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.