Hours of patiently kicking ball to his son have finally made Tom Fairclough the proudest dad in Liverpool – and his kid the “King of the Kop!”
For metal worker Tom decided ten years ago that his son David would be a better footballer it he could become equally skillful with both feet.
And now David, a lanky, six foot ginger-nut, has exploded onto the First Division scene to send Liverpool bombing towards a record ninth League title.
Said Tom: “I’ve always been a keen follower of football, and one of my idols was Liverpool’s Billy Liddell – a great two footed player. I noticed early on that David was naturally left footed, so I thought it would be a good idea to coach his right along.
“We used to go to the park and I passed the ball to him, but always to his right. At first, he used to switch over to his left – but then he got the message and found it was easier to use his right as well.”
And now David’s two-footed ability, plus his pace and skill, is turning First Division defences inside out. He grabbed the headlines after scoring two, and making the other goal for Steve Heighway, in Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Manchester City on Monday.
And in the last weeks, he has also scored a sensational winner against Everton, both goals in the 2-0 defeat of Burnley and the only goal of a game at Norwich. So far, he has contributed seven goals towards Liverpool’s title bid in just 13 games, eight of them as substitute.
David, just 19, traced his two-footed skill and devastating goal power back to the days when he was nine … and those sessions with his father in the park. “In the end, I lost all my inhibitions about using my right foot,” he said. “Now I don’t know which is my stronger foot. I’m usually comfortable on either side.
“I’ve been playing on the left mainly, but I was on the right for most of the match at Manchester and it made no difference.”
His rise to fame has been so rapid that only a year ago he just qualified for a Central League winners’ medal. Now, he is in line for a hat-trick of medals this season – another for the Central League, the UEFA Cup and the First Division as well if he figures in Liverpool’s final game at Wolves on May 4.
Anfield boss Bob Paisley told me: “David is one of those players you have to allow to do their own thing, and we’ve always given players like that a free rein.”
And, Fairclough said of his goal feats: “You’ve got to be as positive as you can in your finishing. When a chance comes you have to take it as quickly and as well as you can.
“In the first half at Maine Road, I got into shooting position a couple of times but passed to John Toshack and Kevin Keegan. They told me I should have a go, so in the second half I just did what comes naturally – took men on and had a shot.”
But there will be no title tension in Fairclough’s next match. Tonight, he will line up in a Liverpool side to play Tranmere at Prenton Park in a testimonial game for Rovers’ long-serving skipper, Ray Matthias.
The only absentees will be John Toshack, who is with the Welsh squad preparing for their European Championship quarter-final against Yugoslavia in Zagreb on Saturday, and Phil Thompson, who has a foot injury.
Copyright - Daily Mirror, 21-04-1976 - Transcribed by Kjell Hanssen