Derby day was a magical journey for the unknown
In the final of our series on unlikely derby heroes Christopher Beesley talks to Alan Waddle about the time he stepped on glory train unnoticed.
IMAGINE the scorer of the winning goal at Anfield tomorrow appearing at Lime Street Station less than an hour after thefull-time whistle and not being recognised.
Well that’s just what happened to Liverpool’s derby hero Alan Waddle in December 1973 when he nipped into the gents ahead of catching the train back to his native Tyneside.
Earlier in the afternoon, Waddle, born in Wallsend on June 9, 1954, and a cousin of the future England winger Chris, netted the only goal of the game in the 1-0 victory over Everton at Goodison Park, yet despite being the toast of the red half of Merseyside, he passed unnoticed among the crowds at the busy railway station.
Waddle said: “I can’t imagine what might have happened to me if I’d popped into the gents now after just scoring the winning goal in a derby match but back then, nobody recognised me.
“I’d arranged with our manager Bill Shankly before the game to have a couple of days off to go a visit my father back in the North East and a friend of mine gave me a lift to the station straight after the game.”
He added: “The media spotlight wasn’t as intense as it is now and I didn’t do any interviews after the match, I just had a quick shower and slipped away.
“I suppose that as I’d managed to get to the station so soon, most people wouldn’t have believed a player could have got down there so swiftly and my face still wasn’t that well-known. There were loads of fans at the station but nobody recognised me and I just got on to the train with no fuss.”
The derby came only a week after Waddle had made his first team debut for Liverpool – in a 1-0 win over West Ham United at Anfield.
Although it is now more than 33 years later, Waddle still remembers the great anticipation he felt going into the game.
He said: “We used to stay in a hotel on the Friday night before matches and on that occasion I roomed with Emlyn Hughes.
“I was really excited but I must have got enough sleep seeing as I scored the winning goal.”
Waddle added: “The thing I remember most about the game was how very difficult it was to communicate with your team-mates, even the ones who were only five yards away.
“The atmosphere were was incredible and for the first 20 minutes of the match, the noise was intense.
“The game was really hectic and the ball was like a hot potato.”
Although Waddle concedes that much of the game seems like a blur now, he can still recall his goal vividly.
He said: “I remember that Mike Lyons had just had a goal disallowed down at the other end and we counter-attacked.
“Ian Callaghan got the ball on the wing and he looked like he’d over-hit it so Lyons, who was shadowing me, held back.
“The Everton goalkeeper David Lawson, who ironically was from my home-town Wallsend, stayed back and in that moment of indecision between the pair I managed to stretch my leg out to the ball and slot into the net.”
The goal turned out to be Waddle’s solitary strike for Liverpool in a four-and-a-half-year spell at Anfield which featured only 16 first-team league matches.
Although Waddle was a valuable part of Roy Evans’s successful reserve side, such was the competition for places at all-conquering Liverpool at the time, chances were few and far between.
He said: “I ‘scored’ on my debut in front of The Kop but the goal was disallowed – that’s the way it goes.
“I remember a midweek afternoon match against Coventry during the three-day week when I could’ve had a hat-trick but I hit the post and the crossbar and the ball just wouldn’t go in.
“I sometimes think what would have happened if some of those chances had fallen for me.”
Waddle had been plucked from relative obscurity by Liverpool from Halifax Town but he recalls that the Anfield club had been monitoring his progress for some time before they finally snapped him up.
He said: “I remember that I kept reading in the Sunday football gossip columns that scout Geoff Twentyman was watching Alan Waddle.
“I think that he must have watched me quite a few times before he gave the nod to Bill Shankly and the great man himself came to see me.
“I think we were playing Brentford on a miserable Tuesday night when Shanks arrived. When I was standing in the tunnel waiting to run out before the game, I saw him stood right beside me and the penny dropped that this was my big chance.
“One of the veterans in our side, Kenny Hale, who was the player-coach, got hold of me when we were on the pitch and told me ‘Just chase everything and don’t make a mistake!’
However, the rookie’s uphill struggle to get a foothold at Anfield became even harder when there was a change of management.
Waddle said: “The way Shanks did things it was magic. But he dropped the bombshell just after winning the FA Cup against Newcastle that he was retiring.
“Bob Paisley took over and while I got on well with Bob who was a fellow North Easterner, I didn’t play much.
“It was difficult to break into the team with so much competition for places. I stayed until the 1977 European Cup final and got a winners’ medal for being part of the squad but at that stage I’d been with the club for four-and-a-half seasons and did not want to resign myself to not being good enough.”
After a brief spell under Frank McLintock at Leicester City in which the Foxes were relegated, Waddle found his career rejuvenated at Swansea City where he was accompanied by several of his former Anfield team-mates.
He said: “John Toshack was in charge and Swansea were on their way up. They were getting bigger crowds than Leicester had watching them in the First Division.
“I dropped down to Division Three to play for them but was named Player of the Year and turned out alongside the likes of Ian Callaghan, Tommy Smith and Phil Boersma.”
Waddle’s enjoyable spell in South Wales came to an end in 1986 when he was forced to retire aged 33.
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