Though his mother wanted him to join the Priesthood, Mark Lawrenson embarked on a football career with his hometown club of Preston North End. Earning £30 a week, Lawrenson picked up his first international cap for Johnny Giles' Republic of Ireland. Being picked by Sir Bobby Charlton to play for his boyhood heroes may have been the stuff of dreams for Lawro, but his career was destined to head for bigger places than Deepdale.
Lawro joined Liverpool in 1981 from Brighton & Hove Albion. The Seagulls picked up the young Lawrenson for a snip. Liverpool had been in the running but hesitated in forking out, leading to a £100 move to the Goldstone Ground. Lawro benefited the most, establishing and developing himself in Alan Mullery's team under considerably less pressure than at England's finest.
Seagulls TV, the glory years 1976-1983 has archive footage of Mullery reminiscing the signing, saying:. "When I mentioned the name Mark Lawrenson, they (the Brighton board) didn't have a clue. And they said well where is he?, and I said Preston North End. And they said ' have you seen him?' And I said I'd seen him twice.
"The little lad we had up front, Peter Ward, had scored 36 goals that season, and when he played against Mark, he hadn't given him a kick in two games....And he was such a good player that we had to have him, and I said whatever it is we've got to have him.."
His footballing growth continued to spiral upwards and three seasons later Bob Paisley turned up in a cardigan and slippers to sign the Irish star for his newly crowned European Champions. In Clive Tyldesley's book ‘Bob Paisley's personal view of the first team squad of 1986/87’, Paisley labelled the versatile Lawrenson as his ‘three in one buy’ for Liverpool.
During an interview with the Guardian's Scott Murray, Lawrenson recalled the memorable encounter with arguably English football's greatest ever club manager: "He signed me for £900,000, which was a fortune in those days, dropped me off at the hotel on the Friday night and said I'll pick you up in the morning and take you to the ground.
"He turned up – they'd just won the European Cup by beating Real Madrid in Paris – in his slippers and cardigan. I was half thinking Jeremy Beadle was going to jump out from the back seat. It was like having your granddad in charge of the team."
Lawrenson got his big break after injury struck Phil Thompson, partnering Alan Hansen in the heart of the Reds defence until injury and the emergence of Gary Gillespie as a defensive lynchpin drew his Liverpool career to a close. Lawrenson appeared clumsy and ungainly, but he was hard as nails, and had great pace. His versatility allowed him to play centre back, full back and midfield for Liverpool.
Lawro won five League Championships, including a hat trick of League Cups between 1982 and 1984. During 332 total appearances for Liverpool he scored 18 goals, and also picked up a European Cup medal in 1984 along with the FA Cup during the historic all Merseyside final of 1986.
The sixth of November 1982 is an important date in Merseyside derbies. Liverpool thrashed Everton 5-0. Ian Rush took all the plaudits with his blistering four goal blitz, but it is Lawrenson who scored the cult goal now known as the ‘forgotten fifth’. His legend status means he still remains a distinct memory at Liverpool FC.
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