Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame #7


1987/88 - 1996/97

As the veteran John Barnes applied himself industriously to a comparatively unspectacular midfield anchor role during the Reds' attempted mid-nineties renaissance, it was inevitable that he was outshone by the generation of new stars shining incandescently around him. But it should never be forgotten that, not so long before, he had been hailed as one of the most brilliant entertainers to grace British football since the war. More than that, he achieved something which eluded every Anfield player before him: he became, for a while, the national symbol of the game at its most attractive. In the same way that George Best's name was once a byword for soccer excellence, even among people who didn't follow sport, so in the late eighties was that of the Jamaican-born England forward.

As an all-round performer he did not equal Dalglish at his peak, and for sheer pop-idol appeal, he did not match Keegan. But in terms of presence and charisma John left the Scotsman standing, and for all Kevin's admirable qualities, he lacked the magical skills with which the former Watford winger was so plenteously endowed. Thus, it was John Barnes, more than anyone else, who finally bestowed upon Liverpool the glitter and panache which had been the traditional preserve of Spurs and our Manchester rival.

Yet for all the plaudits heaped on his close-cropped head, John was seen as something of a gamble when he headed north for £900,000 in the summer of 1987. His extravagant talents were acknowledged, but at Vicarage Road these had been tempered with inconsistency and there were fears that he was not the Anfield type. Any misgivings, however, withered as John produced a string of scintillating early performances which dazzled even the sceptics. To say he gave the Reds a new dimension is a gross understatement. A big, powerful man blessed with a sublime first touch, he was lethal when he received the ball in a deep left-flank position and ran at defences. He had the guile to gull those who stood in his way, the strength to ride tackles and a deceptive pace which took him loping away from his stricken prey. One moment John would be hemmed in by several opponents, two feints later he would be yards away, jockeying for a shooting chance. And unlike many wingers, he could capitalise on his own approach work, scoring goals from almost any angle or distance. Indeed, so stunning was his marksmanship that some critics reckoned he was best employed as a central striker.

John's reward for his inspired efforts during that first Anfield campaign was a title medal and Footballer of the Year awards from fellow professionals and soccer writers alike. Understandably, much was expected of him in the 1988 European Championships but he disappointed, as he did often in the international arena, looking more like the wayward performer who had alternately thrilled and frustrated in his Watford days. Maybe he needed his regular top-class colleagues to bring the best out of him, for on his return to club duty he was as deadly as ever, apart from the occasional game when he seemed to drift.

Despite his catalogue of gifts, however, John experienced a relatively fallow career interlude, which coincided loosely with the Souness reign. Injuries laid him low and he put on weight, looking sluggish and ill at ease when he did play. Happily, he shed pounds and regained vitality in 1994, confounding the popular belief that he was finished, and became a subtly cohesive link-man, passing so beautifully that he was known to go through an entire game without losing possession.

Yes, there were times when he was overrun by heel-snapping speedsters, and some reckoned he was too cautious, not delivering enough 'killer' balls. There was no denying, either, that the 'miracle man' of yesteryear had gone forever. But in his place was a canny general, offering his precocious young lieutenants much-needed guidance, sometimes with a firmness surprising in one so placid, and it was clear that he had plenty to offer still. However, after he was dropped for the Cup Winners' Cup semi-final second leg against Paris St-Germain in April 1997, it became apparent that he was no longer wanted and come August, by then aged 33, he was freed to pursue an Indian summer at Newcastle. It is to be hoped that those fans who had noisily demanded his exit will now restore him, in their minds, to the place of honour his service merits. Truly, John Barnes was one of Liverpool's finest.

BORN: Jamaica, 7.11.63. GAMES: 399 (4). GOALS: 106.

CLUBS: Watford 81/2-86/7 (233, 65), Liverpool 87/8-96/7, Newcastle United 97/8-99 (26, 6), Charlton Athletic 99 (12, 0), Celtic (0, 0).

HONOURS: League Championship 87/8, 89/90. FA Cup 88/9. League Cup 94/5.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: 79 England caps (83-95).



Among the most enduring footballing images of the 1970’s was that of the Dutch master Johan Cruyff standing out on the left wing, the ball at his feet, confronted by a defender, but apparently unsure of his next move. In an instant he suddenly dragged the ball behind him with his right foot, spun through 180 degrees and sprinted away from his bewildered opponent. It was an outrageous trick, the like of which had never been seen before on the international stage. Only the most gifted - and most confident - of players would attempt such a feat. Cruyff was not lacking in either commodity.

He was born in Amsterdam where his mother worked as the original Ajax cleaner and it was she who persuaded the club's coaches to admit her son into their youth development scheme. On the recommendation of the English coach Vic Buckingham, Ajax offered Cruyff professional terms in 1963. Not only did he score on his club debut but he repeated the achievement in his first international in 1966, snatching a last-minute equaliser against Hungary. Under the influence of new coach Rinus Michels, Ajax developed into one of the most feared sides in Europe with Cruyff, by now a supreme athlete, as the lynchpin of their attacking play. The complete opposite of the traditional English battering ram centre forward, he had vision, pace, exceptional ball control and a licence to roam. He helped Ajax to a hat-trick of European Cup triumphs between 1971 and 1973 and was voted European Footballer of the Year on an unprecedented three occasions (1971, 1973 and 1974).

In 1973 he moved to Barcelona for a world record fee of £922,000 and inspired his new team to the Spanish League title in his first season, highlighted by a 5-0 win away to arch rivals Real Madrid.

At international level the Dutch were on the verge of greatness. Equally at home in midfield, attack or on the wing, Cruyff embodied their philosophy of Total Football, which allowed players to switch roles as circumstances dictated. He was not one to hide his light under a bushel and, as captain, was the loudest voice in an outspoken Dutch side. He had actually been banned from the national team for a year after being sent off in only his second game for Holland but at the 1974 World Cup he was determined to channel his energies in the right direction. No defender in the tournament could get to grips with him. The Dutch would have been popular winners of the World Cup but lost out in the final to host nation West Germany. Cruyff was bitterly disappointed and retired from international football before the next World Cup.

