Paul Tomkins' book, Dynasty, is a reassessment and an in-depth analysis of every manager of the club over the last 50 years. (For more information on Paul Tomkins visit: www.paultomkins.com
Here's an exclusive look into an abridged version of Dynasty's chapter on Bob Paisley.Introduction
In debates about who is the greatest-ever manager in British football, there is often a grave omission. Names routinely mentioned are those of Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, Brian Clough, Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson. In years to come, perhaps Arsène Wenger will warrant inclusion. But too often the name of the most successful is absent: Bob Paisley, a man who won three European Cups and, in the year after his retirement, his successor, Joe Fagan, with what was pretty much still Paisley’s team, won a fourth. In nine years, Paisley also won the league six times — fewer than Alex Ferguson, but at a far more prolific rate. Tommy Docherty, the former Chelsea and Manchester United manager, once said: “It annoys me when they talk about the great managers and he never gets a mention. He was the best of the lot.”
The problem in terms of perception is that Paisley inherited a team riding the crest of a wave. Also, unlike Clough, who’d succeeded at Derby, and Ferguson, who made his name at Aberdeen, Paisley hadn’t had success at another club first, so couldn’t point to that experience. And unlike pretty much every name mentioned, Paisley didn’t build up a club from a position of relative failure. Of course, he was still an integral part of the initial Liverpool revolution. And while he didn’t build Liverpool up from scratch, he definitely took a team he’d already helped fashion to a whole new level.
Then there was the fact that he didn’t talk a good game — not to the press, at least. He didn’t have the bullish bravado of Shankly, nor the style and swagger of a man like Malcolm Allison, whose style masked a lack of great substance. It says a lot about the man that Paisley turned up to sign Mark Lawrenson in 1981 dressed in cardigan and slippers. Situation Inherited
Bob Paisley was a reluctant manager, telling his players that he only took the job under duress, and that it would only be a temporary appointment. He had grown used to Shankly threatening to walk away, but never doing so. So when the Scot actually did, the shock was immense. Peter Robinson said it was definitely “crisis time when Bill left. It was a bombshell and Bob was very reluctant to take the position.”
When Shankly did finally walk away, Paisley was left wondering why his former boss chose that moment to quit. Did he have doubts about rebuilding his side yet again, as older players like Tommy Smith, Chris Lawler and Ian Callaghan reached the latter stages of their careers? Or was it that he wanted to go out at the top? On the face of it there was no logical reason in relation to the team itself; it was clearly in great shape and on the rise. And only two players, Lawler and Callaghan, were in their 30s.
Shankly told Smith and Robinson that he wanted Paisley to have the job, and Paisley wanted Shankly to keep the job –– the best position in football at the time, and incredibly, like a hot potato, neither man wanted it, albeit for very different reasons. Shankly, now 60, was tired, and in need of a break from the routine after over 40 years in the game; Paisley, meanwhile, didn’t see himself as a natural leader or someone who, like the silver-tongued Scot, could liase effortlessly with the media. And at 55, Paisley was hardly a young man.
Having reluctantly agreed to take the job, Paisley wanted to quit some weeks later, albeit without his resignation becoming public knowledge. He was being hounded by two journalists, who were fiercely critical of him, and was finding the extra administration work that went with the role a struggle. What Peter Robinson saw as the club’s ‘inner cabinet’ –– John Smith, Tom Saunders and Robinson himself –- came together to persuade him to reconsider. Robinson dealt with the pressmen and Saunders was asked to take care of the admin.
As assistant manager to Bill Shankly, Paisley had a direct involvement in the signing and development of the players he would end up inheriting in 1974. While not the greatest team in the Reds’ history, the side was in good health when Shanks stepped down. After seven years without the league title, the club had landed its 8th championship in 1973 along with the UEFA Cup, and a year later, in Shanks’ swan song, beat Newcastle 3-0 at Wembley to land only its 2nd FA Cup. That season Liverpool finished runners-up to Leeds, who ran up 62 points, with Shankly’s men five points behind. But the strength of that team could be seen in the fact that no other side finished with more than 48 points, and indeed, 12 clubs had tallies in the 40s. After seven years without a trophy, this was a rebuilt team that was very much on the up when the changeover occurred.
