Birthdate: 29 August 1938
Birthplace: Liverpool, England
Other clubs: None
Bought from: Local
Signed for LFC: Joined 1953 - Professional 30.08.1955
International debut: 06.04.1963 vs. Scotland
International caps: 2/0 - 29.06.1966
Liverpool debut: 28.09.1957
Last appearance: 05.04.1969
Debut goal: 03.02.1962
Last goal: 15.01.1966
Contract expiry: December 1969
Win ratio: 52.25% W: 174 D: 75 L: 84
LFC league games/goals: 274 / 2
Total LFC games/goals: 333 / 4
Liverpool-born Byrne signed professional forms aged 17 after coming through the junior ranks at Anfield. He was spotted by chainsmoking Liverpool scout Tosh Moore at 15 when featuring for the Liverpool Catholic Schoolboys in Dublin. He made his League debut at Charlton Athletic on 28 September 1957, but that was his only outing that season. The reason being perhaps that Liverpool lost 5-1 but certainly because he scored an own goal! It was a humiliating experience. "I wish the ground would swallow me up when you score a goal like that. I just passed it back to Tommy Lawrence and he wasn't there. I got terrible abuse from the crowd," Byrne said. The experienced full-back pairing of John Molyneux and Ronnie Moran prevented Byrne from making more than a handful of appearances during the next two years, but Bill Shankly's arrival in late-1959 changed his prospects completely as the new manager seemed to take a liking to the tough-tackling left-back, who got a break when Moran got seriously injured in the autumn of 1960. Newcomer Tommy Smith could vouch for Byrne's toughness. "I was only fifteen and playing in a five-a-side game at Melwood," Smith said. "I nutmegged Byrne and scored and I was on top of the world. A couple of minutes later a ball dropped between us, I went to head it and Gerry headed me and I went down with a gashed eye. As I lay on the ground covered in blood, Shankly strolled across, looked down at me and said 'Lesson number one, never nutmeg Gerry Byrne, son and think you can get away with it'" Byrne played in the remaining 33 League games of the 1959/60 season and was a regular ever since. Byrne was an uncompromising character on the field: "I was nicknamed the "Crunch". I was a clean player. I was hard, but fair," he told LFChistory.net. "I used to wait for the ball to come and then I was on my way. You hit someone when the ball was there and that was it. That's how I got the crunch. I didn't go after players intentionally. I was never sent off in my life."
Byrne might not have been as well-known as some of his colleagues but his courage was never in question; and that was never shown more clearly than on the day Liverpool finally won the FA Cup for the first time. He was injured very early on in the 1965 final against Leeds United at a time before substitutes were allowed. Bob Paisley was Liverpool's physio at the time and ran on to the field. "Gerry had clattered into the chunky Bobby Collins. As soon as I reached him I knew that my initial touchline diagnosis had been painfully accurate. He had broken his collar bone," Paisley said. "My first reaction should have been to wave to the bench to call for a stretcher. But Gerry got in first. Looking up at me he pleaded: 'Don’t tell anyone!' I asked: 'Do you know it’s broken?' Gerry knew – but still insisted on playing on through the remaining 87 minutes and, as it happened, another half hour of extra time. He told me defiantly: 'I can get by.' And he did, in one of the bravest Wembley displays I have ever witnessed." The extent of his injury was not revealed until the final was over, by which time Byrne had a winners' medal in his pocket and an important involvement in the first, vital breakthrough goal scored by Roger Hunt early in extra-time. Shankly was in awe of Byrne's performance: "Gerry's collar bone was split and grinding together yet he played on in agony. It was a performance of raw courage from the boy."
Byrne was in England's World Cup-winning side in 1966 alongside teammates Roger Hunt and Ian Callaghan although he failed to make an appearance in the finals. In 2009 he was finally presented with a winners' medal at a special ceremony in London. Byrne had celebrated his thirtieth birthday a few days into the 1968/69 season and was by no means over the hill as a player, but the injury problems which had wrecked most of the 1966/67 season for him ended his career prematurely. "I got injured after the World Cup. There was nobody near me. I twisted and my studs stayed in the ground," Byrne revealed to LFChistory.net. "It's usually worse when nobody is near you. My knee used to swell up. I still haven't had an operation on it. I just had it cleaned up and there is a bit of bone floating about now. I can't straighten my leg or bend my leg." Byrne's reward for a career which had seen him play 333 times for the first team was a testimonial match attended by nearly 40,000 people who braved appalling conditions to pay tribute to a man who had been an integral part of Shankly's success.
Bill Shankly had nothing but the utmost respect for Gerry Byrne as he revealed in 1975. "I've had many skilful men and the likes of Peter Thompson, Ian St John, Kevin Keegan and Steve Heighway were the ones who caught the eye. But the best professional of the lot was Gerry Byrne. He wasn't flashy and he wouldn't score you goals. But he was hard and skilful and gave you everything he had. More than that he was totally honest. Which is the greatest quality of all. He was a true Liverpudlian who couldn't look his fellow Scousers in the face after a game unless he'd given everything he had for 90 minutes."