After a spell in the North American Soccer League and then in Spain, he rejoined Ajax and led them to two more League titles before making a shock move to their fierce rivals Feyenoord whom he led to the League and Cup double in 1984.

With 215 Dutch League goals to his name, he took up coaching back at Ajax, and guided the club to European Cup Winners' Cup success in 1987. Having walked out on Ajax in a fit of pique, he replaced Terry Venables at Barcelona and captured a remarkable eleven trophies in his eight years in charge, the highlight being the club's eagerly-awaited first European Cup triumph. However, his dictatorial style of management won him as many enemies as trophies and in 1996 he was unceremoniously sacked. Cruyff was that rarity - a great player who became an inspirational, innovative coach. In short, he was a total footballer.

BORN: Amsterdam, Netherlands. 25.4.47.

CLUBS:  1964–1973 Ajax, 1973–1978 Barcelona, 1979–1980 Los Angeles Aztecs, 1980–1981 Washington Diplomats,1981 Levante, 1981–1983 Ajax, 1983–1984 Feyenoord.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: Netherlands 1966–1977 Caps 48 Goals 33.


The Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame welcomes you both. YNWA

Monday, 15 October 2012

Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame #6


1977/78 - 1983/84

There can hardly have been a more all-pervading influence in the middle of a football field than that of Graeme Souness; in his pomp he was the emperor of Anfield, a dead-eyed dictator of all that came his way. He was one of the few British players of the eighties to merit world-class status, but perhaps the greatest tribute to the lethal Souness combination of the devastatingly skilful and the crunchingly physical is that when he left for Italy in 1984 he was actually missed. When the likes of Kevin Keegan and Ian Rush moved on, and even when Kenny Dalglish forsook the red shirt for the manager's tracksuit, Liverpool merely shuffled the pack, changed gear and carried on with the business of winning trophies; the Scottish international play-maker's departure, however, left a void which took a full season to fill.

Few would have predicted such an illustrious career for the 17-year-old rookie when, after signing for Spurs as an outstanding schoolboy, he failed to settle in the south and left for Middlesbrough without making the White Hart Lane first-team. At Ayrsome Park he began to realise his potential and looked every inch a star of the future just waiting for a wider stage. That stage, of course, was Anfield and immediately after Bob Paisley signed him in January 1978 for £352,000 - then a record deal between Football League clubs - Graeme began to hint at the riches to come. In his Reds debut at West Bromwich he scarcely misplaced a pass and settled quickly to become the hub of a midfield which already contained McDermott, Case and Kennedy.

Graeme's first taste of glory with his new club came four months after his arrival, when his incisive through-ball created the winner for Dalglish in the European Cup Final against FC Bruges. In the campaigns which followed, his dominance mushroomed as he orchestrated some of the most compelling football ever served up by a Liverpool side, spearing passes to all corners of the pitch and tackling with an implacable ferocity which at times bordered on the brutal. Tottenham felt the Souness bite in March 1982 when he came on as substitute - he was returning after a back injury - with the Reds two goals down in a match dominated thus far by the strength of Graham Roberts and company. The abrasive number 12 soon made his mark, and the final score was 2-2. Graeme supplemented his creative and ball-winning talents with occasional displays of potent finishing, none more emphatic than the thunderous volley which screamed past Paddy Roche into the Manchester United net at Anfield in February 1978, though his swivelling drive which beat Everton in the 1984 Milk Cup Final replay was more valuable.

Was Graeme the complete player? Well, he lacked pace, though the side's pattern of play rendered the defect irrelevant, and for a man standing only an inch short of 6ft he was poor in the air. But such a trifle paled into nothingness compared with his overall contribution which, after a wretched team showing at home to Manchester City on Boxing Day 1981, increased still further when he replaced Phil Thompson as captain. In his 29 months in charge Graeme led Liverpool to three successive League titles and League/Milk Cups and one European Cup to become the most successful skipper in the club's history, forcibly demanding - and usually getting - the highest standards. 

In June 1984 he made a £650,000 move to Italy, where his brand of play was appreciated avidly, and he prospered there for two years before returning to Britain to have an even more significant effect on Rangers than he had exerted on Liverpool. 'Suey' - a man held more in awe than affection by most fans - was once again stamping his authority on one of football's greatest institutions, though turbulent times awaited. In due course, there would be a second coming at Anfield which would prove as traumatic as his first had been triumphant. For now, it would be monstrously unjust if Graeme Souness’s managerial imperfections were allowed to obscure his sheer majesty as a footballer.

BORN: Edinburgh, 6.5.53. GAMES: 350 (2). GOALS: 56.

CLUBS: Middlesbrough 72/3-77/8; Liverpool 77/8-83/4; Sampdoria, Italy, 84/5-85/6; Rangers 86/7-89/90.

HONOURS: European Cup 77/8, 80/1, 83/4. League Championship 78/9, 79/80, 81/2, 82/3, 83/4. League Cup 80/1, 81/2, 82/3, 83/4.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: 54 Scotland caps (74-86).



In the eyes of many judges, Alfredo Di Stéfano was the most complete footballer of all time. Physically powerful with unparalleled stamina and supreme skills, he also had an insatiable competitive streak. Francisco Cento, his Real Madrid team-mate in six European Cup finals, said: 'Whenever we practised, even when we played cards or basketball in the gym, he would want to win. When I became a manager I realised how important it was to have a player like that on the field.'

Curiously Di Stéfano was capped by three different countries yet never took part in a World Cup. However his other achievements were sufficient to warrant a place among the world's elite.

Born in Buenos Aires of Italian parents, Di Stéfano worked on the family farm as a boy and thus acquired the strength that would stand him in good stead on the football pitch and enable him to play at the highest level until he was 40. At the age of twelve, he joined a youth team, Los Cardales, for whom he once scored a hat-trick in just twenty minutes. In 1942 he joined his father's old club River Plate where he went on to lead a legendary forward line known as La Maquina (The Machine), helping his team to two Argentinian Championships. He made his debut for the national side in 1947 but two years later moved to Millonarios of Bogota to play in the outlawed Colombian League, powering the team to four League titles and personally scoring an amazing 267 goals in 294 games. He won two Colombian caps before moving on to Spain in 1953 to join the club with whom he would enjoy his finest years - Real Madrid.

