Player profile

Ian St John

Ian St John

Birthdate: 7 June 1938
Birthplace: Motherwell, Scotland
Other clubs: Motherwell Bridge Works, North Motherwell, Douglas Water Thistle (1956-57), Motherwell (1956-61), Hellenic (1971), Coventry City (1971-72), Tranmere Rovers (1972-73)
Bought from: Motherwell
Signed for LFC: £37,500, 02.05.1961
International debut: 06.05.1959 vs. West Germany
International caps: 21/9 (14/8 at LFC) - 10.04.1965
Liverpool debut: 19.08.1961
Last appearance: 23.01.1971
Debut goal: 30.08.1961
Last goal: 23.01.1971
Contract expiry: February 1971
Win ratio: 53.41% W:227 D:101 L:97
Games/goals ratio: 3.6
Honours: League Championship 1964/64, 1965/66; Second Division 1961/62; FA Cup 1965;
Total games/goals opposite LFC: 1 / 0
LFC league games/goals: 336 / 95
Total LFC games/goals: 425 / 118

Player profile

Ian St John would prove to be one of the most significant signings ever made by Liverpool Football Club. His contribution to the success that followed later in the decade was colossal. Despite his relative lack of height, St John was a strong and tricky forward whose timing enabled him to outjump much taller defenders and either create chances for others or finish them off himself. Liverpool had been trying desperately to get out of the Second Division for seven seasons, during which they had finished eleventh, third four times and fourth twice. Shankly had been appointed from Huddersfield two years previously and felt he needed a strong centre-half and a centre-forward. He had not forgot the two Scotsmen he had watched while he was at Huddersfield, but the club couldn't afford them. "One Sunday morning in 1961 the Sunday Post had the headline "St John wants to go"," Shankly said. "I was on the phone straight away and we were in Motherwell on the Monday night. Charlie Mitten came on the scene from Newcastle and tried to sign him, but we arranged the fee of £37,500 on the Monday night and signed St John the next day. I said to Mr. Sawyer [Eric Sawyer, Liverpool's financial director], 'He's not just a good centre-forward, he's the only centre-forward in the game.'" St John made an immediate impact by scoring a hat-trick on his Liverpool debut in a 4-3 defeat to Everton in the Liverpool Senior Cup final at Goodison Park. Ron Yeats followed his fellow countryman south of the border in July.

St John and Yeats would prove to be inspirational signings that helped an extremely settled side cruise to the second division title by eight points from Leyton Orient. "The Saint" only missed two League games, scoring 18 League goals and developing a lethal understanding with Roger Hunt. Liverpool comfortably coped with first division football, finishing eighth in their first year back in the top league and were unlucky to lose to Leicester City in the FA Cup semi-final, for whom Gordon Banks performed heroics. A year later Shankly's foresight and tactical shrewdness came to fruition. Liverpool won the First Division Championship for the first time for 27 years and St John contributed 21 League goals, the highest League total he achieved during any single season as a Liverpool player. A year later came his and the club's greatest moment. Shankly had promised Sawyer, that with St John and Yeats in the team Liverpool would win the FA Cup for the first time in the club's history. After over 70 years of trying it came true when St John's diving header towards the end of extra-time at Wembley flew past Leeds United's goalkeeper Gary Sprake and earned the Scotsman immortality on the red half of Merseyside for that one athletic moment.

St John would collect a second League championship medal in 1966 and hardly missed a game for the next three seasons. By then St John had dropped further back using his tactical nous in the middle of the park. As the 60s closed, Shankly had the difficult task of leaving out some of the players who had served him so well for most of the decade. Now 31 years old, St John became one of the 'casualties'. St John was hardly no saint and put his considerable boxing skills a few times to the test on the playing field. St John was sent off three times in the League while at Liverpool. "I had a quick temper which was a bad thing. The fact I wasn't frightened of anybody was a good thing."

