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      The Official Paul Tomkins Thread

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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #300: Aug 14, 2009 11:17:48 pm
      I read up to half way but then my eyes started to hurt but what i read up to was very good. He has a point over Jamie and Fernando Jamie last year made a couple of unforced errors that cost us and if he can keep them errors to a minimum then the other defenders will follow and if Fernando can bulk up and keep in physical shape he can stay fit for longer and if he does get injured when he comes back maybe he could find his sharpness quicker. as we need goals to win as much games as possible.
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #301: Aug 15, 2009 11:25:12 am
      An engrossing and honest squad analysis.
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #302: Aug 15, 2009 02:09:40 pm
      I read up to half way but then my eyes started to hurt


      Come back when you've finished reading it then.

      Very interesting analysis, in no way does he try to say we have the best squad in the EPL, but if the right players stay fit, we have every chance of being in the title race to the very end.
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #303: Aug 17, 2009 11:02:34 pm
      Slow Start Is Never The End

      I had a strange reaction this close-season; the exact opposite of usual, in fact.
      By May, I'm usually glad to see the back of the domestic season, with disappointment or acceptance long-since set in stone (although European runs had become a welcome bonus). But then the new season would bring with it fresh optimism. It can only be better, right?
      However, I didn't want last season to end. I could have watched Liverpool in that form for another few months, as they finished the season as the most in-form side in the land, and possibly only second to Barcelona in the world at that precise time, scoring three or more goals most weeks, and with four against Real Madrid, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal.
      When it did end, I wanted the new season to start there and then. Bring it on! Even by the middle of the summer, I still felt that this was going to be Liverpool's year.
      But in the weeks leading up to the season I started to dip. Just as with half-time in a game you're dominating but not yet winning, the break came at the wrong time. Would Liverpool emerge in the same shape when the football resumed?
      The more I thought about it, the more I concluded that it was unlikely. I fully expected that form to be found again before too long, but the momentum had to be rebuilt. Pre-season proved that; everyone is now starting again in terms of fitness and sharpness – and individual confidence, while carried over to some degree, is, three months after the team last played together, back to a more neutral setting.
      To complicate matters, yet again Liverpool had several key players arriving back for pre-season training later than the others, with Spain's success last summer leading to further complications this year, in terms of being 100 per cent on the opening day.
      I guess it occurred to me that, while what was achieved last season will aid this current challenge in a number of ways, it would not automatically follow from the first minute of the first game. That was the reality check.
      And it also occurred that the performances at the end of last season would actually be a peak for many teams; it's not that they couldn't be reproduced, simply that such a concentrated set of results is very rare. After all, six consecutive games with three or more scored was a 117-year club record.
      But of course, Liverpool don't need to take 31 points out of every 33, or win by three or four goals every week. A title is built on little bits here and there, that add up to something more significant than their rivals can muster.
      Last week it also hit home that, with quite a few injuries, we weren't going to see Rafa Benitez's strongest XI right away. That, combined with the nature of the opening fixture, made me more anxious than usual. And obviously Liverpool's squad would look thinner with a number of players out injured; five or six players missing makes a difference to any team.
      Injuries are part and parcel of football, and have to be dealt with, and in the case of Alberto Aquilani, there was little option but to accept it.
      Once Xabi Alonso asked to leave it was always going to cause a problem in the short term, and Aquilani was one of the few players capable of replacing him – such quality hardly abounds. But for obvious reasons, neither would be available at White Hart Lane.
      Rafa summed it up perfectly by saying that Aquilani was signed for five years, not five games. Better to get the right player and wait a few weeks, than buy someone less gifted just for the sake of numbers. That then demands patience on our part.
      In theory, Aquilani actually offers a more exciting style of play than his predecessor, as does Glen Johnson at right-back. We just don't get to experience that instant gratification in the case of the Italian, the kind that lifts fans. A great debut, and we'd have been buzzing. But that boost awaits.
      So it'd be very wrong to judge Liverpool definitively before Aquilani is fit, and several others too. The long-term picture also applies to Gerrard and Torres, who can only get sharper; both looked rusty at White Hart Lane, but that is fairly natural, especially as they both missed parts of pre-season.
      And I was also dreading this season because in the past I've found it hard at times to try and get some fans to get a bad result in perspective. This season I sense that every single dropped point will be met with total and widespread despair.
      That is because more is expected. And rightly so. But this will not be a 'perfect' season. The conclusion in May could well be what we consider perfect, but the road to get there won't. It just can't be.
      No champions have ever dropped fewer than 19 points in a season, and yet the end of the world will be nigh every time a game isn't won.
      Last season commenced with Manchester United totally underwhelming in drawing at home to Newcastle who, by contrast, looked in fine fettle. The season before, it was Reading who drew at Old Trafford; nine months later they too, like Newcastle, were relegated and United crowned champions. So early games are not indicative of the season ahead, even if it's obviously nicer to start with a win.
      I've debunked several of Liverpool's supposed crises in recent years, so it was great to read comedian (and Arsenal fan) Dara O'Briain's piece in The Guardian last week about the ever-increasing speed of a crisis being decreed.
      He mocked the 'supposed' crises at every top four club last season, and to that I'd like to add that the following is true: Arsenal went on a 23-game unbeaten run; Liverpool broke numerous club records and one all-time league record (fewest-ever defeats for runners-up); Chelsea broke the all-time English record for most consecutive away wins; and United broke the all-time English record for longest period without conceding a goal.
      All four were European Cup quarter-finalists, three were semi-finalists, and three finished with 83 league points or more. Yet each was supposedly in crisis at some point; indeed, at numerous points. That's how people react to football, and it can drive you insane.
      As ever, I'm mentally prepared for the ups and downs that come with any given season, good or bad. In my own mind I'm prepared for what happens with the team.
      But am I prepared for the hysteria of others? The caterwauling, the giving up on the team, the over-the-top criticism? Am I prepared for the myopic media reaction, and general overreaction to every setback?
      I'm not so sure.
      There's no denying that at White Hart Lane the Reds were second best. Then again, Spurs weren't even as good as second best in this fixture last season, and somehow won (in added time), so Liverpool were due a bit of fortune in this fixture.
      Instead, they encountered what I felt to be poor refereeing, and a deepening injury list at centre-back. The clash between Carragher and Skrtel summed up the day.
      The positives, if I dare list them, included Lucas in midfield, with an excellent display in the second half, while Benayoun also made a very positive impact as a sub. In goal, Reina made a number of top-class saves.
      Another big plus was the assurance of Daniel Ayala, who had been left exposed in the Youth Cup final when an older and much more experienced Arsenal midfield overran the Reds' and bore down on him in numbers. At 18 he's still just a baby in terms of a centre-back, but he handled the occasion at White Hart Lane brilliantly.
      But the biggest plus was Glen Johnson, whose defending was excellent, and whose crossing and running with the ball were first rate. His run to win the penalty showed precisely why he was bought, and highlights what he can add to the side going forward.
      Not many teams will get points at Spurs, and Liverpool still enjoyed an excellent season last time out despite losing there. However, Stoke provide an immediate chance to improve on last year's haul of points.
      It's not a must-win game in terms of claiming the title (sorry, but 'must-win', in its most definitive sense, is vastly overused), but it's clearly crucial to getting this season on the right tracks, and to suggest improvements on last season are distinctly possible.
      Paul's new book, "Red Race: A New Bastion" is out now, available exclusively from Click here>>
      The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of or Liverpool Football Club.
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #304: Aug 17, 2009 11:14:19 pm
      Ayrton, you will be glad to hear i read all of it this time but i am not sure what he is getting at, i am thinking it is that even though we have started with a bad result the road to becoming league champions is a long and hard one and we need to rebuild the good form that came so easy to us at the end of last year, we cant expect it just to come back, we need to let Aquilani jell in and see how he effects our midfield. His analysis of the players against the Totenham game for me were fair he said that Lucas, Benayoun, Johnson all impressed him and it Ayala did everything he needed to and i felt the same about Lucas and Benayoun but i was not sure about the defensive side of Johnson and Ayala did look comfortable but in all honesty he was not really tested. This man says what he feels and does not try to hide the bad points about the side which is good as it can give you an overall view of his analysis.
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #305: Aug 17, 2009 11:47:42 pm
      I'm a big fan of Paul and it was an interesting article as always.. but still I think we are weaker in the middle of the park we also lack another quality attacker at least and maybe a versatile defender. We cant rely on Aquilani although he is quality, we need to splash some f**king cash! I'm sick of it now,we are going towards the end of August and Rafa was promised funds, that is why he signed a contract. I expect business to be done rapidly and at least 2 new players but I think we need at least 3 maybe 4 new players. Replace Hyppia, upgrade Alonso for Aquilani and another maybe more defensive midfield option, an then either a back up striker who can play as an attacking mid/wing or both. I'm not demanding record transfers like the other big teams, but come on we are one of the highest ranked teams in Europe and we spend little when its obvious we need better players. ship out the dead wood and bring in some quality.

