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William Beveridge "Billy" Liddell (10 January 1922 – 3 July 2001) was a Scottish footballer who played his entire professional career with Liverpool FC. He signed with the club as a teenager in 1938 and retired in 1961, having scored 228 goals in 534 appearances (placing Liddell fourth and 11th in the respective club rankings as of October 2008). He became Liverpool's leading goalscorer in eight out of nine seasons from 1949 to 1958, and surpassed two league appearance records: Elisha Scott's club total in 1957 and Ted Sagar's league milestone of 463 matches in 1959.

With Liverpool, Liddell won a league championship in 1947 and featured in the club's 1950 FA Cup Final defeat to Arsenal. He represented Scotland at international level on 28 occasions. While serving as a Royal Air Force navigator during the Second World War, Liddell continued his career by appearing in unofficial games for Liverpool and guesting for various teams in the United Kingdom and Canada. After his retirement from football, Liddell occupied himself as a Justice of the Peace (from 1958), bursar of Liverpool Universitymarker, and voluntary worker. He died in 2001.

Primarily a left winger, Liddell's versatility enabled him to play comfortably on the opposite flank, as a centre forward, and inside forward. Liddell became noted for his strong physique, acceleration, powerful shot, professionalism, and good conduct on the pitch. Such was his influence and popularity that the club acquired the contemporary nickname "Liddellpool". Posthumous recognition has included a plaque unveiled in 2004 at Anfield Stadiummarker and sixth place in a poll of Liverpool fans conducted in 2006 under the title 100 Players Who Shook The Kop.

Early life

Townhill, located near Dunfermline
Born in Townhillmarker, near Dunfermlinemarker, Liddell was the eldest of coal miner James and wife Montgomery's six children. During his childhood, Liddell experienced austerity and poverty, with his family often having to subsist on bread, kail, and salt porridge. His parents became resolutely determined that he would not become a miner and helped him to decide a future career. He did not originally consider football as a viable profession and ultimately chose accountancy in preference to the civil service and church. His interest in football had developed at a young age which persuaded his parents, despite their financial difficulties, to buy him a pair of football boots as a Christmas present when he asked for them at seven. Liddell's participation in organised football began at age eight when he joined his school team, which had an average age of ten.

As a pupil at Dunfermline High School, Liddell became a reluctant rugby player, under the guidance of retired Welsh international Ronnie Boon, while continuing to play football for local teams and Scotland Schoolboys. By the age of 16, Liddell had progressed sufficiently to earn a contract with Lochgelly Violet and be sought after by Liverpool, Hamilton Academical, and Partick Thistle. Liverpool manager George Kay became interested in signing Liddell on the recommendation of defender Matt Busby, who learned of the teenager on a golf trip with Alex Herd after the latter forwent one of their rounds to take Willie McAndrew, manager of Hamilton, to watch him play for Lochgelly. When Busby asked for an explanation, Herd told him a contract had not been agreed because limited resources prevented Hamilton from offering Liddell the assurances his parents insisted upon. Instead, Liddell signed for Liverpool as an amateur and became a professional in 1939 on a weekly wage of £3. Negotiations between his parents and the club guaranteed, as a pre-requisite to acceptance, that Liverpool would permit Liddell to continue his studies and be employed part-time as an accountant for a local company.

Liddell entered the youth team on his arrival in 1938. Before he established himself in the side, Liddell had been frustrated at the frequent rotation of players until trainer Albert Shelley advised him to be patient. An injury incurred in a match against Blackburn Roversmarker threatened to end his career prematurely when he struck his knee against concrete near the corner flag after being challenged while running with the ball. Doctors informed him of the extent of tissue damage, causing Liddell anxiety about his future, and he remained in Blackburnmarker for two weeks, living in the family home of a colleague, before he could return to Liverpool to continue his recovery. The Second World War precluded a debut for Liddell, as the Football Association suspended competitive football from the abandoned 1939–1940 season and instituted a regional system in its place. Until the cessation of hostilities in 1945, Liddell guested for various domestic sides when unavailable for Liverpool and represented select teams, including a Football Association XI and Scottish Services XI. Liddell was capped eight times for Scotland during the war and on his debut scored in a 5–4 win over England in 1942.

