Birthdate: 2 June 1957
Birthplace: Preston, England
Other clubs: Preston North End (1971-77), Brighton & Hove Albion (1977-81), Barnet (1988-89), Tampa Bay Rowdies (1989), Corby Town (1991-92), Chesham United (1992-93)
Bought from: Brighton & Hove Albion
Signed for LFC: £900,000, August 1981
International debut: 24.04.1977 vs. Poland
International caps: Ireland 39/5 (24/3 at LFC) - 10.11.1987
Liverpool debut: 29.08.1981
Last appearance: 16.01.1988
Debut goal: 30.09.1981
Last goal: 22.03.1986
Contract expiry: March 1988
Win ratio: 60.11% W: 214 D: 84 L: 58
Total games/goals opposite LFC: 3 / 0
LFC league games/goals: 241 / 11
Total LFC games/goals: 356 / 18
Lawrenson was playing for his local team, Preston, in the lower half of the Second Division in 1977 when Brighton offered £100,000 for the Irish international. Former Brighton manager, Alan Mullery, revealed Liverpool could have signed Lawrenson four years earlier: "We outbid Liverpool to get him. I phoned the Preston manager, Harry Catterick, and he told me Liverpool had offered £75,000. Mark was only 19, but when I told Mike [Mike Bamber - Brighton's Chairman] he said: 'Offer £100,000.' Liverpool weren't prepared to up their bid so we got him and four years later we sold him for a million." Brighton were promoted to the First Division in 1979 but a financial crisis in 1981 meant the club had to sell their biggest asset. Mullery wanted to hold on to his best player: "I didn't want to sell Mark but was told the club needed the money to pay an overdraft. I'd had four or five first division clubs on the phone most Fridays wanting to know if he was available and when I was told about our money situation I phoned up Ron Atkinson and sold him to Manchester United. The only trouble was Mike sold him to Liverpool which is where he eventually went." Bob Paisley was especially impressed by Lawrenson's tackling: "We nearly bought him from Preston in 1977, but it was playing at the heart of Brighton defence against Kenny Dalglish in March 1980 that he really caught my eye. Kenny is notoriously difficult to tackle. He is so clever and deceptive and uses his body to shield the ball from opposing defenders. And yet here was a 22-year-old, fresh out of the Second Division, winning the ball from him with sharp, clean challenges." Lawrenson was bought for a club record fee for Liverpool and became as well the most expensive defender in Britain. "I was nervous as a kitten," Lawrenson remembers when he met Paisley: "I had on my best suit, shirt and tie, my best bib and tucker. I went down to reception and the doorman spotted me and said 'Mr Paisley is waiting for you in his car outside.' When I got in the car I saw that Bob was wearing slippers and a cardigan. I couldn't believe it. That was my first meeting with Bob Paisley and I
knew I'd come to the right place. They'd just won the European Cup and there was this fellow, who everyone in football thought was an absolute god, driving me to the ground in his slippers and cardigan! I thought 'You'll do for me!'"
Lawrenson was a great tackler, strong and possessed considerable skill and speed. He started out at Liverpool as a left-back, replacing Alan Kennedy for a while. The 1981/82 Championship had been an unlikely prospect with many changes in personnel to the squad which had become champions of Europe the previous spring. He figured in 39 of the 42 League games and played a big part in the 3-1 win over Spurs in the penultimate fixture of the season that clinched the title. His towering header past former Anfield favourite, Ray Clemence, equalised Glenn Hoddle's first-half strike before Lawrenson hooked the ball over his head just four minutes later to lay on a goal for Kenny Dalglish. Ronnie Whelan's late volley ensured that Liverpool could not be caught in the title race. It was the first of three successive League titles for the club and Lawrenson only missed five of the 126 fixtures that brought about that remarkable achievement. Lawrenson had played the first part of the 1982/83 season in midfield when he took over the number four shirt from Phil Thompson on 28 December 1982 to play alongside Alan Hansen. Lawrenson could also play any position in defence, but his partnership with Hansen in the centre
of defence was the one he was most admired for. Lawrenson certainly enjoyed the historic 1983/84 season as Liverpool won their third consecutive League title, fourth consecutive League Cup and the European Cup for the fourth time. Liverpool were soon on their way to their fifth European Cup final following a convincing aggregate win over the Greek champions which was especially enjoyable for Lawrenson. "One of the best nights we had was after the Panathinaikos semi in 1985. We'd already beaten them 4-0 at Anfield and I scored in the away leg, we strolled it. As it was so far away we stayed overnight and ended up having an impromptu hat party in one of the rooms with all the lads together. It wasn't reported at the time, but, well, you didn't have to wear anything except a hat. One of those things you do." Lawrenson was out injured in three games leading up to the final. He only lasted three minutes against Juventus at Heysel before aggravating his shoulder injury.
