Author Topic: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend  (Read 3277 times)

Offline teine

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Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« on: November 22, 2023, 07:39:22 am »
What an amazing career he had.

I've spent much of this year researching the story of Gordon and his father Jimmy. It was so fascinating that I was thinking of contacting him and suggesting we write a book together. It was quite a surprise when I heard a couple of months ago that he'd already written one.

His autobiography, 'Shankly, My Dad and Me' was published two weeks ago, and it's a fine read.

I'm not going to let that research go to waste, though. As a taster for his book, here's a quick-fire run through of the highlghts of two generations of footballing drama.


1) August 16th 1930.

Jimmy Milne is 19, and he's just signed for Dundee United in Scottish League Division Two. On this day, he makes his debut against Alloa Athletic.

It was a momentous day in more ways than one. Not only the start of this remarkable story, but in the opposing team at Tannadice was a man who, three decades later, would play a key role in the career of Milne Jr.

That man was Bob Shankly, Alloa's outside right. Yes - the elder brother of Bill.

The result that day was 1-1, but at the end of the season Milne helped United to promotion. Here he is in the kit they wore at the time. The colours were black and white - before they switched to the famous tangerine.




2) May 1934 

Jimmy signed for Preston North End in 1932 and helped them back to the First Division two years later. Alongside him in the half-back line was Bill Shankly. Here they are together in 1934, Milne on the left:



Milne and Shankly both lived on Lowthorpe Road, just yards from Deepdale. The Milne house is marked on this map from the 1940s. The Shanklys lived directly opposite:



Gordon Milne, born in 1937, was brought up in that house. There is a fantastic story in his book about Shankly playing football with him when he was very young.


3)  May 1938 

Preston came very close to winning the double that season. In the end they had to settle for the FA Cup. Jimmy missed the Final, however. He'd been injured two weeks before the big game. That sad tale was to be repeated in Gordon's career three decades later.


4)  August 1960

Gordon's career started at Preston in 1956. His father was now trainer at Deepdale, and the situation felt a little uncomfortable. Gordon wanted his independence, and in 1960, two clubs were competing for his signature.

This is where Bob Shankly re-enters the story. He was now manager of Dundee, and he was trying to sign Burnley right half Bobby Seith. Another manager was keen to sign him - brother Bill, now manager of Liverpool.

In the end the elder Shankly got his man, and Seith moved back to Scotland.

Bill had to look elsewhere for a new right half, and later that month he signed the player he'd known since he was a toddler - the son of his former teammate Jimmy Milne.

Gordon moved to Anfield:



He made his Liverpool debut that night, a 1-0 home defeat by Southampton. This was truly the end of one era and the beginning of another - it was Billy Liddell's last game, and the start of Shankly's rebuilding process. After Milne came all the others - St. John, Yeats, Stevenson, Strong and Peter Thompson (also from Preston).


5) April 1962

The Milne story stretches across 70 years of professional football, and in all that time, neither father or son experienced relegation as a player or a manager. By contrast, this is the third promotion in the tale already. Gordon is at the heart of the side as Liverpool finally get back to the First Division. 

Another remarkable statistic is that between 1954 and 2009, Preston and Liverpool played each other only five times - and all of them were in that 1961/62 season. Jimmy had now been promoted from trainer to manager at Deepdale, and he got the better of his son in that epic FA Cup Fifth Round saga when Preston won a second replay at Old Trafford, with Peter Thompson getting the winner. In the League it was different, with Gordon coming out on top both times. He even scored in the 3-1 win at Deepdale, a goal his father described as 'a fluke'.

The photo on the cover of the book was taken shortly after we got back to Division One:




6)  May 8th 1963

Gordon flourished in the top flight. Michael Charters in the Echo wrote that 'he's a far better player in the First Division than he was in the Second'. So it was only natural that he should get a chance at a higher level still. In the first game for which Alf Ramsey was in charge of selecting the England team, he gave Gordon his debut - against Brazil at Wembley.

Look at this freeze frame, just 12 seconds into the game. Bobby Charlton is in possession wide on the left, and that man with his hands in the air, keen to get his first touch in international football, is Gordon. Bobby decides to give him the ball.



