Saluting nine individuals who dedicated their careers solely to the Liverpool FC cause on the pitch or off it – and sometimes both.
People come and go at Anfield, new signings and departures are a key part of football. But there’s a small list of players, managers, coaches and admin staff who dedicate their whole working life to one club: Liverpool Football Club. Here are nine of the best…
Words: Peter Kenny Jones
JOHN SMITH: RED KNIGHT
Sir John was the chairman from 1973 until 1990. His 17- year stint covered eleven league titles and four European Cups, among other trophies, in an unparalleled period of success.
Smith arrived at Anfield in 1971 and worked alongside Peter Robinson as a director. A staunch defender of the Boot Room philosophy, his tactics in running the club were a huge factor in success on the pitch. He worked tirelessly to ensure the highest standards were maintained and was a firm believer in promoting from within, appointing first Bob Paisley then Joe Fagan then Kenny Dalglish as manager.
He also brokered a groundbreaking shirt sponsorship deal with Hitachi in 1979 and worked to safeguard the club’s reputation after Heysel and Hillsborough. “We’re a very, very modest club,” he once said. “We don’t talk. We don’t boast.”
PETER ROBINSON: QUIETLY EFFECTIVE
Pivotal behind the scenes during the club’s best years – ensuring everything ran smoothly – Robinson was secretary from 1965-92 and chief executive from 1992-2000.
His footballing and secretarial schooling was spent at Crewe Alexandra, Stockport County, Scunthorpe United and Brighton and Hove Albion before he landed the Liverpool job in 1965.
Peter dealt with all administrative matters, going about his business with the minimum of fuss.
An active champion of the ‘Liverpool Way’, he was never one to court publicity ensuring that any potential controversies were swiftly dealt with behind-closed-doors.
During three-and-a-half decades with LFC he worked alongside a succession of managers and performed a vital role in their quest for success. It was also Robinson’s decision to open the gates at Anfield for the floral tributes following Hillsborough, displaying the deep connection and understanding he had with the fans.
JOHN MCKENNA: HONEST TO GOODNESS
John McKenna was never given the official title of manager but handled many managerial duties. He took control of Liverpool under the title of chairman from 1909 to 1914 and 1917 to 1919. He was also president of the Football League for a long spell and vice-president of the FA.
His role at LFC included signing players and he was the man who took Liverpool into the Football League. As well as managing the team himself, he also oversaw the appointment of William Edward Barclay and Tom Watson.
The capture of Watson from Sunderland, the best team in England at the time, was a coup. He’d won the league three times with the Wearsiders and went on to take Liverpool into the First Division, winning the title twice.
McKenna was known as ‘Honest John’ and was hugely influential throughout British football during his working life.
RONNIE MORAN: BORN AND RED
It’s two years now since we lost Ronnie, but his memory lives on in every LFC heart. Bugsy, as he was affectionately known, was involved in over 2,000 games during a career in which he held almost every role for the club.
The sergeant-major of the dressing-room kept all the players on their toes and would hand out league winner’s medals from a cardboard box, telling the players to be ready for pre-season, always pushing for repeated success. He wasn’t there to be particularly liked – he was there to help Liverpool win.
Moran’s playing career began after a postman alerted Liverpool to his ability. Ultra-reliable, he missed only six games out of 210 across five seasons and won the old Second Division (1961/62) then the First Division (63/64) with Bill Shankly’s Reds.
Having hung up his boots and graduating to training duties, he was appointed as caretaker-manager following Kenny Dalglish’s resignation in 1991, holding the fort until the appointment of Graeme Souness.
Just before Ronnie died, a book about him was published in collaboration with his son, chronicling 49 years of service to LFC. Its title: Mr Liverpool.
BOB PAISLEY: OUR BOB
Prior to his phenomenal success as Reds manager – 19 major trophies – Bob spent 15 years as a player and was often the man winning the ball back and passing to Billy Liddell to terrorise the opposition.
Upon hanging up his playing boots in 1954 he joined the backroom staff and, following a lengthy stint as Bill Shankly’s right-hand man (1959-74) he was a reluctant successor to the top job.
Bob was a man of few words, shy in public and close to just a few in the media, but as a manager he was wonderfully canny and astute, for example converting Shankly’s final signing Ray Kennedy from a striker to a lethally effective midfielder.
Paisley’s Reds won the European Cup in 1977, 1978, and 1981 – along with Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid he’s still the only boss to claim the trophy three times with the same club – and he also led Liverpool to six of their 18 top-flight titles plus three League Cup triumphs and the UEFA Cup in 1976.
