On the 10th of January 2022, Billy Liddell would have been celebrating his 100th birthday and as the countdown to one of our greatest ever player’s milestone day edges closer – here’s an excerpt from the book written to mark the event: Liddell at One Hundred.
If international football is often used to mark the brilliance of a footballer in the modern day (as indeed seems to be the rationale behind the overlooking of Mo Salah for individual awards), none could turn their nose up at an achievement uniquely held by two of English football’s greats.
Stanley Matthews and the former Red’s selection in the historic Great Britain team – twice, it must be emphasised – sealed their legendary status in the sport.
“Being selected for Scotland was a huge honour. Doing so as an English league player was a feat, but someone plying their trade in the Second Division of English football and still receiving the call-up was almost unheard of,” Peter Kenny Jones wrote.
“Billy also had the honour of representing Great Britain during this period. In what is probably the most widely known and quoted Liddell fact, he and Stanley Matthews are the only players to represent Great Britain more than once. These matches will be examined further, but the reasoning behind this fact should be explained.
“The formal presence of the English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Football Associations prevented a United Kingdom and a Great Britain football side. All four nations readily competed against each other in Home Nation tournaments, which ensured separation, rivalry and individualism for all four countries.
“Early participation in Olympic Games saw the Great Britain team entered in 1908 being made entirely of English players and referred to as an English team by many.
“The English FA continued to select solely English players for the next few Olympics before only amateurs could be included. So, these teams are never thought of as either British or a selection of the best players in the UK.
“The 2012 Olympics was possibly the closest to a Great Britain team since that era.
“After much apprehension from supporters and the four Football Associations, the team came together. There was a select number of overaged players allowed so most were under 23.
“With Euro 2012 in the same summer, anyone participating in that tournament did not play in the Olympics. This again proved to be a team that did not represent the best of British football, due to the Olympics being described as not being the pinnacle of a British player’s career, and the team has not met up since.
“There were also two friendlies between Wales and the Rest of Britain in 1951 and 1969, as well as the celebration of the European Economic Community, which saw Britain join forces with Ireland and Denmark to face a team comprised of players from West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Italy in 1973.
“However, again these are not examples of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland competing together as a united team, chosen from the best players available.
“What Billy Liddell and Stanley Matthews achieved by participating in the 1947 and 1955 Great Britain teams was establishing their pedigree and longevity in British football.
“As there has been no direct competing or comparable teams other than the two occasions during this eight-year period, Liddell and Matthews deserve the honour of this unique statistic.”
Nowadays, it seems that international achievement (or, to put it more precisely, team achievements) outweigh individual brilliance when the time comes for recognition.
However, to those that were treated to the sight of Liddell coursing down the flanks, the Scot deserved all the recognition he received internationally and domestically.
It’s a superb achievement that certainly deserves to be cherished by modern generations of Liverpool fans – lest we forget the foundations upon which the club was built upon.
All quotes obtained first hand by the author. Billy Liddell at One Hundred is available here.