Author Topic: The Complete Billy Liddell Story (Part 1)  (Read 5722 times)

Offline Rushian

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The Complete Billy Liddell Story (Part 1)
« on: July 3, 2004, 03:43:49 AM »
Tribute to a Legend

Billy Liddell died from Alzheimer’s disease on 3rd July 2001 at the age of 79.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well after 1000 days, the passing of such a Legend still brings a tear to my eye. With the campaign for a statue "stalling" over the last few months, I'm hoping with this piece to resurrect the call for LFC to honour our very first fans' LEGEND.

Originally written as separate stories, I have now assembled as one major story. It covers his activities both on and off the pitch, but mainly centres around his playing career.

This piece is a labour of love for a great man and the first part of the trilogy, The Holy Trinity which will cover Billy Liddell, Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.

THE HOLY TRINITY Part 1

The Complete Billy Liddell Story

(dedicated to El Sid, a great fan)



How do you start a Story about a LEGEND? The answer is quite simple really, its easier than you think. "With a tear in your eye".

The 'Flying Scotsman' was born in Dunfermline on January 10, 1922, and could play as either a winger or centre forward. But by the time he made his 'official' first team debut for Liverpool, delayed by the war, Billy was 23-years-old but it wasn't long before he embarked on the success story that made him a legend in our City and earned the club he played for the nickname 'Liddlepool'. After 21 years and 537 games in which he scored 229 goals Billy 'hung up his boots' in 1960 as a hero.

And so the story starts.

Billy throughout his life, lived up to the highest standards and was a role model and inspiration to all playing the game then and for future generations to come, both ON & OFF the field. A superb athlete, he was one of the most complete players of his day and to many OLD FOGEY'S like myself, is still the greatest performer the club has seen. Away from the game he did a vast amount of voluntary work for local boys' clubs and after his retirement he became a magistrate, a lay preacher and bursar of Liverpool University. The unselfishness and sense of duty that guided his life outside football was also echoed on the park. Billy was never anything less than a model professional.

Billy was unfortunate that for the greater part of his career at Anfield, there were not enough other players of his ability at the club. A very modest man, he would deny that he was forced to carry the team by himself for long periods of any game. The fact that our team was called by the nickname "Liddellpool" only proved to be an embarrassment to our Billy. Liddell won 28 caps for Scotland, a figure that does no justice to his amazing skills. Billy's modest international career was only compensated for by the sheer adulation he earned from his beloved KOP.

On his full debut, after the war the hat-trick he scored showed that the powerful outside-left intended wasting little time in making his presence felt. Although Albert Stubbins scored the goals that won the championship that year, Albert never hid the fact that the vast majority of his chances were carved out for him by Liddell (reference to lfc.tv's excellent interview in 100 Days That Shook The Kop).

During the 50's Billy's goals often pulled Liverpool out of trouble. But throughout the same period the team began to go into decline and even Billy's individual brilliance and bravery could not prevent them from dropping out of the top flight. The task of trying to haul Liverpool to promotion grew tougher and tougher, and when Billy finally decided to hang up his boots in1960 the Anfield side were still stranded in the Second Division. It took another Billy (Shanks) to restore them to the top flight, but the exploits of OUR BILLY throughout his 20yr + career devoted to Liverpool Football Club show that greatness should not always be measured by a single Championship medal.

Fans should always remember that Billy was Liverpool Football Club.
He was its spirit.
He was also its honesty,
He was its integrity,
He was its heart,
and last but not least, its passion.

To fans such as my Dad, Grandad and others of the pre-Bill Shankly generation he represented the true way the game should be played. The "Liddellpool" tag the club was awarded was no hype or coincidence. It was fact. My Dad always told me that Billy kept the team going virtually single-handed during that dispiriting eight year Second Division spell we endured in the fifties. I only saw Billy play once myself and so I have no real understanding of what he truly meant to the masses who adorned the Kop week in, week out.

Liverpudlians really did appreciate the knowledge that in "Our Billy" they possessed someone who was as good as any other footballer around including Matthews and Finney who were plying their trade at that time. Billy Liddell was the REAL DEAL.

Billy's skills meant he was virtually unstoppable down either left or right wing, he was just as unstoppable at centre forward too. How hard he could hit that ball with either foot. His right foot was Dynamite and his left foot Thunder (borrowed from me DAD). Above all else he was a gentleman and a true sport. Whatever the provocation, whatever the circumstances, he was always a peerless ambassador for his club, his adopted City and his Country. A man to be revered.

I suppose it was the reverence for him that stood out above everything else. The sheer respect that existed for this truly unassuming man. Believe me when I say that, both Red and Blue alike had a mutual respect and awe of Billy Liddell. I have only ever encountered this for two others, one was Dixie Dean (another Billy) and the other was Bill Shankly himself. I think that says everything about the man.

Billy Liddell, I salute you. You were a true legend. You were my first footballing hero. You were the best of all because of your LOYALTY, you were ours alone. A true Hero.



For the likes of me growing up in Liverpool during the late 50's, i.e. too young to have seen the man at his best, we simply hung onto the stories that our parents and families told, with a determination and gobsmacked awe. Liverpool were not the most successful side when I was a lad and we were desperate for any success (Especially the FA Cup)which we still hadn't won and we were reminded daily by the snotty blue noses in our street.

Even at that young age, deep down I knew our lowly place in the footballing echelon and craved success with every breath, but this was not something that you mentioned when talking to the "snotties". Every new season that started I stood firm in our street and shouted from up the tallest lampost that we would indeed win both the League and Cup that year. I had to be up the lampost, they were all bigger than me and certainly too fat to climb a lampost.

40 years have passed now and I'm far too old to be climbing lamposts, but remember this, you're never too old to stand in the middle of your street and scream at the top of your voice ....

"LIVERPOOL ARE GONNA WIN THE CUP"
"LIVERPOOL ARE GONNA WIN THE PREM"
"LIVERPOOL ARE GONNA WIN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE"

The present generation of 30 to 40 year olds out there will no doubt one day reminisce themselves about King Kenny to their grandkids and rightly so, Kenny was the most outstanding talent of his time and deserves all the plaudits they will give him. Rushie will also have his apostles and his goals record I believe will never be beaten, that's right never! Our present star Michael Owen is a great player, but he wont break the record that Rush set.

So here goes. Indulge me for a while and try and imagine with this old fogey if our greatest player Billy Liddell had been born in 1983 and had been blessed with half the footballing talent that those that saw him play knew he had.

He would now once again be a strapping 21 year old and just beginning his career. He'd have just signed a lucrative 5 year contract and would be a millionaire in the making. Liverpool and Scotland would be boasting a world class footballer, something Scotland would die for at the moment. The Kop would drool over his every touch and we would have a winger who was likely to score 20 goals a season. "3 goal a season" Damien Duff eat your heart out, this new winger can really play and has a ferocious shot in both boots. His popularity would not only rival that of Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, it would dwarf it. The club shop would do a roaring trade in replica shirts emblazoned 'Liddell 11' (sorry Vlad). Funny really as Liddell played most of his games without a number.

The media would no doubt be full of speculation of the possibility of £35 million swoops from all the top European clubs, including the likes of Juventus, Inter or AC Milan, Real Madrid or Barcelona. But there would be no chance of Rafael Benitez parting with the jewel in the Anfield crown. Imagine as well a Liverpool attack boasting Liddell, Cisse, Baros, Owen and Pongolle! I know it sounds daft, but in those days 2 wingers, 2 inside forwards and a centre forward was the norm.

We would be the scourge of the Premiership and the giants of Europe would bend at the knee in his presence, but Billy Liddell would have probably hated it all as well, because he was a very modest man. He was above all the stuff and nonsense of the so called great players of today, Yes, there was only one Billy Liddell.

"One Billy Liddell, there's only one Billy Liddell,
one Billy Liddell, there's only one Billy Liddell"

"He gets the ball, he scores a goal, Billy, Billy Liddell.

"I'd walk a million miles for one of your goals, oh BILLY"

"Left foot goal, right foot goal, up with his head and its another goal".

Hat-trick king Liddell strikes again. Billy strikes more often than the miners, Fords and Standards does together.
 
OK dream over, Billy came from a different era, but I still doubt he have been seen celebrating a goal by running to the corner flag or worse diving along the floor. 'Sniffing' the goal line? I think not. Also despite his God given talent he would never earn more than the majority of his team-mates of the forties and fifties. His career came to a finish with players earning around twenty quid a week, plus a few extra pound notes if they won and not the £60,000 a week earned today. Fair enough, back in the fifties that sort of money would have meant a reasonable standard of living, but it was hardly the sort of money that would allow a footballer to retire once he turned thirty, let alone drive around in custom-built cars. You were more likely to see Billy riding a bicycle!

Today we fans often get criticised for daring to criticise the multi millionaires that are supposed to be entertaining us. The players did not create the ever increasing wage bill, rather it was directors who offered the money and lengthy contracts. Directors up and down the land should look at their own wages before asking players to take wage cuts.

Following the Treble year, Kopites were a happy bunch and so, no doubt, were all the players as their bank balances increased by a few more noughts. Yet even the following season we had players doing more or less nothing to earn their money, i.e. sitting on the sick list (sorry Jamie Redknapp Lar, I couldn't help it). Throughout the nightmare nineties we had players earning a "mere" ten grand a week complaining that they were underpaid.

In Billy's day fans would vent their feelings, probably far more strongly than they do today, if they thought that someone wasn't pulling their weight, but even during the worst of times nobody could ever level that charge against Billy Liddell and the Famous Kop never booed the team off the pitch. No manager ever had to tell Billy Liddell to go out and do his best because Billy never gave anything less than his best in every game he played and he played EVERY week.

I argue with mates regularly about the pampered and over protected players of today. I am more of a cynic now than I ever was. People try and tell me how different the game is now and I have to agree that it has changed. But Billy Liddell never had the benefit of being part of a thirty-man squad. The manager couldn't rotate the team then and anyway if any of them had been brave enough to drop Billy Liddell the walls of the Kop would have come tumbling down around their ears.

The game in the fifties might have been different but the likes of Billy Liddell would face uncompromising defenders week in week out and those defenders would have one thing on their mind and that would be to kick Billy Liddell as hard and as often as they could. Did Billy roll around the pitch like he'd been shot ? Of course not, he just picked himself up and carried on. If someone kicked him on the right leg, he'd start shooting with his left, if someone kicked him in the left leg, he'd just shoot with his right.
 
Many defenders thought it wise to kick him in both legs, what was Billy's answer ? Yes, your right, he'd head the ball home from anywhere in the area. Can you think of any attacker now who can boast the same ? Owen is a world class striker, there is no doubt in my mind, but I ain't kidding when I say me Mam could kick a better ball with her left peg than Mikey. Heskey's talent of playing in a variety of roles and trying his best wherever he plays is admirable, but the chances of him scoring as regularly as Billy did is about as likely as the Mersey Tunnel stopping the Toll (Anyone old enough will remember it was only going to be tolled for the first year).

