure that champions also manage quite a lot of winning while playing well too. It seems ironic that the only team we seem to have beaten relatively comfortably in the last couple of months has been City themselves. 

And, given the insane schedule we’ve got coming up in the next month, the lads could surely do with a few more relaxing, less emotionally draining wins (the sort where Van Djik can slap on a face mask and some cucumber over his eyes, put a big towel on his head and whack on some whale music with twenty minutes to go).

I’m hoping that Brighton will be one of those games.  I couldn’t write this preview without commenting upon what was obviously the most exciting fact about Brighton growing up in the 1980’s.  The fact it had a nudist beach!   When it was announced that it was opening it was the most mind bogglingly exciting thing my schoolboy mind had ever heard of.  I immediately set about trying to figure out how to suggest a family holiday to Brighton and then to somehow “accidentally” chance upon the Swedish women’s beach volleyball team, who would just happen to have chosen the very same day to forsake Malmo for team practice right next to our deck chairs. 

It wasn’t until many years later when living in Sydney, that I did finally get the chance to stumble unexpectedly onto a nudist beach (on more than one occasion in fact) only to discover that your average nudist turned out to be a lot more old, male and wrinkly than in my fevered teenage dreams.

As I’ve noted previously on this blog I’m also a Hereford fan and the mere mention of Brighton brings back painful memories of the crucial do or die match on the last day of the season in 1997, when the loser would go crashing out of the Football League into Conference oblivion.  I missed the game as I was in Australia at the time.  Specifically, I was visiting a German speaking village outside of Adelaide (I’d taken a day off from tracking down naked men on nudist beaches). Instead of finding an Oompah band and lots of thigh slapping Bavarians, or even a young Jurgen Klopp cruising around rescuing black cats, I somehow managed to find a pub full of Brighton fans. 

This being back in the dark ages, I also had to try and follow the game on the BBC World Service in the middle of the night.  A World Service which incorrectly kept telling me that Hereford were winning until after the final whistle. I have to apologise to the poor German girl who woke up in alarm thinking Adelaide was suffering an earthquake following my string of expletives when I finally found out we’d gone down.

I’d like to think it was some sort of Sliding Doors moment where had the World Service been right, I’d now be faced with split loyalties as Hereford were preparing for their visit to Anfield and it would be Brighton who were looking forward to the visit of Farsley Celtic.  Gwyneth Paltrow would be playing the role of the Farsley coach driver trying to work out quite why she’s faced with a fifteen hour round trip to the south coast in the National League North.

I do have happier memories of a Brighton game when I was at Anfield on the last day of the season a couple of seasons ago.  A 4-0 walk in the park in glorious sunshine with Mo Salah scoring his 32nd goal of the season to set a new Premier League scoring record (for a 38 game season before you start writing in to correct me Mr Alan Shearer).  And Mo Salah’s daughter becoming surely the youngest person ever to score at the Kop end.  Checking back it also turns out that Dominic Solanke scored what, remarkably for a player we managed to sell for £17m on the basis that he was a striker, still appears to be his only ever goal in English football.

Anyway.  On to my match prediction.  Liverpool to repeat the scoreline of a couple of years ago and win 4-0, finally keeping a clean sheet at Anfield. Two goals from a fit again Salah, one for Firmino and Harvey Elliott puts down his copy of the Beano to come off the bench to break Mo Salah’s daughter’s record as youngest ever goalscorer at the Kop end. 

Jordan Henderson will be so relaxed he has time for a facial, a deep tissue massage and some boiled beetroot soup.  Klopp cruises home a happy man listening to Warren G on his in-car sound system and imagining he’s in South Central Blundellsands.

You can wear your Daddy’s scarf today: Tim Godden

Featured

Tim Godden’s emotional illustration

Of all the images shared online to remember those who fell during the two world wars that blighted the 20th century, I found this one deeply moving.

It depicts a familiar scene to all of us. A parent and child getting ready to go to Anfield on match day, only in this one the boy has been robbed of the chance to attend with his father, who in turn has lost all of his tomorrows. The mother has lost a husband.

For me, few images sum up the utter futility and all-pervasive impact of war as much as this one. Thank you Tim.

Please support Tim, you can find his work here:

https://timgoddenillustrations.bigcartel.com/product/you-can-wear-daddy-s-scarf-today

High Stakes at Anfield: Liverpool vs Manchester City

Featured

By Simon Meakin

As the Reds gear up for a huge encounter with title rivals, Manchester City at Anfield this weekend, Simon Meakin is back with another completely unique match preview.

