When asked if I was ready to take a 550-mile round trip to spend a
couple of hours with Peter Thompson in Kent, I said instantly 'Yes, I am
going all-in.' Rarely has a footballer with as much natural ability
worn the shirt of Liverpool and he is in a class only reserved for a
select few. Thompson has moved back to England after a couple of years in
Portugal and this was a dream come true for me. Off we drove from Bootle and the great Peter Thompson
You almost messed up your transfer to Liverpool with an inappropriate request.
I went to Anfield from Preston and there were thousands of people
outside," Thompson told LFChistory.net. "I got my way through to the front door and Shankly is there.
'Why are all these here for?', I asked. 'You!', Shankly thundered. 'You? 'Me?', I gasped. He took me all around
Melwood. He showed me Anfield. Took me to the office.
The chairman came in: 'Could you sign here?' 'Actually Mr. Shankly, I
would like a signing-on fee.' 'You what? I am giving you the chance to
play in the greatest city in the greatest team that is going to be in
the world and you want illegal money. Fuckin' get out! 'Give me the
pen,' I said. So I signed. Best thing I ever did.
Thompson was the great schoolboy star of his day and became a regular
First Division player at 17 for Preston. Chairman Nat Buck raved about
him. 'I’ve lost the number of clubs who want him, but how could we
I was only a young boy at Preston.. it was difficult because Tom Finney
was one of the greatest wingers of all time. They said I was the new Tom
Finney. I was only 17. It was a lot to live up to. That put pressure on
me. They might say: 'He is okay, but he is not Tom Finney' which I
wasn't. He was magnificent.
Bill Shankly had been impressed by the speed and trickery of the young
winger during a marathon fifth round FA Cup tie between Liverpool and
Preston in February 1962 which went to a second replay at Old Trafford.
After two goalless draws the deadlock was finally broken by Thompson.
I was doubtful to play. I
had trouble with my leg. It was snowing. The ball came out from the sky,
I just swung a foot and it went straight in. It could have gone
anywhere. One of those nights. Shankly thought he had signed a goalscorer.
Thompson was a regular for three
seasons for Preston and following relegation from their only top-flight
season during his spell there the 20-year-old moved to Liverpool for
The standard was so high. I had only been there four weeks. Shankly used
prod you... [pokes me in the chest] 'Are you a winner? I'm
talking to you!
Are you a winner?' 'Yes, Mr. Shankly.' 'I want winners. Second is no
good to me. If you're second I'll get rid of you. Simple as that.' It
was a good place to be in Liverpool. All the groups were coming out
in Liverpool. The Beatles. All the comedians. They used to come to the
ground all the time.
We were winning everything. Everything was good as
well with our arch rivals. We would win the League, they would win the
cup. We win the cup, they win the League. We were passing trophies
across the park. The
first year I was there we were champions of England, the second year we
won the FA Cup for the first time in Liverpool's history. The third year
we were champions of England. The fourth year he called a crisis
meeting. 'You, you and you. Sell your big houses. You are no good to me.' I
went home and said: 'I think he is going to sell me.' He didn't."
Thompson was the missing piece in Shankly title-winning jigsaw.
Liverpool had a very good team that got promoted. They signed me and it was said
that's the last piece of the jigsaw. It's true that. Champions of
England. Circumstances had changed. When I was at Preston I was a
wonderboy, 17-18. When I was twenty I was a has-been, We got relegated
and got beat every week. I couldn't get out of my own half. I was
playing as a defender and was useless. I went to Liverpool and within 12
months I was playing for England.
his England debut in a 4-3 friendly win in Lisbon over Eusebio's
Portugal on 17 May 1964. He established himself as an international a
few weeks later in the Brazil Jubilee Tournament.
I played against Brazil, Argentina and Portugal. After the tournament
I was the "White Pelé". I was no Pelé. You
always keep your first England shirt because you might not get another
one. Then you swap them. When the whistle went I was stood right by
Pelé. He took his shirt off. Bobby Moore took it off him. I got Vava's.
They were the best team in the world. It was 1-1
with 30 minutes to go. Jimmy Greaves had scored. There were about
120,000 people there. We got beat 5-1. They just kept on scoring. I
didn't know what was happening. After the game Alf Ramsey said: 'What
happened?' After a game Shankly was effing and shouting. Alf Ramsey
wasn't like that. I played against West Germany and I knew I hadn't played
well. After the game he sat beside me and said: 'I'm a bit disappointed,
Peter.' I was used to Shankly swearing and boots flying.
Shankly used to swear all the time. When I signed for Liverpool I never
swore. I was twenty. Footballers always tried to hurt me. Shankly said
to me: 'What are you saying to that man there who is trying to break
your leg?' I said: 'He didn't kick me. I am allergic to pain.' He said: 'When you get on that pitch
you swear at him.' I used to ignore him. He said to me at half-time: 'If
you don't swear at him I'll come on the pitch and I'll have him kick
you.' He shouted right in front of him: 'Go on, go on!' 'Fuck off,' I said to the player.
