Born : 23 January 1919
Birthplace : Hetton Le-Hole
Nation : England
Twenty trophies in nine seasons – not
bad for a man who was loathe to make
the step into football management.
But then, that was the reluctant
genius that was Bob Paisley. The humble son of the North East
always was more at ease in the wings
than on centre stage but when it came
to knowledge of the game and the
ability to spot a player, his record spoke
Born the son of a miner in the County
Durham village of Hetton-le-Hole on
January 23, 1919, Paisley’s
childhood was spent absorbing
knowledge and advice.
As his late widow Jessie recalled: “Bob always tried to remember what his
headmaster told him; that if you speak
softly people will try to listen to what
you’re saying. If you shout they’re
liable to walk away and not take it in.”
Such homespun psychology would serve Paisley invaluably during his
management years when Europe bowed
to the stocky figure in a flat cap that
belied a masterful football brain.
Following in the footsteps of the great
Bill Shankly was a task many believed was akin to mission impossible and yet
Paisley’s transition from bootroom
coach to boss was almost seamless.
It all came about in July 1974 when
Shanks rocked the football world by
announcing his retirement from the game.
Who would be brave enough to take on a
role in which the shadow of the great
Scot would loom large? For the
Liverpool board there was only one
name on their short-list.
Bob had flanked Shankly’s shoulder
from the day he had arrived at Anfield
back in 1959, after the great man had
swapped the Pennines of Huddersfield
for the banks of the Mersey.
He was a pioneer of the ‘Liverpool way’, the brand of football that was pivotal
to Shankly’s football ethos. He also
had a relationship with the club that
stretched back even further than his
predecessor’s, one that began two
decades earlier when he had arrived at Anfield as a 20-year-old left-half on
May 8, 1939 for a £10 signing-on fee
and weekly wage of £5.
Wartime service in Egypt and the
western desert delayed Paisley’s league
debut as a Liverpool player until 1946-47. It was during this campaign
that he won the first of 10
championship medals in his various
Anfield roles, in a team that included
Scotland and Great Britain star Billy
Liddell and centre forward Albert Stubbins.
Despite being ready to leave the club
after being dropped by the directors
who picked the team for the 1950 FA
Cup Final, he played on and went on to
captain the side before hanging up his boots following Liverpool’s relegation
However, it would not be the end of his
love affair with the Reds.
He went on to establish a role as a
reserve team trainer and also became a renowned, self-taught, physiotherapist.
He was the perfect foil for Shanks, a
football lover with an unquenchable
thirst for knowledge, but one that was
happy to leave the limelight to the man
with a flair for public speaking.
And so, when it came to finding a
successor to Shankly, Liverpool only
had one man in mind …
The only trouble was that Paisley was
reluctant to step into the spotlight.
It needed much persuasion from the
club and his family to convince the
55-year-old to take on the challenge
awaiting him, but how important his positive response would become to the
future success of Liverpool Football
After much soul searching he agreed,
saying: “It’s like being given the Queen
Elizabeth to steer in a force 10 gale.” Maybe so, but what a magnificent
navigator he would prove to be.
In his first season he led the Reds to
the runners-up spot in the
Championship, an achievement he was
disappointed by, remarking at the time, “I was like an apprentice that ran wide
at the bends.”
That may seem somewhat harsh, but he
made amends for what he saw as
failure the following year, leading the
club to a league and UEFA Cup double. The title was secured with a famous
3-1 win at Wolves on the final day of
the season while a 4-3 aggregate
success of Belgian outfit Bruges
clinched European glory.
It was a season that would have proved difficult to surpass for most sides and
yet the following campaign, Paisley’s
Liverpool would do just that.
Having retained the league title with
consummate ease, it could so easily
have been an all-conquering year for Liverpool had they seen off Manchester
United in the FA Cup final.
However, luck was with the Red Devils
as they ran out fortunate 2-1 winners
– not the best preparation for
Liverpool’s first ever European Cup final.
Lesser teams would have suffered a
crisis of confidence, but not the Reds,
who shrugged off their Wembley
disappointment to go on and conquer
Europe for the very first time just four days later.