With Liverpool, Liddell competed in the various regional leagues that the FA assigned the club to and scored 82 goals in 152 matches. He had debuted on 1 January 1940 against Crewe Alexandramarker, scoring after two minutes in a 7–3 win. In his formative years, Liddell credited Matt Busby and Berry Nieuwenhuys as significant influences. He volunteered for the Royal Air Force and, despite wanting to qualify as a pilot, was trained as a navigator because of his proficiency at mathematics. After being mobilised in December 1942, Liddell guested with Chelsea and Cambridge Town. He broke his leg in a friendly kickabout while stationed in Bridgnorthmarker, which required admission to the RAF Remedial Centre at Blackpoolmarker. Following his recovery, Liddell travelled to Canada to complete a course at the Central Navigation School and became a pilot officer navigator. While on leave, he was used as a substitute for Toronto Scottish under an assumed name and scored twice in a semi-final play-off before being recalled to Monctonmarker prior to the final. After some seven months in Canada, Liddell returned to Britain and, when based in Perthmarker in 1944, accepted an offer to guest for his boyhood favourites Dunfermline Athletic. He subsequently moved to Northern Ireland for further training where he declined an offer from former Liverpool goalkeeper Elisha Scott to guest for Belfast Celtic because of a prior agreement to play for Linfield. By the end of the war, Liddell had been assigned to 617 Squadron and helped to transport Allied soldiers on leave from Italy to Britain.




Liddell's official debut came in the third round of the FA Cup, the first competitive tournament to be organised in post-war England. He started in the first leg against Chester City on 5 January 1946 and scored his first goal in the 30th minute. The match ended in a 2–0 win and featured several additional debutants, including Bob Paisley who would forge a chemistry with Liddell as a left half. League football completed its first full season under the provisional North and South divisional system, which facilitated the restoration of national football for the 1946–47 season. Although he had become a regular in the North League, scoring 17 goals in 42 matches, Liddell had yet to be discharged from the RAF and did not accompany Liverpool during their post-season tour of North America in May 1946. His unavailability extended to pre-season training and the first two matches of the 1946–47 season. On 7 September, Liddell registered his first official league appearance for Liverpool and scored twice in a 7–4 defeat of Chelsea.

In his inaugural season of competitive football, Liddell established himself in the senior team and contributed to Liverpool's first championship since 1923. Positioned on the left wing, he appeared in 34 matches, scored seven goals, and supplied strikers Albert Stubbins and Jack Balmer with numerous assists. Severe conditions in the winter disrupted the league's schedule and the title was not secured until 14 June 1947 when a fixture between Sheffield United and Stoke City decided the championship, contested between Liverpool and Stoke. The league game coincided with the Senior Cup Final between Liverpool and Everton and tannoys at Anfield announced before the final's conclusion, to the delight of supporters, that Sheffield United had won 2–1 and made Liverpool champions. As a strict teetotaler, Liddell refrained from accepting glasses of champagne to celebrate the success.

Liverpool were unable to replicate their league success in the 1947–48 season and occupied 11th place on its conclusion in May 1948. The club subsequently embarked on a second tour of North America, playing against domestic sides and Sweden's Djurgården in exhibition matches. Guaranteed $30,000 for the tour, Liverpool became the first side to play another foreign club in the United States. Liddell's displays against Djurgården, played at the Brooklyn Dodgers' Ebbets Fieldmarker, and the North American teams earned him praise from journalists and gained him 13 goals in 11 matches. In the 1948–49 season, Liddell occupied left back and four forward positions. During his career, he would fill all ten outfield roles, mostly because of injuries to other players. Liddell's brother, Tom, became a teammate in 1949 after Liverpool signed him from Lochore Welfare but never represented the club as a senior. Club performance improved in the 1949–50 season as the team established a new record for longest undefeated sequence at 19 matches; however, Liverpool finished their league campaign in eighth, five points behind champions Portsmouth. Liverpool ended their season at Wembleymarker, having reached the FA Cup Final.

