Manager profile

George Kay

Birthdate: 21 September 1891
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Other clubs as manager: Luton Town, Southampton
Arrived from: Southampton
Signed for LFC: 6 August 1936
First game in charge: 29.08.1936
Contract Expiry: 30.01.1951
LFC league games as manager: 324
Total LFC games as manager: 357
Honours: First Division champions 1947

Manager profile

Kay was 44-years-old when he left Southampton for Liverpool in August 1936. He was born in Manchester and played for local club Eccles before joining Bolton Wanderers in 1911, with whom he had a very brief spell before moving across the Irish Sea to play in Belfast. When competitive soccer resumed after World War I, Kay joined West Ham United and was their skipper in the first FA Cup final to be staged at Wembley in 1923. The Hammers lost that day to Kay’s former club Bolton, but had the ample consolation of a place in the top league as runners-up in the Second Division. Towards the end of the 1920’s Kay moved to Stockport County as a player and then on to Luton Town, initially as their player-coach in 1928 before taking on the role of manager a year later at the age of 38. He held that post until the end of the 1930/31 season before being attracted by the opportunity of managing a club in a higher division, Southampton. The Saints had been promoted as Division Three South champions in 1922 and were anxious to taste life at the very top. But during the five full seasons that Kay was in charge at The Dell, the club never made the top-half of the table. All the same, Kay was respected within the game and was clearly knowledgeable and not afraid to try out new ideas. He was also experienced and probably a combination of all those qualities brought him to Liverpool’s attention when it was clear that George Patterson would be unable to continue the managerial side of his role as secretary-manager. Although appointed on 6 August 1936 Kay stayed at Southampton to fulfill his duties and started working for Liverpool on 21 August 1936. 

Kay had only been at Anfield a couple of years when another World War broke out, a conflict that would interrupt and in some cases end the careers of many a fine footballer. The League was on hiatus but regional competitions took their place. Many of the club's players served their country and Kay was hard at work to find men to represent Liverpool's eleven. Billy Liddell noted that "with players in the forces stationed all over the country, Mr. Kay wrote thousands of letters and must have spent many hours on the phone to Commanding officers. Such was his personality that his own players and guest players would willingly make long journeys to play for the Reds." One of those men was a certain Bill Shankly who was impressed by Kay: "I played for Liverpool against Everton during the war in the Liverpool Senior Cup, as a guest from Preston. All the players were in the passageway including Billy Liddell and myself. But George Kay, the Liverpool manager, didn't speak. He just went round touching people on the shoulder. If he touched you then you were playing." With the war over, the club took the unusual step of deciding to tour North America and Canada. It is quite likely that George Kay was the instigator of this trip; certainly he was fully in favour of it because he felt that the climate and diet in a part of the world that hadn’t been affected by food rationing the way European countries had would be extremely beneficial. The schedule was punishing; ten matches at various venues between 12 May and 11 June, but it benefited the Reds who started the first post-war season in far better physical shape than many of their competitors as Kay claimed himself in a note to the Echo while in America: "The players are 25 percent above par in football, due in my opinion to the quality, quantity and variety of food."

Liverpool went on to win the championship in 1947 but it was a mighty close thing. A hard winter meant that a season which had begun at the end of August didn’t finish until the start of June. Liverpool, Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City were all in with a chance of taking the title as the season reached its climax. Liverpool’s final fixture was against Wolves at Molineux. The hosts had 56 points, the visitors 55. Liverpool had to win and then wait and hope. They did their part of the job by winning 2-1, other results went their way and the Reds were champions of the Football League for a fifth time. It was George Kay’s finest moment as a football manager. One of his key players was Albert Stubbins: "George Kay was a first-class manager and a very big influence on me. He was a lovely man, quiet and a deep thinker. He’d read books about psychology and he knew how to get the best out of his players," the ginger-haired Geordie said. "George’s first thought was always for his players. He’d never tear a strip off us or criticise a Liverpool player in the press. That’s were the psychology came into play. If we were trailing at half-time he’d come into the dressing room and although he’d point out our errors he’d always say, ‘Well played, lads’. He knew and we knew, that we weren’t playing well, but because he was so understanding we felt we had to play extra well to repay his faith in us."

