Birthdate: 15 November 1937
Birthplace: Aberdeen, Scotland
Other clubs: Dundee United (1957-61), Tranmere Rovers (1971-74), Stalybridge Celtic (1975-76), Los Angeles Skyhawks (1976), Barrow (1976), Santa Barbara Condors (1977), Formby (1977-78)
Bought from: Dundee United
Signed for LFC: £22,000, 22.07.1961
International debut: 03.10.1964 vs. Wales
International caps: 2/0 - 07.12.1965
Liverpool debut: 19.08.1961
Last appearance: 28.04.1971
Debut goal: 23.11.1963
Last goal: 17.10.1970
Contract expiry: 30.12.1971
Win ratio: 54.19% W: 246 D: 106 L: 102
Honours: League Championship 1963/64, 1965/66; Second Division 1961/62; FA Cup 1965
LFC league games/goals: 358 / 13
Total LFC games/goals: 454 / 16
Rowdy Yeats is the longest-serving captain in the history of the club, serving his role with distinction from seasons 1961/62 to 1969/70. His father was a butcher and it was fitting the boy would grow up strong as an ox. Yeats was an apprentice slaughterman at 15-years-old in Aberdeen. He started working at three o’ clock in the morning and finished about seven hours later. He captained Dundee United at an young age and also the British army side during his national service. When Shankly was manager of Huddersfield he had wanted to buy Yeats, but the Board couldn't finance the deal. Now the time was right. Shankly told Liverpool that with Yeats in defence, the club would be promoted within a few years and win the FA Cup! Shankly met Yeats and the board of Dundee United at a hotel in Edinburgh in July. Shankly took a walk around Yeats and uttered words that now have become legend: 'Jesus, you must be seven feet tall, son?' Yeats said: 'No I am only six feet tall.' 'Well, that’s near enough seven feet for me.' Yeats wasn’t quite sure where Liverpool was on the map and asked Shankly where Liverpool was situated. Shankly answered: 'Liverpool is in First Division.' Yeats replied hesitantly that he thought Liverpool was still in Second Division. 'With you in the side we will soon be in the First Division,' Shankly responded. If Yeats harboured any doubts about moving south they evaporated at this meeting. Shankly famously paraded him in front of the press at Anfield and invited them to walk around the giant centre-half.
Ian St. John, who had arrived two months earlier, and Ron Yeats were the last pieces in the puzzle for Liverpool to succeed in Second Division. Shanks later reminisced: "They were the greatest signings and they were the beginning of Liverpool." After only half a season in the side, Shankly gave the 24-year-old the captain’s armband on Boxing Day, being his eyes and ears on the field. Shankly's prediction soon came true as with Yeats in the side Liverpool clinched their place in the First Division on 21 April 1962. Two goals from Kevin Lewis gave Liverpool a 2-0 win against Southampton at rainy Anfield. But conditions didn´t prevent a party amongst the Liverpool supporters. "Just after the final whistle, everyone was going beserk and amid the celebrations I got thrown into the boys' pen!", Yeats remembers fondly. The Liverpool fans didn't want to let go of Yeats and it took him about fifteen minutes to return to the dressing room. Bill was very relieved to see his captain again and said: 'Jesus Christ, son, I thought we´d lost you forever!'" Yeats always led by example and after heading in the winner against Manchester United at Old Trafford on 23 November 1963, which was his first goal for Liverpool, Shankly announced in his typically understated manner that 'Yeats is the greatest centre-half in the world today'! Yeats' most glorious moment came in 1965 when he had the honour of lifting the FA Cup trophy for the first time in Liverpool's 73-year history after the 2-1 Leeds win in 1965. "It was an emotional time getting the cup from the Queen. In fact I just wanted to throw it into the crowd, to the Liverpool supporters," Yeats said. "We won it now. Lets share it between us." Liverpool repeated their 1964 League Championship success in 1966 and reached an European final for the first time. Liverpool played Borussia Dortmund in Glasgow with the European Cup Winners' Cup at stake. The game went into extra-time after both sides had scored one goal after 90 minutes. In the 107th minute disaster struck. Reinhard Libuda tried his luck from all but 30 yards and the ball seemed to head straight into Liverpool’s goal. Yeats chased back to prevent the goal, but unfortunately the ball hit the post and Yeats couldn´t get out of the way and the ball went of his thigh into the net. Dortmund celebrated victory.
