Player profile

Billy Liddell

Birthdate: 10 January 1922
Birthplace: Townhill, Scotland
Other clubs: Lochgelly Violet (1937-38); Chelsea, Linfield, Cambridge Town, Toronto Scottish, Dunfermline (wartime guest)
Bought from: Lochgelly Violet
Signed for LFC: £200, Joined July 1938 - Professional 17.04.1939
International debut: 15.05.1946 vs. Switzerland
International caps: 29/8 - 08.10.1955
Liverpool debut: 05.01.1946
Last appearance: 31.08.1960
Debut goal: 05.01.1946
Last goal: 05.03.1960
Contract expiry: 1961
Win ratio: 41.57% W: 222 D: 134 L: 178
Games/goals ratio: 2.34
Wartime games/goals: 152 / 82
LFC league games/goals: 492 / 215
Total LFC games/goals: 534 / 228

Player profile

William Beveridge Liddell started his career with local teams Kingseat Juvenlies and Lochgelly Violet. Billy came first to Liverpool in July 1938 and nine months later signed a professional contract. Had it not been for a certain Sir Matt Busby, Liverpool's former captain and later Manchester United's manager, Billy might never have been a Liverpool player. Busby found out that representatives of Manchester City had been to see Billy's parents with a view to getting their son to join the club. After learning that Billy had turned down the invitation to go to City, Busby rang Liverpool manager George Kay and suggested that "this Liddell lad might be worth an enquiry"; and indeed he was ... and how! Before Liddell went to Liverpool, he was hired as an accountant at Simon Jude & West in Liverpool. His parents had it put into the contract that Billy would be allowed to continue his studies because they wanted him to have something to fall back on if things didn't work out. Liddell trained full-time in pre-season, but trained only twice-a-week as the season started, the only Liverpool player who held two jobs. But, he had hardly settled when World War II broke out, so Liddell had to wait six years to make his formal debut. Billy enlisted in the RAF and was sent to a training camp in Cambridge and later on to Manitoba in Canada.

Billy finally played his first game for Liverpool and scored his first goal on New Years' Day 1940, beating Crewe 7-3. He was said to have given a "most promising display, his ball control and sense of positioning being features." Liddell made his amateur international debut against England at Wembley on 18 April 1942, four years before making his official debut for Liverpool! His teammates were among others Bill Shankly and Matt Busby, but it was the young Billy that captured everyone's imagination. "Maestro Liddell. Ten minutes was sufficient for this boy to play himself into these criticial, hard-beating Hampden hearts," said a press reporter. "He took the equalizer with a lovely timed header. But it was the way he had in the second goal which put him in the Maestro class. Liddell did the spadework and Dodds did the finishing for what must be one of the greatest goals Hampden has ever seen. The outstripping of the defence, the quick pass with the "wrong" foot, and then Dodds' glorious first-timer. What a goal!" Scotland ran out 5-4 winners. Liddell made 152 appearances in wartime football for Liverpool and scored 82 goals. As early as 1940 a press headline read: "Liddell is war's best find."

Liverpool's future talisman played his first official game for the club in the FA Cup against Chester at Anfield on 5 January 1946. Liddell scored one goal in a 2-0 win. The League competition started in the autumn, but he missed pre-season, because he was still in the air-force. Liverpool had already played two games when Liddell made his League debut in a 7-4 win over Chelsea. He scored two goals, the first of which came straight from a corner kick in front of the Kop in the third minute. Despite the 24-year-old left-winger had never turned out in the League previously for Liverpool, he was already viewed as a key player for the side evident by "Bee" Edwards' report for the Liverpool Daily Post. "Liddell like Fagan is still not his fittest, and I believe this condition led Chelsea to their great chance in the later stages. Liddell means so much to his side." In the first post-war season Billy scored seven goals in 35 games and Liverpool celebrated their fifth League title. But Liverpool couldn't match their triumph despite Liddell's brilliance. Billy twice represented Great Britain against Europe, in 1947 and then in 1955 when Liverpool was playing in the Second Division, which goes to show how highly-rated he was. Only Billy and Sir Stanley Matthews managed to be chosen to play both these games. Billy was disappointed to miss out on the FA Cup after being kicked from pillar to post in the 1950 final defeat against Arsenal. Liddell was especially painfully fouled by the Arsenal right-half, a fellow Scotsman, Alex Forbes. "I couldn't put my jacket on the next day," Liddell recalled. Nobody could have blamed him for abandoning ship when after promising seasons that always ended up in mid-table Liverpool were relegated in 1954. Liddell had established himself as Liverpool's greatest star, the club's top-scorer four seasons out of eight in the top-flight, but there was only so much one man could do.

