Paisley the player
Bob Paisley was a great servant to Liverpool Football Club, staying at the club throughout his career (barring his non-league days at Bishop Aukland). Bob, born on the 23rd January 1919 in Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham, made more than 250 appearances in a Liverpool shirt and was even made captain towards the end of his career.
When he was starting out, Bob was rejected by his boyhood club Sunderland, for being ‘too small’, a comment which has greeted many of the world’s top stars at the beginning of their careers, especially at smaller clubs.
Bishop Aukland took a gamble on the youngster after his initial rejection and his football career began. Paisley shone in the 1938-39 season when the club won the championship and the bigger clubs were attracted immediately.
Liverpool were the club at the top of his list and he joined them on May 8th 1939, following a rejection of Sunderland, who had ironically made an offer for him. Paisley had a slow start at Anfield and did not make his debut for seven years. This may appear surprising when viewed in the context of today’s footballing world but the Second World War disrupted the game hugely. The man from County Durham therefore had to wait nearly a decade until he could have his first taste of professional football.
Paisley experienced mixed fortunes whilst playing at Anfield. For example, he was made captain the season after he was dropped from the FA Cup final line-up. Similarly, he was instrumental in winning the title in 1947, yet experienced relegation at the end of the 1953/54 season. This was also his last playing action in football. The son of a miner, Paisley’s unwavering commitment was imperative to his style of play. He was consistent and never let anybody down.
19 Trophies in 9 years…but no FA Cup
The term ‘genius’ is overused in football but Bob Paisley is one man who fully deserves the title. Following Bill Shankly’s shock departure from Liverpool in 1974, the men in charge listened to his suggestion and appointed Paisley. He was the manager of Liverpool for almost a decade, during which time he made an amazing contribution to football, with his mass of titles and cups for Liverpool. Paisley picked up a staggering six Manager of the Year awards in his time at the club and many more Manager of the Month awards. In eight out of the nine seasons Paisley was at Liverpool, he led the club to a top two finish, winning six league titles along the way.
1976/77 was a near perfect season for Paisley and Liverpool. The club had already won the league the season before, during Paisley’s second year in charge. They went on to retain the title, beating Manchester City to top spot. However, the other top team in Manchester denied them glory in the FA Cup at Wembley, as they lost 2-1 after three goals in five second-half minutes.
However, on May 25th 1977 (the day Paisley termed ‘my perfect day’), he led Liverpool to their first ever European Cup victory, against German side Borussia Moenchengladbach. The German team had already been beaten by Liverpool in 1973, as they won the UEFA Cup – their first European trophy. The Reds ran out 3-1 winners to clinch the European Cup and two of Paisley’s signings, Terry McDermott and Phil Neal, grabbed a goal each, with Tommy Smith getting the other one. Their dreams of achieving a historic treble had been previously dashed by losing the FA Cup final, a trophy which eluded Paisley throughout his managerial and playing career.
Incredibly, Paisley’s European Cup triumphs were not to end there, as he led Liverpool to a further two victories before his managerial campaign ended. Liverpool once again overturned Borussia Moenchengladbach in the competition, this time at the semi-final stage in 1978, running out 4-2 aggregate winners, before defeating Bruges in the final. In 1981 Liverpool faced the might of Real Madrid. Alan Kennedy, another Paisley signing, hit the winner with nine minutes left, to give them a third European Cup win.
Arguably one of Paisley’s biggest masterstrokes as a manager came in the summer of 1977. Liverpool had just won their first European Cup but the inspirational Kevin Keegan left for Hamburg. This was to be the biggest test to date of Paisley’s managerial prowess and he passed brilliantly. He forked out a record fee of £440,000 for a Scotsman who had scored many goals for Celtic, called Kenny Dalglish. More than 500 games and 172 goals later, Dalglish is seen as one of the best players to have ever worn the red shirt of Liverpool.
Paisley had gradually worked his way up and finally established himself as one of the greatest managers in the world. The manner in which he could motivate his players to perform consistently and win so many trophies was an inspiration to every manager throughout the land. Liverpool legend (and once again a Paisley recruit), Alan Hansen, referred to him as the ‘Number One manager ever’ and the statistics seem to prove Hansen’s point. Even Paisley’s predecessor, Bill Shankly, failed to win as many trophies as the great man himself.
Paisley only ever managed Liverpool, making him a true legend of Anfield. He managed the first team, reserve team and even dabbled in a bit of physiotherapy throughout his time at the great club. There may never be a more successful manager in British football than Bob.
6 LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIPS 1975-76, 1976-77, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1981-82, 1982-83
3 EUROPEAN CUPS 1976-77, 1977-78, 1980-81
1 UEFA CUP 1975-76
3 LEAGUE CUPS 1980-81, 1981-82, 1982-83
1 EUROPEAN SUPER CUP 1976-77
5 CHARITY SHIELDS 1974, 1976, 1977 (shared), 1980, 1982
League Championship – 1974-75, 1977-78
FA Cup – 1976-77 League Cup – 1977-78
European Super Cup – 1978
World Club Championship – 1981
6 MANAGER OF THE YEAR AWARDS 1975-76, 1976-77, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1981-82, 1982-83