Liverpool have made three wartime discoveries, players young enough to make the grade once normal times are reached again. This was proved at Anfield yesterday in a Western Regional game packing many thrills and much good football.
The star performer was Liddell, a wing forward, not yet 18. Liddell was secured from Lochgelly Violet, a Dunfermilne junior club, and played at outside-left to give a most promising display, his ball control and sense of positioning being features.
1st January 1940 - Debut for the first team vs. Crewe Alexandra (7-3)
Liddell, for instance. Carol Lewis has nothing on the S.F.A. when it comes to discoveries. Ten minutes was sufficient for this boy to play himself into these criticial, hard-beating Hampden hearts. He took the equalizer with a lovely timed header. But it was the way he had in the second goal which put him in the Maestro class.
Liddell did the spadework and Dodds did the finishing for what must be one of the greatest goals Hampden has ever seen. The outstripping of the defence, the quick pass with the "wrong" foot, and then Dodds' glorious first-timer. What a goal!
18th April 1942 - Scotland wartime debut
Willie Liddell's presence on Athletic's team at Methil acted like a blood transfusion. Revived, reinvigorated, the East Enders made a fine come-back. I'ts no reflection on the Athletic when I say the Liverpool and Scottish international player was the driving force behind their victory. His inclusion had a magical effect, and the depression centred over Athletic's recent displays vanished. Taking their cue from the Townhill lad, the team responded in a manner which surprised friend and foe alike.
[Dunfermilne Athletic eventually went on to win 5-1, the key player being the 22-year-old Liddell.] "Last but by no means least, I come to Willie Liddell. The psychological effect which this player produced on his team-mates, was, in my opinion, an elevating one. His presence at a time when they were "down in the dumps" acted like a tonic, and the response was no half-hearted one. Space will not permit to enumerate all the strong points on Willie's game, and will content myself by saying he had that touch of class which goes to make international players.
22nd November 1944 - During war-time, Liddell featured for several other teams than Liverpool. This is a report from when he starred for Dunfermilne Athletic vs East Fife.
Stop Billy Liddell! Those will be Everton manager Cliff Britton's final words to his players when they leave their dressing-room to tackle Liverpool in the Second Cup semi-final at Maine Road, Manchester on Saturday.
Stop Billy Liddell and the Liverpool forward line loses its rhythm. This has been proved twice in the past week - when Aston Villa right back Harry Parkes clung to him like a leech and when Manchester United's Johnny Carey played him out of the mid-week game.
Each time the Liverpool attack was reduced to a limp. All the clever ball play of centre-forward Albert Stubbins, the lightning right-wing dashes of young Jimmy Payne and the efforts of inside men Fagan and Baron seemed to go nowhere when without the Lion of Liddell.
He is the man with a kick like a horse and a goaldash like a rocket. Given half a chance and the narrowest gap he can cut through at breakneck speed and find the net before the defence has time to close in.
Preview for Liverpool - Everton FA Cup semi-final on 25th March 1950. Everton couldn't stop Liddell who scored Liverpool's second goal after Bob Paisley had netted the first. Liverpool won 2-0.
The trouble was not cleared and Liverpool advanced again. Payne had gone flying down the wing and only Liddell had kept up with the pace of this speedy winger. As the ball came across, Liddell had switched inside to the centre forward position and his diving header crashed against the bar, only to be picked up close to the half way line by Paisley. This time Baron made a cute pass to Smith who, with outstretched leg, directed the ball against the upright. The ball came out and LIDDELL soon had it in the net at the 10th minute. I swear one day when Liddell fires the ball in from this range it will either burst the net or will seriously injure a goalkeeper.
LIDDELL was there at centre forward again to crack home another canon round in the 17th minute. This time the goalkeeper was not within close proximity and the net caught another flood blooded shot. This time the referee took a close inspection of the net as it appeared to be ripped off the hooks behind the bar.
LIDDELL took the kick himself and recorded his hat-trick with a shot that Ditchburn could only watch go speeding into the net, at the pace of a bullet. He could have dived and tried to save the shot, but chose to stand still and avoid any injury. At this point you must ask yourself the question, would you get in the way of a Liddell penalty? No, I thought not, therefore you cannot blame the Spurs keeper for his actions or lack of them.
1st December 1951 - From Liverpool Echo's match report on Tottenham - Liverpool
When the ball came out of the crowd the referees attention was drawn to some defect in the ball. Seemingly Billy had burst the ball with his head, so the ref had to call for a new ball. I know I have written many things over the years watching football, but never have I seen a ball burst with the power of a header. Liddell was known for bursting balls with both his right and left feet, but with his head? I guess that's just another bit of footballing history from Liddell, that will eventually have people in the future doubting the power of this man.