Liddell had been at the forefront of the club's progression through each round to ensure their first ever appearance at Wembley, playing in all seven games and scoring twice. Demand for tickets far exceeded supply. More than 100,000 applications were made for the club's allocation of only 8,000 tickets. When played on 29 April 100,000 spectators were in attendance to witness Arsenal defeat Liverpool 2–0. Constant marking by Alex Forbes had contained the Liverpool winger for much of the 90 minutes, and a tackle executed early in the game caused Liddell pain. Journalist Brian Glanville questioned Arsenal's tactics and recalled being told by Liddell that he had been unable to put his jacket on the next day. Subsequent match reports by the media accused Forbes of acting with malice in his marking of the winger, which Liddell and Wally Barnes refuted. Liddell, who had scored 20 goals in all competitions, returned to Liverpool with his club after a trip to Brightonmarker to be greeted by thousands of supporters.

In 1950, Liddell became one of many players to be offered a transfer to Colombiamarker by agents representing Independiente Santa Fe and Club Deportivo Los Millonarios. The clubs belonged to the DIMAYOR, unrecognised by FIFAmarker because of a dispute between the league and the domestic governing body. Restrictions in England limited the weekly wage to £12 in the season and £10 during the summer and impeded a player's ability to transfer to another club, which caused much discontent in British football until the system was reformed in the 1960s. Liddell chose to reject the contract offer, reportedly estimated at £12,000; his wife Phyllis later attributed the decision to club loyalty and the recent birth of twins. He later recalled how tempting the proposal had been and acknowledged a decision would have more challenging to make had it not been for the births. Many footballers did accept the contract offers, among them Alfredo Di Stefano, Bobby Flavell, Neil Franklin, Billy Higgins, Charlie Mitten, George Mountford, and Hector Rial.

Liverpool manager George Kay resigned in January 1951 because of declining health and was replaced by former guest player Don Welsh. Before Kay's resignation, Liverpool had not recorded a win in ten matches between September and November until Liddell scored a deciding goal in a 1–0 defeat of Chelsea in December. The inconsistency continued for the rest of the season and Liverpool lost 3–1 to Third Division South Norwich City in the FA Cup third round. Liverpool arranged to tour Swedenmarker at the end of the season and Eddie Spicer broke his leg in a 4–1 win against Malmö. The club again underperformed in the 1951–52 season, in which Liddell scored a goal against Huddersfield Town described by contemporary media as the "shot of a lifetime" and reported in detail by the Liverpool Echo. When awarded a free kick outside the penalty box, Liverpool opted to have Kevin Baron take it instead of Liddell as was usual. Baron passed it to Liddell who struck the ball with such force after a momentary pause that the shot surprised the Huddersfield defence and goalkeeper Harry Mills, and silenced spectators. Still played as a winger, Liddell finished the season with 19 goals in 40 league appearances. Liverpool only avoided relegation in the 1952–53 season by defeating Chelsea in the club's final fixture in April 1953.


Liverpool's decline culminated in relegation to the Second Division in the 1953–54 season; Liverpool finished bottom of the table with 28 points. They had conceded 97 goals and for a period of 14 months failed to record an away win in 24 consecutive matches – a sequence broken in April 1954 against Manchester City. Despite the club's descent, Liddell elected to stay rather than accept a lucrative transfer. The prospect of a second relegation dominated Liverpool's thoughts at one stage in the 1954–55 season after the initial object of an immediate return to the First Division proved unrealistic. Moved into the centre forward position, Liddell scored 30 goals in 40 league appearances, in a season in which teammate John Evans scored 29. Liverpool's heaviest defeat came on 11 December 1954 in a 9–1 loss to Birmingham City. To confound the sporting media, Liverpool went on to defeat Everton 4–0 in January in an FA Cup fourth round fixture at Goodison Parkmarker in the presence of 72,000 fans. Goals from Liddell, A'Court, and Evans secured the win over the match favourites, with Liddell being characterised by the Liverpool Echo as "inspirational". While the team's away performances improved, Liverpool were eliminated from the competition in the next round by Huddersfield Town and ended the season in 11th, the lowest league placement in the club's history.

Liddell assumed the captaincy in the 1955–56 season, in succession to Laurie Hughes. Although the club challenged for promotion and finished third, the directors decided to dismiss Don Welsh and appoint former player Phil Taylor. Liddell scored 32 goals in the league and cup and could have had one more against Manchester City in a fifth round replay at Anfield that Liverpol lost 2–1. Seconds before full time, Manchester City were dispossessed and Liddell advanced from the halfway line to Bert Trautmann's goal and struck in the penalty box, reportedly just as the referee signalled to end the match. Along with Trautmann and many other players, Liddell had been unaware of the full-time whistle and Liverpool's supporters stayed in expectation of extra time until an announcement informed them of the scoreline. The following season, Liverpool again contested the two promotion berths but finished a single point behind second-placed Nottingham Forest. While injuries to Bimpson and Brian Jackson meant Liddell played much of the season as a right winger and inside right, he retained his place as the club's leading scorer with 21 goals. Promotion eluded the club in the 1957–58 season by two places and a margin of three points. Liddell surpassed Elisha Scott's record of 430 league appearances (then erroneously believed to be 429) in November 1957 to acclaim by the media. In recalling the match against Notts County, which it transpired only equalled the record, Liddell confessed to having felt self-conscious because of the attention that he received while appreciative of the respect shown to his achievement, especially from his opponents, managed by friend Tommy Lawton.

As he approached the twilight of his career, Liddell slowed as a player and his appearances from the 1958–59 season became infrequent. He sought to mitigate his declining pace by adopting a deeper approach with a "more thoughtful passing game". His omission from the lineup for the match against Fulham, in which Louis Bimpson replaced him, provoked criticism from the club's supporters with some opposition being expressed via letters to the city's newspapers. Bimpson scored and Liddell's exclusion and relegation to the reserves attracted the interest of Merseymarker neighbours New Brightonmarker, who approached him with an offer to become player-manager, which both he and the club rejected. After one start in November, Liddell returned to the senior squad in March 1959 for his 466th league appearance, which the footballing community believed would surpass Ted Sagar's record of 465. Liddell scored two goals in a 3–2 win over Barnsley at Anfield but later learnt that Sagar's accepted total had been the result of a statistical error with the correct figure being 463. During his absence, Liverpool unexpectedly succumbed to part-time Worcester City in the third round of the FA Cup. Liddell had played in 40 consecutive cup fixtures but his involvement in the 2–1 defeat to Worcester had been limited to the studding of his colleagues' boots.

When the club began to struggle in the 1959–60 season, Phil Taylor resigned to be replaced by Bill Shankly in December 1959. Having missed the season opener in August, Liddell replaced Bimpson for the match against Bristol City and scored a brace in a 4–2 win in which he had numerous chances to complete a hat-trick, among them two disallowed goals and a penalty taken by Jimmy Melia which the crowd had urged Liddell to take. He continued to be selected until an injury sustained in September granted Roger Hunt the opportunity to score on his debut against Scunthorpe United in the league. Recurring injury further disrupted Liddell's season after his return against Middlesbrough and damage to knee ligaments in October rendered him unavailable for four months. After his recovery, Shankly selected Liddell for a game against Derby County in February which the referee abandoned because of fog. He completed the next match, against Plymouth Argyle, and played in ten successive games, scoring his final goal for the club in a 5–1 defeat of Stoke in March.

For the match against Bristol Rovers in April, Liddell was replaced by an 18-year-old Ian Callaghan, considered by the former to be his successor. Callaghan received a standing ovation at the end of the match and would ultimately break Liddell's appearances record as a participant in 640 league matches on his departure in 1978. Liddell's last appearance in the league came in the 1960-–61 season in a 1–0 defeat to Southampton, which gave him the distinction of being the oldest footballer to play for the club in a senior match (at 38 years and 224 days) until Kenny Dalglish in 1990. To recognise his 22-year service, Liverpool organised a testimonial in September between the club and an International XI at Anfield which attracted an attendance of 38,789. The match generated £6,340 in revenue, enabling Liddell to purchase a home. He ended his career in the reserves and played his final game on 29 April 1961, scoring one of his side's five goals against Blackburn. As of 2008, Liddell remains the oldest player to score for Liverpool (at 38 years and 55 days), and is ranked as the club's fourth highest goalscorer, bettered only by Ian Rush, Roger Hunt, and Gordon Hodgson.


Liddell debuted for Scotland in a 5–4 wartime win over England at Hampden Parkmarker in which he nullified Tommy Lawton's opening goal. He gained several more wartime caps and four goals, two of which were registered against Switzerland in a 3–1 win. On 19 October 1946, Liddell officially represented Scotland in a British Home Championship match against Wales at the Racecourse Groundmarker. At international level, Liddell was predominantly played as an outside left, in competition with Lawrie Reilly and Willie Ormond who were contracted to clubs in Scotland. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) denied Liddell and his teammates the opportunity to participate in the 1950 World Cup, hosted by Brazil, because of an earlier decision not to sanction involvement as British Home Championship runners-up. Football's governing organisation FIFA had offered to include the championship's first and second placed sides in the World Cup but the SFA's decision meant qualification depended on its final match against England on 25 May 1950. At Hampden Park, before a crowd of more than 130,000, Scotland conceded the game's solitary goal to Roy Bentley in the 63rd minute, when only a draw had been required to secure joint first-place. Despite pressure from players, the SFA maintained their position and the country did not enter the tournament.

Qualification for the 1954 World Cup remained identical; however, the SFA decided to authorise World Cup participation regardless of whether Scotland were winners or runners-up in the British Home Championship. Liddell had been omitted from Scotland's starting lineup after a 3–3 draw with Wales and did not accompany the team to Switzerland. The team struggled in the World Cup and lost their two matches 1–0 and 7–0 to Austria and Uruguay respectively. Scotland's first manager, Andy Beattie, resigned in protest because of the SFA's continued interference in team selection. Having been overlooked for four matches that followed the competition, Liddell was re-called by the SFA after a humiliating 7–2 loss to England at Wembley. Liddell returned as an outside left and scored one of Scotland's three goals against Portugal on 4 May 1955. His involvement in the tour of Yugoslavia, Austria and Hungary later in the month proved eventful. In a 2–2 draw with Yugoslavia, Liddell received a black eye when accidentally punched by goalkeeper Vladimir Beara while attempting a header. He scored his last goal for Scotland in an ill-tempered 4–1 win over Austria at Praterstadionmarker, where a brief pitch invasion involving a large number of supporters reportedly resulted in altercations between players and fans. Late in the match against Hungary, Liddell missed his second penalty for Scotland while the side were losing 3–1 to the "Golden Team". During his career with Liverpool, Liddell converted 36 of his 44 penalties.

Liddell became one of only two players (the other being Stanley Matthews) to twice be selected for a Great Britain XI when he played against the Rest of Europe in 1947 and 1955. The exhibition had been arranged to celebrate FIFA's readmission of the four Home Nations. Promoted as the "Match of the Century" and watched by 135,000 spectators, the game ended in an emphatic victory for Britain with a final score of 6–1. Liddell sustained a pulled muscle which severely impaired his movement on the pitch and forced him out of two domestic matches. In the second match, organised to observe the 75th anniversary of the Irish FA's creation, the Rest of Europe won decisively by a scoreline of 4–1.

Later life and legacy

Liddell settled in Liverpool with Phyllis and their twin sons, and resided in Merseyside until his death. When his father died in January 1951, Liddell arranged for his mother, sister and younger brothers to relocate to the city, concentrating his family in the region. While still a player, Liddell was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Liverpool in 1958 and contributed a column to the Echo's football edition. He became occupied with voluntary work which entailed him being an occasional disc jockey for the Women's Voluntary Service at Alder Hey Children's Hospital, working for local youth clubs, and teaching at a Sunday school. Although religious, Liddell had not been a lay preacher as some believed. His wife dismissed it as a misapprehension and recalled that, while Liddell had abstained from drinking and smoking, he did not object to others doing so in his presence and never "rammed any of his views down people's throats." After leaving the club, Liddell served as assistant permanent secretary and bursar to the University of Liverpool until 1984, and authored a memoir, titled "My Soccer Story".
Anfield Stadium