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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #306: Aug 21, 2009 04:37:22 am

      Mate that is a mint article... talk about hit the nail on the head.

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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #307: Aug 21, 2009 06:14:39 am
      A voice of calm on a sea of chaos.
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #308: Aug 25, 2009 02:34:53 pm
      Paul Tomkins 25 August 2009
         "Two defeats by this stage is certainly not what I was expecting going into the new campaign."

      In the despair of the final whistle, I felt that the challenge was over; the emotions that course through you during a game do that to your thinking. But the cold light of day, I can see that this is not the case.
      There's so much time to turn it around it's untrue, so technically the challenge is far from over. But it needs the players to step up and prove that it's just a blip, and make sure that it's a blip that is out of the way as soon as possible.
      Did Liverpool deserve to lose against Villa? Unlike at Spurs, in some ways, no. On balance of play, the Reds had the better of the game, but after missing four good chances in ten first-half seconds, it had 'one of those days' written all over it.
      The team fell away badly after Villa took the lead, but the second half was much, much better, at least until resignation set in on 85 minutes. Brad Friedel had a great game, but it's also clear that Villa played to the best of their ability, and Liverpool didn't.
      Having defended zonal marking to the hilt in the past, Liverpool have now conceded from two similar straight free-kicks 40-yards out and a corner in the first three games.
      (Funny how the ref can find an extra minute to add at the end of the half last night, yet at Spurs there was nowhere near the correct amount in the first place, and stoppages in stoppage time, which were plenty, amounted to just 15 further seconds added. But that's another subject.)
      Whatever system Liverpool use, it needs to be performed better than it has thus far. Zonal can work. Zonal has worked. And it will again. But as with confidence in all areas of the game, if you hit a blip then doubt creeps in. If you are not sharp enough in what you do, you will be punished.
      Perhaps the main problem is that with Insua, Mascherano, Lucas and Benayoun, the team is not a particularly tall one. Two of the better headers of the ball are Carragher and Kuyt, neither of whom are giants (and therefore can be beaten by a really tall player). So defending set pieces will always be a challenge.
      But man marking is deeply flawed, as we see week in, week out. It's easy to say 'zones don't score goals' but the attacker has to be in a zone. And how come so many supposedly man-marked players get free headers?
      I honestly don't see a lot wrong with this team. We saw last season how good it can be, and despite losing Alonso, when Aquilani is fit there will be two excellent additions, along with Johnson.
      But it can play a lot better than it has in two of the three games.
      It seems incredible, but the season is only just over a week old! (It feels like months already.) I think that Liverpool have had a number of problems to contend with in pre-season that may have carried over, with the late arrival of the Confederations Cup players (meaning less time to get sharp again), and quite a few injuries.
      If you don't give these players their full break later in the summer, they will hit a wall later in the campaign. If you do give them that break, they might start more slowly.
      But there was a similar situation last season, and the Reds scraped by in those early weeks, despite not playing well. This time mistakes have been fully punished.
      By comparing the results with last season, there's still only a one point deficit.
      But defeats so early in the season only increase the pressure. Losing at Spurs didn't bother me unduly, and their form since confirms that it was not such a bad result. But Liverpool should be beating teams like Villa at home.
      Much of last season's success was built on a long unbeaten start, so those two defeats, in the autumn and in the spring, could be more easily absorbed. Now there's far less margin for error. Having said that, it's not about how many games you lose, but how many points you drop, so fewer draws can easily compensate.
      I still have full faith in the manager, and in the players. But as yet it just hasn't clicked into place quickly enough this season.
      We saw with Arsenal in 2007-08 how an exciting, gifted team could then fall to a miserable start a year later; now, another year on, they are once again back thrilling and winning. They eventually got their act together last season, to go on a 20 plus game unbeaten run, but it was too late for a title challenge.
      If Liverpool go on a similar run, of which we know they are capable, they can prove that talk of the end of a title bid was seriously premature.

      Good stuff there. Makes you feel better. Also has a good section about zonal marking.
      « Last Edit: Aug 25, 2009 03:39:30 pm by JD »
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #309: Aug 25, 2009 02:37:25 pm
      Good read as always, especially about the zonal marking.
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #310: Aug 25, 2009 02:58:40 pm
      Another good, level headed article.
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #311: Aug 25, 2009 03:45:22 pm
      Some good points in there - a few of the things I was getting at in the post match thread.

      But just as we know, I'm sure Tomkins knows but isn't allowed to say on the offal - one of our biggest problems is in the board not giving the manager the finances he deserves after continuing to land us European Cup football.

      The amount of interest we have paid to RBS would have given us money to capture David Villa and David Silva.  We look at the bench and we know we haven't got the squad to compete for the title, the European Cup and two domestic competitions.
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #312: Aug 25, 2009 05:50:43 pm
      Some good points in there - a few of the things I was getting at in the post match thread.

      But just as we know, I'm sure Tomkins knows but isn't allowed to say on the offal - one of our biggest problems is in the board not giving the manager the finances he deserves after continuing to land us European Cup football.