On the 65th minute, Jackson laid the foundations of the goal with a cross field pass to A'Court. The winger ran in, squared the ball to Anderson, who looked up and found LIDDELL stood menacingly on the penalty spot ........, BANG, WHOOOOSH, I swear blind I didn't see the ball going in, all I saw was it rebounding off the goal stanchion, it came out at the speed of a bullet, what speed must have it been going on the way in? Until someone comes up with a way to measure the speed of shots, we can only call it "Liddell Pace". No one can hit a ball harder than Billy, its like comparing the speed of a spin bowler with that of a pace bowler. Fulham once again complained to the referee about the goal. We will never know why, it will probably go down as a complaint because Billy hit the ball too hard, or at least that's what the Kop will say.
18th September 1954 - From Liverpool Echo's match report on Liverpool - Fulham
It was as so many Liverpool victories have been, Billy Liddell's game. This great footballer steered the team to a two-goal lead from centre forward and when centre half Laurie Hughes was injured in the second half, he moved to left half. He then proved that he was Liverpool's best defender as well as their best forward. He picked off the Everton moves like ripe plums and still had time to make a goal.
29th January 1955 - From Sunday Express' match report when Second division Liverpool won first division Everton 4-0 at Goodison Park in the 4th round of the FA Cup
As the light faded both sides fought grimly to win the game, Forest showing a determination that had to be praised. Ten minutes from the end Evans broke for Liverpool, down the centre of the pitch, his shot was only parried by Nicholson and Liddell "Chipped" in from an acute angle. Not known for his deftness, it was a delight to see Billy get his second goal, the crowd looked amused as they were used to thunderbolts from the big Scot.
But his dogged determination in the second half inspired Liverpool. Two minutes from time the crowd seen the nasty side of Forest and the tackles became x-rated. A tackle on A'Court is the worst I've seen this season. From the free kick Liddell hit the keeper with a pile driver and it went over the bar off the keepers outstretched arm, little did we know at the time but it had fractured Nicholson's right arm.
From the resulting A'Court corner Liddell headed home his third and Liverpool's FIFTH, with only a minute left the game was over. Liddell had inspired Liverpool to victory in a spell in the game when Forest turned nasty and it was good to see sportsmanship triumph over what can only be described as "Filth". The highlights of the game were the display of the debutant Melia and Liddell's brilliant second half hat-trick.
17th December 1955 - From Liverpool Echo's match report on Liverpool - Nottingham Forest
I don't know what was said to both teams at half time, but I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall in either dressing room. The second half exploded from the kick off and FOUR goals were scored in a FOUR minute period. In the 47th minute Murdoch squared the ball and Taylor had it under control, but fiddled so long with it that Liddell nipped in from behind him, took it right of his toe and hooked it into the net from 30 yds. This was a typical Liddell goal, get the ball, shoot and score, little fuss or ado and a fitting reward for his determination and persistence. The keeper just watched as it sailed over his head into the net. The look that Leyland gave to Taylor was priceless.
Within two minutes however, Blackburn had struck back. A corner was taken by McLeod, and Douglas and Clayton both went for it as the ball came floating over near the six yard line. As far as I could see it was Douglas who connected and though the ball was headed away by White off the line, the referee decided it had crossed the line before being cleared. If this wasn't bad enough straight from the kick off Stephenson stole the ball off Harrow, ran toward the Liverpool goal and chipped the ball over Younger as he advanced.
Liverpool had to kick off twice within a minute, but this time, Liddell passed to Murdoch, who returned the ball to Liddell. Liddell went passed Vernon with a dropped shoulder, passed the lunging McGrath, hurdled over a desperate tackle by Eckersley, kept the ball under control and thumped it from 25 yds out. Leyland again looked shocked at what he had just seen, but just shook his head and picked the ball out of the net. Liddell's thump had flew past him at the speed of light and in his wake lay four Blackburn players still picking themselves up. The crowd was so silent, you could here a pin drop, no one could believe their eyes, the reds could, we've seen it all before, but this must go down as the hardest hit of Liddell's career. So the score was two all and only 50 minutes had now elapsed.
People will talk about this Liddell hat-trick for some time a right footed hook, a left footed thunderbolt and a deft header. All the thrills came in the second half and Liverpool fought back twice from being down to level terms. Liddell was the hero. He scored one of the best hat-tricks this writer has ever seen and fought like a demon for every ball.
22nd February 1958 - From Liverpool Echo's match report on Blackburn - Liverpool
On the field, a hammer of a winger and a bludgeon of centre forward.
