Football, music or ‘the building’. Those were the choices I was presented with as a kid growing up in Wavertree in the eighties. I was lucky, though, those that came before me often didn’t have choices. But, you can bet your bottom dollar, any young boy growing up post-World War II in Liverpool wanted to be a footballer first and foremost.
It’s in our DNA. Blame larger than life heroes such as William ‘Dixie’ Dean and ‘Dashing’ Dave Hickson. Examine the impact Bill Shankly had on the psyche of the city and the generation that came after him. Or just watch any footage of ragamuffins kicking a ball in the street on an old BBC documentary. The three legends mentioned, however, didn’t come from Liverpool. Dean was born and bred in Birkenhead, Hickson is Ellesmere Port’s most famous son and Shankly is as Scottish as a cold wind blowing in from the Clyde. What we’re concerned with, is Scousers born and bred in Liverpool who went on to achieve greatness in the game. Define ‘greatness’? Well, only two players from our list failed to win the top flight championship, but they were both keepers of the flame for their club during relatively unsuccessful eras. Just three didn’t pick up European honours, but there would be no doubting their ability based on that simple twist of fate alone. And all are what etc. would consider fan favourites and ‘one of our own’, as success-starved Spurs fans might sing.
Have a look, and a think, and let us know your thoughts. Who have we missed? Who’s you favourite? Who’s the greatest of them all? Football…it’s all about opinions. Here’s ours, in alphabetical order:
The greatest natural goalscorer of the modern era. You can get the stats elsewhere, but suffice it to say that Fowler’s record in front of goal stands alongside the very best. He was that rarest of breeds: a scorer of great goals and a great goalscorer… tap ins, bullet headers, twenty yarders; you name it, Fowler buried them. A cult hero, too, and one Liverpool’s most popular homegrown players of all time.
Best Moment: Ask ‘Stan’ Staunton…
What can you write that hasn’t already been written? An inspirational footballer, Gerrard led from the front and was the catalyst for every bit of success Liverpool Football Club achieved on the pitch during his time at Anfield. The Huyton-born midfielder had everything that was asked of a modern footballer: quick, brave, strong and skilful. His range of passing was pre-eminent and Gerrard had the Midas touch when it came to vital goals, always a sign of true greatness. Forget the lack of championship medal, Steven Gerrard was a winner.
Best Moment: From the pages of ‘Roy of the Rovers’…
Walk down Lime Street and call in The Big House, The Crown or stand outside what used to be The Punch & Judy around the corner (someone will still be stood outside, barred). Mention ‘The Holy Trinity’ to any well-built fella’ over 50 and watch his eyes roll back the clock. The Scouser of Everton’s most famous midfield triumvirate was Colin Harvey and his reputation as one of the most gifted footballers of his generation hasn’t diminished since Kenneth Wolstenhome first described him as ‘a beautiful footballer’ during the 1968 FA Cup Final (the one game the whole country watched back then). Both a League Championship (1970) and FA Cup (1966) winner with Everton, Harvey remains one of the classiest footballers this city has produced.
Best Moment: The goalie (and the camera man) never smelt this league-winning belter…
We’re often told that reputations precede people. What does that mean, though? To this (then) teenage lad, first meeting Brian Labone at a do back in the nineties, it meant standing back and witnessing the reverence with which a room full of people welcomed one of their own. Labone is a true blue hero and was still a leader to his former colleagues over thirty years later. A one-club man who won two League Championships (1963, 1970) and an FA Cup (1966) as Everton captain, Brian died in 2006.
Best Moment: Defining what it means to be a one-club man…
You can find the stats for McDermott elsewhere, too, but five League Championship winner’s medals and three European Cup triumphs are worth repeating. Terry Mac was a class act and one of the greatest footballers to have been born in Liverpool. Brought to Liverpool Football Club by Bob Paisley in 1974, McDermott enjoyed nearly a decade of dominance with the reds, before joining his old mate Kevin Keegan at Newcastle. Another scorer of great goals, McDermott remains a local hero on Merseyside and a face forever associated with Anfield’s greatest times.
Best Moment: One from the era he made ‘Goal of the Season’ his own…
The definition of a great midfielder, Kenny Dalglish’s first signing could be described as the prototype Steven Gerrard from a different era. Another Liverpool FC box-to-box man who had it all, the tough-tackling McMahon could also pick a pass and had an eye for goal – especially from around the edge of the box. Winning trophies became a habit for him in the eighties at Anfield and, indeed, it was only when the following generation failed to live up to those expectations that many fans realised just how good ex-Everton man McMahon was. Another born winner.
Best Moment: Pick that out – top corner, against United, at Anfield…
Another inspirational footballer from Huyton… is there something in the water between Knotty Ash and Prescot? Reid, alongside Andy Gray, was the catalyst for Everton’s most successful period in the eighties under Howard Kendall. A more gifted footballer than Sky Sports would have you believe, Reid was a winner in an era when sticking your foot in and playing good football were not mutually exclusive. Showing great character, the midfielder bounced back from an early career-threatening injury to become one of the the most successful Scousers to ever lace up a pair of boots.
Best Moment: Inspiring Everton to their first league title in 15 years. What a cross, too…
A controversial choice? No chance… Rooney is one of the greatest Scouse footballers of all time. As natural with the ball as Robbie Fowler was in front of goal, the Croxteth-born Manchester United captain has been at the top table of European football for over a decade. Winning the Premier League and the Champions League may professionally justify his decision to move to Old Trafford from Goodison Park as a kid, but rumours persist that it’s also a transfer that saved Everton Football Club from financial ruin. Whatever the truth, there remains no doubt about his ability on the pitch.
Best Moment: He got this right, old Clive, didn’t he…
Lifting the European Cup as captain of the club you’ve supported since childhood is surely the pinnacle of professional sporting achievement. Thompson did this in 1981 and cemented his reputation as one of Anfield’s very best leaders. That he retired early, at the age of 31 following a move to Sheffield United, should tell you all you need to know about Thompson’s dedication to the Liverpool cause. Indeed, he was back as Kenny Dalglish’s right-hand man very soon after. The central defender won seven League Championships at Anfield, alongside success at home and abroad in several cup competitions. Thompson is as synonymous with Liverpool FC, as Brian Labone was with Everton.
Best Moment: Not wanting to be reductive as regards Phil’s great moments on the pitch, but here’s a fan in full flow…
Replacing fan favourites is difficult at the best of times. But, when Scouser Watson arrived at Everton from Norwich in 1986, the blues were in the middle of a very successful period and Derek Mountfield had played a big part in that success. Showing true Liverpudlian grit, however, Watson dug in following a shaky start and finished his first season at Goodison with a Championship Winner’s medal. That he also finished his Everton career as an FA Cup winner, says multitudes about the man. In between, there were hard times for the blues. But, along with Neville Southall, it was Watson who carried the club on his back and earned himself a place in our list of great footballers from Liverpool.
Best Moment: “Thanks very much, Charles… ”
– Pic by John Johnson