Birthdate: 22 March 1949
Birthplace: Cardiff, Wales
Other clubs: Cardiff City (1965-70), Swansea City (1978-83)
Bought from: Cardiff City
Signed for LFC: £110,000, 11.11.1970
International debut: 26.03.1969 vs. West Germany
International caps: 40/13 (26/0 at LFC) - 17.10.1979
Liverpool debut: 14.11.1970
Last appearance: 19.11.1977
Debut goal: 21.11.1970
Last goal: 19.02.1977
Contract expiry: February 1978
Win ratio: 57.89% W: 143 D: 58 L: 46
Games/goals ratio: 2.57
LFC league games/goals: 172 / 74
Total LFC games/goals: 247 / 96
John Toshack made his name as a striker with his hometown club Cardiff City, signing professional forms for them on his seventeenth birthday in March 1966 and giving them fine service for over four years, during which he scored 86 goals from 193 appearances. Liverpool tried to sign Frank Worthington from Huddersfield Town but the player failed a medical after the clubs had agreed a fee and Bill Shankly turned his attention instead to the young Welshman with the growing reputation. In November 1970 he made his move and 21-year-old Toshack arrived for a club record of £110,000. 'Tosh' endeared himself to the home public in only his second match when he thumped a headed equaliser into the Kop goal in the cauldron of a Merseyside 'derby' against Everton. Although Toshack 'only' scored seven times in 33 matches in his debut season at Anfield, it was clear that his aerial power would be an important part of Liverpool's attack for some years to come. But Toshack was more than just a tall target man. He could play a bit too as he would prove that time and time again. The arrival of Kevin Keegan before the 1970/71 season was a godsend for Toshack and Liverpool as: "Myself and Kevin Keegan worked up a good understanding and as a partnership we flourished," Toshack enthused. "We seemed to hit it off from almost day one and then got better and better as time went by." They became the quintessential big target man and the smaller forward playing off him. A typical Liverpool attack was a pass from the wing, headed down by Tosh for his smaller accomplice, Kevin Keegan, to score. Keegan was thankful for his strike partner at Liverpool. "Tosh was a wonderful player to play alongside. His aerial ability was fantastic and I always knew that he was going to win the high balls. From then on it was just a question of me reading which way the ball was going to go and from those situations we created many chances. I always admired Tosh's honesty as a player. He was a nice approachable lad and he did a really great job for the club during his time here."
Liverpool hadn't won a trophy under Shankly since 1966 but came close in 1971 and 1972 in the FA Cup and the Championship respectively. Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 in the 1971 FA Cup final and Liverpool and Arsenal drew 0-0 in the final League game of the 1971/72 season when Liverpool needed a win to snatch the title away from Derby and seal a record eighth League championship. Toshack scored a legitamite goal against the Gunners but the offside flag was up to Shankly's disgust. Toshack was unlucky with injuries during his time at Anfield. He didn't suffer serious long-term injuries but usually niggling ones which meant that he only once played in 30 or more League matches in any of the six full seasons that he was a Liverpool player. Toshack missed 20 League games in 1972/73 but still scored 13 vital goals as the title was won after a tense struggle with Leeds and Arsenal. But it was in the UEFA Cup final of that year that Toshack made perhaps his most telling contribution. Left out of the starting line-up against Monchengladbach on an evening when torrential rain caused the home leg to be abandoned after less than half an hour, he was brought in to replace Brian Hall 24 hours later and caused havoc in the Germans' defence, laying on two first-half goals for Keegan. He also played in the whole of the second leg in Germany two weeks later when, despite conceding two goals to Jupp Heynckes inside the first 30 minutes, Liverpool just held on to take their first European trophy 3-2 on aggregate.
