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.
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.
It’s September 1946, we’re three games into the first football league season since the end of World War 2. The Reds are about to take on Chelsea, and the Kop is about to witness one of the most remarkable games of their lives.
The war was over, the guns that had wreaked death and devastation across the globe had been silent for a year. Soldiers were still returning to rebuild their broken cities and the people continued to exist on government rations. Though the carnage had come to an end, life continued to be a struggle for millions. Thank God for football.
Games had continued throughout the war years, with clubs organised into regional leagues. The likes of Bob Paisley and Billy Liddell had signed for Liverpool before the commencement of hostilities. They would have to wait years to make their debuts, having to satisfy themselves with unofficial matches interspersed between active service in Europe.
In 1946, the football league resumed and Liverpool manager George Kay had assembled a formidable team. The club had not won a league championship since 1923. All that was about to change.
Kay, a pioneer who understood the importance of nutrition, decided to get his players out of the country in preseason. He took them to America, where they could build up their pale and malnourished frames with ‘steaks and malts.’ It proved to be a master stroke.
Kay, born in Manchester in 1891, managed the Reds for a total of 357 games. His first game in the dugout came in 1936. We’ll never know what glory he could have achieved where it not for the war, but that’s true of so many of the Reds’ greats. The 1946-47 season would prove to be a spectacular high point of his career though, with Liverpool winning the title in 1947. They had simply outrun, outfought and out thought their competition, and that inspired preseason will have played a vital part in that.
The omens had been good, as Liverpool toured New York, St Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia and New England. They racked up 70 confidence boosting goals on tour, in front of packed stadiums, full of expats and locals. The highlight will have been a 12-0 hammering of a Philadelphia select at Yellow Jacket Field.
Then it was back home to a few knockabout games as the team re-acclimatised in the North West of England. Confidence in the red half of the city would have been soaring, as news of the US tour was lapped up by its citizens in letters sent home to the Liverpool Echo by the manager. Imagine the sense of eagerness and excitement, as supporters looked forward to the resumption of league football, for the first time in seven years.
However, Liverpool got off to a stuttering start that gave no hint of a first league title in 23 years. They saw off Sheffield United 1-0, in the season opener at Bramall Lane. The win came courtesy of a 90th minute strike by Len Carney. They followed that up with a disappointing 0-1 home reverse to Middlesborough in their second outing though.
Their fourth match, saw them thrashed by Manchester United, 5-0, in a game that was remarkably played at Manchester City’s ground, Maine Road. Had anyone suggested Liverpool would go on to lift the title in May, to a Red who had witnessed the humiliation, they’d have surely been given short shrift. The game had left United top of the table, and the men from Anfield languishing in 12th.
However, the Red Men would find their feet in a season that saw them score 84 goals, a figure that more than compensated for their occasionally leaky defence. In a foreshadow of the Rodgers era, Liverpool would often need to outscore their opponents to win the points, conceding 52 goals in a 42 goal season.
Kopites would have been given a glimpse of what was to come in the teams third game of the season, against Chelsea at Anfield. It would be one of the most thrilling games any one had ever seen.
The game got underway amidst unseasonably hot weather, on Saturday 7th September 1946. The official attendance was 49,950 but the numbers were likely to be much higher, as crowds continued to pour into the ground up until half-time, when the gates were finally locked. Even then, crowds of local kids continued to scale the wall on Anfield Road and found their way into the stadium regardless. The desire to see the Reds in action was so great, that even those locked out, some 5,000 people, remained at the ground, their ears pinned to walls, listening to the roar of the crowd inside.
It was the weekend. Work was over for a while, and tens of thousands of Scousers had tossed their cares and worries to one side, at least for 90 minutes. There was no place on earth they wanted to be, than right there, in or around Anfield.
Those inside would be treated to 11 goals in what would be one of the most remarkable games in an age. At the end of it, Liverpool would emerge the victors, but not before Chelsea had threatened one of the most incredible comebacks of all time.
Making their debuts that day, despite having
signed for the club seven years before, were Bob Paisley and Billy Liddell. The
Echo would proclaim that the pair had transformed the red attack. It wasn’t
without justification either. Liverpool were 6-0 up after 50 minutes.
