As a sprightly 15-year-old from Toxteth, Cally signed on the dotted line for a ‘tenner’, and was earmarked by Billy Liddell as the prospect most capable of filling his massive boots. At 18 he took to the field for his first outing. Liddell was proving hard to follow, and the youngster was the 9th player Shankly tried in the problematical outside right position.
Cally was a duck to water, replacing his hero and notching up a gargantuan appearances record during 19 years at his beloved Liverpool.
Remembering his debut he said: “Like everybody else in Liverpool I was very much aware of the respect the great Billy Liddell commanded and it was awesome to realise I was taking over from him. He was a great man who offered me good advice and was always very nice to me.”
And what a debut it was! The result - a 4-0 rout of Bristol Rovers left Graham Fisher of the Daily Express purring that the new number 7's bow ‘was the most accomplished league debut I've had the pleasure to witness’.
Cally won a Second Division Championship medal in 1962. With Peter Thompson on the left flank and Cally on the right there was ammunition aplenty for St John and Hunt. Cally’s pinpoint cross was headed in by the Saint to win the 1965 FA Cup against Leeds United.
Cally was also a 1966 World Cup winning squad member, providing the assist for Roger Hunt’s clincher during the 2-0 defeat of the French.
The year 1970 was a personal turning point for the prowling right winger who after a career defining operation relinquished his wide berth for a central midfield slot. Cally's intelligence enabled him to adapt immediately to change. He displayed an ability to spray accurate passes and execute timely tackles. The change was the spur needed to add longevity to his Anfield career.
In 1977 Cally became the only Liverpool player to have gone from Second Division to European Cup winner. The 35-year-old also held the merit of being the only Liverpool player who had played during the clubs first European outing in 1964.
Cally has the enviable experience of transcending two golden eras in the Reds history – replacing Liddell and seeing in the Dalglish era before the end of his Reds career.
Cally was a mild mannered gentleman with a temperament to diffuse the most explosive encounters. He was never sent off and booked just once in his entire career.
Bill Shankly said of his young protégé: "If there were eleven Ian Callaghan’s at this club, there would never be any need to put up a team sheet.” Shankly added. “He typifies everything that is good in football, and he has never changed. You could stake your life on Ian.”
Between 1960 and 1978 the humble Callaghan collected five championships medals, two FA Cups, two European Cups, and two UEFA Cups, scoring 69 goals. A not so well known piece of trivia is when Cally made history when selected for his third international cap 11 years after his previous outing against France during the 1966 World Cup. It is still the lengthiest ever gap between England appearances.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo about the man who became the most decorated member of England's 1966 World Cup winning squad, Jamie Carragher paid tribute to the Anfield stalwart: “When I think of you, Ian, playing all the way from the old Second Division to a European Cup final, that's some achievement,” said Carragher.
“I'm still trying to work out how you made 857 appearances! My target is to reach 700 and then I'd be second to you.”
Robert Galvin, the author of The Football Hall of Fame, the official book of the National Football Museum reproduces a quote from Bob Paisley: “If every player in the game was like Ian Callaghan there would be no managers left, simply because they would not be needed.
“To call him a great professional does not do him justice. In addition to his outstanding playing qualities, he never lost his temper, never got ruffled, never shouted the odds, and never got carried away with anything.
“Add it all up and you are left with a true role model, an example of what all youngsters should aspire to. I knew Ian from the first time he came to the club in the 1950s, and his character and personality never changed. As a man and a player they come no greater than Ian Callaghan.”
Replaced by man mountain Graeme Souness, Cally went onto enjoy spells with Toshack at Swansea – winning two promotions, Cork and Crewe – where he set a FA Cup appearances record of 88. He retired just before his fortieth birthday.
To gauge an understanding of Cally's on field prowess and his worth in the modern game I refer to Tommy Smith's comment taken from his Liverpool Post column where he penned: “The game against Wigan last weekend may have ended in disappointment but it did give us the chance to see Luis Suarez in action in his full debut.
"And I really liked what I saw. He reminds me of Ian Callaghan the way he darts about and is so full of energy, something so many of our players lacked earlier this season.”
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