So we’ve staged a well earned comeback against Spurs, a dramatic late comeback
against Villa and a frankly ludicrous comeback against Arsenal. Then, we followed all of that up with a mundane, run of the mill win against Genk – who I had to admit I had to check was an actual real place when the Champions League draw was made; a bit like Neil the dim one out of the Inbetweeners having to ask “what is Swansea? Is it some sort of animal?”

And now, this is it! The big one! It’s not even Christmas but it’s time to roll out the
cliches; Title decider! Championship six pointer! Season defining encounter!

Speaking of Christmas and cliches does anyone remember the one about West Ham always coming down with the Christmas decorations? They always used to somehow be challenging at the top of the League until December. Usually with Dave Swindlehurst bagging an unfeasible number of goals. What Hammers fans these days wouldn’t give to at least have the chance to be dragged from the loft, checked for faulty bulbs that might knacker the entire circuit (more than likely the Andy Carroll light) before being put up with the Christmas decorations in the first place.

Dave Swindlehurst

Right, now that I’ve gone and blown my Christmas bolt in early November (what the hell am I going to write about for the Boxing Day match) let’s focus on the Man City match (I was just going to say “City” there but I don’t want fans of Norwich, Kansas or the City of London accusing me of arrogance). Normally the above cliches would be just that, cliches, but given the performance of City over the past couple of years any chance to take points off them feels crucial.

It was arguably our failure to take more off them last season that did for our title hopes. And, given our performance since the start of last season, the possibility of going nine points clear of them while only having to play them once more would start to get me just a little bit excited. Unlike some Liverpool fans with a hatred of anything “Manc,” I’ve never minded City (that red lot from the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford are a different kettle of fish entirely).

I’m not sure whether it’s because “my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” the fact I liked their kit growing up or just their past comedy tendency to arse up and shoot themselves in the foot at every opportunity (deliberately playing for a draw against us on the last day of the season and promptly getting themselves relegated for not being able to add up anyone?). Sadly this trait seemed to rather irritatingly disappear at the exact same time large bundles of dodgy Qatari oil money appeared.

I also went to university in Manchester and (whisper it very quietly) really liked the
place (apart from the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford of course – which is famously
not in the City of Manchester). I used to cycle past their old training ground in Moss
Side every day (hoping to sneak a glimpse of legendary players like Andy Hinchcliffe
or Ian Brightwell). My mind might be playing tricks on me in my old age but, from what I remember, it pretty much consisted of what looked like a bunch of Goals five-a-side pitches. Pep would be choking on his Jamon Iberico and Patatas Bravas had he had to put up with those kind of facilities, and with me pedalling past and trying to gawp through the fence to try and spy on his Tika-Taka based tactical genius

Mind you, given that he would have also had to put up with Niall Quinn playing up front,
I’d imagine even his Tika-Taka levels of genius might have been stretched a bit. Man City do not have the best of records at Anfield it has to be said and that’s putting it mildly. I read somewhere a couple of years ago that Anfield was the only ground they had failed to win at since they became billionaires, but it’s actually much worse than that.

They have incredibly only won twice at Anfield since beating us in an FA Cup tie in 1956 on their way to winning the tournament, despite Bert Trautmann famously playing most of the final with a broken neck. This is a game still used by football fans of a certain age – i.e. so old they looked like Tommy Hutchinson in his prime – as exhibit number one in why modern day footballers are a bunch of namby-pamby pansies, who wouldn’t know what had hit them if they played in the good old days, along with other exhibits such as shoulder barging, having a crafty Woodbine mid-match, compulsory 14 hour shifts down the mine before kick-off, tackling from behind, and being allowed to infect the opposition centre-half with Smallpox.

One of those wins was due to a last minute Anelka winner in the Houllier years. The
other, more famous win (to my mind at least) was the 3-1 win on Boxing Day 1981.
I’ve got vivid memories of this game as a child, as I clearly remember the fact that it left us 12th in the table over Christmas (fully 11 places behind a Dave Swindlehurst inspired
West Ham no doubt). Equally, I can clearly remember the 10 year old me not being
worried about it as, in my youthful naivety, I simply assumed we would still win the
League, because “that’s just what Liverpool did.”

The incredible thing was that I was right. We did. I believe we hold the record for coming from further back at Christmas to win the title than anyone else ever. Although my memory isn’t quite as clear as I thought as I’ve always had it in my head that an inspired Trevor Francis scored two of their goals. Having just watched the game back on You Tube he didn’t actually score at all.