Making their debuts that day, despite having
signed for the club seven years before, were Bob Paisley and Billy Liddell. The
Echo would proclaim that the pair had transformed the red attack. It wasn’t
without justification either. Liverpool were 6-0 up after 50 minutes.
The game got off to a blistering start, when Liddell opened the scoring inside two minutes, turning in a corner. The ground rocked as joyous supporters showed their appreciation. The man who would go on to define the club and who the Kop would call King Billy, was already 24 years old and had played 152 times for the club, scoring 82 times.
These appearances had been in the unofficial
inter-war games, and didn’t count. However, they would have mattered to the
supporters who continued to follow the club throughout the dark days of World
War 2. He would have been a hero, even then. This is how the Liverpool Daily Post recorded the goal:
Success came in exactly two minutes and Paisley
was the man who went forward to get the corner kick which produced a direct
goal for Liddell. The corner swung in, and Robinson, trying to punch away, put
the ball on the inside of an upright whence it turned into the net.”
The reporter felt Liddell was lacking match
fitness though and suggested this may have explained Chelsea’s second half
rally. In the first half though, Liverpool were irrepressible. They added
another three thanks to a brace from Bill Jones on his debut, and a goal from
Willie Fagan on the stroke of half time.
By now, the vast crowds on the Kop were
beginning to struggle with the heat. Packed so tightly under the tin roof, many
were becoming concerned for the safety of scores of youngsters who had climbed
onto the huge terrace. Though the local press claimed it had little to do with
‘packing,’ the conditions must have been incredibly uncomfortable.
Thankfully, police would allow hundreds of kids
to descend from the huge stand and sit along the touchline that surrounded the
pitch. There they would feel the fresh air on their cheeks and enjoy a
remarkable second half.
Jack Balmer, a Scouser from a family of Evertonians and future captain of the club, grabbed the Reds fifth, two minutes after the restart. He was far from a fans favourite, and many would let him know during games. Still, the bald-headed striker would play 309 times for the club, scoring a very creditable 110 goals. Bob Paisley would list him as one of his ’50 Golden Reds,’ and spoke of his sadness at Balmer’s treatment by some supporters.
Liverpool were cruising now, and when Liddell
hit the sixth goal just three minutes later, those kids on the touchline would
have been barely able to contain themselves. Then the game changed completely,
and the Londoners mounted a fierce fight back. 22 minutes later, they and every
Red in the ground would have been chewing their fingernails.
Goals from Len Goulden, and Jimmy Argue in the
55th and 64th minute would have caused the mutterings on the Kop to crank up a
notch, but the two-minute brace from Alex Machin in the 70th and 72nd may have
led to a full-fledged revolt. The score was now incredibly 6-4 and the Reds
defence was rocking.
However, the Liverpool crowd had long since
been singled out as different by the nation’s media. Famed for their ability to
get behind the team when they were needed, the seemingly put aside their
anxieties and helped George Kay’s charges to ride the waves and steady the ship.
In truth, Chelsea had given themselves a
mountain to scale when they fell six goals behind. They’d given Liverpool a big
scare, but after their fourth, they simply ran out of steam. Willie Fagan, who
had rounded off the scoring in the first half, repeated the feat in the second.
He hammered home Liverpool’s seventh in the 87th minute, no doubt much to the
relief of the Kop.
Liverpool supporters would get used to not
keeping a clean sheet during this season. There would be setbacks and defeats
home and away, but the Reds were simply too good for the rest of the league.
They clinched the title in the most bizarre of circumstances, on the 14th June
Liverpool beat Wolves 2-1 in their final game
of the season but had to wait two weeks to know whether they had clinched the
title. While the win had robbed Wolves of their chance win the league, Stoke
City could do it, if they beat Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, in their final
game. However, due to a bitter winter, that led to many fixture postponements,
that game wouldn’t take place until two weeks later.
And, it would coincide with the final of the
Liverpool Senior Cup, which pitted the Reds against Everton. That meant
Liverpool faced the possibility of winning or losing two trophies on the same
day. The tension inside the ground would have been hard to bear, as the Reds
laboured to a 2-1 victory over their neighbours to secure the cup and local
However, according to Billy Liddell, the only
thing on anyone’s mind was what was happening miles away in Sheffield, and the
game between Stoke and Sheffield United. Stoke lost the game and the result was
announced over the speaker system, near the end of the second half, to a packed
and raucous Anfield crowd. Liverpool were champions of England once more, and
they had beat the Blues to the senior cup.