Bob passed away on 14 February 1996, aged 77, survived by his wife Jessie (who died in 2012), two sons and a daughter. He is remembered in the hearts of Liverpool fans everywhere, celebrated with a flag on the Kop, and honoured by bronze plaques on piers either side of the the eponymous Gateway showing a sculpture of Bob in relief and a roll-call of his honours.
Truly a Liverpool FC legend, the 100th anniversary of his birth was commemorated earlier this season.
GERRY BYRNE: WARRIOR
Byrne and his broken collarbone are synonymous with the famous first FA Cup victory in 1965, which of course displayed his immense fighting spirit.
The man given the nickname ‘Crunch’ was hard and fair, booked just once in his entire Liverpool career. Shankly said Gerry was the toughest player he’d ever known but not only because he played most of that final with such an agonising injury – he also dislocated his elbow the following season against Celtic in the European Cup Winner’s Cup semi-final but played on through the pain again – and then played the next fixture against Stoke just two days later.
When Shanks arrived at Anfield, the full-back was on the transfer-list but the new boss made him a crucial member of his team. Byrne took Ronnie Moran’s place in the Liverpool side and was a stalwart during 16 years with the club.
In 1970 he was rewarded with a testimonial on a dark and rainy Liverpool day. Byrne feared no one would turn up but couldn’t have been more wrong as 42,000 were treated to a pulsating 8-8 draw with an all-star XI.
DONALD MACKINLAY: CAPTAIN MATERIAL
Donald spent 16 seasons with Liverpool, six of which saw the Scot captain the side. The highlight of his career was the back-to-back championships in the early 1920s when Liverpool were dubbed ‘The Untouchables’.
Former manager Tom Watson had set out to rebuild his defence by signing full backs Mackinlay and Ephraim Longworth, half-back Walter Wadsworth and goalkeeper Elisha Scott. Three of them went on to skipper the side which illustrates the impact the defence had upon the double title-winning side.
Mackinlay had also appeared in Liverpool’s first FA Cup final in 1914 against Burnley. The semi-final was against much-fancied Aston Villa and some previews in the press even stated that the game was over before it began, that there was no need to study form.
Watson pinned the report to the wall and gave a rousing speech to his players before the game. Mackinlay starred as the Reds shocked Villa in front of over 70,000 spectators at White Hart Lane.
BILLY LIDDELL: OUR NEON SIGN
When Billy played his last game for Liverpool in 1960 it was 22 years after he’d signed for them. The occasion was marked with a souvenir edition of the Liverpool Echo in which he was hailed as “a player, a gentleman, a sportsman and the finest club-man the game ever knew.”
Anfield’s first superstar joined Liverpool in 1938 aged 17 from Lochgelly Violet, a team from a Fifeshire mining town whose name translates from the Gaelic as ‘shining waters’. In 1946/47 he helped Liverpool to the First Division title, and also played in the 1950 FA Cup final against Arsenal.
“I was fortunate to play when Billy was at his peak,” said forward Albert Stubbins. “He was the most generous winger I ever played with – fast, two footed and brave. He never shirked a tackle but never once did I see him commit a foul.”
It’s a measure of Liddell’s greatness that he and Stanley Matthews were the only players to appear in both Great Britain sides that took on Rest of the World select XIs in 1947 and 1955.
He retired in 1961, having spent his entire professional career at Anfield, and died in 2001. “He was everything that everyone said he was,” says Ian Callaghan, who ultimately replaced Billy on the wing. “So strong on the ball with a hammer of a shot in both feet. His name is a neon sign on Merseyside.”
He’s still fourth in LFC’s all-time scoring charts with 228 goals.
JAMIE CARRAGHER: KOP CONVERT
The Bootle-born Evertonian originally arrived at LFC as a striker. Brought up on Marsh Lane, his dad ran the Salisbury pub, now opposite Jamie’s youth and community centre, and was also his first manager in a promising youth career which included a cup final at Goodison when he was then playing for Bootle Boys.
Carra’s affinity with the other Merseyside team was so strong that he’d even train in an Everton kit. However, as his prospects of forging a career at Anfield grew, his blue heart turned red. He began to drop deeper on the pitch and was predominately used as a midfielder until a bout of injuries and suspensions before the 1996 FA Youth Cup final led to Ronnie Moran suggesting a place in the heart of the defence.
Steve Heighway and Hughie MacAuley heeded the advice, Liverpool won and Carragher’s centre-back career began. His full first-team debut in 1997 yielded a goal against Aston Villa, one of only five in over 700 games.
A loyal and dependable servant, the images of Carra from Istanbul are unforgettable.