THE SEVENTIES TEAM
Liverpool's signing of Emlyn Hughes in February 1967 was their first major signing for almost two years. His signing was followed by two less successful ones in Tony Hateley and Alun Evans and it was this lack of foresight and planning that led to the slow death of the great sixties team. From 1966 to 1973 Liverpool failed to win any trophies as one great side waned and the next was built.
The breaking point of the sixties team was reached in season 69-70 during the F.A. Cup quarter final match against Watford at Vicarage Road. Watford humiliated Liverpool 1:0 and Shankly ripped the heart out the side and brought in his new young stars. Out went St John, Hunt, Yeats and Lawrence; in came Clemence, Lloyd, Toshack, Hall and Heighway. Shankly's allegiance to his older players harked back to the dying days of his own playing career where he believed he had been put on the shelf years too early.
With Smith, Lawler, Callaghan, and briefly Peter Thompson, the survivors of the cull, the new team reached the F.A. Cup final in 1971, though coming up against eventual double winners Arsenal proved too much, Liverpool going down 2:1 in extra time. In season 71-72, a new face was introduced to the massed ranks of the Kop. Kevin Keegan made his debut against Nottingham Forest in sensational style, scoring after 12 minutes. A new hero was born who Shankly called "the inspiration of the new team."
The title that season was lost on the final day, when Liverpool travelled to Arsenal needing a win as Bill Shankly recalls:
"I saw the emotion in players like Kevin Keegan and Emlyn Hughes when they were in tears after we got pipped for the League in 1971-72, Kevin's first season. We lost the League by a point. At Derby, when we were losing 1-0, Kevin was definitely obstructed in the box when their goalkeeper came and 'did' him, but no penalty was given. That would have won the League for us. Sam Longson, the Derby chairman, was at our last game at Arsenal, when we were robbed off a goal. Kevin went through and gave a slanted pass to John Toshack, who rammed the ball into the net. Everybody was in the ground thought it was a goal, but it was disallowed for offside. So we finished third, behind Leeds on goal average, to Derby, who were away at some holiday camp abroad."
There was no stopping Liverpool the following season however, and the championship was won along with the UEFA Cup, Liverpool beating German side Borussia Moenchengladbach over two legs 3:2 in the final. The club had not only begun a domination of the domestic game but had now mastered the art of playing continental football. The five-a-side training matches Shanks had taken from his days in Glenbuck to Melwood, via Carlisle, Grimsby, Workington and Huddersfield, had proved their worth. Liverpool were now able to stroke the ball around at will in short, neat passing movements.
Shankly's third championship team equalled Arsenal's record of eight championships in 1973. Liverpool's style under Bill Shankly was simple on the surface, but was based on a detailed idealogy and training whose objective was to get the best out of the players.
"We had devised a system of play which minimized the risk of injuries. The team played in sections of the field, like a relay. We didn't want players running the length of the field, stretching themselves unnecessarily, so our back men played in one area, and then passed on to the midfield men in their area, and so on to the front men. So, whilst there was always room for individuals within our system, the work was shared out.
It was no accident that during my time at Anfield eight players played more than three hundred League matches - Ian Callaghan 502, Chris Lawler 396, Roger Hunt 384, Peter Thompson 377, Tommy Smith 367, Ron Yeats 359, Ian St John 335 and Tommy Lawrence 305. Emlyn Hughes, who had played 264 League matches during my time, is now well past the 300 mark and Ray Clemence, Kevin Keegan and Steve Heighway are among those well on the way. We didn't believe in resting players simply because we had a heavy programme of matches. We wouldn't put in young players who were not familiar with the pattern and who would consequently put extra pressure on the rest of the team."
Shankly described the day when Liverpool won the 1973 championship as "The happiest day of my life. I have known nothing like it as player or manager. This title gave me greater pleasure than the previous two, simply because here we had a rebuilt side, some of them only two or three seasons in first-team football and they stayed the course like veterans. I wanted that title more than at any time in my life. That's why it is such a relief."
In the 1974 F.A. Cup Final, the world of football was given a sneak preview of what was just around the corner in the World Cup Finals just two months away. Liverpool's performance in their demolition job of Newcastle United was as clinical a display of 'Total football' as any ever put on by the Dutch masters at international level. The 3:0 scoreline hardly flattered such a virtuoso performance. Overlapping full-backs, one touch play, every man comfortable on the ball, all the hallmarks of Shankly's pass and move, keep it simple philosophy were on display for the world to admire and it brought Liverpool the F.A. Cup for the second time in their history. Liverpool's play that day was the final fullfilment for Shankly, and, on a shocking July afternoon, at the age of 60, he announced his retirement, leaving the club in the hands of his chosen successor Bob Paisley. Paisley was to take the club onto even more glory in the years that followed.
Bill was voted Manager of the year in 1973, the only time in his career!
League Matches: 609
1st in Division 1 1963/64, 1965/66 and 1972/73
1961-62 - Division 2 champions
1963-64 - Division 1 champions
1964-65 - F.A. Cup Winners
1965-66 - Division 1 champions, European Cup-Winners-Cup finalists
1970-71 - F.A. Cup finalists
1972-73 - Division 1 champions, UEFA Cup winners
1973-74 - F.A. Cup winners
On 12 July 1974 I was at school in Sandfield Park, right next to Bill and Nessie Shankly's house. When the rumour spread that Our Messiah had retired incredulity, denial, fear, and a whole host of other emotions ran unchecked through the classrooms. At the end of the day, a day of media frenzy, a group left St Edward's College, walked through the Park and climbed over the wall at the end of Sandforth Close and walked on up to Bill's purple front door. Wearing blazers to match, and summoning every ounce of courage, the bravest of our group knocked at the door.
Nessie answered and was asked "Is Bill there, please?" by the 12 year-olds assembled. The great man came out.
"Have you retired, Bill?"
"Aye, son. I have."
"Aah, eh, Bill."
"Aah don't. Please, Bill."
"Aah, I'm sorry son."
And the moment ended with Bill signing his autograph on all manner of paper, though not our exercise books or we would all have been in trouble with masters at our rugby playing school who simply wouldn't have understood the significance."