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!
Tommy Lawrence made a total of 390 appearances in goal for Liverpool, between 1957 and 1971. In that time he pioneered a new role for goalkeepers, in which he would act as a sweeper, often rushing from his line in order to ‘smash’ the opposition strikers (as he put it) and also helped the club to win two league titles and its first ever FA Cup in 1965. He is as deserving of the title ‘Liverpool legend’ as any man who has donned the jersey for the club. So, it is my honour to have been able to speak to his sister Mary and two of his children, Stephen and Tracy, who very kindly shared their memories and stories of the man who, to them, was much more than a footballer.
Tommy was born in 1940, in the South Ayrshire town of Dailly. He was the middle child, with an older brother called Billy and younger sister, Mary. His parents, Frank and Ruby Lawrence, moved the family to Warrington when the children were young and Tommy grew up in the North West of England.
His was a typically working class life. His sister Mary recalls how he left school at 15 and began work as an office clerk at Adam Lythgoe Ltd, on Hob Hey Lane, in Warrington. His father had been a chauffeur to the owner, Joe Lythgoe.
Tommy had harboured dreams of becoming a footballer from an early age though, and his father had taken him to a number of local teams, hoping someone would give him a chance. Each time he would be told to come back when he had grown a bit.
Stephen, Tommy’s son, remembers a story his Dad told him of how Roger Hunt –prolific Reds striker of the 1960s – once took Tommy to Warrington Town for a trial, as a striker.
‘I remember my Dad telling me that the Warrington manager had told Roger not to bring my Dad back, as he was not a good striker. Roger replied “don’t worry he’s signed for Liverpool Football Club as a keeper.”’
Lawrence had been something of a late bloomer, and the required growth spurt wouldn’t arrive until after his 16th birthday. It would see him granted a trial at Liverpool, who were in the English Second Division. The then manager, Phil Taylor, was suitably impressed and snapped up the teenager immediately.
Tommy’s sister, Mary, remembers how the club provided a car, which she called the Rolls Royce, to take him to training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At that time Liverpool trained in the Tuebrook area of the city back then. He continued to work at Lythgoe’s during the day, before being picked up by the club car and transported to Liverpool, where he put in the hours on the training field in the evenings. Tommy would go on to sign professional papers at the age of 17.
Mary recalls, ‘Things were certainly different then, even when he got in the first team, he came home to us every night, to the bedroom he shared with his brother. He still went out in the village with his friends. He didn’t leave home until he was married in 1963.’
Tommy married his first wife, Judith in 1963. They would go on to have three children; Tracey in 1964, Stephen in 1967 and the youngest Jayne who was born in 1970.
After becoming a professional, Lawrence would bide his time in the reserves and his break would eventually arrive under the great Bill Shankly, who handed him his first team debut on the 27th October 1962. Sadly it was a forgettable experience for the Reds, as they slumped to a 1-0 away defeat to West Bromwich Albion. But, the die was now cast and a career that would span almost a decade and bring glory to Anfield once more had begun.
Tommy would become Shankly’s number one, and thanks to his generous proportions and agility in the goalmouth, he would affectionately be christened ‘The Flying Pig’ by the Kop. Lawrence made 35 appearances in his first season, and managed his first clean sheet on the 17th November, in a 5-0 thrashing of Leyton Orient.
Two years later, he was a league champion. Under the influence of Shankly the club had won its first league title since 1947, and just two seasons after winning promotion from the second division. A revolution was under way at Anfield and Tommy Lawrence was at the heart of it.
His son Steven, born five years after that championship win, tells me of the influence Shankly had on his Dad and the club.
‘I think my Dad was quite scared of Shanks. So was most of the team. But they respected him because of what he was doing with the club. He was transforming Liverpool FC into the club it is today.
‘My Dad always told me that before Shanks came in, they used to just run for long periods of time. However, the Scotsman changed all of that and instead made them run with the ball at their feet. He stopped them running on the road too saying, “You’re not training to be road runners, you’re training to be footballers.”’