This is what happened next:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjQUY_bzKsA&t=27s

Had the shot gone in, it would have been the most sensational start to any England career.


7)  March 28th 1964

When asked in later years about his most memorable game for Liverpool, Gordon would choose the match at Filbert Street during the title race in 1964. We faced three tough games in four days over the Easter weekend - home and away against Spurs, who were also in the race, and away at our bogey team, Leicester City. The press were writing off our chances.

We won at White Hart Lane on Good Friday, but Gordon was injured and it was touch and go whether he'd be fit for Leicester the next day. Bob Paisley worked all evening on his injury at the Grand Hotel in Leicester.  Also in town that evening were a number of Liverpool fans, who'd made the same trip up from London after the Spurs game. Several broke into the ground overnight and painted the Filbert Street goalposts red, as well as spraying slogans on the walls.




The graffiti was removed in time for the game, but as the local paper reported, the goalposts still had a 'pinkish hue'.

 Milne was declared fit, and he played a key role in Liverpool's 2-0 win that kept them on course. Here he is celebrating the second goal, scored by Alf Arrowsmith:




Gordon was arguably our most important player that season. Football writers certainly thought so. He was the highest ranked Liverpool player in the voting for Player of the Year, and he had now become a regular member of the England team, with the 1966 World Cup just around the corner.


Next is April 1965.

This is one of the most notorious tackles in the history of English football. It's Chelsea's Eddie McCreadie having a whack at Johnny Giles early in the 1964/65 season:



Note the position of the ball - and the referee.

You can see the tackle here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P3MpkIF5Nc&t=90s


When the teams met in the return fixture at Elland Road, Chelsea boss Tommy Docherty decided not to play McCreadie, for fear of Leeds players taking revenge

Three months later, in April, it was McCreadie's challenge that put Gordon out of the Cup Final - something he has always been remarkably philosophical about. In his book there is no ill-feeling towards McCreadie. He says 'he did what any defender would have done - he won the ball then clattered me into the bargain'. It was 'a hard tackle, but a fair one'.


9)  May 1965.

So Gordon suffered the same Cup Final heartbreak as his father.  Four days later, of course, came that famous piece of Shankly choreography - asking Gordon and Gerry Byrne to carry the FA Cup around the ground before the Inter semi-final. His description of that night is perhaps the centre-piece of the whole book.




10)  June 1966


Gordon had lost his place in the England team in the 64/65 season. He admitted himself that he'd lost form. But in the following season he was back to his best, and this time it wasn't Easter but the Christmas and New Year that proved decisive. Gordon scored crucial goals over that holiday period as we pulled clear of the pack and then cruised to our second title in three seasons. This put him back in Alf Ramsey's thoughts, and he was selected for the squad of 28 that gathered at Lilleshall a month before the World Cup started.

You can see him here, with Gerry Byrne, Peter Thompson and Ian Callaghan also in the picture. Roger Hunt is hidden behind another player:



But his World Cup hopes were shattered. He and Peter Thompson were among the six players cut from the squad when it was reduced to 22.

It may be some consolation that he went on to enjoy a more successful managerial career than any of the 22 players Alf selected.


11)  Spring and Summer 1974

Gordon's first managerial post was at Wigan Athletic in 1970. He led them to the Northern Premier League title, and this caught the attention of the FA, who appointed him manager of the England Youth team in 1971. He guided the youngsters to victory in the European Championships in Spain a year later, and this success led to him being appointed Coventry manager in June 1972.

Before he accepted the job he turned to Shankly for advice.

Two years on and both Shankly and Alf Ramsey were gone from their long-standing managerial positions. Incredibly, Gordon was interviewed for both jobs.  In the book, he tells a story of meeting John Smith and Peter Robinson that summer, and his regret at not making it clear just how much he wanted the job.

In the end, of course, it was Bob Paisley and Don Revie who took those positions, and Milne stayed at Coventry for another seven seasons.


12)  Summer 1982

Eight years on, and Paisley announces that the following season would be his last as manager. There was much talk of former Anfield stars taking over.  John Toshack was at Swansea - but they were relegated in 1982/83. Emlyn Hughes was at Rotherham - but they too went down that season. Meanwhile, Gordon Milne was leading Leicester City to a spectacular surge up the Division Two table that resulted in promotion back to the top flight. That was his first season at the club after moving from Coventry.

Whether he was in the thoughts of the Liverpool hierarchy at that time is unknown, but of course, Joe Fagan got the job.

In Joe's first season, there was a thrilling 3-3 draw against Milne's side at Filbert Street. It was one of the greatest games I've ever seen, and somewhere there exists footage of that night.  All that is available at the moment is this one piece of action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD2THXtErFU


13)  May 1986

The crucial night in the League title race. Leicester City 0 Liverpool 2, Oxford 1 Everton 0. That was actually Gordon's last week as a manager in England. He moved to a general manager position at Filbert Street for the following season. Here's the goals from that key game:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bA4NOeuZXE


14)   Within the space of three days in the summer of 1987, two European clubs appointed new managers. Arrigo Sacchi was the new man at Milan, and Gordon Milne was unveiled at Beşiktaş, one of the big three clubs in Istanbul. There would seem to be no connection between those two appointments, apart from their chronological proximity. Except that four years later, two European clubs would go down in history as 'the invincibles', going through the entire League season unbeaten. One was Milan - the team that Sacchi built and had just handed over to Fabio Capello, the other was Milne's Beşiktaş. Of course, Serie A was a much higher level of football. But still, it's an incredible achievement.

Gordon enjoyed a glorious six year spell at the club. That title win was his third in a row. You can see what it meant to the fans in this clip, from before the win against Fenerbahce in 1990 that clinched the first of those titles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqex-0LQX7M&t=163s

So that's a necessarily brief run through the Milne story.

One of the best descriptions of Gordon as a player that I came across was 'he's a brilliant game reader'. Well now we know he's a good writer too. The book he and Steve Younger have put together tells you the complete story.

« Last Edit: December 13, 2023, 12:02:22 pm by teine »

Offline KillieRed

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2023, 09:22:46 am »
Great stuff, thanks! He should really have played for Scotland though  ;)
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Offline teine

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2023, 09:35:56 am »
Great stuff, thanks! He should really have played for Scotland though  ;)

The Scotland connection is fascinating. I've been interviewing Gordon and one thing I asked was who he supported as a boy when England played Scotland. He was unequivocal - 'I was Scottish', he said. No surprise really with Scottish parents, despite being born and brought up in Lancashire.

In 1951 his father, who narrowly missed out on a Scotland cap, was selected as trainer for the Football League XI. In those days, that was quite an honour, as the FL games were only slightly less prestigious than England internationals, and often served as trials for international matches. Gordon told me his father was very proud of that selection, and it must have eased the way for Gordon's later selection as an England international.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2023, 10:38:45 am by teine »

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2023, 10:33:39 am »
Thanks again. Love these stories about players before my time.
The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich” - Idles.

Offline Indomitable_Carp

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2023, 10:46:10 am »
Great stuff! Love to read it.

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2023, 11:21:13 am »
That's great stuff. I had no idea about the Beşiktaş years. Absolutely fascinating.
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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2023, 11:47:21 am »
I was wondering about why Liverpool played in the white shits/black shorts combo v Leicester. It was uncommon in those days for teams to play in an 'away kit' when there was no colour clash. It can only have been one thing. We'd played the day before v Spurs and the red kit was dirty. And there was no time to get it to the laundry. The club obviously only had one set of home kits in 1964.

Two days later we played again at Anfield (three league games in 4 days!). We beat Spurs again with 15,000 people locked outside.
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Offline teine

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2023, 11:55:18 am »
I was wondering about why Liverpool played in the white shits/black shorts combo v Leicester. It was uncommon in those days for teams to play in an 'away kit' when there was no colour clash. It can only have been one thing. We'd played the day before v Spurs and the red kit was dirty. And there was no time to get it to the laundry. The club obviously only had one set of home kits in 1964.

Two days later we played again at Anfield (three league games in 4 days!). We beat Spurs again with 15,000 people locked outside.

Wow - that's a great point!