Real had never previously won a major trophy but their ambitious president, Santiago Bernabeu, had built a magnificent stadium and needed a team of superstars in order to fill it with spectators. He wanted to make Real the most powerful club in Europe and, to fulfil his dream, recruited the best player in South America, Di Stéfano. He made his debut against none other than Barcelona, scoring four times in a 5-0 drubbing. Bernabeu had reaped an instant reward on his investment.

The balding Argetinian turned Real from Spanish nonentities into the biggest club on the planet. The all whites were unstoppable, due in no small part to Di Stéfano's ability to alternate between midfield and attack. One moment he was scoring goals, the next he was creating chances for the likes of Gento and Ferenc Puskas. With Di Stéfano scoring in every final (including a hat-trick against Eintracht Frankfurt), Real won a historic five successive European Cups (1956-60).

He scored 49 goals in his 56 games in the tournament, a record that stood until it was surpassed by Real Madrid's Raúl in 2005, and Milan's Andriy Shevchenko and Real Madrid's Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2006. As well as helping Real collect eight Spanish League titles, he finished top scorer in the Spanish League on five occasions and was named European Footballer of the Year in 1957 and 1959. He also managed 23 goals in only 31 internationals for his third country, Spain.

Released unharmed after being kidnapped on a 1963 tour of Venezuela, he joined Espanol in 1964 but ended his playing career two years later. He went on to coach a number of teams (Boca Juniors, Sporting Lisbon, River Plate, Valencia and Real Madrid) with varying success, the highlight being steering Valencia to their first Spanish title in 24 years.

But it is as a player that he will always be remembered. Matt Busby summed up Di Stéfano's immense talent. 'He was one of the greatest, if not the greatest footballer I had ever seen. At that time we had forwards and defenders doing separate jobs, but he did everything.'

BORN: Buenos Aires, Argentina. 4.7.26.

CLUBS:  1943–1949 River Plate, 1946–1947 Huracán (loan), 1949–1953 Millonarios, 1953–1964 Real Madrid, 1964–1966 Espanyol.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: Argentina 1947 Caps 6 Goals 6, Spain 1957–1961 Caps 31 Goals 23, Colombia Caps 4 (not recognized by FIFA).


The Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame welcomes you both. YNWA

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame #5


1957/58 - 1968/69

When Bill Shankly breezed into Anfield in December 1959, the career of full-back Gerry Byrne was going nowhere rather too quickly for comfort. After making only two first-team appearances in two seasons and performing but moderately for the reserves, the swarthy defender was on the transfer list and looked for all the world like a player who would loiter on the fringe of the big time for several years before drifting inevitably towards a lower grade of football.

The new boss, however, saw something that everyone else had evidently missed. He transformed Gerry from a Central League plodder into one of the most effective backs in the land - and although he couldn't have known it at the time he was breathing life into the future of a man who, one rainy day in May 1965, was destined to become one of the true heroes of Liverpool soccer history.

But even the most inspired manager needs a little help from fate and it came in the form of injuries to regular left-back Ronnie Moran. Gerry stepped in with a string of accomplished performances and, when Ronnie returned to first-team duty, continued his development by switching to right-back at the expense of Dick White.

He was an ever-present in the 1961/62 promotion campaign and became an auto­matic choice throughout the heady triumphs of the mid-sixties, reclaiming his left-sided role when Chris Lawler replaced the ageing Moran. Quiet and undemonstrative in both play and demeanour, Gerry brought a granite reliability to the Reds' defence. He wasn't over-endowed with pace but compensated by reading the game with cool assurance and with a tackle that was fearsome. Shankly was adamant that there wasn't a harder - or fairer - footballer in the game and, never a man prone to understatement, he described his protege's performance in the defeat of Belgian champions Anderlecht in late 1964 as 'the best full-back display Europe has ever seen'.

The match which clinched Gerry's place in Liverpool legend was the 1965 FA Cup Final against Leeds United in which he played for 117 minutes with a broken collar-bone, overcoming grinding pain and disguising his infirmity from Don Revie's men, who would certainly have taken advantage if they had recognised his plight. Not only did he subdue the lively Johnny Giles, he also laid on the Reds' first goal in extra time when he took a glorious pass from Willie Stevenson, reached the byline and swept over a cross for Roger Hunt to head home.

Having played a full part in taking two Championships as well as the Cup triumph, Gerry hurt a knee against Leicester City in August 1966 and was never quite the same dominant force again. When recurring knee trouble prompted premature retirement in 1969, leading to a spell as an Anfield coach, Shanks was again warm in his praise: 'When Gerry went, it took a big chunk out of Liverpool. Something special was missing.'

For a man who enjoyed so much success at club level, Gerry had little international joy. In the first of his two outings for England he endured a chasing from Scotland's Willie Henderson, and he lacked the class, perhaps, to mount a serious challenge to the immaculate Ray Wilson. Liverpool, though, knew his value - and it was immense.

BORN: Liverpool, 29.8.38. GAMES: 329 (1). GOALS: 3.

CLUBS: 1957-1969 Liverpool.

HONOURS: League Championship 63/4, 65/6. Second Division Championship 61/2. FA Cup 64/5.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: 2 England caps (63-66).



Giuseppe Meazza was Italian football's first superstar. Nicknamed 'Peppino', he was a graceful centre forward with never a single Brylcreemed hair out of place. The highlights of his career were two World Cup triumphs - the second as Italy's captain.

Born in Milan, he made his debut with Inter at the age of seventeen' marking his arrival by scoring twice in a Cup game. In his second season he set a new club record with 33 goals (twice netting five in a game and once, against Venezia, scoring six). In 1930 he was the League's top goalscorer - a feat he would repeat on two more occasions (1936 and 1938).