Despite having a healthy respect for the legendary Scotsman, Tommy and teammate Roger Hunt almost incurred his wrath, when they arrived at Anfield for a game, with just five minutes to spare.
‘My dad used to travel with Roger Hunt to the games, and he told me once that the traffic was so bad one match day, before a game against Manchester City, that him and Roger had to get out of the car and run through the city streets to get to Anfield. They arrived at 2.55pm, for a 3pm kick off.’
Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that dressing room, that day. Fortunately, the referee agreed to delay kick-off a few minutes to allow them time to get changed into their kits. Shankly’s response remains shrouded in the mists of time.
Stephen missed the early years of his Dad’s career, but he has vivid memories of when the realisation that his Dad was a star began to dawn on him.
“I was born in 1967, so the first time I realised that my dad was in the limelight so to speak was when we used to have the press at our door and coming in taking family photos. I remember my dad used to bring home match programmes, which I’d to give out to my friends on Bollin Close where we lived in Culcheth.
‘Lots of people used to come round for family parties and we were invited to other players’ houses a lot. The first time I can remember going to Anfield with my dad was running around the pitch while they were having team photos. I recall someone giving me a Liverpool rosette to wear.
‘My Dad used to take me to the field on Shaw Street in Culcheth, and for some reason I was always in goal. I think he wanted me to take after him, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.’
However, being the child of a Liverpool footballing legend came with its ups and downs. While enjoying the admiration of his school mates, Steven recalls the strains on the family and his parents’ marriage, as Tommy’s career came to an end.
‘My parents split up when I was young,’ he reveals. ‘I think he found the transition from coming out of football very difficult, which put a strain on their marriage.’
This is perhaps a reminder, that our heroes and legends are human beings. They are subject to the same stresses and strains as the rest of us, and their families pay a price too. Tommy and Judith parted ways after 14 years of marriage in 1977, though he would remarry many years later. However, despite that, Stephen and his sister Tracey have nothing but fond memories of their childhoods and their father.
‘As a man and a Dad we have loads of memories. He was extremely kind and funny. We never remember him telling us off or being angry, he was always so mild mannered.’
Stephen recalls, ‘He used to take me swimming, to Irlam baths, and he would take all my friends too. When he finished football, we had a little money, thanks to opportunities he had as a pundit. He used to take us on adventures, to Crow Wood. We’d go conker picking and on long walks through the fields into Leigh.’
The children didn’t realise at the time, but Tommy was recreating the adventures of his own childhood, ensuring his offspring enjoyed the same sense of joy that he had. And, Tommy’s sense of fun continued throughout his life.
‘Even when he was poorly, towards the end if his life, he would have the nurses and doctors in the hospital in stitches with his stories and his humour,’ recounts Stephen, explaining how his father’s stories kept staff who were caring for him entertained.
Tommy was not of our city, but he was an adopted son of it. He was adored and respected on the Kop and, as his son explains, the feeling was mutual.
‘My dad loved the people of Liverpool and talked about them fondly to the moment he passed. He had so much love for them.’
The family are particularly grateful to Liverpool supporters who continue to keep Tommy’s memory alive. They point to the many tributes shared on social media. They are also grateful to the club who have produced a video of Tommy’s life and career, and gifted to the family. Stephen continues:
‘The people have been brilliant; I used to take my dad to signings, meeting the fans. I sometimes took my lads Adam and Scott. The fans used to ask them to sign things also because their granddad was Tommy Lawrence. They loved it.
‘I can’t thank Liverpool FC and their fans enough for everything they did for us and my dad. Every day it makes us so proud to know our Dad played for Liverpool FC. The only shame is he didn’t get a testimonial for the club after playing so many games.’
Of course, one of the many reasons why Tommy is held in such high esteem by Liverpool supporters is his involvement in the 1965 FA Cup Final. Liverpool had never won the trophy until then, and the outpouring of euphoria in the city was on a scale that put ‘Beatle mania’ in the shade, and would even give the post Istanbul and Madrid homecomings a run for their money.
It also had a profound impact on the players, and none more so than Tommy Lawrence. Stephen remembers fondly how his father would regale him and his sister with tales of that epic triumph.