Following Ray Kennedy's arrival and Shankly's retirement in the summer of 1974 Toshack lost his place in the starting line-up in the first month of the 1974/75 season. Toshack's frustration boiled over and on 21 November 1974 the club accepted a £160,000 deal for him to move to Leicester City. Toshack told reporters: "Nothing would please me more than to be running out on the field with Liverpool against West Ham on Saturday. No disrespect to Leicester but this club is out on its own... they are the best bunch of players I've ever been with," apparently not very enthusiastic about joining the Foxes. “I had to be realistic about my career. I have felt like someone who has been on the dole and out of work for ten weeks. Two internationals with Wales made me realise that I wanted to be playing first team football regularly," he added. Paisley was sorry to see him go: "My position is that I don't want any player to leave Anfield, but when Leicester's interest was known John felt he wanted to go. John felt he was not prepared to wait for his chance. It was a straight battle between him and Ray Kennedy." Toshack was expected to make his Leicester debut the following day, but he failed his medical and returned to Liverpool, which was a blessing in disguise. Three weeks later he recovered his place in the team and scored in his first three games back and didn't look back. The Reds were unable to retain their domestic crown in 1974 but ample compensation was achieved in the FA Cup when eight of the players who had tasted defeat against Arsenal three years earlier were named in the side to face Newcastle United. Toshack had already scored the only goal of a difficult quarter-final trip to second division Bristol City and the important third goal which sealed the semi-final replay victory against Leicester City at Villa Park. At Wembley it was his flicked-header from Ray Clemence's long kick downfield which allowed Steve Heighway to run on and put Liverpool into a commanding 2-0 lead with only 15 minutes left to play. 1975/76 was Toshack's most productive and injury-free season on Merseyside. He only missed seven League matches, played in 50 competitive matches for the club in four different competitions and again won League and UEFA Cup winners' medals in the same season. He passed 20 goals in a season for the only time as a Liverpool player, scoring a hat-trick of headers against Hibernian in the UEFA Cup and also the goal which brought a famous win in Spain against Barcelona in the first leg of the semi-final. At 27 years of age, he should have been approaching his peak as a player but injury meant that he missed the last part of the 1976/77 season and he could only watch and admire as his colleagues won the European Cup for the first time.
It is maybe a little known fact by many Liverpool supporters that Toshack has tried his hand at poetry. "Gosh it's Tosh" is one of his creations. Judge for yourself.
"On Wednesday Shankly names a team,
But for one player a shattered dream.
His season's finished, blown away,
But he is still to have his say."
The Gods are angry.
They send rain, in torrents, and smite the game.
Then just by chance it really pours,
Twenty-two players on all fours.
The Referee says, 'That's enough',
Will Liverpool call the German bluff?"
A day passes and, from the deluge,
I emerge, to rise above Mönchengladbach.
"The Welshman kills them in the air,
Toshack and Keegan, what a pair!!"
Europe fears me. Gosh it's Tosh. It is 1976.
The Nou Camp belongs to me.
A Goalden night and what a thrill,
It's Liverpool one, Barcelona nil."
After only making five appearances for Liverpool the following season, Toshack decided to return to South Wales in February 1978 to become player-manager at Swansea City. He enjoyed outstanding success there in the club's meteoric rise from the Fourth Division to the First. He proudly led his team out at Anfield on 3 October 1981, an afternoon of mixed emotions after the passing of Bill Shankly who had brought him to Merseyside nearly eleven years before. As the teams lined up for a minute's silence in memory of the great Bill Shankly, Toshack took off his Swansea tracksuit to reveal underneath a red Liverpool shirt with his number 10 on the back. It was a moment which endeared him to the Liverpool supporters who had seen him score nearly 100 goals for the club but not so to the Swansea supporters who were quite insulted.
Toshack had been a Welsh schoolboy international and was a member of his country's full international squad for many years, eventually finishing with 40 caps to add to the three he had won earlier at U-23 level. Although Swansea returned to the lower divisions almost as quickly as they had risen from them, Toshack's name and reputation had been noticed outside the United Kingdom and in the summer of 1984 he was named as the new manager of Sporting Lisbon. Although that post lasted less than a year, he later achieved success in Spain with both Real Sociedad and Real Madrid and is one of very few Britons to have won both league and cup competitions in another European country. In 1989 he flew back from Spain where he was managing Real Sociedad at the time, and stood anonymously on the Kop in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy at Hillsborough so that he could pay his own respects to those who had died supporting the club which had given him his big chance.
Toshack was manager of Wales for the first time in 1994, but only spent 41 days in the post, resigning after a 3-1 defeat to Norway. He took charge of the Welsh national team again in November 2004. Toshack left the Wales post after his country's defeat to Montengro in a European Championship qualifier in September 2010. Slightly less than a year later, however, he was unveiled as the new manager of FYR Macedonia. But John's association with Macedonia was only a brief one. After little more than a year his contract was terminated, apparently because he refused to relocate to the country he was manager of.
"I don't like champagne, I don't smoke cigars, I haven't any real jewellery at all, apart from the eight pieces of gold I picked up at Anfield, the most important relationship at a football club is not between the manager and the chairman, but the players and the fans."