He was particularly deadly in one-on-one situations, delighting in rounding the keeper before stroking the ball into the net. In 1933 Juventus and Italy keeper Giampiero Combi had the temerity to suggest that Meazza would not be able to sidestep him. Meazza told his friend to put his money where his mouth was and Combi duly accepted the bet. When Inter and Juventus next met, Meazza set off on a dazzling run from the half-way line, leaving several defenders trailing in his wake, before dummying Combi and scoring. Combi went straight up to him and shook his hand. With Meazza such a consistent marksman, Inter won the Serie A title in 1930 and 1938 and the Coppa Italia in 1939.

He made his international debut against Switzerland in 1930, scoring twice, and went one better three months later with a hat-trick against Hungary. He remained a virtual ever-present in the national side for nine years, Vittorio Pozzo, the Italy coach, having taken the decision to switch Meazza from his club position of centre forward to an inside-forward berth that would allow him to use his passing skills to better effect.

In 1934 Meazza was one of only a handful of home-grown talents in the Italian World Cup team, the remainder being South Americans. When quizzed about this, Pozzo said that if the South Americans could die for Italy (they were eligible for national service), they could play football for the country, and FIFA chose to turn a blind eye. Inspired by Meazza, who scored two goals in the tournament including a crucial header in the quarter-final replay against Spain, Italy became world champions. Two years later he helped Italy win the Olympic football competition, as a result of which he was appointed captain for the 1938 World Cup in France. Following wins over Norway and the host nation, Meazza's penalty enabled Italy to overcome Brazil 2-1 in the semi-final. A 4-2 victory over Hungary in the final saw Meazza receive the trophy in front of Mussolini with a Fascist salute.

Having reached the summit of his profession, Meazza began to fall from grace. His extravagant lifestyle left him in financial difficulties and injuries severely restricted his appearances. At the end of 1939 he moved to city rivals AC Milan but although his class still shone through, he had lost much of his pace. After two stop-start years with Milan (37 games - 9 goals), he guested for Juventus (27 games -10 goals) before joining Atalanta for one season in 1945, scoring twice in fourteen games. With Inter struggling, he returned to his old club as player/coach and worked his old magic to help them stave off relegation. He played his last Serie A game against Bologna in Milan's San Siro Stadium in June 1947. In total he had scored 243 goals in 361 games for Inter - a magnificent record.

When Meazza died in 1979 at the age of 68, the City Council of Milan decided to honour him in recognition of his importance to Italian football. Accordingly on what would have been his 69th Birthday, the San Siro Stadium was officially renamed Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.

BORN: Milan, Kingdom of Italy. 23.8.10.

DIED: Rapallo, Italy. 21.8.79 (aged 68).

CLUBS: 1927–1940 Inter, 1940–1942 Milan, 1942–1943 Juventus, 1944 Varese, 1945–1946 Atalanta, 1946–1947 Inter.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: Italy 1930–1939 Caps 53 Goals 33.


The Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame welcomes you both. YNWA

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame #4


1961/62 - 1970/71

Ian St John was the spark that lit a flame destined to burn triumphantly for the next three decades and beyond. When quizzed by his board about the wisdom of paying Motherwell £37,500 for the Scottish international centre-forward, Bill Shankly described him as the man the Reds couldn't afford not to buy, the most urgently needed component of his brave new team. The manager's judgement, as usual, was impeccable.

From the night of lan's first appearance in a red shirt - a Liverpool Senior Cup Final against Everton at Goodison Park in August 1961- it was clear that he and his new club were made for each other. He moved with a jaunty swagger, 5ft 7l/2in of concentrated aggression topped by a pugnacious crew-cut - and he scored a hat-trick. His rapport with the fans was instant and complete; a folk hero was born.

The opening matches of the Division Two title campaign showed that Ian needed time to adjust but there was no doubting his quality. He was strong, cunning and courageous, devastating in the air for such a small man and adept at delicate flicks which did much to promote a fruitful scoring partnership with Roger Hunt. Ian notched 18 goals as the Reds went up, following that with 19 as a First Division new boy and 21 in 1963/64, on the way to the Championship.

That season saw a turning point which meant 'The Saint' would never score as heavily again but would contribute even more significantly to the eternal Anfield trophy quest. When schemer Jimmy Melia was injured, Shankly withdrew Ian into a deep-lying role in which he revealed his full potential for the first time. He became mastermind of the attack, feeding colleagues with possession and creating space for them to use it with his intelligent running. It didn't mean the goals dried up entirely - witness the jack-knife header which won the FA Cup against Leeds in 1965 - but simply that lan's vision, mobility and all-round skills were employed to bring a new dimension to Liverpool's game.

Hunt continued to be prime beneficiary of his former front-running comrade's talents, as he acknowledged after scoring against Standard Liege in the European Cup Winners' Cup tie in December 1965. Ian had run half the length of the field, drawing defenders with him, before slipping the ball through for an unmarked Roger to net.

By the dawn of the seventies, with the Reds' first wave of Shankly-inspired honours behind them, Ian was into his thirties and his fitness had declined but, used sparingly, he remained capable of transforming a game with his subtle touch and slick, close passing. Rumanians Dynamo Bucharest were the victims in December 1970 when he was taken off the bench to turn a shaky 1-0 lead into a comfortable 3-0 margin by laying on two late goals in the European Fairs Cup.

Throughout his playing days 'The Saint' was no stranger to controversy. Often he was criticised for flashes of bad temper, such as the clash with Preston's Tony Singleton in March 1962 which led to a joint dismissal, but fire was an integral part of his make-up and, crucially, there never appeared to be malice aforethought.

On retirement he tried coaching and then management but didn't excel as many people thought he might and eventually became a TV personality. But in years to come it should not be as Jimmy Greaves' chat show sparring partner that he is recalled. In assessing his place in Liverpool's modern history, students of the Reds would do well to heed the wisdom of one Bill Shankly when he said:’ In the beginning was Ian St John ...'

BORN: Motherwell, 7.6.38. GAMES: 418 (5). GOALS: 118.

CLUBS: Motherwell 57-61; Liverpool 61-71; Coventry City 71-72 (18, 3); Tranmere Rovers 72-73 (9, 1).

HONOURS: League Championship 63/4, 65/6. Second Division Championship 61/2. FA Cup 64/5.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: 21 Scotland caps (59-65).