      The amount of interest we have paid to RBS would have given us money to capture David Villa and David Silva.  We look at the bench and we know we haven't got the squad to compete for the title, the European Cup and two domestic competitions.
      Yeah, JD.

      Money does not guarantee success but it plays a vital role. This is a problem that looks unsolvable for the time being :S
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #313: Aug 25, 2009 10:27:59 pm
      Zonal marking aint the problem. And regarding small players, Barcelona have a team of midgets and look what they did.
      Nah, the problems are elsewhere, money, injuries & some poor early form ...
      We can turn around form, and players will come back from injury - but squad depth/money/fat americans will hurt us over course of long season
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #314: Aug 30, 2009 06:42:35 pm
      Ayala, Kyrgiakos and Johnson is excited to be publishing Paul Tomkins' blogs from now on. He's the best columnist there is on all matters concerning Liverpool FC and has written quite a number of books on the club. Have a look at his website.

      Over to Paul....

      I'm delighted to share my work through LFC History – a site built on knowledge and integrity – whom I have handed permission to reproduce my blogs, as and when they see fit.

      Daniel Ayala, the Spanish lad who looks like he’s swallowed a football (think less Adam’s apple, more Adam’s grapefruit), has been the big surprise of the season so far. Just the mere fact that he’s played at all has been a bit of a shock.

      First off, he’s 18. He’s not 19, as some places have reported, or even 20, as suggested on Match of the Day. He’s just 18. And for a centre-back, that’s terribly young.

      Like a lot of Reds, I was worried by his performance in the FA Youth Cup Final, when, over two legs, he was bypassed by several Arsenal runners, and resorted to hauling them down; in fairness, he could have been sent off twice over in the first game alone.

      However, I’d liked the look of him in the reserves, so knew he had talent. In the earlier rounds of the Youth Cup he was impressive too, defending doggedly and bringing the ball out of defence with confidence.

      Alongside the huge, lumbering Joe Kennedy against Arsenal, and with 16-year-olds in central midfield, he was horribly exposed. The Gunners boasted several players with first team football experience, and were on average far older than their Liverpool counterparts. It was almost literally men against boys. Liverpool did well to make the final, and should be even stronger this year.

      I read some utter crap about how awful this kid was, based on two performances. Yes, his performances concerned me, but that was all. It happens.

      Centre-back is the hardest position for a youngster play (along with goalkeeper). It’s why so many get moved to full-back, where mistakes are further removed from that crucial area right in front of goal.

      While centre-forward is the hardest position to play in general, because you play with your back to goal and are often outnumbered, with scoring goals the toughest thing to do, you can get away with it as a youngster with pace.

      I remember Michael Owen early on. He was a clunky footballer at first: lots of mistakes, and quite a few missed chances. But he stuck some chances away, and – rightly – all was forgiven, as that was his job. He kept running into defenders in an artless manner, but if he got past them, he was gone, and a chance was for the taking.

      If a centre-back made as many errors as he did, they’d be crucified. It just takes one bad touch to lead to conceding a goal. Do it a couple of games running, and you might not play there again for six years. Just ask Jamie Carragher.

      It’s why centre-backs are almost always bought in at top clubs, later on in their careers. Very few develop at the big four, because the risk is too great.

      How many first-rate ones have come through the ranks at Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United in the last 15 years? Just John Terry, with Carragher also in that bracket – but crucially, only later on in his career, when he’d grown in stature and improved his positional sense.

      The famed youth systems of Wenger and Ferguson have yet to produce one centre-back they’ve relied on as a first choice, although Johnny Evans looks promising (although even he was written off by their fans in his early games, and is now 22). Wenger splashed cash for a teenage Matthew Upson, but he only came of age years later, having moved on.

      Also, it’s important to remember that Sami Hyypia was turned down by Oldham aged 24 – that’s how long it can take for centre-backs to mature.

      I had thought that Martin Kelly, a year older and with extra pace, would be ahead of Ayala, but having seen Ayala’s performances against Spurs and Stoke, I could then see the wisdom. Kelly is possibly first-choice reserve for right-back now, and his style suits starting out there.

      Ayala is more like a rash, all over his opponent. It can get him into trouble, but he reminds me of a young Martin Keown (who also swallowed a grapefruit) as that b***ard of a man-marker.

      But 18 is far too young to be a regular centre-back. As well as he has done, there is a long way to go. Liverpool need experience, and Sotirios Kyrgiakos, signed from AEK Athens, now provides that. He is big, strong, and takes no prisoners.

      He’ll probably never be anywhere near as good as Sami Hyypia was at his best, but he doesn’t have to be. He will not be an automatic first choice unless he really does something special or the others really lose their way; what he does offer is that real physical presence, experience and cover.

      He was very well respected during his time at Eintracht Frankfurt, and in picking up 50 caps for Greece has no little pedigree; while not a household name, he’s clearly got ability. For the money, and to strengthen the squad, it looks like a good bit of business.

      His aerial ability will be vital in certain games, and that makes me think that he might start against Villa, with Carew and Heskey. Skrtel is physical, but not totally dominant in the air. Agger is tall, and good in the air, but also not especially dominant; he seems better at attacking crosses than defending them.

      Meanwhile, another recent signing, Glen Johnson, has already done something Robbie Keane, a similarly-priced buy last summer, failed to do in his six months: have an outstanding game, and look totally at home.

      Keane didn’t work out at Liverpool, despite being a good player; he didn’t get to play in his preferred position behind the main striker as much as hoped, due to Torres’ injuries, but he wasn’t played out of position; I read one excuse that he was used on the left-wing, but that was for 20 minutes at Villa Park – hardly a big deal considering the time Rooney spent out there. Keane played a lot of football, but it didn’t click.

      While there’s plenty of time for it to go wrong for Johnson, he already looks an absolute steal. Whereas Keane failed to handle the pressure, Johnson, as he has with England (where the pressure is also very intense), has shown he has what it takes.

      His defending has been surprisingly solid, although Rafa will help him further improve. Attacking full-backs always get over-criticised for their defending, but half of the time they can’t be blamed if they’ve gone on a sensible overlap and the pass to him is wayward, leaving him obviously out of position.

      He’s quick and strong, and 6ft, so it’s not like he doesn’t have the necessary skills.

      But going forward he has already made a big difference. His runs have been superb, his crossing dangerous, and his long-pass to Voronin near the end of the Stoke game was, dare I say it, Alonso-esque.

      I particularly like the way he cuts inside his man as often as he goes on the outside when overlapping. This is vital for beating defenders, who can’t get wise to a preference. He has excellent balance when drifting inside, which means that he can quickly get the ball onto his right foot without breaking stride, but his saved shot showed that he’s prepared to use his left, too.

      Kuyt is the perfect player to have ahead of him: energy to wander inside and also get back and help double up on tricky wingers. Benayoun, meanwhile, has a chance of making the left-wing spot his own, where he can be more natural when cutting infield.

      Finally, well done to Lucas Leiva for his Brazilian call up. That Dunga fella knows a bit about central midfield, I hear.

      ‘Red Race: A New Bastion’ is out now, available only from Click here for details on the book and how to order.

      Copyright - Paul Tomkins
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #315: Aug 30, 2009 07:01:10 pm
      Wonder full post, that article makes for a great read. His opinion on Ayala is right we cannot expect Ayala to start for us at the age of 18 that's why Kyrgiakos had to come into the team to add that extra depth in experience that we lack so badly. Also he has a point over Johnson he has settled in quicker then anyone could have hopped for already having an outstanding game and getting two goals i think Johnson could be a real steal for us as Paul states.

      Keep the articles coming i love his writing he has such a great opinion on the club and our stars he really knows what he is talking about.
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #316: Sep 22, 2009 04:46:43 pm
      Paul on Bob

      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:

      Here's an exclusive look into an abridged version of Dynasty's chapter on Bob Paisley.


      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.”


      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.


      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.”


      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 Tomkins

      (the article is too long for one post, so I'll put the second bit up in a sec)
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      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #317: Sep 22, 2009 04:47:56 pm
      Paul on Bob part 2
      Transfers In

      Few Liverpool managers have made as good a first signing as Paisley did with Phil Neal; and certainly none have proved to have been as successful in terms of trophies won. Neal was the sole presence on the pitch in all four of the club’s European Cup successes of the era, and was even present for the fifth final, lost to Juventus in 1985.

      A clever overlapping right-back whom Paisley described as a “natural player who understood the game”, Neal had scored an impressive 27 times in 187 games for Fourth Division Northampton by the age of 23. Liverpool stepped in with a £60,000 bid with Neal set to join Aldershot. It was a big step-up in quality, and initially he spent life in the reserves, like so many of Liverpool’s signings. Then, out of the blue, he was hoisted from the reserve squad, for whom he was about to play at Anfield, and told to report to Goodison Park, where the senior team were about to face Everton. Neal, thinking he was there to sample the atmosphere, was told to get changed –– he was playing. And so began a career that spanned 650 games and amassed 60 goals. While many of his goals were penalties, including in the 1977 European Cup Final, he also popped up with important strikes having raided down the wing, not least Liverpool’s goal against Roma in the European Cup Final seven years later.

      Paisley’s second signing was Terry McDermott, who had impressed for Newcastle against the Reds some months earlier in the FA Cup Final, for £170,000. The combined fees for Neal and McDermott came more-or-less entirely from the sale of Larry Lloyd, with the big centre-back asking to leave upon losing his place in the team. Lloyd moved to Bristol City for £240,000 and Liverpool reinvested wisely. McDermott, a skilful midfielder with boundless energy, had an eye for goal –– often spectacular ones at that –– and would later become the country’s Footballer of the Year. In his 329 appearances he bagged an impressive 81 goals, before being sold back to Newcastle in 1982, at the age of 30, for £100,000.

      Next, Joey Jones signed for £110,000 from Wrexham, at the age of 20. He only spent three years at the club, scoring three times in 78 league games at left-back, before he returned to Wrexham for £210,000, following the arrival of Alan Kennedy. In his fairly brief stint on Merseyside, Jones became a massive cult hero for his incredible commitment. He was immortalised in the famous banner unfurled by Kopites at the 1977 European Cup Final which read “Joey Ate The Frogs Legs, Made The Swiss Roll, Now He’s Munching Gladbach”.

      England striker David Johnson arrived from Ipswich in August 1976 for a new club record, £200,000. Johnson would do well at Liverpool, without ever quite reaching the heights of some of the legendary strikers before or since. He scored 78 goals in six years, playing 210 games, but the emergence of Ian Rush hastened his disappearance from the first team picture. A former Everton striker, Johnson returned to Goodison Park at the age of 30, but scored only five times in 50 games.

      While Paisley rarely got it wrong in the transfer market, the year between 1977 and 1978 was his golden period. Excluding Steve Ogrizovic, brought from Chesterfield for £70,000 as back-up to Ray Clemence and who went on to be an excellent top-level keeper with Coventry, Paisley struck a quite stunning hat-trick of signings. Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness represented the kind of quality acquisitions that, by rights, should be spread out across a lifetime in the game — if a manager is both incredibly wise and especially lucky. And yet they were all procured within seven months of one another. It’s doubtful that any club in the history of English football has made three such crucial signings in such a short space of time. The trio of Scots are all now Liverpool legends; about as good as you’re going to get in defence, midfield and attack.

      Hansen was the first to arrive, with the 21-year-old signed from Partick Thistle for £100,000 in May ‘77. Relatively unknown outside of Scotland, Hansen would go on to represent Liverpool for the next 13 years, playing 620 times, and eventually captain the team. Tall, elegant, and composed, Hansen was one of those defenders who opt to stay on their feet rather than dive recklessly into tackles. When he partnered Phil Thompson, the Reds’ central defence looked more like an L.S. Lowry painting of stick-men. Crucially, the two had character and ability. Mark Lawrenson, who later partnered Hansen, was only slightly more muscular, but Gary Gillespie’s intermittent appearances got the weight-ratio right back down again. Clearly Paisley had hit upon a type when deciding that the days of pure stoppers were gone, and in their stead came mobile, thoughtful and lean defenders who were comfortable on the ball. And in that regard, Hansen was the apotheosis. Even now, he is the benchmark for stylish centre-backs anywhere in England. Bob Paisley was in no doubt about his quality. “Alan Hansen is the defender with the pedigree of an international striker. He is quite simply the most skilful centre-half I have ever seen in the British game. He is a joy to watch. Alan has always been an excellent footballer, a beautifully balanced player who carries the ball with control and grace. He has a very measured, long stride and is much faster than he looks. I can’t think of more than a couple of players who could beat him over 100 metres. He has both the ability and the patience to launch attacks from deep positions.”

      Next up, in August 1977, was Kenny Dalglish, signed from Celtic for £440,000. But more on ‘King Kenny’ later. As 1978 began, Paisley moved into the market once more, strengthening the midfield — or rather, signing an entire midfield rolled into one player — in the form of Greame Souness, purchased on 10th January. The combative (to put it mildly) Scot joined from Middlesbrough for £352,000, aged 24. Only Steven Gerrard, with his increased athleticism and more prolific goal rate, can arguably eclipse Souness as the Reds’ most complete midfield General. But while Gerrard possesses gifts Souness lacked, the fiery Scot was the more fearful and imposing character. Souness was an absolute bully when it came to subduing and subjugating the opposition, and a commanding influence on his own team. He played 359 times for the Reds, scoring 55 goals. With the treble of 1984 completed, Souness packed his bags for Italy. He played for two years at Sampdoria, before returning to Scotland as player/manager of Rangers.

