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A Quiet Incredible Man
On the 23rd of January 1919 in a little known town called Hetton-le-Hole in County Durham, was born a baby who was to grow up to be the most successful manager in Liverpool Football Club’s history. His name of course was Bob Paisley.
Paisley started his long road to success at non-league Bishop Auckland before signing for Liverpool in May 1939, but due to war breaking out Paisley had to wait until 5th of January 1946 to make his debut in Liverpool’s first post-war competitive match. Paisley became a regular in the Liverpool team at left-half and he helped Liverpool win their first league title in 24 years in his first full season at the club. Paisley had to wait until 1948 to net his first goal at Liverpool on the 1st May at Anfield in a 2-1 win over Wolves.
Paisley scored the opening goal in a 2-0 FA Cup semi-final win over Everton in 1950 only to suffer heartache when he was dropped for the final against Arsenal in the club’s first ever trip to Wembley, which they lost. Paisley stated that this experience helped him deal with players during his time in management when he had to tell a player he was being left out of a big game.
Paisley became the club captain the following year. He retired from playing as a one club man in 1954 and continued to work for Liverpool as a self-taught physiotherapist. He later became coach of the reserves before becoming a member of Bill Shankly’s famous “Boot Room”. In 1971 he became Shankly’s assistant manager until Shankly’s shock resignation in 1974, where Paisley succeeded as manager.
Liverpool had become one of the top clubs in the country under Shankly’s leadership and had won numerous trophies. Paisley’s task seemed a formidable one to continue in Shankly’s footsteps. But the unassuming Geordie took to management like a duck to water, although his first season did end without a trophy.
Bob Paisley went on to manage Liverpool for 9 years winning 6 League Titles, 3 European Cups, 1 UEFA Cup, 3 League Cups, 5 Community Shields and 1 UEFA Super Cup. The only cup that eluded him was the FA Cup which he lost in a final in 1977. It really is a remarkable record for a man that never really wanted to become manager.
Paisley inherited a great team from Shankly but through time he had to shape the team into his. He lost great players like Kevin Keegan but he replaced him with an even better player in Kenny Dalglish. He could change the role of an established player like Ray Kennedy who was a superb striker for Arsenal, but Paisley could see that he would be a better player in midfield.
Paisley retired from management in 1983 after serving Liverpool Football Club in so many different roles in 44 years unbroken service. He did return to help Liverpool in 1985 as a consultant and advisor to new player-manager Kenny Dalglish for two years before being appointed a director of the club until 1992, having to retire due to ill health after being diagnosed with Alzhiemer’s Disease. Bob Paisley died on the 14th of February 1996. But Liverpool Football Club honoured his fantastic service and achievements by erecting the “Paisley Gates”.
For me, Bob Paisley is the most under-rated manager in the history of British football, his record of success is astonishing. He is the only manager in history to win the European Cup 3 times. During his time as manager he always tried to shun the spotlight and maybe because he was so quiet may be the reason why he is not talked about as much as Ferguson or Mourinho.
It’s not just Paisley’s incredible management career that excites me, but his service to one club in so many roles that he played to help Liverpool Football Club achieve what they have. Paisley was the opposite of Shankly in terms of personality but similar in terms of success.
Although Paisley was quiet he did come away with some memorable quotes –
“Kevin was quicker off the mark, but Kenny runs the first five yards in his head.”
“Mind you, I’ve been here through the bad times too – one year we came second”
“It’s not about the long ball or the short ball, it’s about the right ball”
“Other people have earned more money than me in football but no-one has enjoyed it as much as me”
Although this great man is overlooked by many people on his achievements in football, he has legendary status in the hearts of Liverpool supporters. Paisley was manager of Liverpool when I started supporting them and I took the winning for granted at the time, but now after nearly 30 years since his departure from management I realise that success does not come easily in football, and I now I can fully appreciate how great a manager Paisley was.
Bob Paisley – You’ll Never Walk Alone