Franz Beckenbauer stands alone in the annals of football -the one man to win the World Cup both as a captain and a manager. As a player, he led West Germany (as they were then known) to victory on home soil in 1974 and sixteen years later completed a unique double by managing the team that defeated Argentina 1-0 in Rome.

Yet there was much more to Beckenbauer than mere statistics. Even those who considered the German game to be robotic and physical, paling in comparison alongside the flamboyant Brazilians, were forced to admit that Beckenbauer had style. Upright, elegant and unruffled, he strode across the turf in a manner that suggested he owned every blade of grass. He exemplified German superiority - some would say arrogance - as he pioneered the role of the attacking sweeper.

Before Beckenbauer, defenders only ventured forward for set pieces but he had the confidence, the audacity, to carry the ball from the back on long powerful runs with an authority that almost dared the opposition to tackle him. No wonder they called him 'Der Kaiser'.

England came to regret Beckenbauer's development more than any other nation as it was his surge forward, culminating in a speculative shot, that brought the Germans back into the 1970 World Cup quarter-final. From a seemingly impregnable 2-0 advantage, England crumbled to bow out of the tournament 3-2 - a result that raised the first question marks against the tactical expertise of Sir Alf Ramsey.

Beckenbauer was born amid the ruins of post-war Germany on 11 September 1945. At the age of fourteen he joined the youth team at his local club, Bayern Munich, and three years later relinquished his job as a trainee insurance salesman to become a professional footballer. He made his first-team debut in 1964 as an outside-left but was soon switched into midfield and within a year had won his first international cap in a vital World Cup qualifying win in Sweden. Arguably, the 1966 finals came too soon for him. Although he scored four times en route to the final, he was unable to contain Bobby Charlton in the match that mattered. Beckenbauer himself later reflected: ‘England beat us in 1966 because Bobby Charlton was just a bit better than me.'

His revenge came four years later by which time he had also guided Bayern to domestic and European honours, including a 1967 European Cup Winners' Cup final success against Glasgow Rangers. In 1971 he was made captain of his country, a role that enabled him to perfect the sweeper role. At the following year's European Championships Beckenbauer, revelling in the freedom of being unmarked, became the focal point for every German move and steered his nation to a crushing victory over the Soviet Union in the final. His reward was to be named European Footballer of the Year - a title he also won in 1976. This was truly Beckenbauer's golden age. In addition to the 1974 World Cup triumph, he captained Bayern to three successive European Cups between 1974 and 1976. Under Beckenbauer's influence, Bayern were probably the finest club side in the world.

In 1977 he joined the exodus to the fledgling North American Soccer League, helping New York Cosmos win the Soccer Bowl three times in four years. Despite possessing no coaching experience, he was appointed manager of West Germany in 1984 and proceeded to take an indifferent German team to the World Cup final in 1986 where they lost 3-2 to Argentina. Four years later Beckenbauer's team made amends. His place in history was assured.

Moving into club management, he had a brief and uncharacteristically barren spell with Olympique Marseille before returning to his beloved Bayern in 1994 and leading them to the Bundesliga title. He duly became club president - a role he would occupy with the same grace and polish that he did as a player.

BORN: Munich, Germany 11.9.45.

CLUBS: 1964–1977 Bayern Munich, 1977–1980 New York Cosmos, 1980–1982 Hamburg, 1983 New York Cosmos.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: West Germany 1965–1977 Caps 103 Goals 14.


The Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame welcomes you both. YNWA

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame #3


1968/69 - 1980/81

Ray Clemence was possibly the most important factor in Liverpool's continued success throughout the seventies. That assessment came from Bill Shankly, the man who paid Scunthorpe United £18,000 for the 19-year-old goalkeeper in June 1967 and then saw him rise to become one of the best - maybe, at his peak, the very best - in the world.

When Ray arrived at Anfield, Bill hinted that a first-team spot was there for the taking. But the canny Reds boss was either under-valuing the ability of 'keeper-in-residence Tommy Lawrence, which was not likely, or indulging in kidology to spur the new boy to greater efforts, which was. In the event Ray had to wait two and a half seasons to claim a place. By then, having tuned his talents to an irresistible pitch of readiness at the elbow of his helpful predecessor, he was itching to prove himself.

His early games were played behind giant, aerially-dominant centre-halves – first Ron Yeats, then Larry Lloyd - and initially Ray impressed with safe handling, sharp reflexes and a knack of getting down quickly to low shots. But as his confidence grew in subsequent seasons it was clear that he was a truly outstanding all-rounder; apart from a weakness in goal-kicking – on which he worked until it came up to scratch - there were no perceptible flaws. Ray combined a keen positional sense with shrewd anticipation, instinctively knowing when to leave his line and when to stay on it. This made for an unflashy technique but Shankly knew that acrobatics were a poor substitute for clean sheets and blessed the day he'd rescued Ray from Third Division obscurity.

Another immense Clemence virtue, so vital to the 'keeper of a team such as Liverpool which spent long periods in their opponents' halves, was concentration, and Ray possessed it in abundance. He could spend lengthy chunks of a match marooned behind one of the world's most stingy defences without getting a touch of the ball and it's a measure of his greatness that he could respond so magnificently when the need arose. Indeed, but for the positive approach of this compulsive shouter and organiser - which demanded involvement and sometimes made him more sweeper than 'keeper - he might have spent his Anfield years as the loneliest man in English football!

Statistical proof of Ray's excellence is plentiful. In his first full term, which ended with a brilliant display in the FA Cup Final defeat by Arsenal, he conceded only 22 goals in his 41 games to help his defence equal the First Division record of 24 in a season. The achievement was destined to be eclipsed, however, as Ray let in a miserly 16 in 1978/79. But it's saves rather than cold figures which live on in the memories of Reds fans, with penalty stops being particularly vivid. One in a goalless away leg against Dynamo Dresden on the way to winning the 1975/76 UEFA Cup, when he dived full-length to reach a firm, low shot, was a real heart-stopper.

