When Liverpool hosted Chelsea just after the Second World War there were goals galore and two memorable debuts...
Just over 72 years ago, war was over and football was back. September of the 1946/47 season would bring Chelsea to Anfield for what would be remembered as a milestone moment, with an amazing scoreline, in LFC history.
The campaign was set to be a very successful one for manager George Kay’s Liverpool side as he orchestrated a first top-flight title in nearly 25 years, and a fifth overall, with the average home gate topping 40,000 for the first time in the club's history.
Following an LFC summer tour of North America - all steaks, maple syrup and orange juice away from food-rationed Britain - the season 'proper' had begun with a 1-0 win at Sheffield United but a defeat by the same scoreline at home to Middlesbrough.
Keen to ensure his side bounced back against the West Londoners, who boasted former Everton forward Tommy Lawton in their ranks, the boss made four changes: out went Cyril Sidlow, Eddie Spicer, Len Carney and Bob Priday; in came Charlie Ashcroft, Willie Fagan...
and Bob Paisley and Billy Liddell.
Bob and Billy had both joined the club back in 1939 and made around 200 appearances for the Reds during the war years. But the Football League was suspended during WW2 so this was their official competitive debut - a remarkable amount of time to wait to pull on the jersey for real.
No one in the 50,000-strong crowd could have anticipated the role that both men would go on to play for the club. Kay, though, had seen enough to hand them their start, and those present were in for a treat with no less than eleven goals scored at a packed Anfield.
The debutant duo were afforded credit in the post-match Liverpool Echo report, which began with the headline ‘Liddell And Paisley Transformed Liverpool Attack’.
The home side's display was electric, with Liddell scoring the game's first goal in the second minute directly from a corner.
A Bill Jones brace and a Willie Fagan goal put Liverpool four up at half-time. During the break, reported the Echo, a ‘number of youths got into the ground by scaling the wall on Anfield Road’, while thousands more waited outside Anfield listening.
Jack Balmer scored soon after the break and a Liddell second meant that Liverpool were 6-0 up after only 50 minutes.
An off-the-ball collision whilst scoring his second stalled Billy's performance for the rest of the game - this was the time before substitutions so he was forced to play on. But though he'd been superb, the Anfield faithful could also see that it was Paisley who was crafting his chances.
It was not until the 55th minute that Chelsea scored their first goal but they soon made up for lost time, finding the net three times more in quick succession: Len Goulden and Jimmy Argue efforts combined with a double from Alex Machin. Six-four with still twenty on the clock!
Nerves and fatigue seemed to have played a part on the Liverpool side. But as the visitors pressed forward, the hosts scored again through Fagan. It ended 7-4.
The bobbies on duty could not contain the swarms of young supporters who ran onto the pitch to mob their heroes at the final whistle. They'd just witnessed sensational debuts from a duo who'd become Liverpool legends in their own right, their careers having an impact upon the football club that very few have ever come near to matching.
A week on, forward Albert Stubbins joined from Newcastle United for £13,000 - the final piece in a title-challenging jigsaw. He'd go on to score 83 goals in 178 appearances for Liverpool.
Nine months later, on Saturday 31 May 1947 the Reds won 3-2 at fellow title-chasers Wolverhampton Wanderers in their last fixture of the season, then had to wait a further two weeks (mid-June!) for their League Championship to be confirmed by third-placed Stoke's failure to win at Sheffield United.
The Liverpool Evening Express hailed 'a triumph of teamwork, consistency and individual ability... it was a storming finish with eleven out of the last 12 points won despite the fact that the last four matches were away from home'.
Words: Peter Kenny Jones