‘Dad talked about the 65 final a lot. He spoke of walking out in front of the enormous crowd, feeling a little nervous as this was the opportunity that Liverpool had been waiting for, for so long. They had such a great team and they were determined to win the FA Cup for the first time.
‘He recalled it was a quiet final. The weather was horrendous, then suddenly the game came to life when Roger scored. He thought they had won it, as Leeds didn’t look like scoring. Then Billy Bremner hit an unstoppable shot which my Dad could only look at, as it sailed into the top corner. Despite that, they were still very confident of winning though. They all believed they were the much better team than Leeds.
‘When St John scored the winner, my Dad just dropped to his knees. That was the moment he knew they had won it. He told us the trip home was unbelievable, When they got to Lime Street and on to the buses, he recalled the amount of fans waiting for them to return with the Cup. He would never forget, people hanging off lamp posts and hanging out of windows just to get a glimpse of them. It stayed with him his whole life.’
Of course, the victory was not without its misadventures, and Tommy would be at the heart of them. Stephen explains:
‘The story about my Dad losing the bottom of the FA Cup is told a lot, but it’s true. He was given the job of looking after the plinth, but after the game, and a few drinks back at the hotel, Shanks came looking for it. It was nowhere to be found.
‘My dad told the boss he had no idea where it was. Shanks turned to him and said “The first time we win the FA Cup, and he’s lost it.” Thankfully, it was later found. It had been left on the coach and was on its way to Southend.’
Tommy’s sister, Mary, also remembers how important the final was to her brother and indeed the whole family.
‘The 1965 Cup Final was so exciting for us,’ she says. Mum and dad were so proud (Tommy and Mary’s parents); Dad especially, as he had been an aspiring junior footballer himself but never made it. So, what’s the next best thing? That would be his son playing in the cup final of course. In Dad’s eyes, that was only superseded when he played for Scotland.
‘We all went to Wembley in the Rolls Royce. Our uncle and cousin came over from Ireland. Only mum stayed home to look after baby Tracey. It was a great day for all of us.’
Tracey had been born only months earlier, in October 1964. Though, like her brother Stephen, she will have been too young to share in the joy of their father’s early career, she has devoted a considerable amount of effort to ensuring that his footballing legacy lives on. She explains why:
‘When I started doing the Shankly Nights – tribute nights organised to celebrate the achievements of the legendary boss and his players – my Dad loved it because I could hear and repeat the stories of his ‘boys.’ He loved meeting up with them, and thankfully he managed to do that twice before he died.
‘The first was a Shankly Hero’s Night and the second saw him attend the Philharmonic Hall for the premier of the Shankly documentary; Natures Fire. He loved that. And, seeing the respect he had from the younger players like Sammy Lee, Phil Thompson and Jan Molby was incredible.’
However no night out involving Tommy Lawrence could pass without some misadventure. Tracey explains, ‘He managed to lose me at the Philharmonic, while I had gone to collect the car. When I eventually found him outside, he was mobbed by adoring Liverpool fans. He looked like a movie star, like Patrick Swayze at the premier or Dirty Dancing, and surrounded by his admirers. My Dad was beaming, he loved it’
After Liverpool, Tommy went on to play for Tranmere Rovers for three years, before spending a season with Chorley. He sadly passed away on the 10th January 2018. He left behind a treasure trove of footballing memories, stories and of course silverware. He helped bring joy to countless Reds fans. However, he was also a man who loved and was loved by his family, in particular his three children, Tracey, Stephen and Jayne. Thanks to them his legacy will live on for many more years.
So, I’ll leave the last words to his son, Stephen.
‘My Dad, Tommy Lawrence, is a Liverpool legend. He was a true gentleman, very passionate about his heritage and he loved Liverpool Football Club. He made so many friends around the world, just because of who he was.
‘He was shy but loved talking to people, and always had the time of day for people who knew him, and people that wanted to know him. He loved watching his grand kids playing football too. I’d pick him up on match days and take him to football. We’d share a pie and a pint. He is missed by us all and the football family worldwide.’
Bill Shankly, a famously socialist thinker and miner from the small town of Glenbuck in Scotland, frequently spoke of the union between players, manager and supporters at Liverpool football Club. He described it as a ‘holy trinity.’ To Shanks, there was a common bond and football was a working class sport.
