Birthdate: 27 November 1942
Birthplace: Carlisle, England
Other clubs: Preston North End (1959-63), Bolton Wanderers (1973-78)
Bought from: Preston North End
Signed for LFC: £37,000, 14.08.1963
International debut: 17.05.1964 vs. Portugal
International caps: 16/0 - 25.04.1970
Liverpool debut: 24.08.1963
Last appearance: 22.01.1972
Debut goal: 16.09.1963
Last goal: 10.04.1971
Contract expiry: 05.01.1974
Win ratio: 51.92% W: 216 D: 105 L: 95
Games/goals ratio: 7.7
Total games/goals opposite LFC: 5 / 1
LFC league games/goals: 322 / 41
Total LFC games/goals: 416 / 54
Thompson was the great schoolboy star of his day and was pursued by almost every top club in the country when the time came to leave school. He became a regular first division player at 17 for Preston, making his debut against Arsenal on 30 August 1960 after Tom Finney's retirement. Chairman Nat Buck was one of the many who raved about him. "I’ve lost the number of clubs who want him, but how could we sell?" England manager Walter Winterbottom was another fan of his natural instincts on the football field. "Those who have seen the boy pressed me to watch him and I was tremendously impressed with both his skill and maturity. He had so much of Finney about him and seems certain to go straight to the top." Bill Shankly had been impressed by the speed and trickery of the young winger during a marathon fifth round FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Preston in February 1962 which went to a second replay at Old Trafford. After two goalless draws the deadlock was finally broken by Thompson when the ballfell invitingly for him and he hit it straight back past 'keeper Bert Slater to claim a famous win. Thompson was a regular for three seasons for Preston and following relegation from their only top-flight season during his spell there the 20-year-old moved to Liverpool for £37,000. He almost messed up his transfer to the Reds with an inappropriate request as he told LFChistory.net. "I went to Anfield from Preston and there were thousands of people outside. I got my way through to the front door and Shankly is there. 'Why are all these here for?', I asked. 'You!', Shankly thundered. 'You? 'Me?', I gasped. He took me all around Melwood. He showed me Anfield. Took me to the office. The Chairman came in: 'Could you sign here?' 'Actually Mr. Shankly, I would like a signing-on fee.' 'You what? I am giving you the chance to play in the greatest city in the greatest team that is going to be in the world and you want illegal money. Get out!' 'Give me the pen,' I said. So I signed. Best thing I ever did."
The Preston lad was an amazing right-footed left winger, who tormented full-backs having spent countless hours on the training ground perfecting crossing with his left on the right side. Which way was Tommo going to go? His opponents didn't have a clue and most of the time his teammates didn't know what to expect either. Liverpool was envied by other teams for possessing such a powerful pairing on opposing flanks as Thompson and Callaghan. Thompson went straight into Liverpool's first team on his arrival and played in all 42 League games as the club won the title by four points. He won another championship medal in 1966 as well being part of the first Liverpool team to win the FA Cup the year before. Thompson came to Alf Ramsey's attention and would surely have won more than just 16 caps had the then England boss not decided to axe traditional wing play in favour of his own tactics. Who can argue with him after England's World Cup win in 1966? Thompson was desperately unlucky at international level, first in 1966 and then again in 1970 being named in the initial World Cup squad of 28 players before losing out both times as one of the "unlucky six".
Bob Paisley knew him better as a player than most. "He was always a very good winger but I don't think he ever exploited his skills the way he should have done. He was probably too nice a person, too even tempered. If he had a little bit more venom he would have got more caps for England than he did. He wasn't a gentle build, in fact he was the perfect build for racing along and using his strength but it's something he wouldn't do. We tried to get him to do it on so many occasions but we could never convert him to our way of thinking." When asked about Paisley's opinion Thompson concurs he was quite stubborn. "I tried to change from being a little boy who used to beat players. When I was at Preston the press would criticize me for being greedy. Tom Finney was still playing and asked: 'What's wrong with you?' I was in the first team at 17. 'I am being criticized. I think I have to change.' 'Don't change. You've got one great ability. Take that away, what are you left with?', Finney advised me," Thompson said. He made his point to Roger Hunt, who wanted Thompson to be more direct. "The problem was when I got the ball I got my head down and off I went. On the Friday we had a meeting. Roger never said anything. Shankly said: 'Meeting finished', but Roger said 'Actually, Peter beats his full-back about four or five times and we don't know where to run. Why don't you just beat your man and cross it?' Shankly said: 'That is a good idea.' We played against West Brom at Anfield, I pushed it past the full-back, crossed it, Roger smashed it into the net. Roger said: 'That's what I want.' I said: 'That's boring. 'I am not doing that. Let Ian Callaghan do that.' Ian and I were completely different. I was an individualist. Ian was straightforward, boring, pushing it down the line, cross it, boom 1-0! How boring is that?"
Thompson had avoided any major injuries and only missed twelve League games in seven and a half seasons when he suffered an injury in December 1970 and was out until March 1971. He recovered in time to come off the bench to replace Alun Evans in the 1971 FA Cup final against Arsenal and provided Steve Heighway with the opening goal in the third minute of extra-time. Unfortunately, was not enough to win the game. Thompson started the first seven League games of the 1971/72 season but an injury forced him out and once he was match-fit again he only appeared sporadically in the first team and spent the rest of the season languishing in the reserves. Thompson didn't make a single first-team appearance for Liverpool in his last two years at the club. He suffered from serious knee injuries and was ignored by his boss Shankly who famously had no time for injured players. "When my day was up Shankly was horrible. He treated me like a son for about nine years," Thompson revealed to LFChistory.net. "I had two operations on my left knee. When I had my second operation the specialist said: 'You'll never play again.' I got upset. I was only thirty. 'When you train hard, your knee will blow up.' So when I went back to Liverpool, the boss said: 'You are knackered. You are finished.' 'Who are you talking to, me?,' I responded. That's how he was. 'People are working on the docks to pay you money,' he told me. 'You are a cripple!'" Shankly wouldn't pay Thompson's contract up and in the end the Liverpool idol couldn't motivate himself to go to training. "Steve Heighway was doing fabulous. I am not going in having Shankly swear at me," Thompson explained. Jimmy Armfield at second division Bolton took a chance on Thompson and acquired him on loan in December 1973. He signed for Bolton a month later for £18,000 and is considered one of the biggest bargain buys in the club's history. Thompson retired in April 1978 after Bolton won the second division title, having played 132 matches in his indian summer.
Rarely has a footballer with as much natural ability worn the shirt of Liverpool and Peter Thompson is in a class only reserved for a select few. Shankly didn't have a problem with his former talisman after he left Liverpool, as he was no longer a burden on the club's payroll, and sang his praises in Thompson's testimonial brochure: "If Peter Thompson would not have taken up football he could have competed in the Olympic games. That’s how good an athlete he was. He could run forever, but more importantly in football he could run with the ball – probably the hardest thing to do. He could run every minute of every game, every week, every year better than anybody else. His work rate was outstanding, his fitness unequalled, his balance like a ballet dancer. I have no hesitation in placing Peter up among the all-time greats – alongside such players as Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews and George Best. They say he didn’t score enough goals, they said his final pass wasn’t telling enough. Well, if he had scored goals as well as everything else he did, he would have been in the same category as Jesus Christ!"