The win was more to do with performances to forget from Grobelaar and Phil Thompson. The game also apparently involved Big Joe Corrigan being hit on the head with a bottle thrown from the crowd according to my mate.

As for this weekend’s game it’s going to be quite a nervous one, for me at least. Hopefully, Klopp will have the players sorted. There’s a chance to go nine points clear or potentially have it cut to just three.

I was toying with predicting my first draw but let’s go for yet another 2-1 win. Hopefully not leaving it as late as Villa. Firmino and Mane with Gabriel Jesus getting one in return and us sitting pretty, eight points clear of Leicester.

Liverpool versus Tottenham: Low Blocks, Split Strikers and Wagon Wheels

Featured

By Simon Meakin

Simon Meakin returns to preview this Sunday’s clash with Spurs, gloat about getting the Leicester result spot on and deliver his verdict on this weekend’s result. As ever, it is a match preview like no other.

So we’ve dropped the first points of the season. On the glass half full side, we maintained our unbeaten start to the season (and we’re now 26 league games unbeaten since January). And, we demonstrated yet again that we simply won’t lie down and accept defeat with another late goal (and I’m delighted for Adam Lallana too. After all, he has been through injury-wise over the last few years), and once we equalised there was only one team who even looked remotely like they could win it (how often could we have said that about a visit to Old Trafford). Of course, we also denied United two crucial points in their relegation battle. Could be telling in May that!

But. But. But. There’s no getting away from the fact we were very poor for most of
the game, against a very average side. I’m not sure what kind of wheel Ole is
supposed to be at, but looking at United’s performances so far this season my best
guess is a Wagon Wheel (you knew it was always a good school lunchtime when you
opened your lunch box and found one of those circular chocolate treats within).

But, it is slightly worrying that we produced our worst performance since last time we
visited Old Trafford. Do we have some sort of mental block about playing there?
Scarred by too many defeats in the Fergie era? In a way it might be better if the
answer was yes, given we don’t have to play there again this season. But we’re still
six points clear at the top so any complaints can probably be filed away under “first
world” problems for now. Incidentally does anyone actually know where the second
world is? It never seems to make the news so I can only assume it lacks a decent
publicist (you know the sort of chap who tells it to don a Chelsea shirt and start
sucking someone’s toes just to get a mention after the Giant Pandas failing to mate
again on John Craven’s Newsround).

Before we move on to the Spurs game I’d also just like to put in a big shout to me
and my Leicester prediction. Not only did I get the result right, not only did I get the
score bang on, I even correctly predicted our winning goalscorer and the scorer of
Leicester’s consolation goal. I haven’t been in the club shop of late but given how on
fire I was with last week’s predictions (yes I know it was actually three weeks) it
wouldn’t surprise me if a whole range of ‘Big Red Combine Harvester’ memorabilia
hasn’t already been rolled out. For any new readers (for example I’d imagine Eric
Dier is likely to be reading this looking for red hot tactical insights ahead of Sunday’s
game – and let me say Eric, you’ve come to exactly the right place) please refer back
to my previous blog entry.

On to Spurs then (finally says Eric). This is the club who in my youth epitomised the term “Fancy Dan”. They had Ricky Villa, who sported the kind of revolutionary beard that could singlehandedly bring down fascist juntas, Glen Hoddle who rebelliously wore his shirt so untucked from his shorts, he almost looked like a particularly hefty member
of Pan’s People wearing a mini-skirt on Top of the Pops circa 1970, Ossie Ardiles – who
famously adopted the role of happy, clueless Manuel out of Fawlty Towers foreigner mispronouncing “Tottingham” on Top of the Pops, and Steve Archibald, who slightly less famously achieved the rare feat of appearing with two separate acts on Top of the Pops on the same night. He sang with both Tottenham and the Scotland World Cup squad – yes do not adjust your sets younger readers – Scotland once used to have enough good players (mostly ours it has to be said) to actually qualify for things (Christ knows what Yazoo and Altered Images or whoever else was appearing on that episode thought was going on). Oh, and Garth Crooks.

As a child, I have to admit I had a sneaky pang of jealousy at their Fancy Dan ways. Especially when compared to our slightly dour, get a goal and then let Hansen and Lawrenson pass it round the back for an hour approach (I may be slightly exaggerating for effect here). But, on the other hand, as a child I also got a lot of joy from the fact we used to win everything all the time as well. So, swings and roundabouts.