Clem, a dedicated trainer who relished scoring in five-a-sides and dubbed himself ‘The White Pele', ended his 'Pool days on a surprising note in August 1981. Still at the peak of his powers, he announced the need for a new challenge and joined Spurs, for whom he made more than 250 senior appearances. It's hard to see, though, what he hoped to find in the way of motivation at White Hart Lane that was missing at Anfield.

Running parallel to his club exploits was an illustrious international career throughout which he vied for the England jersey with Peter Shilton. The debate about who was the better will rage forever; suffice it to say that Kopites, like Ray's new fans at White Hart lane, were a touch peeved with England manager Bobby Robson's final verdict.

BORN: Skegness, 5.8.48. GAMES: 656. GOALS: 0.

CLUBS: Scunthorpe United 1965-1967, Liverpool 1968-1981, Tottenham Hotspur 1981-1988.

HONOURS: European Cup 76/7, 77/8, 80/1. UEFA Cup 72/3, 75/6. League Championship 72/3, 75/6, 76/7, 78/9, 79/80. FA Cup 73/4. League Cup 80/1.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: 61 England caps (72-83).



Known in Europe as the 'Black Panther' because of his distinctive all-black strip, Lev Yashin has been hailed as the finest goalkeeper in the history of football. Whilst others may also lay claim to that particular title, there can be no doubt that the man who saved no fewer than 150 penalties in his career is the most famous sportsman that the Soviet Union has ever produced.

Born into a family of Moscow factory workers, Yashin himself worked in a tools factory while playing amateur football in his spare time. Since he was the tallest boy in the neighbourhood, he wanted to play at centre forward but his team coach had other ideas and put him in goal. In 1946 he joined the Moscow Dynamo club ... as an ice hockey goaltender. However, the coaches there soon realised that his natural aptitude was for soccer and after making his first-team debut in 1951, he took over as regular goalkeeper two years later when Alexei 'Tiger' Khomich suffered a long-term injury.

He gained his first international cap in 1954, helped his country to Olympic gold in 1956 and then to victory in the inaugural European Championships of 1960, beating Yugoslavia in the Paris final. By then Yashin was established as an outstanding goalkeeper, his agility complemented by sound positional sense. He was also one of the first keepers to be comfortable with playing outside the penalty area, his kicking being of the highest order. Nor did he hesitate when it came to organising the defenders in front of him - even his wife used to accuse him of shouting too much on the pitch. Although supremely confident he was incredibly superstitious and always took two caps to a match -one to wear and the other to put in the back of the net for luck.

Following an indifferent World Cup in 1962 where he made a few uncharacteristic blunders, as a result of which the USSR lost in the quarter-finals to host nation Chile, Yashin returned to form and was named European Footballer of the Year in 1963-the only goalkeeper ever to have received that honour. He was also chosen to represent FIFA in a World XI at Wembley in a match to mark the centenary of the Football Association. He excelled in the 1966 World Cup although ironically it was his error that allowed West Germany's Franz Beckenbauer to score the decisive goal in the semi-finals. The next year he won the last of his 78 caps (then a Soviet record), having conceded under a goal a game during his thirteen years as national custodian.

Such was the esteem in which Yashin was held in his homeland that in 1968 he became the first footballer to be awarded the Soviet Union's highest honour, the Order of Lenin, and when he retired in 1970 the event was marked with a testimonial match the following year at the Lenin stadium in Moscow in front of 100,000 fans. An indication of the respect he enjoyed throughout the football world was the fact that players of the calibre of Pele, Eusebio, Bobby Charlton and Beckenbauer travelled to Moscow for the occasion. He had made 326 appearances for Moscow Dynamo, guiding them to five League titles and three domestic Cup successes. His reward was to be offered the manager's job the day after his testimonial.

Sadly, this supreme athlete, who had always covered the ground with such speed and purpose, was stricken by ill health in 1986 and had to have a leg amputated. He died four years later. A true one-club man, his impact on Soviet sport cannot be over­estimated. At a time when supposedly female Russian shot putters had a nasty habit of disappearing off the face of the earth as soon as sex tests were introduced, Yashin was one of the few Soviet sporting heroes who was instantly recognisable and welcomed in the western world.

BORN: Moscow, USSR.  22.10.29. GAMES: 326. GOALS: 0.

DIED: Moscow, 20.4.90 (aged 60).

CLUBS: 1949–1971 Dynamo Moscow.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: Russian SFSR, Soviet Union 1954-1970 Caps 78.


The Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame welcomes you both. YNWA

Monday, 27 August 2012

Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame #2

1945/46 - 1960/61

It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the stature of Billy Liddell in the history of Liverpool FC. As a footballer he thrilled the Anfield faithful; as a man he warmed their hearts; as a symbol of all that was fine in the field of sporting endeavour he was unmatchable.

For nearly 15 years the self-effacing Scottish winger cum centre-forward was the outstanding player for a club which experienced fleeting moments of glory but which, in general, was a frustrated hotbed of unfulfilled potential. Had he been born two, three or four decades later and played under Shankly or Paisley, Fagan or Dalglish, he would have been knee-deep in honours. As it was he had to be content with a solitary League Championship medal and the knowledge that not for nothing was the team he graced known as Liddellpool.

Billy signed on at Anfield as a promising flankman in 1939 and then saw the first six years of his career lost to the war. During the conflict he served as an RAF navigator but his soccer talents were not entirely redundant. He played almost 150 times for his new club in emergency competitions and served notice that here was something special.

In January 1946, with life gradually returning to something approaching normality, he made his official Liverpool debut five days short of his 24th birthday, scoring at Chester in the FA Cup. But it was in the following campaign that Billy Liddell really set sail on the course that was to earn him sporting immortality on Merseyside.

Playing 35 games as the Reds took the title, he revealed the pace and power which were to become his hallmarks. Billy was particularly dangerous running at defenders and cutting inside from the left wing, and although he found the net only seven times that season he effectively demonstrated the dashing style which was to make him one of Liverpool's most prolific goal-scorers.

As he grew in experience his influence on the team burgeoned. He was muscular and skilful, blessed with a sprinter's speed and a fearsome shot, good in the air and unfailingly courageous. He took the eye whether lining up on the left, the right or in the centre, a veritable one-man forward line. Sadly the side did not progress at the same rate and Billy - by now a Scotland regular whose international standing and durability were recognised by selection for Great Britain against the Rest of Europe in 1947 and 1955 was in the unfortunate position of being a star in a team which plunged first to mid-table mediocrity and ultimately, in 1953/54, to relegation.

