Today marks the day that Billy Liddell would have been celebrating his 100th birthday and as the countdown to one of our greatest ever player’s milestone reaches its close – here’s an excerpt from the book written to mark the event: Liddell at One Hundred.
Billy Liddell is a true Anfield great and as the landmark day of his 100th birthday has arrived, here’s the story of the famous goal that never was against Manchester City in 1956.
Second Division Liverpool were facing a side from the division above and were out for a cup upset in search of the halcyon days gone by, when they were competing for the league title and FA Cup on a much more regular basis.
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‘With two minutes left in the match, Liverpool and Man City were level 1-1 after nearly 180 minutes of football over two matches.
‘With just one minute remaining, Lancashire-born Joe Hayes put City ahead, despite the match seemingly being destined for extra time. Then came the controversy.
‘Sandy Griffiths became vilified on the red side of Merseyside, much like Clive Thomas in 1977 and Pierluigi Collina in 2005 became for the blue half, and was never to referee Liverpool again following this match.
‘There were mere seconds left when Griffiths claimed that both his linesmen had signalled to him that the match should have ended.
‘He blew his whistle at 45 minutes and 15 seconds of the second half. Only 15 seconds were added on despite injuries and three goals occurring during the period.
‘Clearly paying more attention to his stopwatch than the action, Griffiths blew his whistle just as Billy carried the ball from the halfway line on a snow-dressed Anfield turf and unleashed a 35-yard thunderclap that nearly broke the net.
‘Despite the ball flying into the goal past Bert Trautmann and sending the crowd into a frenzy, the whistle had signalled the end of the match before the goal was scored. Or had it?
‘The legend of the goal will be forever remembered because of the lateness of the non-goal and the controversy that surrounded it.
‘This hullabaloo did not fully come to the fore until the following day as the Liverpool Echo published its ‘Dramatic Liddell Picture’.
‘Despite Griffiths claiming that Billy was 15 seconds too late, the image of the referee with his arm in the air after the ball had left Billy’s right foot put this into dispute.
‘The drama and folklore surrounding this moment has made it a favourite tale of the Second Division days.
‘Further legend around the goal grew after stories circulated that City skipper Roy Paul was giving the referee a lift home to Wales, so he did not want a period of extra time, as he could get home earlier.
‘Griffiths had a Clive Thomas-esque reputation for wanting to make the game about themselves, the referee, rather than just officiating.
‘This thirst for attention and the apparent meter running on his lift to Wales have only added to the legend of this famous event.
‘Due to the match being played on a Wednesday afternoon, the crowd was full of work- and school-dodging, or sagging, supporters and the mischievousness of their attendance has no doubt built the mystique around the match and ‘goal’.
‘Even with Billy’s humble nature, due to the fact he would be asked about this goal so often, he admitted it was a great finish when it came up in conversation.
‘The fact that City also went on to win the FA Cup that season, further cements the legend around the day.
‘Many of the fans present had not heard the whistle that followed Billy’s ‘goal’, so remained in the ground in anticipation of the extra-time period that was to follow.
‘In a hope to empty the ground, there had to be an announcement over the tannoy to confirm that the match had finished 2-1 and Liverpool were out.
‘Griffiths was lucky that he had managed to leave the pitch before many were made aware of his controversial decision!’
Imagine being inside the ground to witness a last-gasp equaliser, watch all the players leave the pitch and instead of seeing extra-time commence – you’re told the goal wasn’t given over the tannoy.
There could easily be riots in any other stadium and the referee was lucky it didn’t happen that day.
The combination of a great finish, the mystique over a Wednesday afternoon game and the controversial refereeing decision, all make this one of the long lasting tales of of the man so good they named our club Liddellpool.
Happy 100th birthday Billy, we hope you’re still managing to keep an eye on results and will appreciate the outpouring of love from supporters of all age on this milestone day.
All quotes obtained first hand by the author. Billy Liddell at One Hundred is available here.
Liverpool hero would be fourth highest appearance holder and second-top goal scorer EVER, if his wartime goals and games were counted