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From Parachutes to Thanksgivings – 89 testimonials

The granting of a testimonial match, from which (since 1926 in the UK) all profits go tax-free to a benefiting footballer, evolved over time as the circumstances in which they have been granted have changed quite dramatically. As an analogy, since 2006/07, we are used to the concept of a ‘parachute payment’ to Premiership clubs being relegated, losing the astonishing income to which they had become accustomed. The rules are a little complicated, but the basic idea is to share out some of the TV income in order to cushion the financial blow as they now have to survive in the relative poverty of the Championship.

Instead of ‘club’, think ‘player’; instead of relegation, think ‘retirement or career-ending injury’. The earliest form of testimonial seems to have been the authorizing of a blanket to be carried round a ground so that coins could be thrown by generous and sympathetic fans in the crowd, and given to the player for whom the whip-round was organised. Today, of course, we condemn the throwing of coins by the crowd for any purpose, even when aimed at a particularly ‘poor’ player! On the other hand, most players were not full-time professionals, having other jobs by which they are sometimes described in census returns rather than by ‘footballer’.

At the end of the nineteenth century, occupational pensions were rare (largely confined to the armed forces and public servants – nurses, teachers, and so on), and the 1908 Old Age Pension, introduced as part of a Liberal state reform package, was available only to low paid workers from the age of 70 onwards. In theory, a footballer’s testimonial provided a welcome cushion until players could find a new source of income, though the 1908 Act stimulated private businesses (including Everton) to establish insurance schemes for their workforce. By then, there had been two attempts to form a national players’ union. The first was the Association Footballers’ Union (1898-1901) which included funds for widows, orphans fund, and players permanently disabled. The second, which of course remains its main counterpart, was the PFA, established in 1907.

One of the purposes of this article was to establish why Liverpool was chosen as the opponent in away testimonials. It has to be borne in mind, however, that testimonials are not normal ‘friendly’ games. Their main objective is not necessarily to have good relations with other clubs, to experiment with new players or formations, or to provide pre-season fitness build up – it is to maximize the number of paying spectators in order to benefit the recipient financially. In some instances, therefore, LFC’s success on the pitch is sufficient to make us an attractive visitor, and no other connection is needed to explain the invitation to participate. Invitations almost vanished during our post-war period in the second division doldrums.

The playing basis of a testimonial was one of goodwill, and friendliness to the opponents on the day. This is symbolized by choice of referee, often locally based, for whom possible bias was not important. The referee for Rangers’ Arthur Dixon testimonial in 1923 was the Rangers’ own trainer! Some testimonials were celebrations of goal scoring, there having been 10, 11, 14, 15, and 16 goals in a single game, even 18 in the case of Tommy Smith’s!

The basis of the article is the list of 89 testimonials on LFChistory.net, which comprises those played by the club's first team.

Pre-war Home Testimonials

Of the eleven LFC players granted a testimonial at Anfield before the Second World War, eight transferred directly to another club (two of them back to Scotland). Only two left LFC for the big wide world but, even then, could not let go of football – Matt McQueen became an insurance agent in Elsie Road, Anfield, but he was a qualified referee, and later became a Director and (in 1923-1928) Manager of LFC; and Billy Dunlop had a tobacconist and newsagent business in Walton Breck Road, also acting as landlord for younger, unmarried LFC players, until he became a trainer for Sunderland FC. The timing of Dunlop’s award at the age of 28 remains a mystery, unless it was actually a ‘benefit’ to which his contract entitled him. Raby Howell’s testimonial was very unusual for two reasons - it was held at Anfield, though he had already transferred to Preston North End; and he was the only one of the eleven who had been injured, having broken his leg playing for his new club.


In a slurry of inactivity, only one testimonial for a player was held at Anfield between the First World War and the 1960s. To me the recipient, Jackie Sheldon, was the surprise package of all 38 at the ground. He had been an Manchester United player before coming to LFC in 1913, and was the ringleader of the great betting scandal of 1915 in which Liverpool's match against Manchester United was thrown in the latter’s favour, saving them from relegation, and making the participants a great deal of money by gambling on the result. Seven players were banned for life, a punishment lifted after (and as a consequence of) the war. (See article: ‘The Good Friday scandal that is linked). It was normal for beneficiaries of LFC home testimonials to play for Liverpool, but at least Sheldon had the good grace not to do so on this occasion. There seemed though no hard feelings if the Echo is to go by: "We do not forget Sheldon's good and consistent work for the club, and his unlucky finish in the game with Derby County. Have a half-day for his occasion."

Before the Second World War, only one (ex-) LFC player (Raby Howell) fitted the description as the recipient of a parachute payment following a career-ending injury.