The jewel in Paisley’s inheritance was Kevin Keegan, who would go on to become double European Footballer of the Year at Hamburg after helping Liverpool to the club’s first European Cup. Keegan would be the first cherished player the club would lose against its will, and as such, presented a challenge to Paisley that his predecessor hadn’t faced. In 1976 Real Madrid had been willing to pay £650,000 for Keegan, but he wanted to stay one further year — an inspired decision, as it culminated in the league/European Cup double. The fee Hamburg handed over was £150,000 short of what the Spaniards had been willing to pay, but by then Liverpool had achieved something far more valuable. And £500,000 still represented an English record.
Other players of seriously notable calibre were also in the squad in the summer of 1974: Ray Clemence, Emlyn Hughes and Phil Thompson were extremely well-respected England internationals with a good few years ahead of them, while Ian Callaghan, Tommy Smith, John Toshack, Alec Lindsay, Steve Heighway, Chris Lawler and Peter Cormack were top-class club-level players and, in some cases, fine players on the international scene. Other members of the squad included future Boot Room boy and manager, Roy Evans, and the man who would coach under Graeme Souness, Phil Boersma. Ray Kennedy, signed for Liverpool on the day Shankly resigned, proved a fitting parting gift. It would take him a while to make his mark at Liverpool, but he was another important part of Paisley’s inheritance.
Paisley, already doubted by many because of his nature, faced a baptism of fire. In the Charity Shield — a game for which he picked the team but had yet to be officially named manager — Kevin Keegan exchanged punches with Leeds United’s Billy Bremner (in the days when ‘raising your hands’ meant lamping someone good and proper rather than a tender touch of the cheek) and both received red cards. The two men threw off their shirts as they walked off the pitch; in what now seems an incredibly harsh punishment (and even did in more conservative days, before footballers baring their pecs and abs was the norm), Keegan, on top of a three game ban for fighting, received a further eight game ban for removing his shirt and thus bringing the game into disrepute. It’s a bit like a man on trial getting 15 years for murder and an additional 37 years for contempt of court. So not only was Paisley replacing the greatest manager in the club’s history, he was hamstrung by the absence of its best player for the first two months of the season. State of Club
John Smith (later to be knighted for his services to football) had only recently taken charge of Liverpool. Appointed in 1973, the man known as the ‘dapper chairman’ was a major influence on the club over the next 17 years, until his retirement in 1990. His 17 seasons coincided with eleven league titles and four European Cups.
Despite his general excellence, Smith did incur Paisley’s wrath early on in their relationship as chairman/manager. Smith had just spoken to the local press about the current playing staff and potential transfer targets, and Paisley was furious. He made it perfectly clear that any further such disclosures would lead to his swift resignation. Smith apologised, and an important marker had been laid down by the new manager.
Peter Robinson, who would later be the chief executive and vice chairman, was the club’s general secretary. Robinson would go on to make his name as one of the game’s great administrators; it may seem like a contradiction in terms, as fans only really remember players and managers, but Robinson achieved an almost legendary status among those men who facilitate what happens on the pitch without themselves ever getting close to it. It’s clear that you need vision not just on the pitch but behind the scenes, and the partnership of Robinson and Smith was the Dalglish/Rush of the administration world.Assistance/Backroom Staff
Continuity was the watchword when Paisley was appointed manager in 1974. Nothing really changed behind the scenes; there was just a natural evolution. Paisley had played a large part in what Shankly had done, so he wasn’t going to dismantle it on the spot.
