Football

Liverpool legends don’t come much bigger than Billy

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It was in 1938 that a teenaged William Beveridge ‘Billy’ Liddell left Lochgelly Violet in Dunfermline and joined the ranks of the Anfield greats.

The flying Scotsman, a RAF navigator during World War II, was hit by the thunderbolt – he instantly fell in love with Liverpool FC. What’s more, Liverpool fell in love with him.

Liddell was an exceptional player, and his golden boots topped the Anfield goalscorers charts for eight of the nine seasons that he spent at this worldwide footballing institution. Such was his influence that the Reds were rebranded with the coining of the nickname ‘Liddellpool’.

His signing by the Reds makes interesting reading. Liddell was signed by George Kay after a recommendation by a Liverpool player. The teammate who heard of Liddell and referred to Kay and the club chief scout was none other than a young Sir Matt Busby.

The 50s were a gloomy period in the history of Liverpool FC. The club was relegated from the top flight, and could possibly have slunk into the depths of the third tier of English football. It was the brazen talent, dedication and showmanship of stalwarts like Liddell that continued to ensure that the club remained steady during the storms, and Reds continued to flock en masse to Anfield.

Liddell was a master craftsman; tricky, agile, yet strong as a rampaging bull. Athletic, lithe, and a perfect example of the iron fist in a velvet glove. He scored goals for fun and was instrumental in the way Liverpool played. He was a humble man and steadfastly refused to accept that he carried the team. It seemed Liddell was built of granite, and Bill Shankly once even referred to his great strength and his “nineteen – inch collar shirt.” Those who witnessed him play are adamant that he is the greatest footballer to have graced the club colours.

Like Jocky Hansen, Liddell (also a Liverpool captain) was criminally underused by bonny Scotland, achieving a mere 28 caps. A particular international highlight was scoring against the Auld Enemy. He netted an equaliser during Scotland’s 5-4 victory over England at a parked Hampden Park.

Liddell joined Liverpool in 1938 and retired in 1961. By 1957 he had surpassed the club appearance record set by the great Elisha Scott. He became the clubs oldest ever goal scorer, and after King Kenny, is the second oldest player to represent Liverpool.

A monster of an act to follow, Liddell was eventually replaced by a mightily talented winger called Ian Callaghan. The teenaged Callaghan filled Liddell’s huge boots with distinction, and eventually ended up breaking his club appearance record.

With total commitment as a community activist, Liddell refused to enjoy a life of retired leisure. He spent the rest of his days serving the people, through voluntary work, bursar at Liverpool University, and as a Justice of the Peace.

Liddell died in 2001. A posthumous plaque was unveiled at Anfield in 2004, and Liddell was voted sixth by Liverpool fans in a poll titled "100 Players Who Shook The Kop". The Scottish F.A followed suit and in 2008 inducted Liddell into the hall of fame.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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