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2023, 05:12:02 pm »
That’s added to the Christmas list
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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2023, 06:07:32 pm »
What a superb post !! A great read… thanks

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2023, 07:09:16 pm »
Lovely read that. Thanks for posting teine and highlighting the book
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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2023, 03:21:21 am »
Great thread, this. Thank you for posting, teine  :wave
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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2023, 04:51:23 am »
I was wondering about why Liverpool played in the white shits/black shorts combo v Leicester. It was uncommon in those days for teams to play in an 'away kit' when there was no colour clash. It can only have been one thing. We'd played the day before v Spurs and the red kit was dirty. And there was no time to get it to the laundry. The club obviously only had one set of home kits in 1964.

Two days later we played again at Anfield (three league games in 4 days!). We beat Spurs again with 15,000 people locked outside.

Did black and white TV have some influence on kit selection?
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Offline teine

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2023, 07:42:32 am »
Did black and white TV have some influence on kit selection?

Cheers - you've just sent me on an online adventure to find out when footy highlights started on ITV, and led me all the way back to Gordon Milne. According to wiki, at that time only East Anglia had a highlights programme, and looking into it more I found that the commentator for Anglia TV's highlights show was John Camkin - a man who played a central role in Gordon's career at many stages. He was a director at Coventry City, and it was he who wrote the words to the SKy Blues song with Jimmy Hill in 1962 - you know - 'while we sing together, we will never lose'.

He was a key figure at Highfield Road when Gordon was manager there in the 70s, and he was also central to the setting up of the League Managers' Association, for whom Gordon worked as Chief Executive in the 1990s.

But to address the point you made - I don't think TV was the reason for the white shirts. Match of the Day started four months later, in August 1964 with that Liverpool v Arsenal game, and highlights weren't yet a regular feature of the ITV schedule.

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2023, 07:44:20 am »
Did black and white TV have some influence on kit selection?

Not in this case because I don't think the match would have been televised. (Teine might know about that for sure). There was certainly no kit change whenever we played Chelsea in pre-colour days, which was always a tough one on Match of the Day. Fortunately their stupid white socks helped.
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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #15 on: November 23, 2023, 08:06:41 am »
Great thread. How is Gordon Milne? Presume he's retired where does he live and does he get to Anfield much these days?

Offline teine

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #16 on: November 23, 2023, 08:11:19 am »
Just a follow-up on the TV question. As mentioned, Anglia seem to have been the first regional ITV company to start regular highlights, and it seems Granada began their highlights show on November 7th 1965.  Their featured game that day was Preston v Wolves. I wonder if they had an interview with the Preston manager - Jimmy Milne.

I can't find any footage of that game - but if you search 'Preston v Wolves 1965' on youtube, a remarkable video comes up. It's Wolves v Preston from 1949, in colour! It's the first game at Molineux after they won the FA Cup Final 3-1 against Leicester City. Just like our first home game after we won it in 1965,  the trophy is taken round the ground for everyone to see. There's not quite the fervour of when Gordon Milne and Gerry Byrne did it, but still, it's remarkable footage.

Here it is (two months after Bill Shankly played his last game for Preston after 16 years at the club):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHxBqWBsJ18

« Last Edit: November 23, 2023, 08:38:57 am by teine »

Offline teine

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #17 on: November 23, 2023, 08:37:45 am »
Great thread. How is Gordon Milne? Presume he's retired where does he live and does he get to Anfield much these days?

Gordon is doing incredibly well at 86, and so is his wife Edith, who has looked after his memorabilia all these years. I've been speaking to him over the last couple of weeks, talking about every stage of his career. It's a very rewarding experience - there's a gentle wisdom in all his reflections on the game. I don't think he gets to Anfield much these days, if at all. He does travel a lot, visiting friends and family, but the family home is in Leicestershire, where it has been since 1972 when he took the Coventry job.

Offline teine

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Re: Gordon Milne - an Anfield legend
« Reply #18 on: November 25, 2023, 08:15:15 am »
There's a fantastic interview with Ian St. John here about the 'hospital pass' that led to McCreadie's challenge that put Gordon out of the Final. That's at 7.20 in the video. In truth, the whole thing is worth watching. It was a Turkish production - ignore the iffy music and enjioy the thorough research that went into it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ETAYJHFFM4
« Last Edit: April 1, 2024, 09:42:52 am by teine »