Joe Fagan became assistant-manager, and Reuben Bennett remained as part of the Boot Room until the late ‘70s. Following Ronnie Moran’s appointment onto the coaching staff on a full-time basis in 1968, Bennett’s role changed from head of training, with him now working under the broad title of ‘special duties’. One of Shankly’s final acts as Liverpool manager was to advise the 25-year-old Roy Evans to consider a future in coaching. Bob Paisley was also keen on the idea. He told Evans that although he was steady enough, he was never going to be a regular in the first team — and as such, he should look to the future and concentrate on coaching. Evans was reluctant to hang up his boots, as would be the case for most players in their mid-20s. Indeed, almost all, when faced with the same situation, would have sought to continue playing in the lower divisions. But clearly Evans had something about him in the way he thought about the game, and decided it was more prudent to join the Boot Room. And it was a decision that was justified, as he played an important role behind the scenes for the next 20 years, and then enjoyed four seasons as the club’s manager.
Tom Saunders continued to spy for Liverpool in Europe, making dossiers on unknown opponents from across the region, as well as working as the club’s youth development officer. Saunders brought Frank Skelly into the Liverpool set-up in 1973, to work as a scout; Skelly discovered Bruce Grobbelaar, who played for Crewe Alexandra, while on loan from Vancouver Whitecaps. But Geoff Twentyman, the chief scout, was perhaps the most important person at the club after the manager. Paisley’s trust in Twentyman was implicit. Paisley agreed to pay £300,000 –– a lot of money at the time — for scrawny Welsh teenager Ian Rush, without having ever seen the striker play; just as Shankly had never watched Kevin Keegan. Twentyman was the scout with the golden touch, and that continued throughout Paisley’s tenure. He discovered Phil Neal at Northampton Town and Alan Hansen at Partick Thistle — although the latter was a player who had once been on a four-day trial with the Reds as a 15-year-old. At that time, Hansen was more interested in golf, although he’d come to see football as his future career. Upon Twentyman’s recommendation in 1977, he was finally brought to the club. Management Style
Paisley was man of few words, and those he did utter were invariably mumbled and garbled. Thingamajiggy, whajamacallit, gubbins and doins. The players nicknamed him ‘Dougie Doins’, such was his inability to remember the names of opposition players or to speak particularly coherently.
If at times he struggled to choose the right words, he did at least carefully consider what his intended meaning was. In the build up to games, he was famed for giving the opposition what he called a ‘bit of toffee’ — the act of flattering them, so that they perhaps had an inflated opinion of themselves. As opposed to denigration, it gave them nothing to rail against. ‘Toffee’ was designed to encourage complacency, not a thirst for revenge. The most famous instance was a young and up-and-coming Gordon Strachan, who’d been playing very well for Aberdeen, who Liverpool were due to meet in the European Cup. Paisley praised him to the hilt. The danger is always that it can inspire such an opponent; but, as planned, the player wilted under the attention, perhaps even believing his own hype.
Not noted as a motivator, Paisley was clever enough to get the best out of his men. His treatment of the young Ian Rush highlights how he goaded a player to respond positively. Rush had played a handful of games, but had yet to score. “All you ever want to do is to lay the ball off all the time. You’re afraid to take responsibility on your own shoulders,” Paisley told him. Rush grew irritated. He barked back that he thought it was about retaining possession at Liverpool. “Your trouble is that you’re frightened to think for yourself,” Paisley told him. “As a centre forward, your main job in the team is to score goals. But you haven’t scored a single goal for us yet. That’s why you’re not playing.” He told Rush that he needed to adopt a more selfish attitude, at the right time and place — with the place being the penalty area and the time when the ball was at his feet. The row continued, until Rush, arguing back that he could score goals, yelled at Paisley “You can stick your club!” before storming out of his office, convinced he’d just put himself on the transfer list. Just as the door was closing, Paisley said, “We bought you to score goals for us. Why don’t you go out there and prove you can do that?”
