Friday, June 29, 2007

100 Person Who Shock The Kop - NO 6: Billy Liddell



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Voted in at number six in our '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' countdown is the legend who was so good they named the team after him, Billy Liddell.
Four years after our ground-breaking '100 Days That Shook The Kop', we are delighted to invite you to enjoy our new '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series – the definitive countdown of the 100 players who have made the biggest impact at Liverpool.

Over 110,000 supporters have all nominated their own personal Top 10 players in order of impact made and now the definitive top 100 countdown is underway.

Every player who has made the top 100 – and there are some surprises in there - will be honoured on this website via the e-Season ticket console with a specially produced video clip, including archive footage and exclusive interviews.

Since 1892 hundreds of players have represented this club but everyone has their own particular favourites so don't expect this list to be based solely on talent. The greatness of a player can be measured in many ways – obviously, his ability on the pitch is the most important, but 100 PWSTK is much more than that. It's about the impact the individuals chosen have had on this club, be it for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was because of their unique rapport with the crowd, a specific incident that has never been forgotten or anything else that has left a lasting impression.

Name: Billy Liddell

Years at Liverpool: 1938 to 1960
Position: Winger

Date-of-birth: 10/1/1921
Birthplace: Townhill (near Dunfermline)

Signed from: Lochgelly Violet (June 1938)

Games: 534
Goals: 229

Honours: First Division Championship (1946/47)

Life as a Liverpudlian in the 1950s was no bed of roses but while Billy Liddell was around there was always a shining light amid the gloom of relegation from the top-flight, humiliating cup exits to lower league opposition and seemingly annual near misses in the quest for promotion.

The mere mention of his name is enough to send ageing Liverpudlians into dewy-eyed reminisces of bygone football age. For them, William Beveridge Liddell is quite simply the greatest player to have ever donned the famous red shirt.

During a barren era, which commands little coverage in the Liverpool history books, Liddell ensured that the crowds continued to flock to Anfield in their thousands and was largely responsible for keeping the club's head above the abyss of Football League oblivion.

Although his modesty would never have allowed him to admit it, without him the Reds could well have sunk into the murky depths of the old Third Division and if they had who's to say they'd have ever escaped?

To the modern generation of Liverpool fans, who look back in time and can't see beyond the arrival of Bill Shankly, this is a scenario too severe to contemplate but it's no exaggeration and for this reason alone, Liddell's contribution to the success story that followed should never be under-estimated.

It's one of the most worn out clich├ęs on the Kop but he was so good they renamed the team in his honour. Throughout the 1950's Liverpool Football Club was nicknamed Liddellpool – a reference to the massive influence exerted by the flying Scotsman who had joined the club as a 17-year old in 1938.

Without doubt, 'King Billy of Anfield' was one of the post-war greats of the British game, a thrilling, skilful, two-footed winger - fast, direct and capable of bursting the back of any opposition net with one of his trademark thunderbolt shots.

His fame spread far beyond the boundaries of Merseyside, even if a quick glance at his medal collection does not make for impressive reading. A solitary League Championship medal, won in 1946/47, was scant reward to the talent he possessed.

But the fact that he was twice selected to represent Great Britain during the course of his career – a feat matched only by the legendary Stanley Mathews – is ample proof, if needed, of his immense stature in the game.

It was the Reds captain of the time and future Manchester United manager, Matt Busby who Liverpool have to thank for tipping off the club's Scottish scout Johnny Dougary about the precocious youngster who was plying his trade for Lochgelly Violet before his Kop shaking career south of the border.

Like all players of his age, the outbreak of war restricted his initial progress but, having scored on his Liverpool debut in a wartime fixture, he was ready to take his place in the first team when League football resumed.

His League debut for the Reds was a memorable affair – a 7-4 thriller at home to Chelsea - and he managed to make his mark by scoring two goals, one of them direct from a corner. It was the start of a campaign that was to see Liverpool crowned as the first post-war League Champions and Liddell played a vital role in that triumph, making 35 appearances and notching seven goals from the outside left position.

Unfortunately, George Kay's team failed to build on that championship success but Liddell's performances continued to be of the highest standard. In 1950 he inspired the Reds to their first Wembley Cup Final, but on a grey day in the capital the Kop's star man was infamously kicked off the park and Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners.

The following year he almost became one of the British games first exports to the continent when he was offered a £2,000 to go and ply his trade in Colombia. It was a very tempting proposition and one that he seriously considered but, given the young age of his twin sons, the Scottish international politely declined the offer, much to the relief of his adoring fans at Anfield.

On the pitch, Liverpool was a club in decline and in 1954 the unthinkable occurred when the Reds suffered the indignity of relegation to the Second Division. Many players of his ability would have jumped ship at the prospect of dropping into a lower league but Liddell's unswerving loyalty to the Reds ensured that he remained with the club as they strove to regain their top-flight status in the proceeding years.

A player of great versatility, Liddell filled every outfield position during his time at the club but excelled most in an attacking role. A move from inside to centre forward resulted in him notching a career best 33 goals in 1955/56 – a tally that would have been 34 had referee Mervyn Jones not controversially disallowed his late, late 'equaliser' in an infamous FA Cup replay defeat against Manchester City.

Ever the gentleman, Liddell didn't complain. During the course of his illustrious career he was never booked and captained the club with distinction. One of the finest role models ever to play the game, he was the perfect club ambassador – a devout Christian who never drank, smoke or swore, he did a lot of work for charity, helped out at local boys clubs and was a qualified Justice of the Peace.

But while he continued to bang in the goals, promotion continued to agonisingly elude Liverpool. In November 1957 Liddell achieved a major milestone when he surpassed Elisha Scott's all-time appearance record for the Reds. However, the following season, he missed his first FA Cup tie for the club, when he was dropped for the humiliating third round defeat at non-league Worcester City, and it signalled the beginning of the end for the ageing Liddell.

His popularity with the fans though remained as strong as ever. They campaigned for his recall but on August 31, 1960, Billy Liddell represented the Reds in a first team capacity for final time. It was his 537th appearance for the club – a record that remained unchallenged until Ian Callaghan's longevity saw it surpassed in the 1970's.

When his loyalty to the club was rewarded with a well-deserved testimonial, a crowd of almost 40,000 turned up to pay homage to a player who is still held in the highest regard over half a century since his hey day.

It was unfortunate fact of life that Liddell's prime did not coincide with the Shankly revolution that followed his retirement. Had it done, who knows what he would have gone on to achieve?

The great man is sadly no longer with us but visit Anfield on a quiet day and old-timers will swear they can still hear the once famous roar of 'give it to Billy' ringing around the Kop. Gone but never forgotten, when legendary Liverpool players are discussed you can be sure his name will always figure prominently.

Sold to: Retired (1960)

Claim to fame: Carrying Liverpool through the fifties

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