Liddell had number of admirers but felt at home at Liverpool. He was moved up front and made captain in the 1955/56 season. Goals came easy to him and he scored 115 in five seasons in the Second Division. All careers must to come to an end, even Billy Liddell's!He retired 39 years of age when the Shankly revolution was about to start. Shankly did enjoy the powers of his compatriot on occasion and certainly wished that Liddell had been twenty years younger. "Liddell was some player... He had everything," Shankly enthused. "He was fast, powerful, shot with either foot and his headers were like blasts from a gun. On top of all that he was as hard as granite. What a player! He was so strong – and he took a nineteen-inch collar shirt!" It was no coincidence that Liverpool became to be known as "Liddellpool". Ian Callaghan considers Billy, Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard as Liverpool Football Club's finest and there's no reason to argue with Cally. "Billy was my idol when I was at school and it was fantastic to take over from him," Callaghan said. "I had so much respect for him. Great man - He was a god in Liverpool. I took over from him on the wing and he finished playing not long after that. When I went to my first professional football match it was Liverpool. When Billy got the ball the anticipation from the crowd was just huge. What is he going to do with it? Is he going to shoot from 30 yards or take it past people? He was wonderful. Billy played with a heavy ball on the heavy pitches. The way he used to kick the ball, wow! He was so strong."

On 31 August 1960 Liddell made his last-ever appearance for Liverpool in a 1-0 defeat to Southampton in the Second Division. No other player had made more appearances for the club than King Billy, a total of 534 eclipsing Elisha Scott's total of 468. Three weeks later Liddell's testimonial took place against an International XI which included several greats such as Bert Trautmann (Manchester City), Sir Stanley Matthews (Blackpool), Nat Lofthouse (Bolton) and Sir Thomas Finney (Preston North End's legend). Liverpool won 4-2 with Liddell scoring for the opposition and netting £6,000 for which he bought a house. On the eve of his testimonial Billy revealed once more his affection for his club and the city it was based in. "It has often been said that there is no sentiment in football, but I believe that my career, at least, has proved that wrong. Every Scot is proud of his heritage, but I am equally proud to know that in the city of my adoption I am accepted as a fellow-Liverpudlian. It hardly seems 22 years since I was being warned about the "terrible" city which has meant so much to me. I cannot recall who said that a city is not just bricks and mortar and fine buildings, it is the people in it, but it expresses what I think. I would like to take the opportunity of thanking the much-maligned Liverpool supporters for the encouragement they have given to me. I have always been happy at Anfield for I know we have the staunchest bunch of supporters in the land."

"What can you say about him? Liverpool have had some good club players, but I think he is the finest in their history. Look at him today. I used to do a bit of running around, but he does a lot more than I ever did," said Donald Mackinlay, Liverpool's captain from the 1920's, in 1955. He added poignantly: "Matthews is a great entertainer, but for me that Liddell man is “It”. He is one of the greatest club men ever to have played football.”

Appearances per season

SeasonLeagueFALCEuropeOtherTotal
Totals49242000534
1939-1940 000000
1945-1946 020002
1946-1947 34600040
1947-1948 37200039
1948-1949 38400042
1949-1950 41700048
1950-1951 35100036
1951-1952 40300043
1952-1953 39100040
1953-1954 36100037
1954-1955 40400044
1955-1956 39500044
1956-1957 41100042
1957-1958 35500040
1958-1959 19000019
1959-1960 17000017
1960-1961 100001

A more detailed look at the player's appearances

TotalOpponent
23Middlesbrough
20Derby
19Stoke City
19Huddersfield Town
18Wolves
17Bolton Wanderers
16Chelsea
16Portsmouth
16Sunderland
16Burnley
16Arsenal
15Blackpool
14Manchester City
14Blackburn Rovers
14Charlton Athletic
14Manchester United
13Aston Villa
13Sheffield United
12Lincoln City
12Newcastle United
12Everton
12Fulham
10Grimsby Town
10Preston North End
10Bristol Rovers
10Swansea City
9Nottingham Forest
8West Ham United
8Rotherham United
8Notts County
8Barnsley
8Sheffield Wednesday
8WBA
7Birmingham City
7Doncaster Rovers
7Bristol City
6Cardiff City
6Leeds United
6Bury
6Tottenham
6Port Vale
5Ipswich Town
5Hull City
5Plymouth Argyle
4Scunthorpe United
4Leyton Orient
4Leicester City
3Southend
2Luton Town
2Brighton & Hove Albion
1Norwich City
1Walsall
1Southampton
1Brentford
1Exeter City
1Chester
1Workington
1Accrington Stanley
1Gateshead
1Stockport County
1Northampton Town
TotalCompetition
492League
42FA Cup

