Fowler was the next hero of mine after King Kenny hung up his boots, and I think his stance on the dockers strike earned him much deserved popularity, but his off the field activities often got him into trouble. Billy on the other hand spent a lot of his time helping boys clubs and never made the headlines unless it was refering to a game. Why? Well he didn't drink for a start. It also wasn't the done thing to go to a nightclub in Chester and show yer ARSEnal like another favourite player of mine. Here's where someone will pick holes in this, I dont think Billy was ever booked, let alone SENT OFF and as for getting locked up by the local plod, Billy never gave anyone the opportunity or the reason.
If players think that facing the likes of some of todays hard men is a chore they should think themselves lucky because in Billy's day they would come up against some real hard nuts, the sort that would have made Tommy Smith think twice. Billy would be out there facing the likes of Stan Milburn, Frank Mountford, Eddie Clamp, Maurice Setters, Alf Ramsey and a few others, and if you haven't heard of them, ask yer Dad or Granddad. Yet despite knowing that a kicking awaited him, you'd never question the desire or commitment of Billy Liddell.
In the fifties Billy Liddell was in an elite group of players. A group that included the likes of Stan Matthews, Tom Finney and the late great Duncan Edwards. I've written before about Duncan as my old fellah still goes on about what a talent he was. OK he played for the Mancs, but according to my Dad there had never been the likes of Duncan in his time. Hence references to Stevie G being Edwards-like is very high praise indeed. Stanley was a wizzard on the wing also according to the old fellah, but very one footed and scored goals only rarely. I believe Stanley only got more praise than Billy because he was English.
These were the players that everyone wanted to see play. Although Liverpool spent a good part of that decade in the second division the fans of our rivals loved it when Liverpool were due to pay a call. So did their club's chairman and treasurer because they knew that if Billy Liddell was in the Liverpool line-up then a few extra thousand would be added to the gate! Dads would take misty-eyed sons to games and those lads would soon tell their schoolmates, "I've seen Billy Liddell" play. The reason being was that fans of teams like Bristol Rovers, Doncaster Rovers, Grimsby or Leyton Orient didn't get too many opportunities of seeing a genuine world class player gracing their grounds. In fact to be honest in the fifties world class players weren't in great abundance anywhere on these shores, but Liverpool definitely had one.
I was a bit young to go to Anfield when Billy played, therefore never got the opportunity to watch him peel an orange with either foot (yes he was that good), but my one opportunity came at Holly Park, Garston (South Liverpool FC). Billy may have been past his sell by date, but the match will always remain special to me. It was the Billy Liddell International All Stars vs Merseyside Select XI. I'll never forget that match and the chance to see Billy play but had no momento of the game when recently, with the help of a mate Andy Roper, I was able to get hold of the programme from that match for just £6. Yes six quid! I dare not tell you how much I would have been prepared to go, you really will think I'd lost me marbles. (Special thanks once again to Andy - cheers la).
Given the history of the club for much of the second half of the twentieth century it is hard to understand that for so much of an era one man carried the hopes of the fans. But as I've said before these were the LIDDELL days and we were proud at the time to call our team LIDDELLPOOL. You see as the club slid from the level of Championship Winners to Championship contenders and Cup Finalists to having what many fans believe was our worst ever team there was only one ray of hope and that was Billy Liddell.
Once the rot had set in the decline was swift and as the press reports of the time would tell you only Billy Liddell kept the team afloat. Yes I know you've heard it all before, but you're going to hear it again and again until my fingers bleed. There was a time when one man did make a team and when one man was bigger than the club. When the inevitable relegation came there wasn't any transfer demand from Billy Liddell, there was just a determination to restore pride and status to a fallen club and Billy was determined to play his part.
He showed a LOYALTY to Liverpool unlike any player had ever done and in todays mercenary climate of playing for whoever pays the highest, Billy deserves a lot of respect and that is why so many of the older fans still sing his praises. On the other hand the club would never have dared sell him anyway because it would have led to a rebellion in the Red parts of the city and that is fact. Yet thinking back had Liverpool been brave enough and daft enough to have done just that, the money, even back then that a transfer would have commanded, would have been enough to have brought in at least three or four new players. However, such was the status and standing of Billy Liddell the idea would never have been even considered.
In September 1959 'King Billy' was presented on Sportsview with a cheque for £2,000 to mark his twenty years with the club. Yes, you're right £100 a season doesn't seem alot. However, It was a measure of his standing in the game that the BBC deemed it a worthy enough event to show on what was then Prime Time TV. Other players received awards like this, but they didn't televise them. They broke new ground that night did the BBC, and it was all for Billy Liddell. And don't forget Billy wasn't playing for one of the nation's top sides at the time, he was playing for a second division team called Liverpool.
Shortly after this Billy broke the Club appearance record and was awarded a drinks cabinet, yes, a drinks cabinet. Of course the funny thing was Billy was a teetotaller and you've got to think it was another Billy's sense of humour that picked the present. I can hear Shanks now, "make sure its got Scotch in it Billy when I come round with Nessie and the kids."
The only time I ever saw Billy Liddell at Anfield was when he strode onto the pitch at the 'Kop's Last Stand.' I was in tears, I really wish I could have seen him play when he was in his prime. I cried twice that night, anyone who could hold the tears back, when Nessie came on the pitch to roars from the Kop of "Shankly, Shankly" mustn't have had a heart. I wonder what he and the team would have achieved had he played for Shankly? I also wonder what he and the team would have achieved had he played for Paisley? I know it would have been hard to improve on Bob's record, but when Billy and Bob played together on the left for Liverpool they seemed to have a telepathic understanding.
We watch football now in an age where the also rans of the game get paid a king's ransom. We watch as other clubs honour their greats. Its a real sickener to me to see Denis Law honoured at Man Utd, after all he was the one who scored the goal that put the Mancs in Div 2 not so long back and they still honoured him!
None of them will ever be able to hold a candle to the man they called 'King Billy' and a smaller section referred to him as "William the Conquerer". God Bless you Billy, you will always have pride of place in our house mate, and I'm sure others who can remember your God given talent will always have a special place in their hearts.
One Footed Wonders of Today beware
Copyright - Wooltonian
"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."
From Liverpool Echo's match report on Blackburn – Liverpool on 22nd February 1958