Additionally, three testimonials for non-LFC players were held at Anfield before 1960. The earliest of all 38 was for the mysterious ‘David’ Kirkwood (as referred to in newspapers) on 23 March 1893, the visitors being Bootle FC. Now identified by James Corbett (via ‘The Athletic News’ 19 July 1909) as the Scot, Daniel Kirkwood, he had been an Everton player 1889-92 before moving to the local Caledonians as captain. In November, however, he broke his leg playing against Blackpool, which ended his playing career, and by Christmas, Caledonians had gone into liquidation. His testimonial was not for a man financially destitute, however. He ran his own business as a newsagent, kept close ties with Everton as a shareholder and Director, and eventually became club chairman. Why Anfield and not Goodison for this match? You tell me.

The second game was for a man even more remote from Liverpool FC – William McGregor, whose testimonial was on 8 January 1894. He was a national figure behind the development of the football league system, and regarded by many as its creator, replacing the earlier system of all-friendly matches. Testimonials were held on his behalf by several clubs, but the Anfield event provided a valuable lesson for club administrators which they did not always follow – avoid times of the year when bad weather is a normal threat to attendances. Only 300 spectators watched LFC beat Burnley that day. Of all Liverpool's testimonials, home or away, only eight have been held during December, January or February.

Third was for the trainer, (and originally a felt hat blocker in Heaton Norris, Stockport, where he had been born), Bill Connell. The Edinburgh Evening News reported on 8 April 1924, ‘The Liverpool directors are recognising the services of trainer W. Connell, who has been with the club for a lengthy period [some twenty years]. During Easter week a benefit match on his behalf will be played, the opposition being supplied by [Glasgow] Rangers.’ This match attracted by far the highest gate of all LFC testimonials before that of Billy Liddell in 1960. Connell continued to work for LFC until, in 1929 at the age of 65, he was awarded a useful weekly wage in lieu of a lump sum.


Bill Connell's testimonial was a hit with the fans.
Here with a trademark trainer towel over his shoulder

Pre-war ‘Away’ testimonials

The reason for Liverpool being invited as the visiting club is not always clear, however, but in these early years, the Liverpool Mercury reported that, ‘the achievements of the team have aroused an enormous amount of curiosity and interest throughout the country, and have made them about the best drawing club of the season’.Seventeen of these matches were played, by invitation of the home club (or, occasionally, their fans), of which only three were for former LFC players, sufficient reason for each to have invited LFC as their opponents. Ralph Holden of Tranmere, a player who had lost a leg in the war, had played twice for LFC, transferring to Tranmere for the 1914/15 season. Bill Lacey had three spells at Shelbourne, Ireland, but had been on LFC books 1912-24 after we bought him off Everton. In his 1932 testimonial, he played for Shelbourne. It was said to have been the most lucrative benefit Ireland had ever known and made Lacey over £500. Jimmy Gray of Exeter City had been on LFC’s books from 1926 to 1930. Another Scot, he was actually recruited from the Transvaal in South Africa. In his testimonial, he played for Exeter, his current club.

The timing of the earliest away match (2 April 1894) is intriguing. Newton Heath had been bottom of the First Division since 9 December 1893, and it was clear for some time that they would have to play and win the ‘Test Match’ against the top of the second division, under the old play-off rules, to stand any chance of avoiding relegation. Meanwhile, LFC had led the Second Division during the same period, so when they invited Liverpool to play in Willie Stewart’s testimonial on 2 April, Newton Heath probably saw it as an information-gathering dry run before the showdown on 28 April. Willie Stewart himself had joined Newton Heath only in 1889, and could hardly be described as a long-standing servant of the club. If this was the motive, it backfired. Liverpool had already played eleven matches in March, and was due to play another ten before the test match. Accordingly, a reserve team was sent for Willie’s testimonial, from which Newton Heath will have gathered little from their 2-0 win; the test result reversed that one, and Newton Heath was relegated as LFC was promoted. Newton Heath changed its name to Manchester United in 1902.

No specific connection has been found between LFC and Billy Betts whose testimonial was at Bramall Lane 23 April, 1894. Sheffield Wednesday’s historian quotes a preview of the game which describes Liverpool as ‘a famous club making their first visit to Sheffield who should provide attractive opposition as Second Division champions’ and this seems to be the only reason for them being invited. ‘Unsurprisingly Wednesday comfortably won 4-0 with Liverpool ending up with only 9 men in the latter stages due to injuries.’

Family connections are among the first candidates to explain the reason why Liverpool was contacted as an opponent for another club's testimonial. Bob Holmes of Preston North End (4 November 1895) was the brother of John who played for LFC 1895-98).