Fowler was the next hero of mine after King Kenny hung up his boots, and I think his stance on the Dockers' Strike earned him much deserved popularity, but his off the field activities often got him into trouble. Billy on the other hand spent a lot of his time helping Boys Clubs and never made the headlines unless it was referring to a game. Why? Well he didn't drink for a start. It also wasn't the done thing to go to a nightclub in Chester and show yer ARSEnal like another favourite player of mine. Here's where someone will pick holes in this, I don’t think Billy was ever booked, let alone SENT OFF and as for getting locked up by the local plod, Billy never gave anyone the opportunity or the reason.

If players think that facing the likes of some of today's hard men is a chore they should think themselves lucky because in Billy's day they would come up against some real hard nuts, the sort that would have made Tommy Smith think twice. Billy would be out there facing the likes of Stan Milburn, Frank Mountford, Eddie Clamp, Maurice Setters, Alf Ramsey and a few others, and if you haven't heard of them, ask yer Dad or Grandad. Yet despite knowing that a kicking awaited him, you'd never question the desire or commitment of Billy Liddell.
 
In the fifties Billy Liddell was in an elite group of players. A group that included the likes of Stan Matthews, Tom Finney and the late great Duncan Edwards. I've written before about Duncan as my old fella still goes on about what a talent he was. OK he played for the Mancs, but according to my Dad there had never been the likes of Duncan in his time. Hence references to Stevie G being Edwards-like is very high praise indeed. Stanley was a wizard on the wing also according to the old fella, but very one footed and scored goals only rarely. I believe Stanley only got more praise than Billy because he was English.

These were the players that everyone wanted to see play. Although Liverpool spent a good part of that decade in the second division the fans of our rivals loved it when Liverpool were due to pay a call. So did their clubs Chairman and Treasurer because they knew that if Billy Liddell was in the Liverpool line-up then a few extra thousand would be added to the gate! Dad's would take misty-eyed sons to games and those lads would soon tell their schoolmates, "I've seen Billy Liddell" play. The reason being was that fans of teams like Bristol Rovers, Doncaster Rovers, Grimsby or Leyton Orient didn't get too many opportunities of seeing a genuine world class player gracing their grounds. In fact to be honest in the fifties world class players weren't in great abundance anywhere on these shores, but Liverpool definitely had one.
 


I was a bit young to go to Anfield when Billy played, therefore never got the opportunity to watch him peel an orange with either foot (yes he was that good), but my one opportunity came at Holly Park, Garston (South Liverpool FC). Billy may have been past his sell by date, but the match will always remain special to me. It was the Billy Liddell International All Stars vs Merseyside Select XI. I'll never forget that match and the chance to see Billy play but had no memento of the game when recently, with the help of a mate Andy Roper, I was able to get hold of the programme from that match for just £6. Yes six quid! I dare not tell you how much I would have been prepared to go, you really will think I'd lost me marbles (special thanks once again to Andy - cheers la).

Given the history of the club for much of the second half of the twentieth century it is hard to understand that for so much of an era one man carried the hopes of the fans. But as I've said before these were the LIDDELL days and we were proud at the time to call our team LIDDELLPOOL. You see as the club slid from the level of Championship Winners to Championship contenders and Cup Finalists to having what many fans believe was our worst ever team there was only one ray of hope and that was Billy Liddell.
 
Once the rot had set in the decline was swift and as the press reports of the time would tell you only Billy Liddell kept the team afloat. Yes I know you've heard it all before, but you're going to hear it again and again until my fingers bleed. There was a time when one man did make a team and when one man was bigger than the club. When the inevitable relegation came there wasn't any transfer demand from Billy Liddell, there was just a determination to restore pride and status to a fallen club and Billy was determined to play his part.

He showed a LOYALTY to Liverpool unlike any player had ever done and in today’s mercenary climate of playing for whoever pays the highest, Billy deserves a lot of respect and that is why so many of the older fans still sing his praises. On the other hand the club would never have dared sell him anyway because it would have led to a rebellion in the Red parts of the city and that is fact. Yet thinking back had Liverpool been brave enough and daft enough to have done just that, the money, even back then that a transfer would have commanded, would have been enough to have brought in at least three or four new players. However, such was the status and standing of Billy Liddell the idea would never have been even considered.
 
In September 1959 'King Billy' was presented on Sportsview with a cheque for £2,000 to mark his twenty years with the club. Yes, you're right £100 a season doesn't seem a lot.
However, it was a measure of his standing in the game that the BBC deemed it a worthy enough event to show on what was then Prime Time TV. Other players received awards like this, but they didn't televise them. They broke new ground that night did the BBC, and it was all for Billy Liddell. And don't forget Billy wasn't playing for one of the nations top sides at the time, he was playing for a second division team called Liverpool.

Shortly after this Billy broke the Club appearance record and was awarded a drinks cabinet, yes, a drinks cabinet. Of course the funny thing was Billy was a teetotaller and you've got to think it was another Billy's sense of humour that picked the present. I can hear Shanks now, make sure its got Scotch in it Billy when I come round with Nessie and the kids.
 
The only time I ever saw Billy Liddell at Anfield was when he strode onto the pitch at 'The Kop's Last Stand.' I was in tears, I really wish I could have seen him play when he was in his prime. I cried twice that night, anyone who could hold the tears back, when Nessie came on the pitch to roars from the Kop of "Shankly, Shankly" mustn't have had a heart. I wonder what he and the team would have achieved had he played for Shankly?

I also wonder what he and the team would have achieved had he played for Paisley? I know it would have been hard to improve on Bob's record, but when Billy and Bob played together on the left for Liverpool they seemed to have a telepathic understanding. We watch football now in an age where the also-rans of the game get paid a King's ransom. We watch as other clubs honour their greats. Its a real sickener to me to see Denis Law honoured at Man Utd, after all he was the one who scored the goal that put the Mancs in Division 2 not so long back and they still honoured him!

None of them will ever be able to hold a candle to the man they called 'King Billy' and a smaller section referred to him as "William the Conqueror". God Bless you Billy, you will always have pride of place in our house mate, and I'm sure others who can remember your God given talent will always have a special place in their hearts.

One footed wonders of today beware!

Yet another Billy Liddell story that puts most modern day footballers to shame. "We got a free kick just outside the box. Billy was aiming to hit it with his right foot when the wind rolled the ball away. He just let it run and hit it with his left and it went in like a rocket. He was truly amazing with either foot."



The Way Liddell played (The Original Exocet Missile)

Billy Liddell running down the left wing like a guided missile.

What was it that frightened defenders in the Liddell era ?
Was it the power or guile of his left foot ?
Was it the power or guile of his right foot ?
Was it the power with which he headed the ball ?
Was it his lightning pace ?
Was it the awesome presence he demanded on the pitch ?
Was it the adoration of everyone who watched him ?
Was it his reputation ?
Was it because he would never quit and continued to push forward for 90 mins ?

Alf Ramsey and other defenders of the time will confirm it was all of the above. Ramsey once said, that playing against Billy was an absolute nightmare, cos you knew you were going to get run ragged for the whole game. I have read that he once said to Billy mid-game "Any chance you can go play on the other wing for a while Billy, I'm knackered"; Billy just gave him a look that confirmed he would be staying put.

It makes you wonder what all the other defenders thought about playing against Billy. Would he go round the outside and smash a cross in, that even Albert Stubbins said he didn't look forward to getting on the end of, cos it'd take yer head off? Would he cut inside and send another exocet toward the goal? Goalkeepers at the time must have been terrified of Billy cutting inside from either wing, cos they knew they were going to get hurt if the ball hit them.

How many keepers must have thought 'Sod this' and dived the wrong way on purpose? Probably more than most, if they were honest. When the opposition had the ball Billy would always be stood on the half way line, taking a breather and on occasion was seen chatting to fans sitting nearest to the pitch. What must he or they have said? "Which way are you going to roast him this time Billy?"

Liddell often had full backs trussed up like the Christmas Turkey.

Paisley would have just won the ball off the opposition again; he was a brilliant ball winner was our Bob and then he'd pass it up the line to "our Billy"...........

Immediate thoughts from the defenders........ "Oh no, here he comes again"
Immediate thoughts from the goalies........... "Please Lord, let me survive this attack"
Immediate thoughts from The Kop............... "One nil"

Then the ball came to Billy's feet; he lifted his head and looked where all the defenders stood. With lightning thought the path to goal shone like an infra-red beacon. He dragged the ball around with his majestic right foot, onto the formidable left. He then dropped his shoulder and feigned a move inside and he was gone, with the dummy having been bought by the hapless right half!

With pace which had never seen before, Billy was now going full pelt down the left wing, the right half still stood where Billy had left him. Were his feet stuck in the mud ? He hadn't moved since Billy had gone passed him.

The full back waited as Billy came heading towards him, quick time for a guess? Waste of time believe me, Billy could go anywhere ! With a step over Billy dragged the ball inside with his right, "Got him" thought the full back, Billy had done it again, as the full back leant inside, Billy switched again onto his left boot. "Oh Shit" ! the full back shouted, Billy was now three yards past him. Yes Billy was that fast.

In came racing the cumbersome centre half, with all the stealth and dexterity of a bull rushing a matador. Only one thought on his mind, which row should I put him in? Billy nutmegged the hapless fool and jumped over the centre half's lunge. One drag with the left boot and Billy was looking right down the goalkeepers open mouth and the ball was rolling forward onto the dynamite right. Time for the goalie to make a decision......

Do I dive right and get out of the way ?
Do I dive left and get out of the way ?
Do I close me eyes ? "Any chance of a blindfold and a last fag", nah sorry mate.

The thinking time had elapsed, the goalie had made his choice. But alas Billy had made his decision on the halfway line and the ball was already billowing out the net.

The crowd roared, the goalie picked the ball out the net.
The crowd roared, the goalie picked the ball out the net.
The crowd roared, the goalie picked the ball out the net.

No, its not a stutter or a record that's stuck its another LIDDELL hat-trick. It's just a case of spotting the difference, between the first paragraph and the following two.

Paisley would have just won the ball off the opposition AGAIN. He was a brilliant ball winner was our Bob and then he'd pass it up the line to "our billy"...........

Immediate thoughts from the defenders........ "Oh no, here he comes again"
Immediate thoughts from the Goalies........... "Please Lord, let me survive this attack"
Immediate thoughts from the KOP............... "TWO NIL"

Then the ball came to Billy's feet, he lifted his head and looked where all the defenders stood. With lightning thought the path to goal shone like a Lighthouse through the fog. He dragged the ball around with his majestic left foot, onto the formidable right.
He would drop his shoulder and feign a move outside, when the dummy had been bought by the hapless right half, he was gone again!

With pace othe like of which had never seen before, Billy was now going full pelt down the left wing, the right half still stood where Billy had left him, Was he a statue in the middle of the park ? He hadn't moved since Billy had gone past him. The full back waited as Billy come heading toward him, quick time for a guess ? Waste of time believe me, Billy could go anywhere!

With a step over the ball Billy dragged the ball outside with his left. "Got him" thought the full back, Billy had done it again, as the full back leant outward, Billy switched again onto his right boot. "Oh Shit" ! the full back shouted, Billy was again three yards past him.

In come racing the cumbersome centre half, with all the stealth and dexterity of Two Ton Tessie. Only one thought on his mind, which ankle should I go for? Billy pushed the ball to his right, but ran left around the brainless idiot, around the back of the centre half Billy collected the ball with his right again. One drag with the right boot and Billy was looking right down the goalkeepers open mouth and the ball was rolling forward onto the lightning left.

Time for the goalie to make a decision again.............
Do I dive right and get out of the way?
Do I dive left and get out of the way?
Do I close me eyes ? "Any chance of a last request", nah sorry mate. The thinking time had elapsed, the goalie made his choice once again.

But alas Billy had made his decision while making a monkey out of the centre half and the ball was already billowing out the net.

The third goal was a near perfect copy of the first. You would think that defenders would get to know which way to go after a while, but they never did. I sometimes wonder whether Billy had an internal? "Tossing of a coin" heads - left, tails - right, whatever he was doing the defenders rarely guessed right.

On the occasions they were right, you could see them pushing their chests out and either looking at the crowd or one of their own players and saying "Did you see that ? I won the ball off LIDDELL". Yes, they held Billy in very high esteem and winning the ball off Liddell was a major achievement. They would probably get home to their wives and kids and sit by the coal fire and repeat the whole incident over and over again.

It would start like this: "The game wasn't very good, but the thing that I will always remember is ...... there I was facing the great Liddell (far more tricky than that houdini fellah). Billy jinked right, Billy jinked left and guess what ? (the kids all look bemused) "I took the ball off Billy Liddell !"

"Gerroff wid yer Dah, you must have dreamt it, no one takes the ball from Billy Liddell". Perhaps they never would believe, but the defender's memory would have a treasure that would live with him forever.

People old enough to remember the legend that was Liddell will also treasure their memories of Billy, perhaps, until the day their maker calls their name and remember this ...

When your maker calls your name,
He will not ask if you won or lost,
But how you played the game.
and believe me when I say
"Boy, did Billy play the game"




At the age of 33, Billy Liddell was still so highly regarded in the game that he was selected for the second time for Great Britain against the Rest of the World at outside left whilst playing for a Second Division side, at centre forward.  This marks the man out as being one of the all time greats of our beloved game and he must rank alongside players like Finney & Matthews.

It is often difficult for those who saw Billy in his prime to pinpoint what was so special about him but my Dad still raves on about some of his games today.  Billy never gave in, he was indomitable and never accepted that the cause was lost. 

In the Second Division (Down Amongst The Dead Men), surrounded by dross, Billy fought the good fight for 90 minutes week in, week out and kept our hopes alive that one day things would change.  Who knows, without Liddell's goals we might have ended up in Division 3 north, and perhaps then SHANKS might never have come. This is not the whole story, of course.
 
Billy's prime years with the Reds were times of great achievement for the club and Billy, too.   Liddell was one of the younger members of the team that won the 46/47 Division 1 Title (now the PREM) in that memorable long season and reached the semi-final of the Cup. To the skills of Albert Stubbins and the wiles of local lad Jackie Balmer and Willie Fagan, Billy added speed, power and explosive shooting.

In Brian Glanville's words, "Liddell in full flight drove through defences like a preoccupied tank."   

It was a good side but the successes of 46/7 were not repeated in the following two seasons when the club finished in mid-table, although Billy continued to score from the wings and Stubbins was still a prolific scorer.

The truth of the matter was that one or two of the Championship side were feeling their years and an injection of new blood was needed. This came via Jimmy Payne and Kevin Baron who by the beginning of 49/50 were adding a new dimension to the forward line (who I hear you cry? Accrington Stanley ....... EXACTLY !!). 

The season 49/50 has been neglected from our glorious History, partly because it promised so much and in the end no honours were achieved.  It was, however, the season when the Reds were undefeated for the first 19 games of the season, at the time a club record.  It was also the season when the Reds reached the Cup Final for the first time since 1914.
 
It was, arguably, in a career of epic quality, Billy Liddell's greatest season and guess who else was also at the club at this time, a young lad called Billy Brodrick, was playing for the schoolboys.  My Dad often recalls times when he and another Brodrick both played for there Idols at schoolboy level, but his fondest memories were of getting in free to watch The LEGEND ply his trade. He remembers the old telegram address of "Goalkeeper" and often wondered how we got the address, was it a tribute to Elisha Scott ? who knows. 

That year Billy (the Legend not me Dad) scored 20 goals from the wing; he had scored 12 times before Christmas and was terrorising the best defences in the land. The FA Book for Boys for 1951 referred to his, "great speed and ferocious shooting from any distance which was a nightmare for opposing defences".   

Jack Hedley, a fullback who played for Everton and Sunderland, said, "He'll beat you on the half-way line and by the time you've turned around he'll be in your penalty area."  Jack Hedley was not alone, every full back in the country was terrified of Liddell, the only question was, which wing would he be raiding this week, the inevitable answer was BOTH !

My Dad has a memory of a game in January (when the opening run was over) at Bolton when with the Reds losing 3-0 with 10 minutes to go, Billy led the charge, scoring and then setting up Willie Fagan for a second goal.  Shortly before the final whistle Payne scored again but the goal was disallowed for offside. See it's not a recent thing having Blind referee's ruin a good match, perhaps it's time for the third official to sit and the stand watching monitors as they do in Rugby and cricket.

Months later, at Wembley, Billy was to lead a brave effort to save the Final. Billy had scored the second goal at Maine Road in the semi-final against Everton to clinch the game and put the Reds into their first final since 1914.