Off the field, this Anfield star with a Henry Cooper sock in either foot, is an accountant, lecturer, Sunday School tresurer-teacher, part-time journalist and volunteer boy's club worker. During the war in between playing 30-bob-a-week for his club and representative sides, he was an R.A.F. Pathfinder navigator with the rank of pilot officer. And now to cap this remarkable record of service, Billy Liddell has been appointed a Justice of the Peace. His name was recently included among a list of new Liverpool magistrates announced by the Duchy of Lancaster.
19th of October 1958 - Article by Alan Hoby
The match-winner who became king
Behind a paper-strewn desk high in Student's Union building, two famous feet twitched. Feet that belonged to the original, uncrowned king of football lore - Billy Liddell. Feet of power and romance that longed for the old days as their owner reflected on past affairs of plunder.
Now he spends his days signing the accounts, checking figures and helping run the financial side of the Guild of Undergraduates.
It is said that when Liddell called at the Anfield ground one day last year, five years after the close of his career - work stopped on the new stand that was being built. 'There's Billy Liddell', a navvy gasped. To a man they removed their industrial helmets, clutched them reverently to their waists and bowed their heads. The old master was passing through.
30th November 1966 - From Sunday Express
Bottles, it has been said have been poised, waiting mouths left high, dry and unslaked as men in their Spion Kop hundreds have halted in silent expectation as Liddell burst through the opposing defence. On such occasions, it has also been said, normally sensible men have greeted the resultant goal by hurling still nearly full bottles into the air and others have been too stunned by the glory of the goal to catch them. Liddell, lifelong teetotaller though he is, would appeciate the compliment. There could be none finer, nor none more deserved.
2nd of July 1967 News of the World
Some contend it was the very successes enjoyed by the later Liverpool sides of the likes of Souness, Dalglish and Hansen which meant Liddell remained relatively unheralded, although those who watched Liverpool play in the Liddell-pool days have no trouble hailing him. Even those who didn’t see him in the flesh have been bequeathed the views of their fathers. "It is not negotiable," said Stephen Done, the curator of the Liverpool FC museum. "Billy Liddell is the greatest ever Liverpool player. End of discussion."
4th November 2004 - From The Scotsman, the occasion being when a memorial plaque of Billy Liddell was unveiled at Anfield
The Liddell family were represented at the event in Glasgow by Billy's son Malcolm, who received the award on Billy's behalf and members of the Billy Liddell Memorial Group, which had put a lot of work into getting Billy into the SFA Hall of Fame.
The sports facilities at Townhill Park will be renamed the Billy Liddell Sports Complex and it is also hoped that a commemorative cairn and community garden celebrating Billy's achievements will be open by the summer of 2009. These will be sited off Main Street just opposite the cottage where Billy grew up.
SFA museum curator Richard McBrearty said, "This is a great day for Fife and a great achievement for the people who signed the petition, backed the campaign and got Billy Liddell on to the Hall of Fame shortlist.
"There was a great deal of support and to be honest, once that support had put Billy Liddell's name on the short list, his achievements spoke for themselves. For it to happen so long after his playing days says it all about the way he is still regarded in Fife and in Liverpool."
West Fife MSP and keen football fan John Park said, "In the modern game he would be on a par with Steven Gerrard or Kenny Dalglish. Despite being a Liverpool legend I was conscious that not enough people knew of Billy in his home town. The progress made in the last year to have him properly recognised has been a fantastic local campaign which I have been pleased to support."
Chairman of the Billy Liddell Memorial Group, Councillor Bill McCulloch said: "I thank everyone who helped make this possible. However, we still have more work to do and more objectives to complete, so our work continues."
On 16th November, 2008 the Scottish Football Association inducted Billy Liddell into SFA Hall of Fame.
"Although a Liverpool player at the time, Matt still retained many connections with Manchester City and his former colleagues at Maine Road. During the summer he and Alex Herd used to play golf together back home in Scotland. One day Alex did not turn up for their usual round, and upon making inquiries from him later Matt learned that he had taken Willie McAndrew, the manager of Hamilton Academicals, in his car to see my parents about getting me to sign for his old club. On being told by Alex that I had turned down the invitation Matt immediately telephoned Mr. George Kay at Anfield and suggested that this Liddell lad might be worth an inquiry. 'Liddell eventually became a Liverpool player, a very fortunate day for Liverpool', says Matt, who goes on to add some complimentary remarks about me which are best left unsaid here. But let me add it was also a very fortunate day for Billy Liddell."
Billy did not know who had recommended him to Liverpool, but found out when he read Matt Busby's book later on his Liverpool career