From a tense situation, with a promising young striker wanting out of the club, Paisley had kept his cool and, rather than consigning the angry young man to a swift exit, had set a fire burning within. If Rush really wanted to leave, he could, but Paisley waited to see a positive reaction first. It proved instant: Rush scored six goals in his next five reserve games, and as a late sub against Finnish part-timers Oulun Palloseura he finally registered his first Liverpool goal: a simple tap-in, but it was a start. Rush began the next match, against Exeter in the League Cup, and scored two more, deciding that even in the company of world-class stars he was going to be selfish if the situation dictated. Having scored three goals against inferior opposition, Rush was retained in the starting line-up against Leeds, and this time responded with his first league goals: a brace, fired past John Lukic, the keeper who would be in Arsenal’s goal when they won the league title at Anfield eight years later. Rush, who had set his heart on a move to Crystal Palace following his row with the manager, was now a fully-fledged top-flight goalscorer. And from that moment, he never looked back. The wily old manager had roused the wiry young striker into releasing his full fury on First Division defences. For a man not noted as a motivator, it was a canny piece of work.Unique Methods
One of the greatest lessons Paisley learned was as Shankly’s assistant in the Scot’s final season in charge; a lesson that helped the Reds go on to conquer Europe. Red Star Belgrade had beaten the Reds 2-1 in Yugoslavia, but Shankly and Paisley were obviously confident going into the second leg with Chris Lawler’s away goal in the bag. However, despite Lawler scoring again, Liverpool were beaten 2-1 for the second time, as the Yugoslavs sat back and counter-attacked. Shankly praised Red Star’s ability, but said Liverpool fans would never pay to watch football like it. However, privately it prompted the Boot Room into a stern look at how football was changing. The more patient continental approach seemed the way forward. Also, after a decade with Tommy Smith and Ron Yeats as brutish stoppers, and with Larry Lloyd a like-for-like replacement, the Boot Room concluded that the position needed someone more technically adept, able to bring the ball out of defence and start attacks, rather than just repel them. Circumstance intervened. With Lloyd injured, Phil Thompson, originally a midfielder, moved back to fill in. Smith moved to right-back and Emlyn Hughes partnered Thompson at the heart of the defence. Partly by design, partly by fortune, the new formula was hit upon.
Shankly later explained the change that took place from 1973 onwards. “We realised at Liverpool that you can’t score a goal every time you get the ball. And we learned this from Europe, from the Latin people. When they play the ball from the back they play in little groups. The pattern of the opposition changes as they change. This leaves room for players like Ray Kennedy and Terry McDermott, who both played for Liverpool after I left, to sneak in for the final pass. So it’s cat and mouse for a while waiting for an opening to appear before the final ball is let loose. It’s simple and it’s effective … It’s also taken the spectators time to adjust to it.” For his part, Paisley noted that “We realised it was no use winning the ball if you finished up on your backside. The top Europeans showed us how to break out of defence effectively. The pace of their movement was dictated by their first pass. We had to learn how to be patient like that and think about the next two or three moves when we had the ball.”
The European experiences of the 1960s certainly helped form the way the club treated continental football. “Travel, and its effects, is the most underrated part of the game,” Paisley recalled. “When English clubs first competed in Europe they went on their holidays. They were excited about going to exotic places and used to spend almost all week away. We cut it down to spending as little time as possible in the country — as late as we could get in and as soon as we could get out. That was our philosophy. We’d train until the last possible moment at home before starting our journey, because what training we did abroad was only going to be a light session. We’d take our own water, too. That’s not to say the water was tampered with abroad. But it is different and you never know how people react. Different water can cause stomach upsets, for instance.” Strengths
Ray Clemence offered a particularly apposite analysis of what made Paisley such a good manager. “For me,” Clemence said, “he was a better coach than motivator of men, but a shrewd judge of a player and very strong tactically.” Despite this, Paisley never saw himself as a tactician. “I didn’t talk tactics because I wasn’t taught tactics. I was merely advised on certain things about my game.”