The Eternal City was the setting for
what Paisley would later refer to as
his “perfect day” with Liverpool going
on to claim a 3-1 victory over a strong
Borussia Moenchengladbach side. The victory installed Paisley as the
first English-born manager to lift
Europe’s greatest prize following the
success of Scottish duo Jock Stein
(Celtic) and Sir Matt Busby
As the celebratory champagne flowed,
Paisley, who was later honoured with
an OBE, sat quietly in a corner of the
“I’m not having a drink because I want
to savour every moment,” he said. “The Pope and I are two of the few sober
people in Rome tonight!”
The Roman carnival also heralded the
end of Kevin Keegan’s fine Anfield
career and many felt it would prove to
be the end of an era for the Reds. But they reckoned without Paisley’s
unique eye for talent.
The taciturn genius swooped to sign
Celtic hero Kenny Dalglish for less
than the income from Keegan’s
transfer. It was an inspirational move that
would see Dalglish go on to surpass the
achievements of Keegan and secure his
place as the undisputed King of the
“There’s never been a better bit of business than that,” beamed Liverpool
Chairman John Smith.
Few would argue with such a
statement, although Paisley’s supreme
ability in the transfer market was
nothing new to Reds fans. He had already captured the likes of
Phil Neal, Terry McDermott, Joey
Jones and David Johnson, while his
decision to switch Ray Kennedy from a
powerful striker to a left midfielder
was a masterstroke.
As he often said: “I let my side do the
talking for me.”
Indeed, what he may have lacked as an
orator, he made up for with a record on
the pitch that spoke volumes.
Few managers can claim to have brought through some of the greatest
players of the post-war era but that is
exactly what Bob did.
Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness, Alan
Kennedy, Ronnie Whelan, Ian Rush,
Craig Johnston, Mark Lawrenson, Bruce Grobbelaar, Steve Nicol – the list
With the help of these players he
soared into the stratosphere of
managerial achievement by guiding
Liverpool to two further European Cup triumphs. A win over Bruges at Wembley
in 1978 saw the Reds retain the trophy
while the mighty Real Madrid were the
victims three years later in Paris.
Paisley’s teams annexed a total of six
championships, the most remarkable being in 1978-79 when they emerged
with a record 68 points under the old
two-points-for-a-win system. The
campaign saw them concede a record
low of 16 goals in their 42 games, with
85 goals scored and only four defeats. He also guided Liverpool to a hat-trick
of League Cup successes, failing only
to land the FA Cup.
That gap in his collection was
bearable given his torrent of triumphs
and he passed command on to Joe Fagan in 1983, having amassed a
grand total of 23 Bells Managerial
On retirement, he was elected to the
board of directors and was an advisor
to Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool’s first player-manager, before being tragically
stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease.
It says it all about the great man that
three of the club’s finest servants have
no hesitation in hailing him as the
finest manager of all-time. Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen and
Graeme Souness, the world class
Scottish trio signed by Paisley and a
threesome not given to hyperbole,
unhesitatingly place him at the
management summit. “There was only one Bob Paisley and
he was the greatest of them all,” said
Dalglish. “He went through the card in
football. He played for Liverpool, he
treated the players, he coached them,
he managed them and then he became a director.”
“He could tell if someone was injured
and what the problem was just by
watching them walk a few paces. He
was never boastful but had great
football knowledge. I owe Bob more than I owe anybody else in the game.
There will never be another like him.”
Hansen agreed, declaring: “I go by
records and Bob Paisley is the No.1
While Souness saluted him thus: “When you talk of great managers
there’s one man at the top of the list
and that’s Bob Paisley.”
If that wasn’t enough, then his
achievements were summed up perfectly
by Canon John Roberts at his funeral service at St Peter’s, Woolton in
February 1996 when he saluted him as
an ordinary man of extraordinary
The world of football, not least
Liverpool FC, was enriched by his massive and exemplary contribution to
On Thursday April 8, 1999 the club
officially opened The Paisley
Gateway as an enduring monument to
this great man. His achievements in such a short
period in charge cannot be
underestimated, nor will they ever be
eclipsed and he is quite rightly
recognised, by many within the
football community, as the undisputed Manager of the Millennium.
6 EPL (75-76 , 76-77 , 78-79 ,
79-80 , 81-82 , 82-83)
3 CARLING (77 , 78 , 81)
3 UCL (77 , 78 , 81)
1 UEFA (76) 1 EROPA SUPER CUP (77)
5 C. SHIELD (76 , 77 , 79 , 80 , 82)
GAMES :: 535
WIN :: 308
DRAW :: 131
LOST :: 96
YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE