Liverpool Football ClubPast Manager Bob PaisleyBack to LFC Past Managers
Twenty trophies in nine seasons - not bad for a man who was loathe to make the step into football management.
But then, that was the reluctant genius that was Bob Paisley.
The humble son of the North East always was more at ease in the wings than on centre stage but when it came to knowledge of the game and the ability to spot a player, his record spoke volumes.
Born the son of a miner in the County Durham village of Hetton-le-Hole on January 23, 1919, Paisley's childhood was spent absorbing knowledge and advice.
As his late widow Jessie recalled: "Bob always tried to remember what his headmaster told him; that if you speak softly people will try to listen to what you're saying. If you shout they're liable to walk away and not take it in."
Such homespun psychology would serve Paisley invaluably during his management years when Europe bowed to the stocky figure in a flat cap that belied a masterful football brain.
Following in the footsteps of the great Bill Shankly was a task many believed was akin to mission impossible and yet Paisley's transition from bootroom coach to boss was almost seamless.
It all came about in July 1974 when Shanks rocked the football world by announcing his retirement from the game.
Who would be brave enough to take on a role in which the shadow of the great Scot would loom large? For the Liverpool board there was only one name on their short-list.
Bob had flanked Shankly's shoulder from the day he had arrived at Anfield back in 1959, after the great man had swapped the Pennines of Huddersfield for the banks of the Mersey.
He was a pioneer of the 'Liverpool way', the brand of football that was pivotal to Shankly's football ethos. He also had a relationship with the club that stretched back even further than his predecessor's, one that began two decades earlier when he had arrived at Anfield as a 20-year-old left-half on May 8, 1939 for a £10 signing-on fee and weekly wage of £5.
Wartime service in Egypt and the western desert delayed Paisley's league debut as a Liverpool player until 1946-47. It was during this campaign that he won the first of 10 championship medals in his various Anfield roles, in a team that included Scotland and Great Britain star Billy Liddell and centre forward Albert Stubbins.
Despite being ready to leave the club after being dropped by the directors who picked the team for the 1950 FA Cup Final, he played on and went on to captain the side before hanging up his boots following Liverpool's relegation in 1954.
However, it would not be the end of his love affair with the Reds.
He went on to establish a role as a reserve team trainer and also became a renowned, self-taught, physiotherapist.
He was the perfect foil for Shanks, a football lover with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, but one that was happy to leave the limelight to the man with a flair for public speaking.
And so, when it came to finding a successor to Shankly, Liverpool only had one man in mind…
The only trouble was that Paisley was reluctant to step into the spotlight.
It needed much persuasion from the club and his family to convince the 55-year-old to take on the challenge awaiting him, but how important his positive response would become to the future success of Liverpool Football Club.
After much soul searching he agreed, saying: "It's like being given the Queen Elizabeth to steer in a force 10 gale."
Maybe so, but what a magnificent navigator he would prove to be.
In his first season he led the Reds to the runners-up spot in the Championship, an achievement he was disappointed by, remarking at the time, "I was like an apprentice that ran wide at the bends."
That may seem somewhat harsh, but he made amends for what he saw as failure the following year, leading the club to a league and UEFA Cup double.
The title was secured with a famous 3-1 win at Wolves on the final day of the season while a 4-3 aggregate success of Belgian outfit Bruges clinched European glory.
It was a season that would have proved difficult to surpass for most sides and yet the following campaign, Paisley's Liverpool would do just that.
Having retained the league title with consummate ease, it could so easily have been an all-conquering year for Liverpool had they seen off Manchester United in the FA Cup final.
However, luck was with the Red Devils as they ran out fortunate 2-1 winners - not the best preparation for Liverpool's first ever European Cup final.
Lesser teams would have suffered a crisis of confidence, but not the Reds, who shrugged off their Wembley disappointment to go on and conquer Europe for the very first time just four days later.
The Eternal City was the setting for what Paisley would later refer to as his "perfect day" with Liverpool going on to claim a 3-1 victory over a strong Borussia Moenchengladbach side.
The victory installed Paisley as the first English-born manager to lift Europe's greatest prize following the success of Scottish duo Jock Stein (Celtic) and Sir Matt Busby (Manchester United).
As the celebratory champagne flowed, Paisley, who was later honoured with an OBE, sat quietly in a corner of the team hotel.
"I'm not having a drink because I want to savour every moment," he said. "The Pope and I are two of the few sober people in Rome tonight!"
The Roman carnival also heralded the end of Kevin Keegan's fine Anfield career and many felt it would prove to be the end of an era for the Reds.
But they reckoned without Paisley's unique eye for talent.
The taciturn genius swooped to sign Celtic hero Kenny Dalglish for less than the income from Keegan's transfer.
It was an inspirational move that would see Dalglish go on to surpass the achievements of Keegan and secure his place as the undisputed King of the Kop.
"There's never been a better bit of business than that," beamed Liverpool Chairman John Smith. F
ew would argue with such a statement, although Paisley's supreme ability in the transfer market was nothing new to Reds fans.
He had already captured the likes of Phil Neal, Terry McDermott, Joey Jones and David Johnson, while his decision to switch Ray Kennedy from a powerful striker to a left midfielder was a masterstroke.
As he often said: "I let my side do the talking for me."
Indeed, what he may have lacked as an orator, he made up for with a record on the pitch that spoke volumes.
Few managers can claim to have brought through some of the greatest players of the post-war era but that is exactly what Bob did.
Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness, Alan Kennedy, Ronnie Whelan, Ian Rush, Craig Johnston, Mark Lawrenson, Bruce Grobbelaar, Steve Nicol - the list seems endless.
With the help of these players he soared into the stratosphere of managerial achievement by guiding Liverpool to two further European Cup triumphs. A win over Bruges at Wembley in 1978 saw the Reds retain the trophy while the mighty Real Madrid were the victims three years later in Paris.
Paisley's teams annexed a total of six championships, the most remarkable being in 1978-79 when they emerged with a record 68 points under the old two-points-for-a-win system. The campaign saw them concede a record low of 16 goals in their 42 games, with 85 goals scored and only four defeats. He also guided Liverpool to a hat-trick of League Cup successes, failing only to land the FA Cup.
That gap in his collection was bearable given his torrent of triumphs and he passed command on to Joe Fagan in 1983, having amassed a grand total of 23 Bells Managerial Awards.
On retirement, he was elected to the board of directors and was an advisor to Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool's first player-manager, before being tragically stricken with Alzheimer's Disease.
It says it all about the great man that three of the club's finest servants have no hesitation in hailing him as the finest manager of all-time.
Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen and Graeme Souness, the world class Scottish trio signed by Paisley and a threesome not given to hyperbole, unhesitatingly place him at the management summit.
"There was only one Bob Paisley and he was the greatest of them all," said Dalglish. "He went through the card in football. He played for Liverpool, he treated the players, he coached them, he managed them and then he became a director."
"He could tell if someone was injured and what the problem was just by watching them walk a few paces. He was never boastful but had great football knowledge. I owe Bob more than I owe anybody else in the game. There will never be another like him."
Hansen agreed, declaring: "I go by records and Bob Paisley is the No.1 manager ever."
While Souness saluted him thus: "When you talk of great managers there's one man at the top of the list and that's Bob Paisley."
If that wasn't enough, then his achievements were summed up perfectly by Canon John Roberts at his funeral service at St Peter's, Woolton in February 1996 when he saluted him as an ordinary man of extraordinary greatness.
The world of football, not least Liverpool FC, was enriched by his massive and exemplary contribution to it.
On Thursday April 8, 1999 the club officially opened The Paisley Gateway as an enduring monument to this great man.
His achievements in such a short period in charge cannot be underestimated, nor will they ever be eclipsed and he is quite rightly recognised, by many within the football community, as the undisputed Manager of the Millennium.
|Birthplace: Hetton-le-Hole, England|
|Other clubs as manager: None|
|Arrived from: LFC coach|
|Signed for LFC: 26.07.1974|
|First game in charge: 17.08.1974|
|Contract expiry: 01.07.1983|
|LFC league games as manager: 378|
|Total LFC games as manager: 535|
|Honours: First Division champions 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983|
|League cup winners 1981, 1982, 1983|
|European cup winners 1977, 1978, 1981|
|UEFA cup winners 1976|