      Kevin Sheedy, another midfielder who excelled in the ‘80s, was signed from Hereford for £80,000 in 1978, in yet one more great piece of talent-spotting by Paisley and his scouts. However, the Ireland international was that rare exception: the player released by Liverpool to go on to not only do better on an individual basis, but to rival the success of those still at Anfield. To make matters worse, it was with Everton. Sheedy, who arrived at Liverpool aged 18 and was sold at 22, scored more than 100 goals for the Toffees in over 400 appearances; for the Reds his tally read two goals in just three starts and two substitute appearances. It shows that even very good players can fail if their path to the first team is blocked by even better players, while some individuals improve beyond recognition as they mature.

      At £330,000, Alan Kennedy was very expensive for a full-back in 1978; it’s hardly a position worthy of many big-money deals. The previous season had seen Jones, Smith and Hansen deployed at left-back at some stage, so as a position it was proving problematic. Full of energy and character as well as a willingness to get forward, Kennedy, signed from Newcastle United at the age of 23, was hardly one of the game’s aesthetes, goalscorers or playmakers who usually warrant such a price tag (only a fraction short of what Souness had cost, which itself was the highest transaction involving two English clubs). And yet he more than repaid his hefty fee, scoring 20 times — including some crucial goals — in 359 games over the next seven years. In 1981 and 1984 he scored the goals that clinched the European Cup: the first a finish in the 81st minute to beat Real Madrid 1-0, as he burst through on goal from a throw-in, and the second the decisive penalty against Roma in the shootout.

      In May 1979 Paisley once again tapped the Scottish market when buying Frank McGarvey from St Mirren for £300,000. The striker, aged 23, never settled at Anfield and left after just 10 months. With Ian Rush signed to fill the gap of promising young striker, McGarvey moved to Celtic for a small profit. McGarvey played 245 times for Celtic over the next five years, scoring 113 times.

      Another relative failure was Israeli defender Avi Cohen, bought from Maccabi Tel Aviv for a reasonably hefty £200,000. In his two-and-a-half years at the club the left-back only played 23 times, scoring just once — having already netted an own goal in the same game. However, it was a league-title decider — against Aston Villa at Anfield, in 1980 — and his strike at the right end put the Reds 2-1 up, and on the way to a 4-1 victory. In November 1981 he returned to Maccabi Tel Aviv, for half the original fee. Alan Hansen said he was arguably the most talented foreign player he played with, but the Israeli didn’t adapt well to English football.

      The 1979/80 season saw the arrival of two more future superstars, albeit either side of another relative failure. The one who didn’t work out was Richard Money; Paisley couldn’t resist some puns on the value of the investment and the player’s surname, but in truth Money offered little more than cover after arriving from Fulham at the end of the ‘79/80 season. Bought for £50,000, he moved to Luton in 1982 for twice that amount. The first of the two major successes acquired in that campaign was Ronnie Whelan, an Irish teenager brought in for nothing from Home Farm at the start of the season. It would take Whelan a couple of years to make the breakthrough, but once he did he made a big impact, initially on the left of midfield when replacing Ray Kennedy and then, in later years, as the holding central midfielder. In almost 500 games Whelan netted a total of 73 times, including a memorable double to defeat Spurs in the 1982 League Cup Final and a superb winner a year later to overcome Manchester United to win the same competition.

      Next came Ian Rush, bought from Chester in May 1980 for £300,000. The 18-year-old had just made his debut for Wales, but like Whelan it took him time to break through at Liverpool. Once he did, it was the start of a record-breaking career with the club, split over two periods. Rush spent 15 of the next 16 years at Anfield, scoring a club-record 346 goals in 660 games. He also holds the all-time record for most FA Cup Final goals (five); is the joint record League Cup goalscorer with 49 goals, shared with Sir Geoff Hurst; was the first player to pick up five League Cup winners medals; and still holds the record as top Merseyside derby goalscorer with 25 goals for Liverpool against Everton. Not bad for a player who, when his sale to Juventus and repurchase is taken into consideration, left the club up £100,000 on his transfers.

      In March 1981 Paisley moved to secure the signing of 23-year-old Bruce Grobbelaar from Vancouver Whitecaps for £250,000. When Ray Clemence sought a new challenge that summer, the South African began an eleven-year stint as the club’s undisputed no.1. Prone to both eccentricity and error, he was a remarkably agile shot-stopper, and, as a former soldier, a tough character. With Clemence now at Spurs, Grobbelaar kept his place in goal from his Liverpool debut on August 29th 1981, through to August 16th 1986, playing 310 consecutive matches. It was a figure he would double in his remaining eight years at the club, leaving for Southampton after 628 appearances.

      Paisley then broke the club record fee twice in succession, although the fees involved were still some way short of what those rival clubs were paying on their major deals. Australian Craig Johnston was the first, signing from Middlesbrough for £650,000 in April 1981. Just 20, Johnston was an upbeat, lively character with boundless energy on and off the pitch, but as such slightly difficult to handle. He infuriated and delighted the crowd, and his managers, in equal measure. In 1988, after 271 games and 40 goals, he quit, aged just 27, to be with his sister in Australia, who was seriously ill. On balance he was a very good player for Liverpool, if not one of the all-time greats. In 1991 Graeme Souness looked at bringing him back to the club, as it still held his registration, but it didn’t work out, and Johnston went on to invent the Predator football boot.

      In August 1981 Paisley finally got hold of Mark Lawrenson, having attempted to do so four years earlier. Lawrenson, a cultured centre-back who could also play in midfield, cost £900,000 from Brighton. He would go on to form arguably the greatest centre-back partnership the club has seen — and there is some stiff competition — when he played alongside Alan Hansen. Lawrenson scored 18 goals in his 356 games for the Reds, but a serious Achilles tendon injury in 1987 led to his premature retirement a year later.

      In October 1981 Paisley continued his run of inspired signings when he agreed to pay Ayr United £300,000 for Steve Nicol. Originally a right-back, he could not displace Phil Neal, and made his breakthrough on the right of midfield during the 1983/84 season. That campaign ended with him missing a penalty in the Reds’ successful European Cup Final shootout. His versalitity was recognised in 1988/89, when he won the Footballer of the Year award after playing in six different positions that season. In the previous campaign he’d scored seven goals in his first seven games — from right-back, including an incredible hat-trick from open play away at Newcastle. After just over a decade in the first team, and 46 goals in 468 games, Nicol, by then a centre-back, was released to Notts County.

      Less inspired was the June 1982 signing of John McGregor, a centre-back from Queens Park. Only 19, and signed for nothing, it was no great gamble, and the Scot failed to make it into the first team. A lot more was expected of striker David Hodgson, who moved from Middlesbrough for £450,000 in August. But he was to prove another disappointment. Two reserve goalkeepers then followed: Bob Wardle, who later had to retire following an eye injury, and Bob Bolder, picked up from Sheffield Wednesday in 1983 for £125,000. Neither man featured for the first team, due to Grobbelaar’s remarkable run of over 300 consecutive games.