He wanted his men to be payed well, of course. One of his most inspirational quotes was about what he would do if he was a bin man. Typically, He spoke of wanting to be the best bin man in the world, with the cleanest streets. He also said that his workmates would receive the biggest bonuses, and why shouldn’t they? After all, what would make anyone think a bin man was less important than anyone else? He asked.
I believe that behind these sentiments is a philosophy based on collectivism, equality and, put simply, an honest wage for an honest day’s work. Shankly abhorred anyone who he felt wasn’t giving everything they had for the team.
“To play for me, a player has to be prepared to run through a brick wall and come out fighting on the other side,” was another immortal quote.
Nobody working for the great man could ever get away with half measures, and certainly nobody would be allowed to see themselves as a star. Shankly did talk about the value of individual reward, though he saw it as the result of collective effort.
He once pointed out that so many of his players had achieved international caps, a personal accolade. However, he would go on to lecture that it was through their collective efforts, that they had achieved individual gains. You don’t get into the national team unless you are doing well for your club, and your club only does well when it works as a team, was his reasoning.
In this respect, the boss also felt that the supporters and the people of Liverpool were also part of the collective. Their efforts from the terraces were equally important and central to the vision. While he didn’t have the power or resources to pay them, he resolved to reward them with silverware – to make the people happy and proud. They would hold their heads up high, and say ‘we are Liverpool,’ he promised.
Stretch the gap between player, manager and supporters too much, and the ties that bind might snap. The bond may be broken, the trinity undermined. In truth, Shankly could never have envisage the disparity in earnings between his players and those who stood on the terraces. Nobody in the 1960s and 70s could have.
The level of wage inflation in football since those heady days can scarcely be believed even today. We do know that Bill was often prepared to spend big on a transfer fees, if he thought the player could improve his squad. He broke a number of records in this respect during his tenure.
However, it’s about proportion. And, we have certainly lost all sense of proportion today.
Figures published by Spotrac recently, show the eye-watering amounts shelled out by the club to its stars. ‘That’s modern football,’ you might say. ‘Yes, but a player’s career is short,’ you could argue.
It is, and they are. But the disparity is truly shocking, even allowing for inflation.
What, then, would Shankly make of today’s sky-high wage bills. Liverpool’s total payroll bill of £104,780,000 in 2019/20 truly dwarfs the levels he would have been familiar with.
George Scott, one of the Scotsman’s first signings, and a man Shankly described as the “12th best player in the world,” recently sent me a copy of Liverpool’s weekly wage bill from 1960. It covered everyone from players to coaching staff, and it came to a grand total of £517:12 Shillings and 2 pence.
According to the National Archive, it would be worth £9,119.33 in today’s money. In the 1960s a sum like that could have bought you 2 horses, 7 cows, 116 stones of of wool or 86 quarters of wheat. It was also the equivalent of almost years wages for a skilled tradesman.
So, it was a big wage bill by the standards of the day. But, it is dwarfed by those of the Premier League era, even when you factor in inflation.
By now I am sure nobody is shocked or surprised by these revelations. I’m certainly not. Nor can we blame individual players for taking the rewards on offer to them. Who amongst us would look such a gift horse in the mouth.
However, it does speak to a growing divide between those who pay to watch the game and the stars they idolise. In Liverpool, like in many working class cities, there are people making incredible sacrifices in order to watch their team, and there are those who can barely afford food, let alone a match ticket. Those people will likely never even watch their heroes in the flesh, much less identify with them.
In the 50s and 60s you could reasonably expect to see a player on the bus or in the pub. Even earlier, in the 30s, supporters would chat to Elisha Scott – the club’s legendary goalkeeper – as he took the ferry from Birkenhead to the Pier Head before a game. These men were still stars, but they were within reach and identifiable.
Today’s players feel like movie stars, and those with a human touch, who go out of their way to bind with the supporters are to be cherished. Mo Salah, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner, amongst many others, do leave you with the sense that they understand their enormous privilege and remember their origins.
However, for me, this is a more systemic problem. It’s obviously not just Liverpool’s problem, or even the Premier League for that matter. Though neither seem even interested in addressing it. This is of course a political problem and one that UEFA and FIFA must do more to address.