Wearing the shirt of Hellenic in South Africa in the summer of 1971 proved to be a joyous experience for the Scot who had been stuck in Liverpool's reserve team in the 1970/71 season. Once he returned he was transferred to Coventry. St John quickly returned to Merseyside to play briefly for third division Tranmere Rovers in the 1972/73 season under his former skipper Ron Yeats. St John took over as manager of his hometown club, Motherwell, in 1973 which he left four years later for a brief but fairly unhappy spell as a manager at Portsmouth. "Shanks could sell you everything. He got me a job that was the worst job in football, St John said. "He convinced me to go to Portsmouth when I was at Motherwell. I had just missed out on Leeds when Don Revie had left to go to the Emirates. I was getting the job supposedly. Jock Stein had set it up. I had a meeting and everything and then Brian Clough got it right out of the blue. In the 44 days he was there making a pig's ear of Leeds Shanks said: 'Ok, son, aye. Go to Portsmouth.' The chairman spoke to me. I would have money to spend on players, a new ground they were still waiting for. I thought, 'Maybe at Pompey I've got a chance there.' Not a penny. Nothing. I had the worst group of players you have ever seen in your life."

St John's knowledge and passion for football enabled him to break into the world of television and for several years he was a popular figure on ITV in tandem with his former international adversary Jimmy Greaves. In recent times St John's alarming honesty when commenting on Liverpool's fortunes has on several occasions angered the Liverpool faithful, but he takes it in his stride.

Appearances per season

Season League FA LC Europe Other Total
Totals 336 49 6 32 2 425
1960-1961 0 0 0 0 0 0
1961-1962 40 5 0 0 0 45
1962-1963 40 6 0 0 0 46
1963-1964 40 5 0 0 0 45
1964-1965 27 8 0 8 0 43
1965-1966 41 1 0 9 1 52
1966-1967 39 4 0 5 1 49
1967-1968 41 9 2 4 0 56
1968-1969 41 4 3 2 0 50
1969-1970 26 6 1 3 0 36
1970-1971 1 1 0 1 0 3

A more detailed look at the player's appearances

Total Opponent
20 Leicester City
18 WBA
18 Burnley
16 Arsenal
16 Manchester United
16 West Ham United
16 Nottingham Forest
16 Everton
15 Chelsea
15 Stoke City
15 Tottenham
15 Sheffield Wednesday
12 Sheffield United
12 Leeds United
11 Sunderland
11 Aston Villa
11 Newcastle United
11 Fulham
10 Manchester City
8 Wolves
8 Southampton
7 Ipswich Town
7 Bolton Wanderers
7 Blackburn Rovers
7 Blackpool
7 Coventry City
6 Birmingham City
5 Preston North End
5 Swansea City
4 Leyton Orient
4 Derby
4 Walsall
4 Watford
3 Petrolul Ploiesti
3 Cologne
2 Inter Milan
2 Juventus
2 Northampton Town
2 Standard Liege
2 Honved
2 Celtic
2 Stockport County
2 Wrexham
2 Port Vale
2 Anderlecht
2 Vitoria Setubal
2 Ajax
2 TSV Munich
2 Bournemouth
2 QPR
2 Athletic Bilbao
2 Bury
2 Rotherham United
2 Plymouth Argyle
2 Scunthorpe United
2 Huddersfield Town
2 Brighton & Hove Albion
2 Bristol Rovers
2 Charlton Athletic
2 Luton Town
2 Norwich City
1 Middlesbrough
1 Oldham Athletic
1 Doncaster Rovers
1 Crystal Palace
1 Dundalk
1 Ferencvaros
1 Malmo
1 Din. Bucharest
1 Borussia Dortmund
1 KR Reykjavík
Total Started/substitutions
420 Started
2 On the bench
5 Substitute
7 Substituted
Total Competition
336 League
49 FA Cup
13 European Cup
10 European Fairs Cup
9 European Cup Winners Cup
6 League Cup
2 Charity Shield

Goals per season

Season League FA LC Europe Other Total
Totals 95 12 1 10 0 118
1960-1961 0 0 0 0 0 0
1961-1962 18 4 0 0 0 22
1962-1963 19 1 0 0 0 20
1963-1964 21 1 0 0 0 22
1964-1965 4 2 0 5 0 11
1965-1966 10 0 0 2 0 12
1966-1967 9 2 0 2 0 13
1967-1968 5 0 0 1 0 6
1968-1969 4 0 0 0 0 4
1969-1970 5 1 1 0 0 7
1970-1971 0 1 0 0 0 1

A more detailed look at the player's goalscoring

Total Started/substitutions
117 Started
1 Substitute
Total Competition
95 League
12 FA Cup
7 European Cup
2 European Cup Winners Cup
1 European Fairs Cup
1 League Cup
Total Goal minute period
19 1-15 minutes
9 16-30 minutes
25 31-45 minutes
22 61-75 minutes
27 76-90 minutes
1 91-120 minutes
Total Open play/Penalty
118 Open play