Having spent so long around football, and then worked with an innovator like Shankly, not to mention the other Boot Room boys who pooled their knowledge, Paisley had great wisdom. He just had a deep understanding of the game, and all its component parts. “He could assess all positions,” Clemence said, “even my speciality of goalkeeping.”
It wasn’t that tactics were distrusted, but the modern terminology and jargon certainly was. “There are people who can talk me under the table about football,” Paisley once said, “but if they had to explain what they are talking about they would be under it.” While the Reds rarely set up specifically to counter the opposition (although European away games were treated differently to those at Anfield), that did not mean in-game changes weren’t made. Paisley was tactically astute, but there was little tampering with a system ahead of games. The coaches adapted to the circumstances as the play unfolded — shifted players around if need be, or made a substitution — but the first instinct was to go with their natural game. And a big part of Paisley’s great tactical brilliance was knowing which players were needed, and where they would fit into the team. Get that right, and the tactics are more able to dictate themselves.
There can be no greater tactic in football than finding intelligent, gifted and adaptable players who can think for themselves, and forming a harmonious blend in a team. It obviates some of the need for clever thinking on a game-to-game basis; that took place with the overall masterplan. Phil Neal never had to worry if he wanted to go on an overlap; someone would have the nous to cover him. Neal was told that if he joined an attack, to stay with it. He was now a forward, until the move broke down. If Paisley had been fielding a ‘fancy Dan’ right-winger who didn’t track back, then the team would be in trouble; but that wasn’t the Liverpool way. Such a player wouldn’t be in the team to start with.
While Paisley rarely changed a winning team, he did alter the formation — at least in his early years. Having bought Kenny Dalglish to replace Kevin Keegan, he explained how that changed: “Because of the difference between them, there was a change in Liverpool’s style when we signed Kenny. With his subtlety, a 4-4-2 formation with the accent on passing was clearly our most effective line-up, whereas in the past we had often employed 4-3-3 as well.”
Paisley understood about the flow of a game, and in an age when only one substitute was allowed, he was loathe to use it lightly. He told David Fairclough that he preferred to use him as a sub, because his pace and direct running could help turn a game in Liverpool’s favour. But if the Reds were holding onto a slender lead, Paisley was rarely tempted to make changes. “I’d really rather have someone limping around, as long as he isn’t doing damage to himself,” he said, “because if you bring on some young sub, he just raises the tempo of the game, running around like a blue-arsed fly, and then all of a sudden the whole flow of your game can disappear, and you can finish up losing it.”
Ray Kennedy stands out as the player who benefited most from Paisley’s wisdom, and whose tactical realignment gave the Reds a new dimension. Kennedy, bought by Shankly as a burly centre-forward, replaced Toshack as Kevin Keegan’s strike partner at the start of Paisley’s first season, and he did well enough. But the manager then moved the former Arsenal man a little deeper, to play behind the more established strike pairing. Kennedy again showed some quality, but it was only the following season that he nailed down a role in the side — on the left of midfield. Clearly Kennedy had the skills necessary for the role — excellent control, an eye for a pass, and the ability to score goals — but given his size and previous role, it still wasn’t an obvious move to make. But it worked to perfection; Kennedy was reborn.
While tactics have always been part of football, there were arguably fewer variations back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Formations were most likely to be 4-4-2, although in the case of Liverpool, the role of Dalglish between midfield and attack might have been described as 4-4-1-1 in today’s game. It’s fair to say that football has evolved tactically since the days of Shankly and Paisley; that’s only natural, as all sports develop over time. But the progression of ideas and methodologies has clearly been accelerated by the advances in technology. Television has accelarated the proliferation of systems by which comparisons can be made, while computer software has enabled managers to look into all aspects of the playing style of both their own personnel and that of the opposition. There was less information readily available to hand in the ‘60s and ‘70s. One problem Paisley faced was that, due to the Reds’ success, everyone could see how they played; but checking out the opposition wasn’t as easy in return. John Neal, the Chelsea boss, observed: “It’s strange really, but every manager in the land can recite precisely how Liverpool play because they see them so often on television. But how many managers know how to beat them?” In turn, scouting the opposition, particularly in Europe, was taken very seriously at Liverpool. Before the European Cup Final of 1977, Tom Saunders watched Borussia Mönchengladbach in person on no less than six occasions.