'Louder!,' Shankly screamed. So I swore to him. So I started
swearing to everybody, but it didn't make any difference.
Thompson in a familiar pose
Bob Paisley quote: "He was always a very good winger but I don't think he ever exploited
his skills the way he should have done. He was probably too nice a
person, too even tempered. If he had a little bit more venom he would
have got more caps for England than he did. He wasn't a gentle build, in fact he was the perfect build for racing
along and using his strength but it's something he wouldn't do. We
tried to get him to do it on so many occasions but we could never
convert him to our way of thinking - he just couldn't do it."
Bob Paisley said you could have been a world-beater if you had been more aggressive and more direct.
Yeah, I was a coward... No, I wasn't. The problem was when I got the
ball I got my head down and off I went. On the Friday we had a meeting.
Roger [Hunt] never said anything. Shankly said: 'Meeting finished', but Roger
said 'Actually, Peter beats his full-back about four or five times and we
don't know where to run. Why don't you just beat your man and cross it?'
Shankly said: 'That is a good idea.' We played against West Brom at
Anfield, I pushed it past the full-back, crossed it, Roger smashed it into
the net. Roger said: 'That's what I want.' I said: 'That's fucking boring. 'I am not doing that. Let Ian Callaghan
I tried to change from being a little boy who used to beat
players. When I was at Preston the press would criticize me for being
greedy. Tom Finney was still playing and asked: 'What's wrong with you?' I was in
the first team at 17. 'I am being criticized. I think I have to change.'
'Don't change. You've got one great ability. Take that away, what are
you left with?', Finney advised me.
You were good with both feet.
I practiced all the time. I was right-footed on the left wing. At
Melwood I used to spend hours just pushing the ball down the wing with
my right foot and crossing it with my left. I used to fall over half the
time. I found it difficult but I got quite good at it. Ian [Callaghan] and I were
completely different. I was an individualist. Ian was straightforward,
boring, pushing it down the line, cross it, boom 1-0! How boring is that?
My full-back wouldn't tackle me. Ian was very fast but sometimes he came
up against someone faster than him. I said: 'Should we swop?' It worked a
treat. If the full-back would try to hurt me I could slip him
easy. There was one
game at Anfield when I was struggling. Ian was doing fabulous. 'Should we
swop?' 'Piss off!' He never swore Ian, it was 'Get lost!'
Some games you played were more memorable than others... The first European game in Reykjavik. An Icelandic reporter wrote: "It is not possible to compare these two
sides. Liverpool were so much better. They could do what they wanted to.
But they did not try too hard to score goals. Many of their players
made good efforts to entertain the crowd. But nobody did more in that
way than the winger Thompson with his clever and various solo tricks.
The Icelandic crowd and the players of K.R. watched like good students at
I remember it very well. We won 5-0 and then 6-1. I was an individualist. I
tried not to be like that but I couldn't change. In Reykjavik, I got the ball in their half and I set off. I didn't know where I
was going. I kept beating player after player after player. Eventually I
passed it. Billy Stevenson said: 'It was fabulous, you beat six players.'
I went: 'Yeah, it must have been about six.' He says: 'You beat Ron
Yeats twice, you beat me twice, went through my legs...'
One of the greatest days in Liverpool's history bringing home the long-awaited FA Cup.
"I have a scrapbook. There's thousands hanging from buildings. We went to the town hall."
Were there any particular full-backs that were difficult?
I had full-backs that I had trouble against. Berti Vogts, Jimmy Armfield
was very fast. There was a guy at Leeds, Paul Reaney. What I wanted them to
do was to tackle me because I could slip them. Easy. Some of them
wouldn't tackle me. 'Go on tackle me.' They held back. I was fast.
You scored Liverpool's first with a solo effort in the 2-0 win over Chelsea in the 1965 FA Cup semi-final.
We were playing in Germany and it went to extra time. We flew back from
Germany, went to Birmingham, Aston Villa's ground against a very, very good, fit
Chelsea side and Shankly said: 'Play it easy.' 'I am not playing it easy.'
I had to beat 3 or 4 men before I passed it, I was greedy. [Tells me: 'You were
nodding, don't agree with me.'] We beat them 2-0. Billy Stevenson scored a
penalty, the best penalty he ever took.
The semi-finals with Inter Milan in the European Cup.
A few days earlier we won the FA Cup for the first
time in history. We all went out and got drunk. Inter were the best team
in the world. They had won the European Cup and the Intercontinental
Cup. Nobody could beat them and nobody could score against them. The
atmosphere was absolutely electric. We won 3-1. Chris Lawler scored a
wonderful goal that was disallowed. It could have been 4-1. In hindsight
I shouldn't have played in the return in Milan. I had been picked to
play for England against Yugoslavia in Belgrade. In the middle of the
night I woke up with a terrible stomach ache. I ran to the doctor's
He came around to give me pills. Sir Alf Ramsey asked: 'How do you
feel?' 'I feel dizzy.' 'Go back to bed. You're not playing.' Then I flew
from Belgrade to Milan. Shankly said: 'Are you alright? It's
only in your head. 90,000 people in San Siro, You'll forget your
bloody headache.' 'I don't know if I am ready.'