Lawrenson was also a key member of the 'Double' squad in 1986, although perhaps fortunate to play in the FA Cup final against Everton. He got injured against Oxford towards the end of March and missed the semi-final against Southampton. He played the full 90 minutes when Liverpool clinched the Championship at Chelsea to stake his claim. Gary Gillespie's late withdrawal from the Wembley squad due to injury made Dalglish's selection headache a lot easier and Lawrenson wore the number two shirt at Wembley adding an FA Cup winners' medal to his achievements. Lawrenson had shown remarkable consistency for Liverpool, having been chosen four seasons running as part of the PFA Team of the Year! He started the 1986/87 season with seemingly several years of good football still ahead of him at the age of 29. Disaster struck against Wimbledon at Anfield on 28 March 1987 when he ruptured his Achilles tendon and was out for five and a half months. "I was certain that I'd been brought down, even though I couldn't see anybody near enough to have done it," Lawrenson recollects. "I remember standing up to test my right foot and felt as though I was standing on a ramp. On reflection, I
should have known I hadn't been fouled. There wasn't even a murmur from the crowd." Lawrenson had started nine games in a row in the 1987/88 season when he limped off against Southampton on 12 December 1987. After being out for one month he played 180 minutes in three days and wanted to play against Arsenal on 16 January to complete 270 minutes in space of just one week. Lawrenson booted the ball into the stands in the fifty-first minute against the Gunners, came off and never played again for Liverpool: "None of the other Liverpool
players in the Liverpool side had any idea how badly I was struggling," Lawrenson remembers."They were playing so well and winning that their performances masked my weaknesses. When I got back into the team, I found I couldn't turn and run like I used to be able to do. I was just getting by on my positional
play and my experience. I found I was a yard slower than everyone else and I couldn't get away with it against top class teams. When Arsenal's Martin Hayes beat me to the ball over 20 yards twice in a minute, I looked at the bench and knew it was time to pack it in. It came as a complete bombshell to Kenny Dalglish. When the surgeon and I told him, he was speechless. I just couldn't run at all. My Achilles is 2 1/2 times bigger in my right leg now."
Lawrenson quit Liverpool officially in March 1988 and later that week joined Oxford as manager where he only lasted seven months because he was furious that the club sold top-scorer Dean Saunders to Derby. He threatened Robert Maxwell that he would quit and the following day he was sacked! He moved to Tampa Bay in Florida in 1989 where he was a few months as a player-coach. He was hired as manager of Peterborough in the 1989/90 season but lasted only 14 months before he resigned after a row with the Chairman over players' appearance money. Lawrenson took out his boots again with amateur teams Corby Town and Chesham United in the early 90's. He made a short return to the game in 1996 when he was appointed defensive coach at Kevin Keegan's Newcastle. He is now a member of BBC's "Match of the Day" team.
Bob Paisley didn't have anything but the highest praise for Lawrenson. "Every manager values versatility in a player, but most of the game's jack of all trades are masters of none. Mark is a master wherever he plays. Apart from the all-round ability that he possesses, he has a perfect attitude. He is a very intelligent and easy going individual. He is quick to grasp exactly what is required of him in a particular area of the field, and doesn't allow anything to upset him. He has the ideal physical makeup for a 'ball winner'. I don't suppose he would win too many prizes for his running action. He is not an elegant mover, but he is particularly quick. He possesses very long legs and a correspondingly long stride. So although he looks a bit leggy when he's in full flight, you can be sure that he has the speed to get himself out of trouble. There is a wiry strength about him too. He doesn't weigh much over 11 stone, but he's a tough and durable customer. You won't see him being barged or knocked off the ball by bigger, bulkier men. He is steely and hardy. But he times a tackle so precisely that very often there is little or no physical contact between him and the opponent in his sights. They are painless, clinical challenges. The ball is nicked off the toe of the attacker as clean as a whistle, almost without him realising it. Indeed, sometimes you see them run on for a stride or two as if they've still got it. But, like a thief in the night, Mark has made off with their possession before the alarm can be raised, and they can give chase."