The greatest strength of Bob Paisley, though, had to be his ability to sign the right players for his team, allied to an excellent sense of when to let existing players go. Not only were his signings on balance the best of any Liverpool manager, but he never kept a player past his sell-by date. Unlike Shankly, Paisley was ruthless when it came to letting older players go. He didn’t enjoy the process, but he didn’t let any sentimentality cloud his judgement. Weaknesses
Paisley’s weakness, if he had one, was his inability to communicate particularly clearly. Dealing with the media was fraught, and even his own players were sometimes left scratching their heads. In 1977, England striker David Johnson, who’d cost a club record £200,000 a year earlier, went public about his frustration with Paisley. “The manager and myself, for some unknown reason, have never really been able to communicate and so a feeling of unrest has affected me.” But it seems churlish to pick up on Paisley’s failure with words. His record proves that more often than not he got his message across to the team, and that was the main thing. Historical Context — Strength of Rivals and League
When Bob Paisley took charge, Leeds United had been the club’s greatest rival, having just pipped the Reds for the league title in Shankly’s last season. But while the Yorkshire club struggled after replacing their legendary manager (Don Revie), Liverpool moved from strength to strength after replacing theirs. In what seems almost unthinkable now, Manchester United were relegated that eventful summer in 1974, although they’d finish 3rd in the top division two seasons later. At that time it wasn’t unheard of for promoted teams to take their momentum into the First Division, as Nottingham Forest showed in 1978 by winning the league as a newly promoted side. Manchester United’s new-found momentum quickly faded, and although they beat Liverpool in the 1977 FA Cup Final, it would not be until 1980 that they made any kind of serious title challenge, finishing two points behind Paisley’s men. Two third-placed finishes in 1982 and 1983, both times considerably off the pace, was as close as they would come to challenging Paisley’s domination. Ron Atkinson succeeded Dave Sexton in 1981, after the latter had been in charge at Old Trafford for four years. Sexton had previously been the manager of QPR, where he had come within a whisker of landing the league crown. The west Londoners found themselves top after playing their final game of the 1975/76 season, but Liverpool’s late win over Wolverhampton Wanderers pushed Rangers down to second, and Paisley had the first of his six league titles.
With Revie taking charge of England in the summer of 1974, Jimmy Armfield, these days a respected pundit on BBC radio, led Leeds to the European Cup Final in his first season, suffering a 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich. Assisted by Don Howe, who later found greater fame after returning to Arsenal, Armfield was responsible for rebuilding Don Revie’s ageing side, and under his stewardship Leeds never finished outside of the top ten. The Elland Road club qualified for the UEFA cup, and reached FA and League Cup semi-finals, but were never a serious threat to Paisley’s Reds.
