Sunday, 27 January 2019

The time of giants - even if they weren't properly recognised

Last week Liverpool FC celebrated the 100th anniversary of Bob Paisley's birth. When people talk about managers now, lauding Pochettino when he has won the sum total of zilch here, they should perhaps study the history of the time of giants. Not just Paisley, but contemporaneous with him, Everton's greatest manager Howard Kendall and Brian Clough with his exploits with Nottingham Forest. These guys were proper managers and only Alex Ferguson from the intervening decades can compare.

Paisley won 20 trophies in 9 seasons as a manager. 6 were Charity Shields so 14 were serious trophies. Although Ferguson won 38, including 10 Charity/Community Shields, Paisley's rate of 2.2 a season compares favourably with Ferguson's 1.3. Paisley won the league 6 times in 8 seasons and the European Cup three times.

He was Liverpool's most successful manager - the more vaunted Shankly won 10 trophies over a longer period. But didn't he just rise on the back of Shankly's success? Maybe it was the other way round. After all he had already been at Liverpool for 13 seasons, as player, physio and reserve team coach when Shankly arrived and immediately made Paisley his assistant. Smart move and, of course, Shankly was a brilliant front man and man manager. In contrast the shy and awkward Paisley wasn't a communicator and could strike players as distant and harsh. And a bit odd: Mark Lawrenson tells of how, when he signed for Liverpool, Paisley met him at Lime Street station in his usual business style suit, but wearing carpet slippers. "You'll do for me" is what Lawrenson says he thought.

Perhaps curiously, unlike Shankly, there is no statue of Bob Paisley at Anfield though there is a plaque adjacent to a gateway named in his honour.

I know knighthoods can't be bestowed posthumously but it always strikes me as odd that Paisley lived for 13 years after he retired without getting one. For much of that time Mrs Thatcher was PM: she wasn't a football fan and it was an era when football had a lot of problems. But by the 90s neither of those statements were true. And by 1999 Ferguson was knighted promptly after winning his first European Cup. Paisley got the OBE in the year he retired which actually makes the lack of a knighthood sting even more - they thought about it and didn't do the right thing.

Mind, the last English manager to win a European trophy managing an English club wasn't given a gong of any kind. That would, of course, be the great Howard Kendall, whose Everton side won the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1985. Some say he nearly got the OBE but that was a waggish joke doing the rounds in January 1984. Kendall's side was struggling and it was said he would soon be given the OBE (Out By Easter). But Kevin Brock of Oxford hit a poor back-pass in a League cup quarter final, Adrian Heath equalised for Everton to scrape a draw, they won the replay and went on a run to the final (which they lost) and the FA Cup final (which they won). The next year they won the League and the European trophy. They should have won the FA Cup as well but were beaten by fatigue as much as Manchester United in the final 3 days later. The 1985 Everton team was named the best in Europe by whichever French publication does that stuff.  After finishing runners up to Liverpool, by then managed by Dalglish, in both League and Cup in 1986, Everton won the league again in 1987.  Kendall's record in his first 6 year spell at Everton compares well with almost everyone bar Paisley and Ferguson.

Kevin Brock is fondly remembered by Evertonians and the back pass clanger features prominently on his Wikipedia entry, poor bugger.

And we Evertonians can but wonder how things would have unfolded if English teams hadn't been banned from Europe in 1985. By 1987 Kendall had gone to Spain and Everton went into the Premier League megabucks era in a decline from which they have never really done much more than stabilise.

But we can still remember the time when the giants were on both sides of Stanley Park, even if Whitehall and the Palace couldn't see it. I'm against these honours things anyway, but the lack of proper recognition for Paisley and Kendall was always bizarre.


  1. Interesting that you give Clough a mention Phil; someone you would definitely not want as a friend but a great manager none the less until the booze got the better of him and of course only great when he had Peter Taylor on board. That late 1970's side was a tough as old boots though.

  2. Kendall, of course, liked a drink as well - there are many stories. You didn't win anything if there wasn't a tough core in the team then. Although the game has changed a lot I still think mental toughness is a prerequisite for success. Not many current teams have it

  3. Yes indeed Phil too many self important players around many of whom have little to be self important about!