Returning to Steve Archibald, his other main claim to fame was that when Terry Venables took over as Barcelona manager he decided it would be a good idea if the first thing he did was to flog Diego Maradona to Napoli and replace him with Archibald.

For those younger readers still reeling from my explosive Scotland revelations this was the equivalent of selling Messi and replacing him with Danny Ings. Even more astonishingly ‘El Tel’ and Archibald then proceeded to win what was – at that time – Barcelona’s second title in a quarter of a century (the only other time being in 1974, when having just signed Cruyff from under the noses of Real Madrid. Allegedly, Cruyff refused to sign for Madrid due to their associations with fascist General Franco. Barcelona then famously went to the Bernabeu and dismantled Real 0-5 with Cruyff putting on a Total Football masterclass. So, there you have it. Steve Archibald. Better than Maradona. As good as Cruyff.

Right, now that Dier will have given up trying to follow this and gone off to look at Jan
Vertonghen’s wife’s Instragram account instead, it’s time to move on to the modern
day Spurs. Having moved from Fancy Dan, through to “Spursy,” to actually being
quite good – they now appear to be going through a mini-crisis (but at least have the
advantage of the media being a bit distracted by Man U having a bigger one). I thought I’d look back to the last time we played this lot. And after racking my brains for a while, it came back to me.

Oh yes! It was when we became Champions of Europe! For the sixth time! Has anyone mentioned this little known fact since? I believe we should put it out there (and not using the second world’s useless publicist. No. I’m thinking more like Kenny Everett’s Brother Lee Love and his enormous hands!). “We’ve conquered all of Europe. We’re never going to stop” “We’re the greatest team in Europe and we’re off to Auntie Bee’s!” (Sorry. That’s what I always sing to my son when we’re off to visit his Aunt. Who’s called Bee.

I’d like to think that’s what sealed the deal re him becoming a Liverpool fan. Even though I haven’t really explained the Rome 77 stuff and he therefore hasn’t got a clue why I’m singing it). Anyway, calming down after that moment of excitement, on to the match.

Having failed to turn up against Crisis Team A, I’m feeling a backlash in my bones, and a convincing performance against Crisis Team B. I’m going with 4-1 to the Red Men. Two goals and a man of the match winning performance from Bobby, a goal from Mane and an own-goal from Dier – who will have been thoroughly bamboozled by my talk of low blocks, split strikers and wagon wheels.

I’m predicting that Harry Kane will fall over, win and then score a penalty. So, it’s another week at number one for Klopp’s People, Ole dropping out of the top 40 entirely and Clare Grogan having to chase Steve Archibald out of her dressing room, after discovering him wearing nothing but a Womble costume!

Van Dijk, shotguns and flat caps: Can the ‘Big Red Combine Harvester’ keep chugging along?

Featured

By Simon Meakin

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.

Rumour has it David Moyes still sends Collina Christmas cards

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. 

Is Klopp tall? Or, are we all just small?

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.  . 

Liverpool vs Newcastle: Proroguing the Premier League, Syd Puddefoot’s record fee and Steve Bruce is not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy

Featured

Newcastle have broken an age-old Geordie tradition, by not appointing a Messiah

By Simon Meakin

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?

The Mogg family pretending they like soccer ball

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.

Syd Puddefoot: record breaker

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!

Liverpool vs Arsenal: Robbo vs Mr Onion-Horse and the horror of mascots

Featured

The horror of club mascots threatens Simon’s hipster sensibilities

By Simon Meakin

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.

Andy Robbo: “They can take our lives, but they will never take our points.”

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.

If you would like to write for Tales of Anfield Road’s Red Voices page, get in touch using the form below:

Liverpool kit lore and third kit snobbery

Featured

Liverpool’s 3rd Kit don’t impress me much

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.

Liverpool’s iconic away kit that saw them through much of the glory years

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.

John Barnes rehabilitating the grey away kit all on his own

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.

Let’s face it, Kenny could look good in anything

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.

Robbie and Macca

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.

You can preorder Steven Scragg’s new book A Tournament Frozen in Time now

George Scott: Life after Liverpool, Elizabeth Taylor, a biscuit factory and the enduring influence of Shankly

Featured

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.

George scores on his debut for Aberdeen in 1965 against Glasgow Rangers

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.

George scoring for Port Elizabeth against Durban

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.

George Scott front and centre for Tranmere Rovers, 1969

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.

George standing behind Elizabeth Taylor

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.

George Scott, 2019