'Yeah, you are. There's nothing wrong with you.' So I played. Our plan
was to hold them early because the Italian crowd tend to get on their
backs. We lost an early goal. Then there was the fiasco with Tommy
Lawrence. I saw it different than Tommy who said he kicked it out of his
hands. I didn't see it that way but I am a long way off on the wing. He
ran past Tommy. As Tommy bounced it he came around with his foot... I
didn't see him kick it out of his hands. They scored a late goal and we
lost 3-0. I was so upset. We should have won that European Cup that year
but we didn't.
How did Shankly feel after that game?
I can't tell you. I don't swear.
Thompson had avoided any major injuries and only missed twelve
League games in seven and a half seasons when he suffered an injury in
December 1970 and was out until March 1971. He
started the first seven League games of the 1971/72 season but
an injury forced him out and once he was match-fit again he only
appeared sporadically in the first team and spent the rest of the season
languishing in the reserves. Thompson's last two seasons at Liverpool were agonising for him. He suffered from
serious knee injuries, was ignored by his boss Shankly, who famously had
no time for injured players, and only appeared on occasion for the
The interviewer with a signed copy of his Complete Record book!
In football there is no sentiment at all. When my day was up Shankly was
horrible. He treated me like a son for about nine years. I had two
operations on my left knee. I have had two since on my right. He
wouldn't speak to me. 'Why do you treat me like this?', I asked. Shankly was
funny. I was never injured year after year after year. When I had my second operation the specialist said: 'You'll never play
again.' I got upset. I was only thirty. 'When you train hard, your knee
will blow up.' So when I went back to Liverpool, the boss said: 'Fuck
off. you are knackered. You are finished.' 'Who are you talking to, me?,'
I responded. That's how he was.
went to Shankly and said: 'I've only got six months of my contract left. Pay
me up and you won't see me again.' I had been there nine years. He
wouldn't pay my contract up but he did me a favour. I owned two caravan
parks. One I couldn't afford. I didn't have enough money. I went back to
the bank. Shankly loaned me the money. But he wouldn't pay me up. I had
been in every day. Do you know what I did? I said to my wife. 'I am not
going in today and we went to Blackpool, a holiday resort, an hour from
Liverpool. I trained every day, the next week I didn't go in for two
days. Next I didn't go in for a week. Steve Heighway was doing
fabulous. I am not going in having Shankly swear at me. I didn't go in for
two weeks. Bob Paisley rang up. 'Where were you yesterday?' I said: 'Did
you miss me?'. 'Oh yeah,' Paisley responded. 'I haven't been in for two weeks.' 'You better
go in.' So I went in. Bolton asked me to go there. I wasn't sure about my
knee. Jimmy Armfield was manager. You've got nothing to lose. You are
finished anyhow. If Shankly had paid me up, that was it. I would have
retired. I went to Bolton and I was there five years.
Shankly came to my testimonial [Liverpool - Bolton on 12 May 1978] and paid me so many compliments. He was
different altogether like he was for the nine years. It was the time I
was getting paid and I wasn't playing... 'People are working on the docks
to pay you money,' he told me. 'You are a cripple!'
You had quite a successful spell with Bolton, coming from the brink
of retirement and playing five years winning promotion to First Division
in your last season in 1978.
I didn't go down the Leagues. I went to Bolton initially on a month's
loan. When I got to 35 I was having trouble with my hamstrings. They
as you get older. I was really struggling. They started to give me
Cortisone injections before a game. They would get me through a game. I
said to my ex-wife, 'I am going to finish at the end of the season. If
they have to give me a needle to get through a game someone is telling
me something. Some ex-players who I know, Geoff Strong particularly, had
a lot of Cortisone injections and have lot of problems now, walking and
moving about. You have to pay the price. You suffer later in life. The
left knee keeps locking. It is really painful but it was worth it.
Shankly wrote very nice things about you in the testimonial brochure: "If Peter Thompson would not have taken up football he could have
competed in the Olympic games. That’s how good an athlete he was. He
could run forever, but more importantly in football he could run with
the ball – probably the hardest thing to do. He could run every minute
of every game, every week, every year better than anybody else. His work
rate was outstanding, his fitness unequalled, his balance like a ballet
dancer. I have no hesitation in placing Peter up among the all-time
greats – alongside such players as Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews and
George Best. They say he didn’t score enough goals, they said his final pass wasn’t
telling enough. Well, if he had scored goals as well as everything else
he did, he would have been in the same category as Jesus Christ!"
I was without scoring goals [laughs].
Copyright - LFChistory.net - Interview by Arnie ([email protected]