Walking with Giants

I'm not too sure of the title's origins. I reckon it's a quote from somewhere or other, but it seems to fit the main idea for this unashamedly retro piece.

Many of you reading this will be able to recall the events and people involved during the greatest period of silver hauling in the history of our beloved football club.

I know that many people put certain dates and times into their memories forever, for example, where they were when such momentous events as war, pestilence and famine unfolded. Indeed one radio star made the idea famous with the line " I remember the day war broke out."

Well for me it was July 12th 1974.

Ring any bells?

On 12th July1974 I heard with disbelief that Shanks was leaving, of his own choice, the place he had made his home since 1959. My world was turned upside down that day. I felt desolate. All the greatness that Shanks had brought and all the promises of future glories seemed so hollow. All I can recall now about how I felt then after the years that have passed is a feeling of infinite sorrow. A feeling that something was missing from the club that I, and thousands like me, had grown up with. Remember the generation that were aged around their early teens in the early sixties had really only known Shanks at the helm and days of victories sweet, balls to feet, nights of passion guile and fire. The news echoed around the city like wildfire. I recall a news reporter interviewing a young disbelieving lad in the street and telling him the news. The lad refused to believe it at first and finally took a lot of persuading that it really was true. He just wandered away muttering under his breath. Well that was how it was for me. I just refused to actually believe it.

The giant that took up the mantle of taking Liverpool on to further greatness was one of the most unassuming and reticent men it has been my pleasure to meet. Bob Paisley was simply "Bob" to those who met him. He used to bring his daughter Christine to the same student digs that her boyfriend shared with myself, and a few other reprobates. This learner eagerly anticipated the first weekend back for a new term, not for the lectures, but to walk with the giant who had so recently entered my life. The qualities of self-control and modesty he possessed are legendary. It was all true. I speak from first hand knowledge. Once I walked in the weak September sunshine and listened to Bob talk, not of football, but of the trees that gave a certain grace and calm to the college grounds. Here was a man who knew the real value of life and its priorities.

The sun gave a dappled effect on the well-trimmed lawns and cast long end of summer shadows as we walked under those mighty trees. I looked along the length of Bob's shadow and seemed to see a giant from times gone by. Times when mighty warriors went forth on dangerous quests. A time when mortal men performed deeds that would echo throughout eternity. The mind often plays strange tricks, occasionally chemically induced, usually involving hops and malt in my case, but this day was different. So different in so many ways. Time seemed to stand still as we walked on. There was no doubt in my young mind that here was a man who whilst so dissimilar to Shanks in manner and demeanour shared the same burning desire to take L.F.C. to greater glory. I turned the conversation away from the prospects of a new academic year and began talking about football. During a discussion concerning the hopes for the forthcoming season, Europe was mentioned in a sort of circumspect way. Bob's reply was one that gave me hope for the future. As I turned from measuring the size of the giant's shadow, my gaze fell on a mortal man who smiled and said, "Aye, that'd be nice."

Understatement or what!

Within three years we were singing and dancing in the Eternal City with the European cup in the bag.

All the nights of glory and passion are too numerous to mention in this short article, but some stand out from the others. One such night for me was when we were at the start of the silver haul that would culminate in the third European Cup. That night in Wolverhampton for Bob's first championship when it seemed that every Kopite from every generation turned up. The old South Bank at Molineux was turned into the Kop for the night. Thousands turned up for a pay at the gate game. The rather quaint idea in those days was to turn up early and join a queue, wait patiently, and eventually get in. It didn't happen that way that night. Walls were scaled; gates climbed and in my case queues jumped. A pensive opening spell was eventually turned into a 3-1 victory that sent the travelling Kop into raptures. We sang and swayed and then just for a change we swayed and sang! That night will live forever with me and the thousands like me who were there that night and went away singing the praises of Liverpool in the pubs around the West Midlands well into the night. There was on view, to quote the famous banner of the day, "Quality (from) Paisley's Reds" (younger readers may wish to note that QPR were actually top of the league prior to that game and Liverpool needed victory to clinch the title).

We all knew something special was beginning. A new team had been built; new tactics were being employed. Twin centre halves for one, a tactic that every back four throughout the land employs to this day. Bob began that with Phil Thompson moving back from midfield to pair up with Emyln Hughes to replace an injured Larry Lloyd who was subsequently sold on to Coventry City.

The haul of silver that Bob won has never been surpassed. He won nineteen major trophies in just nine seasons, including, six Championships and three European Cups. This is a simply an awesome record, and one I suspect that will never be equalled.

The fact that Bob was never given a Knighthood doesn't rankle with me, apart from the slight to the club and his memory. No, I reckon he would have been embarrassed to be called "Sir Bob" to his face, and to be referred to as such in the press and on T.V. would have made the fine man blush. I doubt that he would have wanted the almost messianic adoration that is heaped on the pygmy who works down the M 62 by certain sections of the press and media. The blotchy one simply revels in it doesn't he? Greatness brings its own rewards. I know that and I reckon the lads who made the wonderful banner comparing greatness, success and insanity have hit the nail on the head superbly.

Bob was the greatest collector of silver this club and indeed this country has ever known. He was also one of the sanest successful men on the planet. His attitude to life was simple and appreciative of the things we can all share and respect. Family, friends and the good earth around us were his priorities in life. From these secure foundations the citadel that became Anfield between 1978 and 1981 was built. During which time his sides set an all time record of 85 consecutive unbeaten home games, including 65 in the league fromĀ Feb 1978 till Jan 1981. He believed that football was a simple game as had Shankly before him. His sides refined that simple philosophy and laid out in front of the Kop a style of play that was typified by a remark attribute to the great Brazilian sides of the day "The Beautiful Game." Personally I reckon that we played that way at the time and indeed better than the fabled masters from South America. King Kenny really was the finest I've ever seen.

Bob's achievements will warm the hearts and bring memories flooding back to us as we reach our dotage. His deeds are the stuff of legend and his memory will live forever in the collective mental archives of Liverpool supporters. He needed not the trappings of dubious honours bestowed from a corrupt and nepotistic state gong machine. His honour lies within the hearts of those who were privileged to be around when he was at Liverpool Football Club.

He was a giant of a man and I for one am proud to say I walked with him in the sunshine of my youth.

Red Dave

Sir Bob quote

"Alan Hansen is the defender with the pedigree of an international striker. He is quite simply the most skilful centre-half I have ever seen in the British game. He is a joy to watch. Alan has always been an excellent footballer, a beautifully balanced player who carries the ball with control and grace.

He has a very measured, long stride and is much faster than he looks. I can't think more than a couple of players who could beat him over 100 metres. He has both the ability and the patience to launch attacks from deep positions."

Bob Paisley on Alan Hansen

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