      Paisley’s final signing was that of Jim Beglin from Shamrock Rovers, in May 1983, for £20,000. Still not 20, the player had been due to join Arsenal when the deal fell through. Liverpool moved in, and secured the player initially on a month’s loan; but ten days into it a permanent deal was struck. Having made his debut in November 1984 at left-midfield, Beglin was increasingly part of the first team picture over the next 18 months, before being given regular games in the left-back slot by Kenny Dalglish as a replacement for Alan Kennedy. After just 98 games, Beglin’s Liverpool career was curtailed by a seriously broken leg at the age of 23. He played briefly for Leeds and Blackburn, but it was clear he was no longer the same player.

      Transfer Masterstroke

      Without a shadow of a doubt Bob Paisley’s transfer masterstroke has to be Kenny Dalglish — quite simply the best player ever to represent the club. Dalglish wasn’t cheap: £440,000, an English record in 1977, although still £60,000 less than the club had just received that summer from Hamburg for Kevin Keegan. Having sealed the deal, Paisley said to Peter Robinson “We’d better get out of Glasgow before they realise what they’ve done.”

      Other signings are in close contention, though. While no player eclipsed Dalglish in terms of quality, others were bought for far less, represented the club far longer, and won lots more medals. The £100,000 spent on Alan Hansen was a case of daylight robbery — the best value for money out of all Paisley’s signings. Ian Rush, Ronnie Whelan and Steve Nicol were all taken from relative obscurity to form the backbone of 1980s Liverpool FC; indeed they were all valuable players in Dalglish’s own time as manager. Graeme Souness was another inspired signing who offered excellent value for money. But despite his British-record fee, none can eclipse Dalglish; a player who made everything come together on the pitch. “I just hoped that after the trials and tribulations of my early years in management, someone up high would smile on me and guide my hand,” Paisley recalled. “My plea was answered when we got Kenny Dalglish. What a player, what a great professional!”

      Dalglish’s time north of the border brought incredible success. Five Scottish Championships, four Scottish Cup-winners’ medals, one Scottish League Cup-winners’ medal and a hugely impressive haul of 167 goals for a striker who was so much more than just a finisher. It seems crazy now to think that plenty of people doubted the wisdom of the signing, and wondered whether or not he could hack it south of the border. But it’s easy to forget how influential Kevin Keegan had become by 1977, and how irreplaceable he seemed. Dalglish not only made a seamless transition, but he actually improved the team. However, Paisley, a long-time admirer of the Scot, had wanted both players in the same team. He felt great players could always play together, and he appreciated their contrasting styles. “Kevin’s ability to run with the ball would have been complemented by Kenny’s outstanding ability as a purveyor of it, his liking for people being around him enabling him to capitalise on his great vision. Kevin injected a racy tempo with his mobility whereas Kenny stroked the ball around.” Dalglish was someone who read what team-mates and opponents did, whereas Keegan reacted to them.

      Dalglish was handed Keegan’s no.7 shirt, so comparisons were inescapable. But he got off to a great start, scoring after just seven minutes on his league debut away at Middlesbrough, and then again on his home debut against Newcastle. In his debut season he notched 30 goals, including the winner in the 1978 European Cup Final at Wembley, as the Reds retained the trophy.

      So was Dalglish better than Keegan? Tommy Smith, who played with them both, has no doubts, saying “Dalglish was the better player. His talent was heaven-sent.” And Paisley was also in no doubt: “Of all the players I have played alongside, managed and coached in more than 40 years at Anfield, he is the most talented.” When Liverpool met Hamburg in the 1977 European Super Cup, Liverpool thrashed Keegan’s new team 6-0, with Dalglish the star of the show. The ghost of Keegan had been lain to rest.

      Paisley’s Liverpool went on to dominate English football for the remainder of his days in charge, with Dalglish the fulcrum for the attacking play. In 1979 they regained their league title with a record number of points — 68, under the old two points for a win system. They were undefeated at home, and conceded just 16 goals in 42 games. Dalglish scored 25 goals that season and was voted Footballer of the Year. Paisley’s Liverpool retained the Championship in 1980, won the League Cup three years in a row between 1981 and 1983, and won the second of what would end up being three consecutive titles in 1983. With Dalglish in the team, the Reds also won two more European Cups. Dalglish was in his pomp, and became Footballer of the Year for the second time in 1983.

      Expensive Folly

      Considering that by 1982 several top-flight managers had flops on their hands who cost as much as £1.5m, Paisley’s failure with David Hodgson, bought for £450,000, is therefore easy to put into perspective. Not quite 22, Hodgson was a young pace merchant who lacked that extra something special to flourish at Liverpool. He started well, scoring four times in his first six games, but only scored six more in his remaining 43 appearances. Two years after his arrival he was sold to Sunderland for just over a quarter of the fee originally paid.

      Frank McGarvey, who, relatively speaking, cost more than Hodgson when he was signed for £300,000 in 1979, would be another obvious candidate, particularly as the Scot never even played a first team game. But within a year Liverpool had sold him for £325,000. As such, he can almost be considered a non-signing.

      One Who Got Away

      Not many players dared refuse Liverpool by the time Paisley was in charge. The club had the money to go for all of its main targets — in contrast to early life under Shankly, and in more recent years — and Liverpool had by then reached the pinnacle of the European game. When Kevin Keegan left for pastures new, Liverpool were linked with Arsenal’s Liam Brady and Birmingham’s Trevor Francis. However, Brady, while respected, was not on Paisley’s radar. Francis, meanwhile, was seen as too injury prone; Paisley felt it was crucial that players could be called upon all season long. And anyway, he’d already lined up a replacement: Kenny Dalglish.

      One player the club did fail to land was Mark Lawrenson — initially at least. Although he was finally signed in 1981, the Reds had bid £75,000 four years earlier, when the stylish Preston centre-back was only 19. At the time Lawrenson moved to Brighton, whose manager Alan Müllery outbid Paisley with an offer of £112,000. After four years on the south coast it cost Liverpool a club record £900,000 to bring him back to the north-west. Even then, Liverpool almost missed out; Müllery had agreed to sell him to Manchester United. Fortunately for Paisley, the club’s hierarchy were at the same time agreeing to sell him to Liverpool.

      Joe Jordan, the tough Scottish centre-forward, admitted he had turned down Liverpool in 1978, opting instead to move to Manchester United for £350,000, a record transfer between English clubs. A few days later Paisley moved to sign Graeme Souness, for £2,000 more. Jordan would be the one left with regrets, while Souness and Paisley instead collected medals.

      Budget — Historical Context

      Once Manchester United were promoted back to the top flight in 1975, they continued to spend heavily to try and regain top billing in English football. The side that beat Liverpool in the 1977 FA Cup Final (including the substitute) cost on average almost one-third of the English transfer record: 30.7%. Liverpool’s twelve men, by comparison, cost only a quarter of the record: 24.6%. Come forward six years, to the 1983 League Cup Final, and United’s team, though much changed, was still at an almost identical percentage of the record fee. However, Paisley’s side, with the addition of Dalglish, Souness and Lawrenson in particular, now cost 36.1%.