He reacted with characteristic determination and in his first four seasons in the lower grade notched 101 goals in 156 League matches - he was the Reds' leading scorer in eight out of nine seasons in the fifties - but it was not enough to secure promotion.

As his pace waned with age, he lost that stirring ability to run past defenders but compensated with a more mature passing game from a deep-lying position. The devotion of the supporters never wavered and when he returned at the age of 37 after one of several spells on the sidelines he scored two spectacular goals against Bristol City in August 1959. The acclaim was rapturous, and deservedly so.

But there was more to Billy than his athletic attributes. A chivalrous, loyal man who was not too proud to stud the boots for his team-mates when left out of the side in 1959, he was always ready to help youngsters and went on to become a youth worker, lay preacher and JP. If ever a footballer deserved to be called a hero, then it was Billy Liddell. He will be forever revered on Merseyside and beyond.

BORN: Dunfermline, 10.1.22. GAMES: 537. GOALS: 229.

DIED: Liverpool, 3.7.01

CLUBS: 1937-38 Lochgelly Violet F.C., 1938-1961 Liverpool.

HONOURS: League Championship 46/7.

INERNATIONAL CAREER: 28 Scotland caps (47-56), 2 Great Britain XI Caps.


Eusébio da Silva Ferreira is the most famous footballer that Portugal has ever produced. He has been the subject of a film, Sua Majestade o Re! (His Majesty the King), is feted wherever he goes and in 1992 a statue in his honour was unveiled outside Benfica's Stadium of Light. Small wonder when you consider that in 291 League games for the Lisbon club he scored an incredible 317 goals, many of them spectacular.

Eusébio had grace, pace and power, earning him the nickname of 'The Black Panther'. His deadly shooting allied to his strong running and dribbling skills made him one of the most dangerous strikers in the world. At the height of his fame in the sixties he was hailed as Europe's Pele.

As a teenager in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique, Eusébio was a sprint champion and an accomplished basketball player, but football was the game he loved. He made his debut in 1958 with Lourenco Marques, a nursery club for Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon, but Benfica were also alerted to Eusébio's talents when their coach, Bela Guttmann, happened to be sitting in the hairdresser's next to the coach of Brazilian club Sao Paolo, who were touring Portugal at the time.

The Brazilian told Guttmann about a brilliant footballer he had seen in Portuguese East Africa and within a week Guttmann had flown out to sign Eusébio. Unfortunately Sporting still thought they had a claim on him too and so when Eusébio arrived in Lisbon in 1961 he was 'kidnapped' by Benfica and hidden away in an Algarve fishing village until the two clubs settled their differences!

With the contract wrangle eventually resolved in Benfica's favour, Eusébio made an instant impact, helping the club win the Portuguese title in his first season. The following year he scored twice as Benfica humbled five-times winners Real Madrid 5-3 in the European Cup Final in Amsterdam - the first time Real had tasted defeat in a major European final. In 1963 he again scored in the European Cup Final but this time Benfica slipped up 2-1 to AC Milan at Wembley. He went on to play in two more finals - against Inter Milan in 1965 and Manchester United in 1968 - but finished on the losing side both times.

Voted European Footballer of the Year in 1965, Eusébio was already an established international by the time of the 1966 World Cup. He was without doubt the outstanding player of the tournament, being top scorer with nine goals, including four in that epic encounter with North Korea where he single-handedly dragged the Portuguese back from the very brink of an embarrassing defeat. Despite also scoring in the semi­-final defeat against England, he left the pitch in tears. His performances had made such an impression on the British public that his figure was immediately added to Madame Tussaud's waxwork collection. Most defenders must have wished they had been playing against the dummy.

His speciality right-foot thunderbolts made him the leading scorer in Portugal on seven occasions and his total of 46 goals in European competition put him second only to Alfredo Di Stefano. In addition he twice finished top scorer in the whole of Europe with 42 goals in 1968 and 40 in 1973. By the time he left Benfica to move to the newly formed North American Soccer League in 1975 following a bad knee injury, he had picked up no fewer than ten Portuguese League winner's medals. In his fifteen seasons in Lisbon, there were only two in which he failed to win a major honour.

After two years in America he returned to Benfica as coach but, as so often happens, he failed to repeat his success as a player. In his entire career he played 715 games and scored 727 goals. He was truly awesome.

BORN: Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique). 21.1.42.

CLUBS:  1957–1960 Sporting Lourenço Marques, 1960–1975 Benfica, 1975 Rhode Island Oceaneers, 1975 Boston Minutemen, 1975–1976 Monterrey, 1976–1977 Beira-Mar, 1976 Toronto Metros-Croatia, 1977 Las Vegas Quicksilvers, 1978 New Jersey Americans, 1977–1978 União de Tomar

INERNATIONAL CAREER: Portugal 1961–1973 Caps 64 Goals 41


The Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame welcomes you both. YNWA

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame #1


1959/60 - 1977/78

If ever one player embodied the multitude of qualities which built Liverpool into one of the world's greatest clubs then, undeniably, Ian Callaghan was that man. From the day he made his debut as a teenager against Bristol Rovers at Anfield in April 1960 - receiving an ovation from team-mates, opponents, the crowd, even the referee! - until his departure for Swansea nearly two decades later, he was, without ever being a star in the accepted sense, a shining example of everything a top footballer should be.

Ian's career divides neatly into two halves. He spent the sixties as an orthodox right-winger, one of the best in the country, before converting into a chugging dynamo in central midfield, a role which was to win him a belated international recall at the age of 35.

He made his bow as a diminutive professional of six weeks' standing with only four Central League games behind him. A man-size shirt hung loosely on his wiry frame but there was no suggestion of a little boy lost when he started to play. In that first match he revealed confidence, bags of natural ability and a precious instinct which told him when to hold the ball and when to release it. A golden future awaited but Bill Shankly was wary of prematurely pitching his gifted rookie into the maelstrom of League football. A season and a half passed before he was awarded a regular berth and then he helped to win long-coveted promotion.