Milestone Appearances

# Date Against Stadium Competition
1 19.08.1961 Bristol Rovers Eastville St. League
50 01.09.1962 Sheffield United Anfield League
100 05.10.1963 Aston Villa Anfield League
150 25.11.1964 Anderlecht Anfield Europe
200 20.11.1965 Stoke City Victoria Ground League
250 09.11.1966 Burnley Anfield League
300 11.11.1967 Manchester United Anfield League
350 28.09.1968 Wolves Molineux League
400 07.10.1969 Tottenham Anfield League

Milestone Goals

# Minute Date Against Stadium Competition
1 39 30.08.1961 Sunderland Roker Park League
50 61 21.12.1963 Blackpool Bloomfield Road League
100 65 25.02.1967 Fulham Craven Cottage League

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Related Quotes

"There's no noise like the Anfield noise - and I love it!"

Ian St John

"Reading the papers now, I see a picture of a vendetta between me and Houllier. It is not the case at all. When I'm invited to pass an opinion, I do so. I'm not interested in taking cheap shots. I don't think my view is extreme, but it is my own. I haven't been impressed with a lot of the signings over recent years and I don't think the team have developed a convincing style of play. The thing I most regret is that nothing was made of Jari Litmanen, a signing of real class - a tremendous player who knew how to unlock a defence."

Ian St John in 2004

"This has gone on for far too long now. I know how views can be presented, but with Ian its all one way. What Ian should remember is from 1966-73 we never won a competition. He was part of that. He will remember he was a part of the team which lost to Watford in the FA Cup. That was a team which went down without a fight. That was a team I loved - a team which brought great honour and credit to the club over many years. I'm not stupid. You don't want people to talk ignorantly or only ever say supportive things about the team and players. But what you come to expect is constructive criticism."

Phil Thompson, as Houllier’s assistant, was getting annoyed at St John’s criticism of the team

"As far as I am concerned Ian was the kingpin of the side which achieved so much success in the sixties. Ian was a good strong player who knew what it was all about. He played two roles during his career, firstly up front when he was younger and then when he was older he dropped into midfield and still played well. Along with Gordon Milne, I think Ian was the player who used to make Liverpool tick."

The legendary Joe Mercer's opinion on Ian St John

"I didn’t sign the best centre forward in the country… I signed the only centre-forward."

Shankly on Ian St John

"I was sent off six times, but two of those were for mistaken identity. The referees were blind in those days as well."

Ian St John was hardly no saint

"I loved him to death. He would do anything for you. He was strong, for a 5 foot 8 player he was great in the air and scored a lot of goals with his head. He was an inspirational centre forward."

Ron Yeats on Ian St John

"Shankly signed a boy called Jack Whitham. He was always getting injured. Training for Jack was like jogging in between injuries. He was driving Shanks mad because he hated people who were like that. Finally he said one day to Jack in training, 'You, go up to the corner (where the pigsty was) and train up there. I don't want you to contaminate the rest of the team.' Poor Jack was jogging up there in the pigsty with the smell of the pigs and all that."

One of Ian St John's favourite stories. From LFChistory's exclusive interview with Saint in 2008

"My first great buy. Clever, canny, bags of skill, made things happen. Liked a scrap too. Jesus, did he like a scrap. I sometimes wanted to tie his fists behind his back. Great player though. Gave you everything on the pitch. Mind you, a lazy bugger at training. He hated it. Always trying to pull one on us. But what a player."

Shankly gave his honest opinion on Ian St John in an interview with Brian Reade in 1975.

Other Clubs

Club Season Club rank League apps League goals Total apps Total goals
Motherwell Bridge Works Scotland N/A N/A N/A N/A
North Motherwell Scotland N/A N/A N/A N/A
Douglas Water Thistle 1956-1957 Scotland N/A N/A N/A N/A
Motherwell 1957-1958 Scotland Division 1 22 17 22 17
Motherwell 1958-1959 Scotland Division 1 30 24 30 24
Motherwell 1959-1960 Scotland Division 1 32 20 32 20
Motherwell 1960-1961 Scotland Division 1 29 18 29 18
Hellenic 1971 South Africa 23 4 23 4
Coventry City 1971-1972 England First Division 18 3 20 3
Tranmere Rovers 1972-1973 England Third Division 9 1 11 1
Total 163 87 167 87
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