In 1981 Aston Villa emerged as a force, albeit temporarily, winning the league under Ron Saunders, followed 12 months later by the European Cup (with Tony Barton now in charge following Saunders’ resignation), before the Midlanders fell out of the picture. Ipswich, managed by Bobby Robson since 1969, were also fully established as a strong side by the end of the ‘70s. They gave Liverpool a fairly strong run for their money in 1982, but finished four points behind the champions. Robson had taken perennial strugglers Ipswich to 4th in 1973, and in the following nine seasons, the Portman Road outfit finished lower than 6th only once, in 1978 — when a 1–0 victory over Arsenal landed them the FA Cup. Ipswich finished 3rd in 1977 and 1980, and were runners-up to Aston Villa in 1981, in what was Liverpool’s worst league campaign under Paisley, when the Reds finished 5th. It was however a season in which Liverpool won both the European and League Cup, and Ipswich landed the UEFA Cup. When Bobby Robson took charge of England in 1982 the Suffolk club quickly fell away into mediocrity, posing no threat to the Liverpool manager during his swan song. In Paisley’s final season, Watford, with a youthful John Barnes raiding down their left wing, emerged under Graham Taylor, finishing 2nd in their first season in the top flight, albeit 11 points adrift of the Reds. Bête Noire
It’s fairly clear that Brian Clough was the only major thorn in Paisley’s side during his time as Liverpool manager. Derby County, previously managed by Clough but now led by Dave Mackay, won the title in Paisley’s first season, two points ahead of Liverpool in 2nd. Clough, after a stint at Brighton, moved to Leeds in 1974, but lasted only 44 days. However, by the start of 1976, he pitched up at Nottingham Forest, and a great rivalry with Bob Paisley was set in motion. In 1977, when Liverpool won their first European Cup, Nottingham Forest were Second Division Champions. A year later, they were supplanting Paisley’s side as Champions of England. A year after that, they usurped the Reds as European Champions — beating Liverpool in the 1st round of the competition — and retained the trophy a year later. But in a tit-for-tat exchange, Paisley, whose side had regained the league title from the Midlands club, then took back possession of the European Cup too. Forest remained a top-half team for the remainder of Paisley’s career, but never rivalled the Reds again. However, Clough, who had experienced a hostile rivalry with Don Revie, had nothing but respect for Paisley: “He’s broken this silly myth that nice guys don’t win anything. He’s one of the nicest guys you could meet in any industry or any walk of life — and he’s a winner.” Pedigree/Previous Experience
Untested as a manager beyond the environs of the reserves’ Central League, it’s fair to say that Paisley’s pedigree was seriously questioned. He seemed the archetypal no.2, a willing assistant but someone who didn’t exude natural leadership skills. It is all the more amazing to think that the man who won six league titles and three European Cups only managed for those nine years. He started at the top, and went out at the top. Defining Moment
Paisley greatest challenge presented itself off the pitch — or rather, on the training pitches. What could be more of a test for Paisely than seeing his great friend and predecessor, Bill Shankly, turning up at training during his first season in charge?
Paisley was the club’s new manager. But becoming ‘boss’ was his greatest challenge. Shankly, appearing at Melwood, was being called ‘boss’ by the players, even though he was no longer in charge. Shankly’s presence, while far from malevolent, undermined Paisley. A newspaper article, in which Paisley was horribly misquoted as saying that he had run the show even during Shankly’s time, cut deep into the Scot’s heart. He should have known that his former assistant would never say such a thing, and even though Bob, who was blameless, apologised, the damage was done. Shankly never turned up at Melwood again. In time both men acknowledged it was the right decision, but the circumstances behind it were unfortunate.Crowning Glory
If there was one season that Bob Paisley will be most remembered for, it is 1976/77, when he took Liverpool to within a whisker of English football’s first ever treble, and won the country only its second European Cup. With the league title wrapped up, Manchester United awaited in the FA Cup Final, and Borussia Mönchengladbach would be the opposition in Rome for the European Cup Final.
Defeat against United at Wembley — 2-1, with all three goals scored in a five minute spell at the start of the second half — was a double-edged sword. While it was hard to take, Paisley felt victory might have sated a little of the hunger ahead of something truly unique. Two other sides had already achieved the domestic double of league and FA Cup, but none had ever won the league and the European Cup in the same year; indeed, until that point, United were the country’s sole victors, in 1968. The Liverpool manager regretted his selection at Wembley, opting to leave out Ian Callaghan and play three forwards. His thinking was affected by a strange decision by the FA. Should the game go to a replay, it would be held in late June — a quite ludicrous date. After an especially long and hard season, that was the last thing his players needed, and he tried to win the game outright on the Saturday. But again he saw a benefit to his selection: Callaghan, at 35, might not have been fresh for the game four days later. Although Callaghan was approaching retirement, it shows an awareness of the limits that playing games in quick succession place on a player. In previous seasons, Bill Shankly had rested an entire team ahead of cup finals. Getting it wrong at Wembley allowed Paisley the chance to get it right in Rome.