The excitement in Liverpool in the weeks preceding the Final was unprecedented in a soccer crazy city; this was going to be our year at last. Sadly it wasn't to be. Arsenal scored early on and resisted Billy's attempts to turn things around by fair means and foul. Alec Forbes, cyuck spit ! (long may your name rank in the halls of infamy you dirty bar steward), playing in mid-field, kicked Billy from pillar to post. Despite this Billy played a blinder and was acknowledged to be the best man on the field, playing for the losing team. The final score, 2-0 to Arsenal, was not undeserved but did the magnificent Liddell little justice and perhaps took some of the shine off Billy's career. 

If we had won the cup that year, I'm convinced Billy would have been honoured by now, with a long overdue statue, but it wasn't to be. 

The league had slipped away, a run of inconsistent form after Christmas cost valuable points and the Reds finished a disappointing 8th (even worse than Ged managed). Many people felt that the lure of a first Cup victory had been a distraction. The irony was that Liverpool had twice battered Arsenal in the league earlier in that season. So Billy, at the height of his powers, was left with only a loser's medal to show for a season of consistent excellence. And that, in terms of honours and league position, was as good as it got for the great Scot. 

No Liverpool side finished higher in the First Division until the coming of Shankly. The team slipped a place in 1950/51, went to 11th the following season and were relegated in 1953/54.

The amazing statistic is that Liddell continued to play with undiminished enthusiasm as the team faded around him. In 50/51 he scored 15 times, in 51/52 19 times, including a hat-trick at Spurs when he ran Alf Ramsey  (the then England right back)  ragged in a display that fans and soccer scribes still remember (reference the account above in Billy Liddell - The Original Exocet Missile).

The team, however, declined rapidly, especially in defence.  In the relegation year 97 goals were conceded (another record Ged has yet to break) and there was no improvement in the Second Division.

However, for those fans lucky enough to have witnessed them, Billy's achievements in the Second Division were spectacular and although my Dad's memories of those years are coloured by an abiding disappointment with a club seemingly unable to arrest the decline which began with the final whistle at Wembley in 1950, watching Billy made it worthwhile to pay the admission fee every week, if you had to pay, like me Dad did cos his schoolboys days were over.

Towards the end of 53/54 Billy had a brief run at centre forward. After 5 games in 54/55 when it became clear that the "Workhorse" (sounds better than Carthorse) Louis Bimpson was no sort of an answer to our forward problems, so Billy went to centre forward and guess what, it was now the centre Half’s time to panic, giving the full-backs of the time a long deserved break.

Partnered by the tall, elegant "Long John" Evans as second striker the goals flowed.   At the end of the season they had scored 59 times, Evans scoring 29 and Billy hitting the net 30 times. They were also instrumental in disposing of Everton in the legendary (NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN) 4-0 victory at Goodison in the FA Cup, surely a second division side could not humble the bitter bluenoses from across the park, but Liddell opening the scoring and Evans weighing in with 2 more as Liddell ravaged the Sloth-like Everton defence.

At the end of the season Liverpool had scored 92 goals but had conceded 96. Was it time to move our saviour to Centre-half and stop the goals ? NOT ON YOUR LIFE, Billy was what fans paid their hard earned money to see and negativity was still only to be seen in continental football.  Especially in France where they had finally perfected the imagino line tactics, once seen at a ground near you (thanks Ged).
 
The duo bagged another 41 goals in 55/6, Liddell contributing 28.

By the time he retired in 1960 Billy had added a further 60 odd goals, having given us all enough memories of great centre-forward play to fill many books and threads. Week in week out Billy never flagged, never gave up. He played everywhere on the front line from Right wing to Left wing and everything in between.

My Uncle, Henry Powney, remembers clearly one game against Huddersfield Town at Anfield. Liverpool went two down well into the second half whereupon Billy stormed through the middle brushing off the powerful Town centre- half, Ken Taylor (DONK to his friends, the original Tony Adams), to score with a blinding shot, later converting a penalty awarded when he was brought down. Sadly for Billy the other members of our team had turned up that day and we lost 2-3! 

So many memories then of a great-hearted battler for the cause, streets ahead of most of his team mates but never putting himself before the team.  Many of our older fans will remember his famous disallowed equaliser against Man City in the Cup, netted 1 second after the final whistle, (another Dodgy Ref decision, why didn't the pea get stuck for a couple of seconds, or did it ??) and a brilliant couple against Chelsea in another famous game just after the war in a 7-4 victory.

Memories must have been jolted and recalled of the ferocity of Billy's shooting boots by the John Arne Riise's strike against United.  That blinder of a shot is, for me , the hardest shot I've ever seen from a dead ball, but my Dad recalls a goal Billy scored against Huddersfield (again) at Leeds Road in our declining 1st Division days.

Billy took a free kick a good 30 yards from goal with his right foot. I swear to this day nobody in the ground saw the ball until it bounced out of the goal, having hit the stanchion at the back of the net. And he also recalls the famous free kick where the ball actually rolled on his run up and Billy changed his feet on the run in and nearly burst the net.

Not many pro's these days can use either, most use there other foot for standing only.  This with the old style heavy ball.  I could go on and on forever about the stories me Dad has told me and I'm sure the next time I'm up he will remember another game for me to pass down in folklore, but this is where I need others help.

So many of the older generation are now passing away with each season that passes and unless others start collecting stories of the Liddellpool days, they will pass into obscurity and never be heard again.  I finish with the thought that between 1946 and1950 we were seeing a top international, playing in a good 1st Division team. He was then Scotland's best player and most famous all over the world. For the diehards of the day, however, if Billy was formidable in those years then between 1950 and his retirement in 1960 his contribution to a club in decline was no less than heroic.

At a recent gathering in the SANDON, a young lad with one of our company asked me, "Wooly, Who do you think was the best player Liverpool ever had?" the answer from the assembled group was instant  "stand back" one shouted here's another “Billy Liddell" story coming, but just think in a short time from now I might not be there and you must wonder who will be the next man to take the challenge of making Billy THE LEGEND HE WAS.   



The only two competitors for the title in my era in terms of sheer skill I feel was Kenny Dalglish and for determination Graeme Souness, both also great Scots, but there are enough around who can tell stories of KING KENNY and the YOSSER HUGHES look-alike Souey, when I've long gone and we should never forget, that Liddell, the indomitable clubman, was also the finest forward of his type and his generation.

Fans like my dad feel privileged to have seen him play the game the way only Billy could.

A Week in the Life of BILLY LIDDELL

In today’s more mercenary game, where players play for high wages and it often seems only to further their own self importance, spare a thought for an old legend. Billy Liddell was in fact only a “part time” player. He refused to turn full time professional and played the game because he enjoyed it. His basic wage at Liverpool was only £20 per week, which in his own words was a fair wage at that time. To give you an idea of the wages at the time Ian St. John's highest basic wage in his career at Liverpool peaked at £40 per week in 1971 which was comparable to what most workers on Merseyside could earn in Ford's at the time.

Billy was a model gentleman both on and off the park and this also separates him from some of the players of today. Here is a glimpse into a typical week for Billy during the time he was banging in all his goals at Anfield and other far off places. I think it might surprise one or two.

Sunday
======
After playing a strenuous game on the Saturday most would think that footballers have a lie in on Sundays, but Billy was up usually around 10.00am. After breakfast, he would make his way to Church before 11.00am. After Lunch he spent time revising his lesson for the Sunday School he ran at the local Methodist Church in Court Hey. Billy was very fond of children and he loved his time educating the children at Sunday School. When the class was over Billy then had to attend his duties as Sunday School Treasurer. Often arriving home late for Sunday high tea, he would spend the rest of his evening with his family at home.

Monday
======
Billy would get up at 8.00am and his first duty was to take his twins to school. After dropping the kids off, he made his way to his office in the City. You see Billy worked as an accountant in Liverpool. His lunch time would be spent with friends from a local shipping company. Lunch would invariably be spent discussing both Liverpool's and Everton's games from the weekend just gone. Billy would finish work at 5.00pm unless there was something that had to be finished that day, and at times like this he worked until finish.

A quick tea or sometimes just a bite, would see him leaving home again. You see Billy spent Monday evenings at either a boys club or youth club in the city where he would talk to the children about his life as a professional footballer. Billy often carried around with him souvenirs he had collected ie medals, caps, jerseys and match programmes to show the interested. Then came the hard bit, Billy always used to spend the rest of the night answering questions, this often went on for a long time as Billy always answered ALL questions. He often reflected later in his life, that some of these questions would stump a football statistician.

Tuesday
======
Another 8.00am start would see Billy once again dropping his children at school. But this time he would be making his way to Melwood. After a hard mornings training session, all the players would have lunch at Anfield, but after lunch when some of the players spent time relaxing or going home, Billy would start making his way to the office in Liverpool. Billy would again work until 5.00pm unless there was some catching up to do, because of the time he had spent at LFC. Tuesdays only ever varied from the above when Billy had to fullfil his duties as a Magistrate i.e. the second and fourth Tuesdays in each month, where he sat in the adult court. The nights were spent with his beloved wife. Billy always took the missus to the theatre, cinema or to a dance on Tuesdays, no matter how tiring the events of the day had been. Billy always described these nights as his special time.

Wednesday
=========
Billy would get up at 8.00am again, not one for lying in our Billy, and his first duty as ever was to take his twins to school. After dropping the kids off, he once again made his way to the office down town. For some unknown reason, the pile of post was always larger on a Wednesday. His lunch time today would include a speech at a luncheon club-gathering, which he had finalised at break time earlier in the morning. Billy seen these times as opportunities to repay the kindness that the fans shown him.

After lunch it was back to the office, Billy would once again be finishing work at 5.00pm unless there was something important that had to be finished that day, and on these occasions like others he worked until everything was completed. (Anyone here tired yet)? Wednesday nights after tea Billy had to compose his article for the Liverpool Echo (Football edition) and after completion made his way to his very own “IN TRAY”.

Yes just like at the office Billy had an in tray at home for fans correspondence and requests for appearances. The tray was always a foot deep or bigger, but Billy knew tonight was the night when it had to be cleared to make way for the new lot arriving tomorrow.

Thursday
=======
The alarm goes off, it's another 8.00am start and Billy was once makes the trip to school. Thursdays were similar to Tuesdays in that he would be making his way to Melwood but training today included a 5-a-side game on the car park and Billy loved these games. After a hard mornings training session and another hat-trick for Liddell in the Car Park game of the week, all the players would have lunch at Anfield, but after lunch when some of the players spent time relaxing or going home, Billy would start making his way to the office in Liverpool. Unless of course it was the last Thursday in the month, which was when our Billy used to have DJ duties.

Yes you read it right!

You see Billy used to have a slot as DJ in the locals children’s hospital (Alder Hey) where he played requests for the sick kids. After which he would walk around the wards and talk to children who had requested a visit. As you can imagine, these could be sad times and very happy ones for Billy, but he would not leave the hospital, until all had been seen. Billy would try to be home for 6.00pm but again if there were kids in need, Billy was the man to stay until completion. Thursday evenings were spent at the Liverpool and District St. Andrew's Society, where Billy was the President.

Friday
=====
I don’t know about you lot but I’m exhausted just writing about his week. Billy’s up again, even the larks would be shattered at this rate. Its 8.00am again, and the twins were running around with a bit more fervour this morning. You see, Friday was “Footy” day - some schools called it Games - but today’s the day when the school bag contains not just books, but boots, shirts, shorts and socks and the twins loved their Fridays.

