Gerry Byrne played through the pain

Paisley worries about Byrne's collar-bone

I knew as soon as Gerry Byrne went down on that lush Wembley turf that something was seriously wrong. All my training over the years had taught me to recognise the difference between a player who was simply going down for a rest and one who had been hurt. Gerry was as hard as nails but as I ran across from the Wembley benches to where he lay on the pitch I didn’t need telling that we could be in a fix. Gerry had clattered into the chunky Bobby Collins. Gerry knew that there was no way Liverpool could survive an F.A. Cup final against old rivals Leeds United with only ten men. As soon as I reached him I knew that my initial touchline diagnosis had been painfully accurate. He had broken his collar bone.

My first reaction should have been to wave to the bench to call for a stretcher. But Gerry got in first. Looking up at me he pleaded: “Don’t tell anyone!” I asked: “Do you know it’s broken?” Gerry knew – but still insisted on playing on through the remaining 87 minutes and, as it happened, another half hour of extra time. He told me defiantly: “I can get by.” And he did, in one of the bravest Wembley displays I have ever witnessed. I went back to the benches and Shank was sat there. I told them all that it was a broken collar bone but they wouldn’t believe it and just said: “That will never be broken.” It wasn’t until after the game that they finally believed me and that was probably only because a doctor confirmed my initial fears.

At last the secret could be revealed but I’ll swear that neither the Leeds United management team who were on the benches alongside us, or the 11 Leeds United players out on the park had any inkling about the extent of Gerry’s injury. We had managed to fool them by making a lot of fuss about a knock he had taken on the shin. Gerry went on to have one of his typical games. Full of effort and quite a bit of skill and, despite nursing that fractured collar bone he made the first goal for Roger Hunt. Peter Thompson found him on an overlapping run – one of scores he had made during the game and his cross was headed home by Hunt, as he bent down low to meet it.

When lan St. John scored the winner in extra time the F.A. Cup belonged to Liverpool for the first time in the club’s history. No-one did more to win it than tough-guy Gerry. He was a bit of a loner, similar to Kenny Dalglish, in that way. He never got among the lads and was the quiet one in that cup-winning side. But he never shirked anything and was tough as they come, as he proved at Wembley. He was a good lad but had little to say and didn’t have many close pals among the team as far as knocking around with them was concerned.

Even though he had little to say he wouldn’t be pushed around on the field. If he got hit he wouldn’t forget the bloke that hit him and would soon be after him. Though he spent most of his first team career playing at left back, his right foot was his best. He was good on either side though and there’s not too many defenders who could say that. There was a long time in his career when he looked as if he was going nowhere.

When Bill Shankly arrived at Anfield, Gerry was a regular in the reserves and was actually on the transfer list but arousing very little interest. Before Shank he had played only two first team games (his debut at Charlton where he had the misfortune to score an own goal) and nearly a year later at Bristol City when he stood in for John Molyneux at right back. He finally made the break through to the first team and did so well that he was included in the England 1966 World Cup squad.

Copyright - Bob Paisley - My 50 Golden Reds (1990)

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