The journey back to Liverpool after the FA Cup Final took place by train, and is seen as a key factor in the victory four days later. The players’ mood was understandably low, and a two-hour delay did nothing help their spirits. The events that followed would now be frowned upon as incredibly unprofessional: the players drank wine to help them unwind, and a food fight then broke out, with even the players’ wives embroiled in the mêlée. It started when Steve Heighway began throwing sugar. Before long a group of depressed players were enjoying themselves with abandon, and a defiance arose. Songs started being sung. An even stronger sense of togetherness was engendered in a railway carriage, in highly unusual preparations for the biggest game in the club’s history.
Paisley explained: “People who sit in the stand perhaps don’t realise the extra pressure exerted by the emotional side of the game. It’s not easy to cope with and it’s quite possible to become drunk on four ounces of wine gums! But I knew as I left Lime Street and headed for home that the players’ attitude was right. They knew they still had a job to do.”
That night Paisley picked his team: the same one that ended the game against United. John Toshack was injured, but Paisley kept him in the squad to disrupt German planning; he knew they were terrified of his aerial presence, following the UEFA Cup Final four years earlier, and he wanted them to think the Welsh striker would be playing; another example of Paisley’s canniness.
Typical of Paisley’s pre-match talks, he did not focus on the opposition. Phil Neal recalled that the main thing the manager discussed was how the previous time he’d been in Rome was on the back of a tank, liberating the city at the end of World War II. It wasn’t that the opposition were taken lightly, or their strengths hadn’t been assessed; as mentioned earlier, Tom Saunders had seen them in the flesh six times. But that was not something to worry the players with. Relaxed, they gave what Paisley described as the best performance in the club’s history. Terry McDermott gave the Reds the lead in the 28th minute, shortly after Ray Clemence had failed to hold a shot from Rainer Bonhof, only to see it come back off the post. Allan Simonsen equalised for the Germans in the 51st minute, and a little over ten minutes later, Clemence was faced with Uli Stielike bearing down on his goal, one-on-one. But Clemence won the dual, with what he rates as his most important save for the club. Then Tommy Smith, playing his 600th game, rose high to head home a Steve Heighway corner. With the game nearing its conclusion, Kevin Keegan, on 100 goals for the club, was upended in the area as he looked certain to score his 101st, and Phil Neal calmly (outwardly, at least) despatched the spot-kick. Paisley leapt up from the bench and waved his arms in triumph; unusual for a man who usually kept his emotions in check. But he had earned his delirious celebration.
Hundreds of Liverpool fans — out of the 27,000 who’d made the journey to Rome — crashed the victory banquet. Paisley, however, sat quiet and stone-cold sober as he took in the events. “I like a drink and, in common with most people, I enjoy celebrating a great victory,” he recalled. “This, though, was different. It was no ordinary triumph. The buffet at the banquet was magnificent enough to have fed my regiment throughout the war, with enough champagne to have sunk Noah’s Ark. But I wanted to remain sober. I was drinking it all in — the atmosphere, the sense of pride, of achievement, of joy and reward for ten months’ hard labour. I wanted to savour every moment.” Legacy
Has there ever been a better set of players handed on by a retiring manager — not just at Liverpool, but anywhere in England? Most sane men wouldn’t think of walking away from a team that contained Dalglish, Souness, Rush, Whelan, Hansen, Neal, Lawrenson and Nicol. But Paisley was a not young man when he took charge, and almost a decade later, approaching his mid-60s, he was entitled to put his feet up. He went out in precisely the right way — at the top, with his team English champions for the second successive season. Such was his legacy, the spine of his team would enable two successive managers to win league titles and, within twelve months, another European Cup.
Copyright - Paul Tomkinshttp://lfchistory.net/redcorner_articles_view.asp?PageAction=Add&PageNo=2&article_id=2837