There are so many reasons why they should. For a start the current system is unsustainable. There are those who argue that clubs going into administration as a result of unsustainable wage bills is just business, a sort of Darwinian natural selection. Or, the natural consequence of market forces and poor management. The footballing authorities will hand out their punishments in response – fines, points deductions, relegation and even expulsion from competitions. And, we all move on.
But there’s a cost that goes beyond all of that. Whole communities suffer as a consequence, when their club goes out of business. Football clubs employ people beyond the playing staff and they bring hope and something to look forward to for so many. Because, as Shankly recognised, football is a communal experience. It’s more than a business.
I spoke to Karen Elizabeth Gill, Granddaughter of Bill Shankly and author of a fascinating biography of the man, The Real Bill Shankly. She told me,
My granddad was all about passion and commitment to the game. He would have played for nothing and expected his players to feel the same. The supporters, for him, were equally important in the equation. So having inflated wages for the players, which could end up with money-oriented players as opposed to football-oriented ones and core supporters whose wages might leave them unable to afford inflated ticket prices, for him, would mean the destruction of the game he loved so much.
So, when faced with the stark contrast between the football played and watched by our grandparents and their idols, and the game watch today, I won’t pretend to feel shock or surprise. I do feel that the game is slipping through our fingers though, if it hasn’t already moved completely out of reach.
I hope that’s not the case. However, if we are to reclaim even a small part of it, supporters need to become more vocal and more active in shaping the future of the game and the clubs they love. Politicians also have a role to play in influencing the direction of the game. Indeed it may take political action to rescue it.
With a potential UK General Election on the horizon, it wouldn’t do any harm to let them know.
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.
It’s not been a great week for the Reds in terms of their relationship with the local community. Following controversy surrounding their plans for Anfield to host gigs in the close-season, they have now been embroiled in a row over attempts to trademark the word Liverpool in a football context. This has been followed up with the news this week that Melwood will be sold to housing charity, Torus.
While Everton are busy building their social capital in the city, it seems Liverpool have much to learn from their neighbours in this regard. Liverpool do a lot in the community, but these recent rows emphasise that they need to up their game, in my view.
Ensuring that the club services the needs of its out-of-town and overseas support is essential, and I fully support this. However, care must be taken to maintain and nurture the relationship the club has with its local support.
Here are a few pieces I have written this week about the trademarking controversy, the sale of Melwood and and the campaign in West Derby to retain a lasting legacy after the move to Kirkby. I feel strongly that Liverpool Football Club must do more to engage with its local community. I also argue that they must not wash their hands of their iconic former training base or the area that has supported it since the 1950s.
Tell me what you think in the comments section below.
This Sunday, tens of thousands of Liverpool supporters will once again descend on the country’s capital in joyous football celebration. A trip to Wembley is always the finest way to end or begin a season. This time it’s for the Charity Shield, and I’m loving it. Here’s why.
Preseason games barely get my pulse racing. They never have. In my formative years as a Liverpool supporter, I wouldn’t even know they were taking place, much less what the results were. That is, with the exception of one – the Charity Shield.
For any youngsters reading this, I’m sorry, but it is the Charity Shield. Not the ‘Community Shield,’ and it always will be for me. The modern day penchant for rebranding stuff and then pretending it’s something different has always baffled me.
Anyway. Liverpool have competed for the big shiny shield 21 times. They’ve won it outright ten times, and shared it on five occasions. In the old days, they couldn’t be arsed with penalty shoot-outs and, if the game wasn’t settled after 90 minutes, both captains would simply parade it around the pitch. It would then spend six months in each club’s trophy room.
In the 70s and 80s, the Reds competed for no fewer than 12 Charity Shields, in twenty years. That mattered, because it meant they were winning English football’s big prizes. To be in that ‘curtain raiser’ for the new season, you had to have won the FA Cup or the League title.
So it’s always been the one preseason friendly that really matters to me. Well, that’s not strictly true. There’s the UEFA Super Cup too. If you’re in that, then you’ve either won either ‘old big ears’ or the UEFA Cup. Funnily enough, we’re in both of them this year, such is the club’s revival under Jurgen Klopp.