The club didn’t come close to another championship and the nearest it came to additional success was in 1950 when the Reds reached the FA Cup final for only the second time and the first for 36 years. Kay was intent on using his cup experience. "When I played in the first Cup final ever staged at Wembley, as captain of West Ham United, we did not win the trophy, but I am hoping that my second visit there, as manager of Liverpool will see us successful," Kay said enthusiastically. "We have a splendid lot of players, grand sportsmen every one of them. No manager ever had charge of a happier team." Sadly, the big day out at Wembley ended in disappointment with defeat to Arsenal. Kay travelled to London and led the team out but he was far from being a well man. Still his Liverpool contract was renewed for a further five years in June 1950. He retired in January 1951 a few months short of his sixtieth birthday, fought his continuing illness with strength and courage but died in Liverpool three years later on 19 April 1954. Liddell knew how much Kay's job had taken out of him: "He told me often of the times he had lain in bed, unable to sleep, pondering over the manifold problems that beset every manager... if any man gave his life for a club; George Kay did so for Liverpool."

Bob Paisley was full of praise for George Kay and his importance in the club's history. "He took Liverpool through the War to come out a bit like West Ham did after the First War. He was one of the people who laid the ground for the way Liverpool teams would play in the future... keeping the ball on the ground and passing it well, but being strong on the ball as well."


Statistics

CompetitionTotalWonDrawLostGoals forGoals against
Grand totals35414093121545508
League32112188112489469
FA Cup3319595639
League Cup000000
Europe000000
Other000000

Matches that are won or lost in a penalty shoot-out are counted as a win/loss not as a draw.

Related Articles

Related Quotes

"The manager, George Kay wasn't a bad fella either. You'd never hear him cursing and swearing. He was the type of manager you could talk to and I got along fine with him."

Stan Palk, former Liverpool player

He had no other thought but for the good of Liverpool during his waking hours, and also during many of his nights. He told me often of the times he had lain in bed, unable to sleep, pondering over the manifold problems that beset every manager, but which can be a curse to the oversensitive or excessively conscientious ones ...if any man gave his life for a club; George Kay did so for Liverpool.

Billy Liddell on manager George Kay

"George Kay was a first-class manager and a very big influence on me. He was a lovely man, quiet and a deep thinker. He’d read books about psychology and he knew how to get the best out of his players.

George’s first thought was always for his players. He’d never tear a strip off us or criticise a Liverpool player in the press. That’s were the psychology came into play. If we were trailing at half-time he’d come into the dressing room and although he’d point out our errors he’d always say, ‘Well played, lads’. He knew and we knew, that we weren’t playing well, but because he was so understanding we felt we had to play extra well to repay his faith in us.

I’ll always remember my first game at Anfield when I missed a penalty. Jack Balmer was the regular penalty-taker at Liverpool, but I was so used to taking the penalties at Newcastle that when I was first tripped in the area I automatically jumped up and placed the ball on the spot. I’d never missed one for Newcastle and the supporters were all expecting me to score my first home goal, but the keeper pulled off a tremendous save. He actually broke his arm in the process. Fortunately we won, but George Kay was so upset with afterwards that he took me out for tea after the game."

George Kay by Albert Stubbins

"When I played in the first Cup final ever staged at Wembley, as captain of West Ham United, we did not win the trophy, but I am hoping that my second visit there, as manager of Liverpool will see us successful. We have a splendid lot of players, grand sportsmen every one of them. No manager ever had charge of a happier team."

George Kay in 1950

"George was meticulous about drinking before a game. On the Friday night before a home game we’d stay at a hotel in Southport. I remember one occasion, we’d just signed a inside-left from Oldham called Ken Brierley. We sat down for lunch and Ken was there with a glass of beer. That was unheard off and we couldn’t believe it. Anyway, as we took our seat, Ken asked Jack Balmer, who was our captain, if it was okay. Jack replied, ‘Oh yes, we always have a pint before a game.’ When George Kay came in, he walked straight over to Ken and pulled the glass away. Ken was astonished and George told him straight, ‘When you are a Liverpool player, you do not drink before a game!’"

Albert Stubbins on a trick played on Ken Brierley

I played for Liverpool against Everton during the war in the Liverpool Senior Cup, as a guest from Preston. All the players were in the passageway including Billy Liddell and myself. But George Kay, the Liverpool manager, didn't speak. He just went round touching people on the shoulder. If he touched you then you were playing.