Ian's game blossomed in the First Division. He formed a potent partnership with left-flank trickster Peter Thompson and the honours flowed. While Peter was more devious, Ian was fast and direct, making it his business to reach the by-line and feed Roger Hunt and Ian St John with a diet of crosses which did much to nourish the Reds' goal tally.

Never a heavy scorer himself, Ian did contribute several memorable strikes. Particularly satisfying was an acute-angled sidefoot from a well-rehearsed free-kick routine involving Hunt and Willie Stevenson that stunned Inter Milan in the 1965 European Cup semi-final at Anfield, though more spectacular was a 30-yarder which sunk Everton in autumn 1963 as Shankly's men headed for their first Championship.

The watershed in the Callaghan career came in 1970/71. Liverpool were experienc­ing an indifferent patch but their reliable right-winger was playing as well as ever until a cartilage operation sidelined him for four months. In his absence newcomer Brian Hall prospered and there were fears that Ian’s days in a red shirt were num­bered. Such qualms were not shared by the manager, who doubted neither his man's resilience, nor his capacity to adapt, and simply handed him a new job in midfield.

Ian responded by missing only four games in the subsequent five seasons, during which he was awarded the MBE, was voted Footballer of the Year and played a major part in placing untold strain on the Anfield trophy cabinet. His intelligence and enthusiasm, precise passing and limitless stamina were never seen to better effect and that return to the England side - he had been axed when Alf Ramsey abandoned wingers in 1966 - was a fitting reward. The cascade of tributes which followed gen­uinely puzzled the modest Cally, who felt his game had remained at the same consis­tent level throughout his years with the Reds.

When it was time to move on he could look back on an exemplary record. He had been the one common denominator in three fine teams, played more games than anyone in the club's history, never been cautioned by a referee and set a towering example of loyalty; dedication and skill. Ian Callaghan created a formidable standard; if others can meet it they will be great men indeed.

BORN: Liverpool, 10.4.42. GAMES: 843 (5). GOALS: 69.

HONOURS: European Cup 76/7. UEFA Cup 72/3, 75/6. League Championship 63/4, 65/6, 72/3, 75/6, 76/7. Second Division Championship 61/2. FA Cup 64/5, 73/4.

OTHER CLUBS: Swansea City 78/9-79/80 (76, 1); Cork Hibernian; Soudifjord, Norway; Crewe Alexandra 81/2 (15, 0).

INERNATIONAL CAREER: 4 England caps (66-77).



As a child Garrincha had both legs crippled by polio, the disease leaving him with a left leg that bent inwards and a right one that was two and a half inches shorter and curved outwards. But it didn't stop him from playing football and he went on to be acclaimed the world over for his electric pace and brilliant dribbling. Bizarrely his deformed knee joints were almost designed for curling shots struck with the outside of the foot and it was the swerving banana shot which would become his trademark.

Manuel Francisco dos Santos was born into poverty in Pau Grande, a small city near Rio de Janeiro. He joined his local club in 1947, remaining with them for six years before turning professional with Botafogo. There he was given the nickname 'Garrincha' (meaning 'Little Bird'), songbirds being one of his favourite hobbies ... along with women and alcohol. On the pitch, the frail winger wasted no time in showing off his dazzling skills. He marked his first appearance by scoring a breathtaking hat-trick in the 6-3 victory over Bonsucesso and went on to score 232 goals in 581 games in his thirteen-year stay with Botafogo. During that period the most eagerly awaited games in Brazilian domestic football were invariably the encounters between Garrincha's Botafogo and Pele's Santos - meetings of two of the world's most exciting talents. In these epic contests the little man in the number seven shirt proved every bit the equal of his more illustrious compatriot.

Garrincha first played for his country in 1955 - against Chile - and was a member of the 1958 World Cup squad that travelled to Sweden. He had to wait until the third group game for his big chance in the tournament, the team doctor having told Vicente Feola, the Brazilian coach, that including Garrincha in the team would be a disaster. However, the players pleaded with Feola to include the 'Little Bird' and Garrincha confounded his critics by hitting the bar in the first minute against the USSR. He and the other newcomer in that game, Pele, made all the difference to Brazil's attack and eventually inspired their country to a 5-2 victory over the host nation in the final.

The next World Cup proved even more successful for Garrincha as it allowed him to emerge from Pele's shadow. With Pele injured in only the second game in Chile, Garrincha was thrust into the limelight. He responded by switching from his usual wing position to centre forward and scoring two brilliant goals in the 3-1 quarter-final victory over England, both the result of outrageous individualism. He then scored two more in the semi-final with Chile, only to blot his copybook by getting sent off for retaliation in the 84* minute. As he left the pitch he was hit by a bottle thrown from the crowd. Following a personal plea to FIFA from the Brazilian President, Garrincha was given clearance to play in the final where he picked up a second World Cup winners' medal as Czechoslovakia were beaten 3-1.

At the 1966 World Cup in England, Garrincha made an early impact by scoring with a curling free-kick in the 2-0 win against Bulgaria, But with Pele rested for the second game against Hungary, Brazil crashed 3-1, Garrincha limping off after being the victim of a hard tackle. It would be his last international and was the only time he played on the losing side for Brazil.

He played for a handful of Brazilian clubs over the next few years but, besieged by marital and financial problems, slipped into a rapid decline and died in 1983 of alcohol poisoning at the age of 49.

There is a saying in Brazil - 'Pele was the best, but Garrincha was better.' And even Pele acknowledged: 'Without Garrincha, I would never have been a three times world champion.'

BORN: Pau Grande, Brazil. 28.10.33.

DIED: 19.01.83. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (aged 49)

CLUBS: 1953–1965 Botafogo, 1966 Corinthians, 1967 Portuguesa Carioca, 1968 Atlético Junior, 1968–1969 Flamengo, 1972 Olaria

INERNATIONAL CAREER: Brazil 1955-1966 Caps 50 Goals 12.


The Igor Bišćan Hall of Fame welcomes you both. YNWA