Wartime Appearances / Goals

SeasonAppearancesGoals
1939-1940169
1940-19413712
1941-19423522
1942-1943155
1943-194464
1944-19451513
1945-19462817

Stats note

Milestone Appearances

#DateAgainstStadiumCompetition
105.01.1946Chester Sealand RoadFA Cup
5027.09.1947EvertonGoodison ParkLeague
10004.12.1948BurnleyAnfieldLeague
15011.01.1950Blackburn RoversAnfieldFA Cup
20010.03.1951MiddlesbroughAyresome ParkLeague
25026.04.1952Preston North EndDeepdaleLeague
30019.09.1953BurnleyAnfieldLeague
35025.12.1954Ipswich TownAnfieldLeague
40011.02.1956Plymouth ArgyleHome ParkLeague
45030.03.1957Lincoln CitySincil BankLeague
50010.09.1958Sheffield UnitedAnfieldLeague

Milestone Goals

#MinuteDateAgainstStadiumCompetition
13005.01.1946Chester Sealand RoadFA Cup
501426.08.1950SunderlandAnfieldLeague
1001813.03.1954Sheffield UnitedBramall LaneLeague
1508017.12.1955Nottingham ForestAnfieldLeague
2001519.02.1958Doncaster RoversBelle VueLeague

Related Articles

Billy Liddell, emperor of Merseyside

From Daily Mirror on 24 December, 1957.More

King Billy Has Already Put The Great Into Britain

Article by Tony Barrett published on LFC.tv on 3rd July 2011.More

A fantastic 4-0 cup win vs. Everton

Liverpool's win over Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup on 29th January 1955 turned out to be one of their most surprising and most satisfying wins ever vs. their blue neighbours.More

Liddell and Paisley make their League debut

Liverpool's game vs Chelsea on 7th of September 1946 was remarkable for various reasons. More

Billy and Barnes at Anfield

It was a momentous occasion when one of the best players in the history of the club, rated by many supporters even as the very best, Billy Liddell, met Liverpool's talisman, John Barnes, in the early 90's, at Anfield.More

Billy wins his only League title in 1947

Billy won his only championship with Liverpool in quite unusual circumstances after a spectacular finish to the 1946-47 season.More

Legendary Liverpool winger in the old tradition

Brian Glanville on 5 July, 2001 in the Guardian.More

Cally's Heroes

Ian Callaghan talks to BBC Radio Merseyside's John Keith about his hero, the Flying Scotsman Billy Liddell.More

Are Liverpool right to leave out Liddell?

David Jack talks to a puzzled player in 1958.More

Rena Liddell - Sister of Liverpool legend Billy

LFChistory's exclusive interview with Rena Liddell, Billy's sister.More

The wonder left wingers of Liverpool

John Martin talks about his favourite players on the left hand side of Liverpool throughout his years supporting the Reds.More

Liddell's two goal comeback

Liverpool Daily Post report on Liverpool 4 - 2 Bristol City on 26 August 1959.More

Liverpool dive but to come up again

Liverpool Echo on 1 May 1954.More

My football life by Billy Liddell

Liverpool Echo on 2 November 1951.More

Liverpool win At Fulham as Liddell dropped

By Steven Horton at theanfielders.com.More

Liverpool life in the 2nd division

John Martin followed the team's fortunes when the team got relegated in 1954.More

It's a Liverpool - Arsenal final

The Liverpool Football Echo on 25 March 1950. More

The finest Liverpool v Everton of all time

The Liverpool Daily Post on 27 March 1950. More

Billy Liddell in his own words

Sir Matt Busby was the one who recommended Billy Liddell to Liverpool.More

Spurs have the bark, but Liddell hat-trick carries the bite

Match report on Tottenham - Liverpool from the Liverpool Echo on 01.12.1951.More

Billy Liddell - The Original Exocet Missile

Wooltonian remembers the foundation on which Liddellpool was built, the Liverpool legend Billy Liddell.More

Four goals in four minutes at Ewood

Match report on Blackburn - Liverpool from the Liverpool Echo on 22nd February 1958.More

Melia shines in seven goal thriller

Match report from Liverpool - Nottm Forest from the Liverpool Echo on 17.12.1955.More

