In summers past, a Liverpool tradition was a collective end-of-season squad holiday to Spain. It was a lads holiday, organised by the club – and enjoyed to the full by the players. In these days there were no games involved in the trip so it was the perfect chance to unwind after a long and often successful season. Tommy Smith made his Majorca debut in the summer ‘66, having missed the previous year’s excursions thanks to International Under-23 duty and the impending birth of his son Darren. Smith wasn’t going to miss out again. Tommy Smith is the narrator of this priceless story.
"We usually had the run of the hotel. In normal circumstances football was banned on the beach, but we had special permission from the authorities and organised little games of head tennis that attracted massive crowds. It never took long for word to spread that Liverpool FC had landed. We’d spend the first few days getting a tan and getting used to the climate while testing out the local beer and spirits. On my first trip I soon got used to the routine.
We’d go to a different player’s room every night, take our bottles of sherry along and sit on the balcony telling jokes. In the mood for a good night, we’d go down and continue our drinking in the bar. So far so good, but things began to go wrong after the group jumped in a local taxi and headed to a club just five or so minutes from their hotel.
There was our rock solid full-back Gerry Byrne, Gordon Milne, and hard-drinking Scottish coach, Reuben Bennett, who loved to be out with the lads. Now Reuben could drink for Scotland, he was as tough as old boots and you dreaded it in a match if you got injured. You’d be lying on the treatment table with Reuben asking: "Where does it hurt, Smithy?" You would point to a cut or a really bad bruise on your shinbone. "Just rub it with a wire-brush", Reuben would declare. He was a great character.
It was now late in the evening and there we were sitting in this bar-cum-restaurant and enjoying a good session. Gerry had gone to the toilet and the next thing we knew one of the club’s bouncers was standing over us pointing and the door ordering us to get out. Apparently, Gerry had been having pee in a toilet cubicle when the door accidentally opened. It probably didn’t have a proper lock. This bouncer was claiming Gerry had done it deliberately and that he was some kind of exhibitionist. I tried to assure him that the only exhibition Gerry had ever put on was on the football field, usually kicking someone over the stands. We indicated that he’d be going the same way if he didn’t clear off when the bouncer equivalent of the cavalry arrived.
We got a taxi back to the hotel, and as I got out, big Ronnie Yeats was there just emerging from another taxi. "Where have you been boys?" he asked. I told him we had just been kicked out of a local club and, showing a bit of bravado said: "I’ll be going back to sort him out tomorrow." "Tomorrow?" said the big man. "Get back in the taxi, Smithy we’ll sort it out now."
I spotted the bouncer and he was shocked when I stepped out in front of him and grabbed him by the collar. It all happened in a matter of seconds. I had a firm grip on this fella and Big Ronnie was still holding the barman off the ground when there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned round and there was the manager – complete with little moustache and dickie bow. He said: "OUT!" I said "No". The next thing he produced a gun. "Big man," I shouted. "He’s got a gun". Yeats let the fella he was holding fall to the ground. Even a six feet two inch Scot who’s fearless in any situation knew when to back down. We edged towards the door, and in the twinkling of an eye, we were out, just like the barman said.
The barman backed up by the gun had an attack of bravery. He stood framed in the doorway, stepped back inside and slammed the door shut in our faces. We went to walk away but something came over Yeatsy. I don’t know if it was the cocky look on the bouncer’s face or the simple fact he had not been given those two beers. He wheeled round and kicked the door, just like kicking a centre-forward on a Saturday. The barman turned with a surprised look. He was a fat lad and he went down like a sack of potatoes as big Ronnie hit him with a punch Muhammad Ali would have been proud of. I hit the bouncer, finally getting my revenge, and all hell broke loose.
Ten waiters were trying to get through the same door to help their mates, and it was like something out of the Wild West. Chairs were flying, fists were flying and I didn’t know where the manager was with his gun. Suddenly we heard the sound of a police siren in the distance, so we ran out and disappeared into the night air before the local constabulary arrived.
The next morning, I looked at the big man as he was tucking into his breakfast. "Ronnie", I said. "That guy had a gun!" "Can you imagine the headlines back home if he had used it?" "Two Liverpool players shot dead in Majorca!" Yeats shrugged and we laughed. That’s why he was the skipper.
Copyright - Tommy Smith