Dropping the kids at school, Billy always said to the twins “enjoy yourselves, its what the game is all about”. Heading toward the town on Fridays, Billy often felt apprehensive. Today was the day that Billy sat in the Juvenile Court, which he found interesting at times, but other times were distressing and frustrating.

I could tell you a funny story here about my mate, who once stood in front of Billy, but I’m afraid all too often the cases on which Billy sat were very distressing and for this reason, I feel it would be inappropriate. Perhaps another time might be more suited.

In Billy’s autobiography he wrote:

I don’t want to intrude my views on juvenile delinquency here, which is hardly the place, but I feel very strongly that in a large City like Liverpool, there is nothing like the space required for youngsters to let of steam and energy in harmless ways. It is true that many kids go off the rails through lack of parental guidance, but many of those might not do so if better facilities were provided.

Billy with great sadness reflected that boys would stand in front of him and say, "Hello Billy, I cheer you on every Saturday so don’t be too hard on me". And other times he must have grinned inside when he heard stories of some boasting to their mates that they had got Billy’s autograph on their probation forms. Billy’s comment? “Boys will be boys”.

Friday afternoons were spent back at the office. Friday evenings were spent quietly at home, unless they had to travel to an away match, that was too far to travel on the day. Billy always set himself a target on Fridays to get at least 8 hours kip cos the strains of the match day required at least that.

Saturday
=======
Billy always indulged himself on Saturday mornings - he would stay in bed until 9.00am (lazy beggar I here you say). If Liverpool had a home game, Billy always used to watch his boys play for the local “Life Boys” team. Billy reflected that they are not always the shining lights of their team, but they did enjoy playing. Billy’s lunch on the day of the game was always questioned. Some of the team always picked Steak, but Billy’s one poached egg on toast, followed by milk pudding, says a lot about the man in my opinion.

You had to report to Anfield on match days at least 45 minutes before kick off, but Billy always arrived at least 15 minutes earlier than that. You see Billy knew he would get waylaid in the car park by youngsters waiting for his autograph, and Billy never disappointed anyone, he stood and signed every book until there was no fans left waiting. Billy was always last to report to the dressing room and on more than one occasion had been ribbed, by his team mates with “His Honour has arrived and has taken his seat, all is well” (micky taking because of his court duties).

If anyone seen Billy running around the pitch, you would swear that the man must have rested all week, because NO ONE put as much effort into playing, than our Billy. He ran the opposition ragged week in week out. After fulfilling his duties on the pitch and after a cold shower, you could see Billy on the car park again and where once again he wouldn't leave until all requests had been satisfied. On his way home on Saturdays, Billy would start thinking about his lesson for Sunday school the following day and the reading he was due to make in church earlier that day.

Saturdays nights, Billy once again used to take the missus dancing. Often with legs covered in cuts and bruises Billy would still turn out as he loved dancing with the woman he loved.
 
If there is any man/lady here, who thinks that above is not enough for the seven days each week brings, please let me know. If there is any man/lady here who thinks a model professional like Billy does not deserve a statue at Anfield keep it to yourself.

© Wooltonian 2004

part 2 to follow ...
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Offline gjr1

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Re: The Complete Billy Liddell Story (Part 1)
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2006, 01:44:29 AM »
Wow! What a great read.

Thank you!

:)
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Offline Andy G

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Re: The Complete Billy Liddell Story (Part 1)
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2006, 06:10:39 AM »
Truly the most enjoyable read in ages.  I have also been blessed with a father who raves about Billy and I have sent this article to him.  I advised him to get the kleenex before he starts to read.

Can't wait for part 2
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Offline gjr1

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Re: The Complete Billy Liddell Story (Part 1)
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2006, 08:56:02 AM »
Truly the most enjoyable read in ages.  I have also been blessed with a father who raves about Billy and I have sent this article to him.  I advised him to get the kleenex before he starts to read.

Can't wait for part 2

The articles are quite old.

Here's part 2 :)

http://www.redandwhitekop.com/forum/index.php?topic=34303.0
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Offline Andy G

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Re: The Complete Billy Liddell Story (Part 1)
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2006, 06:56:25 AM »
Thanks.  Don't know how I missed these first time round.
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Offline Socratease

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Re: The Complete Billy Liddell Story (Part 1)
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2006, 12:12:54 AM »
Brilliant!
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Offline vicgill

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Re: The Complete Billy Liddell Story (Part 1)
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2006, 11:29:20 PM »
"You want to play like Billy Liddell ? then you've got to practise kicking with both feet", we had a wall in our garden and that's what my dad made me do, a caseball against the wall, left foot, right foot for what at the time seemed an eternity. If i did well then Saturday i was taken to Anfield to see my hero. I even tried to run like him when i played for the school, he had a very distinctive run which i find hard to describe but those who saw him will know what i mean. 

A truly great player....A truly great man....A truly great legend...thank you Rushian
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Offline WOOLTONIAN

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Re: The Complete Billy Liddell Story (Part 1)
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2006, 10:09:19 AM »
Billy kicked his last ball for us today in 1960.
492 appearances, every one a gem.
There were tears in the Mona Castle in Garston and the debate started ....
Was he better than Gordon Hodgson or Dixie Dean ?

After the game is over,
After the whistle blew,
Campbell got excited,
And down the wing he flew,
He passed the ball to Liddell
Liddell scored a goal,
And left poor Everton's goalie,
Lying on his 'ole

« Last Edit: September 26, 2006, 01:42:05 PM by WOOLTONIAN »
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