      In between, United, who were runners-up to Arsenal in the FA Cup in 1979 and in the league to Liverpool in 1980, fielded a more expensive side; the team that lost to Arsenal at Wembley in 1979 averaged at 40% of the English record. Bryan Robson, the English transfer record holder between 1981 and 1987, was absent from the 1983 League Cup Final, significantly reducing the average cost as they lost 2-1 to Paisley’s men, while in 1980 United had signed Nottingham Forest’s Garry Birtles for £1.25m. Also in the side in the early part of the decade were Ray Wilkins, signed from Chelsea for £800,000 in 1980, and Gordon McQueen, who broke the English transfer record in 1978 with his £495,000 move from Leeds. Lou Macari and Frank Stapleton were another two expensive players still in the ranks.

      But apart from 1980 and a couple of cup finals three years either side, United were not the main rivals to Paisley’s Liverpool. That honour belonged to Nottingham Forest. Unlike United, Forest were initially lacking in big-money signings. The team that won the 1979 European Cup cost just over 20% of the English record. It included Larry Lloyd, sold by Paisley for £240,000 in 1974 but who, two years later, was picked up by the Midlands club for just a quarter of that figure. In goal, Peter Shilton had cost £270,000 in 1977, a month after Paisley’s capture of Dalglish set a new record at £440,000. Otherwise it was mostly bargains and home-grown talents, with one exception: Trevor Francis, the country’s first million-pound footballer, who arrived at the start of 1979. By contrast, Garry Birtles cost Clough just £2,000 in 1976.

      One team who spent extremely big at the start of Paisley’s reign was Everton. Burly striker Bob Latchford set the new English record, at £350,000 in 1974, at a point when Everton were on the up; the Toffees had ended 7th in the table after three bottom-half finishes. Midfielder Martin Dobson cost £300,000 that same summer — a new record for a cash deal (Latchford’s move involved player swaps, and was valued at £50,000 more). The 1974 signings moved towards the million mark with Jim Pearson, a striker who cost £100,000. Everton finished 4th the next season, just three points off Derby County and two points behind Liverpool. In 1976 Everton signed two players for a combined £400,000, one of whom was the talented Duncan McKenzie; a year later they bought Dave Thomas from QPR for £200,000 and goalkeeper George Wood from Blackpool for £140,000. John Bailey, a left-back who cost £300,000, was added in 1979. Billy Bingham, and Gordon Lee, who took over in 1977, both spent lavishly, but Everton finished 11th and 9th in 1976 and 1977 respectively. They did reach the League Cup Final in 1977, only to be beaten by Aston Villa, and lost to the Reds in the FA Cup semi-final when McKenzie had a goal disallowed for handball (a decision Evertonians are still bitter about). A couple of bright seasons followed, with 3rd and 4th-placed finishes, but they were miles off the pace both times, and then they finished 19th in the 22-team league a year later. Everton eventually did come good in the mid-’80s; by then, however, Bob Paisley had retired.


      League Championship: ‘75-76, ‘76-77, ‘78-79, ‘79-80, ‘81-82, ‘82-83.
      European Cup: 1977, 1978, 1981. League Cups: 1981, 1982, 1983.
      UEFA Cup 1976.

      P W D L F A %
      Overall 535 307 132 96 955 406 57.38%
      League 378 212 99 67 648 294 56.08%
      FA Cup 36 20 7 9 62 27 55.56%
      League Cup 53 32 13 8 98 31 60.38%
      Europe 61 39 11 11 140 49 63.93%
      Other 7 4 2 1 7 5 57.14%


      Whether or not Bob Paisley is Liverpool’s greatest manager, he is certainly the man who lifted the club to its zenith. Indeed, in terms of achievements in relation to time spent in the job, he cannot be bettered in English football. Alex Ferguson has since exceeded his number of league titles and, along with Brian Clough, come close to matching Paisley’s three European Cup triumphs. But Ferguson, at the time of writing, has been in the job for two-and-a-half times as long. The only way Paisley can be overlooked for the top spot in the pantheon is on account of inheriting a successful side to start with. Modest to a fault, he credited his predecessor. “Bill Shankly set such a high standard,” he said. “Liverpool have been geared to this sort of thing for 15 years. I have just helped things along.”

      However, with the work he put in behind the scenes, particularly his tactical acumen and how he offered a crucial counterpoint to Shankly’s abrasive edge, Paisley was heavily responsible for Liverpool rising out of the old Second Division in the first place. Allied to the incredible success he achieved once he’d taken full control of the team, you have testimony to a quite remarkable football man, who died in 1996, at the age of 77, after Alzheimer’s Disease had cruelly claimed his remarkable set of memories.

      Ron Aktinson, a rival manager at West Bromich Albion and Manchester United, perhaps coined the greatest summation of the man: “If Bob Paisley had been on the continent or in America, in whatever capacity or field he worked, and achieved what he achieved, I think he’d be rated higher than the President, the Lord Mayor, the King or the Queen or whatever.”

      Copyright - Paul Tomkins
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      • FSG - The future is bright!!
      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #318: Oct 05, 2009 01:34:45 pm
      Sense and perspective rather than kneejerk from Paul. Agree with this wholeheartedly!!