The competition was founded in 1911, and Liverpool’s first foray came in 1922. Then, the famous ‘untouchables’ side, who won back-to-back league titles between 1921 and 1923, contested the shield against FA Cup winners Huddersfield Town. Sadly they lost the game 1-0.
The game took place on the 10th May at Old Trafford, the first time it had been played outside of London and the first time the fixture took place at the end of a football season. Liverpool were presented with the league trophy on the pitch and, despite their defeat, there were joyous celebrations on the team’s return to Merseyside.
Imagine the scenes at Liverpool Central Station, as captain Donald Mackinlay is hoisted aloft by teammates and possibly a few supporters and carried into the street outside. Back then the shield wasn’t contested under the same rules as today though. Those competing for it hadn’t necessarily won anything.
So, despite winning the league again in 1923 and 1947, the Reds would wait 42 years before contesting another Charity Shield. That came in 1964 when, after a 2-2 draw with West Ham at Anfield, Liverpool claimed their first success. It meant Shankly’s men would share the shield with The Hammers.
They would repeat that feat in 1965, with another 2-2 draw against Manchester United. Liverpool’s first ever success in the competition came courtesy of a 1-0 over Everton at Goodison Park in 1966. It was the first of three Charity Shield encounters against the Blues, with the Reds winning one, drawing one and losing the other.
The game in 66, though, became more famous as a celebration of Merseyside supremacy in English football than anything else. The Reds had won the league and the Blues had won the FA Cup and both teams had contributed players to the England World Cup winning squad. Supporters packed into the old stadium watched in awe as all three trophies were paraded around the pitch before kick off.
It was the first and only time that has ever happened. And, it happened on Merseyside.
In 1974, after the Reds had vanquished Newcastle in the FA Cup final, they would meet league champions Leeds United on the 10th of August. It was the first Charity Shield to be played at Wembley and to be televised – but the game was anything but charitable.
It would also be the last time Shankly ever led Liverpool out at Wembley. The Scot had sensationally resigned earlier. The stage was set for an incredible battle.
So tempestuous was the match, that at one point Kevin Keegan and Billy Bremner became embroiled in a fist fight. Both men saw red, and received lengthy bans from the FA. The country had never seen anything like it, and there were even calls for the clubs to face punishment. Fortunately that didn’t happen.
Phil Boersma scored for the Reds in the 19th minute, but Leeds levelled in the 70th through the brilliantly named, Trevor Cherry. That meant that for the first time in the history of the fixture, the game would be settled on penalties.
The Reds won the shootout 6-5, after David Harvey missed his spot kick. It had been a memorable game all round and the one question on everybody’s lips as they left Wembley was, how were only two players sent off?
After the largess of the previous three decades, the 1990s brought relative austerity in trophy terms for Liverpool. That meant only two Charity Shield matches, in 1990 and 1992. The Reds would share it with arch rivals, United, at the start of the decade. But they lost 3-4 to Leeds in 92.
However, thanks to Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez, the new millennium brought three shots at the newly named ‘Community Shield.’ Those games would be contested outside of England, at Cardiff. The Reds beat United 2-1 in 2001 to cap a memorable season and also followed that up with the UEFA Super Cup.
They lost 1-0 to Arsenal in 2002 and then won the last of their shield victories in 2006. That year, Rafa took his FA Cup winners to Cardiff and they beat Chelsea 2-1. It was a game played in glorious sunshine and memorable for trademark thunderbolt from distance, courtesy of Jon Arne Riise.
So, it’s been 13 long years since we tasted the sweet smell of Charity Shield success. That’s the longest gap since we first tasted success in 1964.
Now Jurgen has a chance to add his name to the long list of winning managers by claiming our 11th outright win. Admittedly, we’re not there courtesy of a Premier League or FA Cup victory this time. However, we came within a hares breath of claiming the league title, and we’ll all settle for the Champions League over the FA Cup. And, let’s face it, the shield would look really nice sat next to ‘old big ears’ in that trophy cabinet, wouldn’t it?
So, while there may not be a banner for our ‘la decima’ of Charity Shields and the Kop may not sing ‘we won it ten times,’ that gleaming silver trophy will always mean something to me. That’s because, just as it always has in my lifetime, it’s a symbol that the Reds are at the top of the game, competing for the big prizes.