While he had no desire to be a manager, Liddell, as a shareholder, had wanted to become a Liverpool director; however, his repeated applications to board elections were unsuccessful. He continued to play football for a magistrates' team until he decided to focus on tennis after breaking his cheek bone. In 1967, Liddell and other footballing personalities appeared in a charity match to generate funds for Bankfield House Community Centre. More than 10,000 people watched Liddell play opposite Ferenc Puskás at South Liverpool'smarker Holly Park ground, raising £1,100 in the process. He became chairman of Littlewoods Spot the Ball panel and president of the Liverpool FC Supporters Club. After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the early 1990s, Liddell resigned from the panel on the insistence of Phyllis. His wife first noticed atypical behaviour on a visit to Anfield following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 when he did not appear able to register what had happened in Sheffieldmarker. When his condition began to worsen, Liddell moved to a nursing home in Mossley Hillmarker. He died on 3 July 2001, within a week of the deaths of former Liverpool manager Joe Fagan and director Tom Saunders.

On 4 November 2004, his widow Phyllis and Ian Callaghan unveiled a commemorative plaque adjacent to the club's museum at Anfield. Liddell's biographer John Keith, who also presented on BBC Radio Merseyside, had proposed the memorial to then chairman David Moores and chief executive Rick Parry. Further recognition came in a poll of more than 110,000 people conducted in 2006 by Liverpool's official website to determine a list of 100 Players Who Shook The Kop, in which Liddell attained sixth place. When Liverpool approached former players to identify their personal favourites as a complement to the list, Ian Callaghan, Tommy Smith, David Johnson, and Roy Evans included Liddell in their "top five". In 2007 the Billy Liddell Memorial Group [203399] was set up with the aim of having the great man honoured in his own country and home village. The group set up with the aims of having Billy inducted into the SFA Hall of Fame, the renaming of Townhill Sports Complex to the Billy Liddell Sport Complex and the erection of a lasting memorial to Liddell. An online petition to the Scottish Parliamentmarker, to have Liddell inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Famemarker was successful in November 2008 when he was one of eight inductees for the year.The renaming of the sports complex also took place in 2007 and work on the memorial garden and cairn almost complete. (Oct 2009.)A campaign to have him honoured with a memorial in Townhill is ongoing.

In 2002, former Liverpool Reserve player Jimmy Rolfe loaned to Anfield Museum a No. 11 shirt worn by Liddell, which he acquired from trainer Albert Shelly on leaving for Chester in 1953.



Career statistics


International goals


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  • Keith, John (2005), Billy Liddell: The Legend Who Carried the Kop, Robson ISBN 1861058047
  • Matthews, Tony (2006) Who's Who of Liverpool, Mainstream Publishing, ISBN 1-84596-140-4
  • Profile: Billy Liddell, Retrieved 29 April 2008.

External links

1945–46 Liverpool Division One 0 0 2 1 2 1
34 7 6 1 40 8
1947–48 37 10 2 1 39 11
1948–49 38 8 4 1 42 9
1949–50 41 17 7 2 48 19
1950–51 35 15 1 0 36 15
1951–52 40 19 3 0 43 19
1952–53 39 13 1 0 40 13
1953–54 36 7 1 0 37 7
1954–55 Division Two 40 30 4 1 44 31
1955–56 39 27 5 5 44 32
1956–57 41 21 1 0 42 21
1957–58 35 22 5 1 40 23
1958–59 19 14 0 0 19 14
1959–61 17 5 0 0 17 5
1960–61 1 0 0 0 1 0
Date Venue Opponent Result Competition Scored
18 April 1942 Hampden Parkmarker, Glasgowmarker 5–4 Wartime friendly 1
2 February 1946 Windsor Parkmarker, Belfastmarker 3–2 Wartime friendly 2
15 May 1946 Hampden Parkmarker, Glasgowmarker 3–1 Wartime friendly 2
21 October 1950 Ninian Parkmarker, Cardiffmarker 3–1 1951 British Home Championship 1
14 April 1951 Wembley Stadiummarker, Londonmarker 3–2 1951 British Home Championship 1
30 May 1952 Råsunda Stadiummarker, Stockholmmarker 1–3 Friendly 1
18 October 1952 Hampden Parkmarker, Glasgowmarker 2–1 1953 British Home Championship 1
4 May 1955 Hampden Parkmarker, Glasgowmarker 3–0 Friendly 1
19 May 1955 Praterstadionmarker, Viennamarker 4–1 Friendly 1

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