      While I admit to feeling like Liverpool's hopes were over after three games, I actually feel the opposite now, after a third defeat.
      Those first two defeats really bothered me; this latest one didn't.
      The key was to get some wins under the belt after losing two out of the opening three, and that happened; otherwise the hole could have got quite deep. But now, the table is still so tight that a couple more wins in quick succession can easily change things.
      I do get sick of the “yes they can”/”No they can't” guff that surrounds every big team after a win or a defeat. It's a manic depressive state of analysis. Viewed dispassionately, it's ludicrous.
      Six points off the pace at this stage is not ideal, but equally it's nothing to panic about, particularly with Chelsea and United able to drop points cheaply, as they have at places like Wigan and Burnley; and with United's squad looking weaker than last season, and Chelsea due to lose almost half a team to the African Nations.
      I'm also curious to see how Chelsea's ageing team copes come the spring, especially as they have for once escaped injury problems to their major players (which helps them very much for now, but could lead to burnout for the thirtysomethings.) Of course, the Reds will still need to be in the mix, but I think that's easily possible.
      I felt that Liverpool were marginally the better team at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea were more clinical in front of goal. On that score, they will argue that they deserved the points, and that argument always carries water, but they didn't impress me as much as they have in the past. I felt they had all the luck.
      Unlike the Fiorentina game, this was a match Benítez's men didn't deserve to lose, and had a penalty been awarded at 0-0 for a foul by the unusually upright Drogba on Skrtel, the table might look very different now.
      Unusually wayward misses from Torres and Benayoun summed up the day in the final third, but on the whole there was much to be encouraged by, particularly from some of the less-heralded players, and the return to form of both centre-backs (even if Carragher did get beaten for the second goal).
      All last season we were told that draws cost the Reds. Draws draws draws. Doesn't matter if you gamble and lose, but avoid the draws.
      Well, there have been no draws this season.
      We were told that it's not beating the big teams that counts, it's beating the little ‘uns. So is that no longer true?
      Going into the Chelsea game, the Reds were actually a point up on the corresponding fixtures from 2008/09. That's fairly remarkable given the criticism that's been aimed at Liverpool since the summer.
      The Chelsea game shows that season-to-season comparisions cannot be totally trusted, mainly because the order of the games affects the momentum, and run of the ball can affect any single result.
      But Liverpool still have plenty of 2008/09 draws to turn into wins, to get back on course for more than 86 points, if such a high tally is needed this year. And take a team like Arsenal: Liverpool could afford to lose against them this season, but if they win the other they'll end up with more points than from the two draws last time.
      And anyway, how many teams win at Chelsea two years running? For the last 20 years, any kind of victory there has been a rare event. Defeat in Italy and defeat at Chelsea are a million miles away from the results that unduly bother me. And October was always going to be a hellishly difficult month.
      Remember, Liverpool have gone to two of the current top three sides in the country. That is far from a balanced fixture list, and that provides me with a calming optimism. There are far tougher games still to be played at Anfield, but it was the supposedly easy ones that caused problems last time around.
      There's no denying that Liverpool have contributed to some of their own reversals this season, but there are other issues, too.
      I have to say that I haven't been too impressed with the refereeing this season, and had mentioned the timekeeping issue even before United got their inexplicable never-ending injury time to avoid what should have been two more dropped points, in the Manchester derby. Liverpool just don't get those unfathomable decisions in their favour.
      Liverpool failed to get even the allotted added time at Spurs to claw back a point, and conceded the crucial second against Villa when there was no earthly reason to go beyond the one added minute.
      Penalty decisions aren't going the Reds' way either, with about four stonewallers waved away, and lesser offences, like Carragher's shoulder barge on Zavon Hines less of a foul than the clattering of Voronin at Spurs, where the Reds were poor but could have scraped the kind of lucky draw United got at the weekend.
      Meanwhile, Skrtel was pushed over by Drogba and nothing was given, yet the Chelsea striker has an air ambulance on standby every time he sneezes.
      While I don't believe that these things even themselves out (after all, that would need a conscious decision by some omniscient being), you have to hope that the Reds' luck improves in line with that of their rivals.
      While on the subject of luck and fairness, I have total sympathy for Lucas Leiva in terms of the press he gets. The whole team plays poorly in Italy, yet he gets singled out. While I felt he really struggled in the first half of last season, I see no such problems this time around. But still the stigma remains attached.
      There are probably reasons for this. If he was English, he'd be lauded for his workrate, feverish closing down and generally very good (if unspectacular) use of the ball.
      Because he's Brazilian, he has to fit a stereotype. That doesn't sit easily with people with no imagination. I've seen some idiotic comments in the press like he's “the most un-South American player I've ever seen”; as if, as a Brazilian, you have no worth unless you're a stepover king.
      At Stamford Bridge, Liverpool actually won the battle of the midfield, and Lucas played a massive part in that. The Reds lost largely because Chelsea's strikers had a better day in front of goal, and not because of the balance of play (dictated by Lucas and Mascherano) or chances created.
      As a psychology student helpfully pointed out to me during a discussion on my new website: “The ‘truth effect' comes when a message is repeated enough, then the receiver of the message will accept it as fact.”
      Lucas made many positive contributions to the Hull thrashing, with two forceful, direct forward passes leading to goals two and five, as well as getting to the byline for the sixth. But along with not being stereotypically Brazilian, he is criticised for not being Xabi Alonso. Which, to me, seems grossly unfair.
      Liverpool had their best-ever scoring start to the season, so how can Lucas, a league ever-present, be to blame for a “lack of creativity” that clearly isn't there?
      I thought Liverpool were creative against Chelsea, too, without ever tearing through them, but then this is a world-renowned defensive set-up, at home, and by the end, forced to defend in great numbers. Liverpool were no worse than in the fixture a year ago, but crucially, Chelsea were much improved, and the Reds didn't have that crucial slice of luck.
      I therefore believe that the ‘truth effect' to be very much in evidence with Lucas, as it so clearly is with zonal marking.
      Watch Liverpool defend a set-piece, and count the times ‘zonal marking' is discussed in negative terms. Watch a team defend man-marking, and you'll only get “great run/great cross/great header” if the ball goes in.
      I've been saying this very thing for years, but almost collapsed when Gordon Strachan pointed this out after the Sunderland vs Wolves game. Then again, he's managed at the top level using both man-marking and zonal, and he said that both work equally well, and that it just depends on what your players are comfortable with. How dare he talk such sense?
      Against Chelsea, I noticed that after every excellent Mascherano challenge or even just harrying, there was a positive mention from the commentators, but Lucas, who made loads of excellent contributions was only mentioned after mistakes. Go and watch the game again, and you'll see this to be true.
      The truth effect: bear it in mind next time you find yourself being told something time and again, its message driven into your brain like a hypnotist's mantra.
      The Invisible Man
      • Forum Kevin Keegan
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      • 352 posts | 18 
      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #319: Oct 05, 2009 01:53:23 pm
      I'd read it yesterday evening as a member of  complete with further attack on Andy sh*t-for-brains Gray that wasn't in this version.
      • Forum Billy Liddell
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      • 537 posts | 11 
      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #320: Oct 05, 2009 02:01:50 pm
      I'd read it yesterday evening as a member of  complete with further attack on Andy sh*t-for-brains Gray that wasn't in this version.

      What did he say about Andy Gray?
      The Invisible Man
      • Forum Kevin Keegan
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      • 352 posts | 18 
      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #321: Oct 05, 2009 02:27:38 pm

      About Gray accusing Rafa of managing by numbers, because he made the sub on 65 mins - when mins earlier Gray had been saying Rafa was right to not change anything as Liverpool were doing well.
      • Forum Billy Liddell
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      • 537 posts | 11 
      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #322: Oct 05, 2009 02:45:15 pm

      About Gray accusing Rafa of managing by numbers, because he made the sub on 65 mins - when mins earlier Gray had been saying Rafa was right to not change anything as Liverpool were doing well.

      Cheers Invisible Man. Gray is an unbelievable idiot. Just wish someone would bring him up on his hypocrisy.
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
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      • 33,368 posts | 3172 
      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #323: Oct 05, 2009 04:02:50 pm
      Remind me again what qualification has the bitter gimp got to make these sweeping criticisms? it's all coming back now he used to play for the blue crew, the subject matter is now one of credibility rather than qualification and shithead fails on both.
      Cheers Invisible Man. Gray is an unbelievable idiot. Just wish someone would bring him up on his hypocrisy.
      • Forum Legend - Shankly
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      • 28,787 posts | 3433 
      Re: The Official Paul Tomkins Thread
      Reply #324: Oct 05, 2009 05:03:24 pm
      Cheers Invisible Man. Gray is an unbelievable idiot. Just wish someone would bring him up on his hypocrisy.

      Andy Gray is a bluenose bitter gobs***e who has never, ever managed at the top level and was a coach for about five minutes, so most of his ramblings I try to take with a pinch of salt.

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