Joe Royle, Manchester City’s centre forward and later manager, once said that Yeats was his most difficult opponent. "Ron Yeats just ran in straight lines and you had to make sure to get out of his way. Even when the ball was out of play, you just kept on moving to avoid him." When asked by LFChistory.net about this comment Yeats replied: "I was 6 feet, 2½ inches and 14½ stone, so when I tackled someone he must have felt it. I wasn’t dirty as far as dirty is concerned. I used to make sure I was there or thereabouts. At that time we had these big centre forwards to play against. I always knew if there was going to be a battle I would win the battle. I wouldn’t come second to nobody. I used to enjoy it. It was the small wiry striker I used to hate. He would come at you. You had just to play against anybody who was there. I never kicked anybody for kicking’s sake, I must admit. I went for the ball all the time." At the heart of LIverpool's defence for so many years Yeats had a perfect partner in Tommy Smith, a formidable pairing if there ever was one! "We let the ball go past us, but never the ball and the man. Tommy was hard as nails, but a great player as well. He had a bit of Sami in him, he used the ball very well, a lot better than I did," Yeats told LFChistory.net. "I was a tackler, a header of the ball and read the game well. I got the ball and gave it to someone who could pass it. I knew my limitations. I was very left-footed. I would be lying if I said I would be comfortable on my right side. I had a left foot I could fish up legs with and balls. He was my right foot and I was his left. That’s how we worked."
We have the greatest skipper
Any manager could employ
Let’s drink six crates to Big Ron Yeats
Bill Shankly’s pride and joy
Despite his success with Liverpool Yeats only played two international games for Scotland in his career, which is surprisingly little, but the fact was that home-based players were preferred for the national team. Yeats’ last season as a regular was the 1969/70 season. He had constant back aches and Shankly had found a replacement in Larry Lloyd. In his last season in 1970/71, he played 16 games as left-back and scored one goal with a bullet header in front of the Kop in a 2-0 victory over Burnley in October 1970. His last game in Liverpool’s shirt was at Maine Road on 26 April 1971. Yeats was close to making the side that faced Arsenal in the FA cup final but Larry Lloyd was declared fit to play only two days prior to the game. Yeats moved to neighbours Tranmere Rovers and played around 100 matches there and managed the team for three years. It was a total nightmare. "That was the worst decision I had ever made in my life. Nice people except one guy who was the Chairman at the time. He made my life a misery," Yeats said. "Three of our youngsters were playing in the first team and he sold every one of them within 18 months for pittance of money. He sold Steve Coppell to United for £40,000. He was worth over £100,000. I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’ He could do that without even asking me. I was glad when everything came to halt after two and a half years. It were the worst years of my life." Three years later Yeats also had an unhappy stint as player-manager in California. Yeats returned home when it became apparent that the owner couldn't pay his players any wages. In 1986 Yeats asked Graeme Souness, then manager at Glasgow Rangers, about a job because he wanted to get back into football. In the meantime Kenny Dalglish called Yeats and offered him the role of chief scout at his beloved Anfield. Yeats couldn't resist returning to his former club. Yeats went on to serve in the same role for Souness after Dalglish left, then Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benítez.
"Big Ronny is the best centre-half I have ever seen," goalscoring legend, Roger Hunt, said in 1974. "With him in the team and at his best, we used to think we were unbeatable. In the air he was great. Some people used to think he was weak on the ground, but I never saw anybody give him a chasing. He was the right man for captain."
Yeats was awarded the Bill Shankly Memorial Award in 2002 for his fantastic service to Liverpool. He retired in 2006 following Liverpool's FA Cup victory at the Millennium Stadium, a competition so close to his heart since 41 years earlier. "I started with a win and ended with a win. I retired as scout on cup final day in May 2006," Yeats said. "I was never at home. I’ve never been so happy... after retiring."