Bill Shankly on Liverpool manager George Kay

He took Liverpool through the War to come out a bit like West Ham did after the First War. He was one of the people who laid the ground for the way Liverpool teams would play in the future... keeping the ball on the ground and passing it well, but being strong on the ball as well.

Bob Paisley was full of praise for manager George Kay

Players bought

PlayerClubFeeDate
Matthew Fitzsimmons Mather United Free October 1936
John Shafto Hexham Free November 1936
Dirk Kemp Transvaal Unknown 7 December 1936
Alexander Smith Buckie Thistle £100 February 1937
William Hood Cliftonville Unknown March 1937
George Paterson Hall Russell's Unknown 21 May 1937
Ted Harston Mansfield Town £3,000 18 June 1937
Harman Van Den Berg Peninsular Unknown 18 October 1937
Willie Fagan Preston North End £8,000 22 October 1937
Cyril Done Bootle FC Free January 1938
Bill Kinghorn Queen's Park Unknown 5 February 1938
Ron Jones Wrexham Unknown 10 March 1938
Jimmy McInnes Third Lanark £5,500 15 March 1938
Billy Liddell Lochghelly Violet £200 27 July 1938
Bill Jones Hayfield St Matthews Free September 1938
Bob Paisley Bishop Auckland Free 8 May 1939
George Poland Wrexham £1,500 29 June 1939
Stan Palk South Liverpool Free 1940
Laurie Hughes Tranmere Rovers Free 19 February 1943
Kevin Baron Preston North End Free 1944
Bryan Williams South Liverpool Free March 1944
Bob Priday Cape Town City Unknown 28 November 1945
Bill Shepherd Elm Park Free December 1945
Billy Watkinson Prescot Cables Free February 1946
Cyril Sidlow Wolves £4,000 21 February 1946
Albert Stubbins Newcastle United £13,000 12 September 1946
Alex Muir Lochghelly Violet Unknown July 1947
Doug McAvoy Kilmarnock £7,000 11 December 1947
Ken Brierley Oldham Athletic £7,000 28 February 1948
Roy Saunders Hull City Free 24 May 1948
Joe Cadden Brooklyn Wanderers Free 12 June 1948
John Heydon Everton Free 1 January 1949
Peter Kippax Free Transfer Free 10 January 1949
Frank Christie Forfar Athletic Unknown March 1949
Sam Shields Cowdenbeath Free 3 May 1949
Jack Haigh Gainsborough Town Free October 1949
Don Woan Bootle Athletic £1,000 October 1950

Players sold

PlayerClubFeeDate
Tommy Johnson Darwen Free August 1936
Lance Carr Newport County Unknown 22 October 1936
Bob Glassey Stoke City Unknown November 1936
Norman Low Newport County Unknown 13 November 1936
John Shield Bishop Auckland Free 1937
Jimmy Collins Cardiff City Unknown May 1937
Vic Wright Plymouth Argyle £1,000 11 June 1937
Syd Roberts Shrewsbury Free August 1937
Ernie Blenkinsop Cardiff City Unknown 26 November 1937
Ted Savage Manchester United £1,500 30 December 1937
Jimmy McDougall South Liverpool Unknown 1938
William Hood Derry City Unknown 1938
Alexander Smith Crewe Unknown 1938
Ben Dabbs Watford Unknown June 1938
Fred Howe Manchester City Unknown 17 June 1938
Alf Hanson Chelsea £7,500 6 July 1938
Tiny Bradshaw Third Lanark Unknown September 1938
Alf Hobson Chester £700 24 October 1938
John Browning Cowdenbeath Unknown 1939
Matthew Fitzsimmons Ipswich Town Unknown June 1939
Alf Hobson South Liverpool Unknown 1946
George Paterson Swindon Town Unknown 19 October 1946
Harry Kaye Swindon Town Unknown May 1947
John Easdale Stockport County Unknown 1948
Bernard Ramsden Sunderland £10,000 15 March 1948
Harry Eastham Tranmere Rovers Free May 1948
Stan Palk Port Vale Unknown 2 July 1948
Alex Muir South Liverpool Unknown 1949
Bob Priday Blackburn Rovers £10,000 March 1949
Doug McAvoy Queen of the South Unknown 16 September 1949
Les Shannon Burnley £6,000 2 November 1949
Peter Kippax Preston North End Free 1950
Frank Christie East Fife £7,000 17 January 1951
Billy Watkinson Accrington Stanley £3,000 20 January 1951

Back