Liddell puts league leaders Fulham on the spot

Match report on Liverpool - Fulham from the Liverpool Echo on 18.09.1954.More

A week in the life of Billy Liddell by Wooltonian

An article by Wooltonian based on My Soccer Story, the autobiography of Billy Liddell.More

Unique programmes: Two Legends Arrive

The first post-war season of 1946-47 saw Liverpool being crowned as Champions of England. Their second home match pitted them against Chelsea.More

Explosive, hard, loyal – the name’s Liddell

Daily Mail article on Billy Liddell from 12 December 1957More

Related Quotes

"Oh, what power! Opponents were frightened to death of the most gentle man on earth. Bill was so strong it was unbelievable. You couldn't shake him off the ball. It didn't matter where he was playing, though I suppose his best position was outside-left. He could go round you, or past you, or even straight through you sometimes!"

Bob Paisley on Billy Liddell

"My first match at Anfield was at right-back for Aston Villa. The roar from the Kop was awesome as Billy Liddell waltzed down the wing making us look like idiots. Then I began to recognize the source of Liddell’s magic. He was Liverpool’s inconspicuous craftsman at left half, Bob Paisley."

Former Spurs' captain and Aston Villa player Danny Blanchflower

"Yeah, it's incredible to think that I replaced him. The club used to be called 'Liddellpool' in the 1950s, which shows you just how much he was respected. In my opinion Liddell, Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish were the three best Liverpool players ever, but I would put Billy ahead of the other two as the greatest."

Ian Callaghan’s hero was Billy Liddell

"For five years as a schoolboy I used to play Rugby every Saturday morning and Soccer each afternoon, and all I could think of was that one day I might be good enough to play for Glasgow Rangers. Instead, Liverpool brought me south, and I’ve never regretted the day. I reckon the greatest honour to come my way was to be chosen for Great Britain against the Rest of Europe in 1947, and my most thrilling memory was the first goal I scored for Scotland, in my first international against England at Hampden Park in 1942."

Billy Liddell in 1950

"What can you say about him? Liverpool have had some good club players, but I think he is the finest in their history. Look at him today. I used to do a bit of running around, but he does a lot more than I ever did. Matthews is a great entertainer, but for me that Liddell man is “It”. He is one of the greatest club men ever to have played football."

Donald MacKinlay - Former Liverpool captain from the 20's in 1955

"Billy was so strong. His head and neck was all in one. This is my impression of him; I can remember him with two defenders hanging off him. He was so strong. With both feet, left or right, on the wing or centre-forward. He could play anywhere. Brilliant player."

Gerry Byrne - Liverpool 1953-1969 - Quote from LFChistory's exclusive interview with Gerry in 2008

Billy was my idol when I was at school and it was fantastic to take over from him. I had so much respect for him. Great man - It's very hard to compare decades, but in the 50s, they used to call them Liddellpool. He was a god in Liverpool. I took over from him on the wing and he finished playing not long after that. Billy Liddell was incredible. When I went to my first professional football match it was Liverpool. When Billy got the ball the anticipation from the crowd was just huge. What is he going to do with it? Is he going to shoot from 30 yards or take it past people? He was wonderful. Billy played with a heavy ball on the heavy pitches. The way he used to kick the ball, wow! He was so strong!

Later I worked for the Littlewoods Pools Company Spot the ball and Billy was on the panel. Billy was the chairman and I actually took over as chairman from Billy. I got to know him and he was a really quiet and a really nice man. Terrific. He is one of those of the people who will always be remembered in Liverpool like Shankly and Paisley.

Ian Callaghan - Liverpool 1960-1978 - Quote from LFChistory's exclusive interview with Ian in 2008.

"Of all the players I have seen though, the outstanding one was Billy Liddell. When he was at his peak just after the war, George Kay used to hold pre-match tactical talks and just tell the others: "Give the ball to Billy whenever you can, and he'll win it for us." He usually did too."

Leslie "Bee" Edwards, the sports editor of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo.

The player was in the squad the following season

SeasonShirt #Position
1939-1940 * Midfielder
1945-1946 * Midfielder
1946-1947 * Midfielder
1947-1948 * Midfielder
1948-1949 * Midfielder
1949-1950 * Midfielder
1950-1951 * Midfielder
1951-1952 * Midfielder
1952-1953 * Midfielder
1953-1954 * Midfielder
1954-1955 * Striker
1955-1956 * Striker
1956-1957 * Striker
1957-1958 * Striker
1958-1959 * Striker
1959-1960 * Midfielder
1960-1961 * Midfielder
* Note, Since the 1993-94 season players have been allocated a fixed number.

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