Arthur Lea was a remarkable footballer (and, more astonishingly, cricketer) having only one arm, yet had four caps for Wales as well as a Welsh Cup Final medal, having captained both club and country. Wrexham’s early records, if they exist, have proved impossible to access, so only natural geography has been available to explain why Liverpool took part in the testimonial of Arthur Lea in 1895, after a twelve-year career with the club. Wrexham’s almost local connection with Liverpool can be found in a number of other testimonials.

John Somerville, a Scot playing for Bolton Wanderers, had his testimonial on 11 October 1897, and a bit of digging had to be done before a Liverpool connection was found – but it was worth the wait. No personal contacts known, but the match was one of two friendlies played back to back about a fortnight apart, as if this was the second of a reciprocal pair which had been arranged the previous July for Bolton to give Somerville a testimonial. He was made player manager of Bolton Wanderers shortly afterwards, but took them to relegation in his first year.

Behind the scenes, however, another story was unfolding, which still has repercussions today. In 1897, the Football League was proposing a restriction on transfers, and a maximum wage, in response to which an Association Footballers’ Union was formed in Liverpool by the end of the year. John Somerville was a member of the management committee, as was Bob Holmes of Preston and one of the trustees was the Mayor of Liverpool and President of LFC, John Houlding. This could well have been the arena in which a testimonial arrangement was raised.

The key to understanding Liverpool’s involvement with the testimonial for Blackpool’s ‘one-club man’ Harry Stirzaker on 7 February 1900 was possibly John Parkinson, who had been recruited from Blackpool in May 1899, on the basis of having scored 29 goals in 85 matches, but returning there one year later. At that time, Blackpool was without a manager, so the influence of players on the club’s fortunes might have been enhanced, and the ill-fated John Parkinson was the only link between the clubs which has come to light. Parkinson was one of LFC’s only two Blackpool-born players in our history, so it would be quite a coincidence if the events were not connected. LFC was the visiting team for Parkinson’s own testimonial in 1905.

Thomas Herbert ‘Bert’ Read 19/2/01 Manchester City player, later at Manchester United. He played over 100 times for City. Afterwards, kept the Midway Hotel in Manchester.

LFC was the opponent at the testimonial of Charlie Parry at Oswestry, 28 April 1904. Charlie was an ex-Everton player, the Blues giving him two benefit matches (1898 and 1921).

In July 1916 John Cameron, an influential Director of Newcastle United, died leaving a widow and eight children. The club had taken a formal decision not to play while the war was on, and it was left to a few individuals to organise the sort of parachute payment for needy players or families which was required in this case. Leeds and Liverpool were chosen as then topping the wartime Midland and Lancashire leagues respectively, and both teams had personal connections with Tyneside - in the Reds' case, Arthur Metcalfe and Tom Bennett. £176 was raised towards a total of £768 for Cameron's family.

The Scottish connection with the club was still evident. Three testimonials in 1923 and 1924 were held in Scotland (Arthur Dixon at Ibrox, Tommy Crichton at Firhill; and John Hutton at Pittodrie a day later), and a further four involved beneficiaries who either were Scottish (Willie Stewart of MUFC, and John Somerville of Bolton, and Alex Lambie of Partick Thistle), or had played north of the border (Arthur Dixon). Was it pure coincidence that Matt McQueen had become LFC’s first Scottish manager on 13 February 1923, staying in that position the next five years? He would certainly have been an attractive target for Scottish clubs looking for a good quality, friendly opponent.

Oldham-born Arthur Dixon had a distinguished career north of the border, joining Rangers in 1917. Liverpool was probably invited to participate in his testimonial on 10 September 1923 on the back of being led to the English title by McQueen.

Tommy Crichton had joined Partick Thistle in 1919, and had a testimonial on 29 April 1924 when LFC ‘visited Firhill’. There is nothing in a poor match programme to explain why Liverpool had been invited to participate.

John Hutton had joined Aberdeen in 1919, and had his testimonial on 30 April 1924. Unfortunately, most of the club’s records were destroyed by fire in 1971, so if there was a more specific connection to LFC than McQueen himself, we might never know about it. Coincidentally or otherwise, LFC’s William Chalmers, recruited from Aberdeen, played at Anfield August 1923 to June 1925, and might have played a part in the arrangement.

Alex Lambie’s testimonial on 28 April 1930 was at Firhill, but Lambie himself was recovering from an operation and could not play. Again, there is nothing in the match programme to suggest why LFC had been invited, which is unfortunate because this was the club's only player testimonial held in Scotland when Liverpool did not have a Scottish manager.

James Smedley, whose testimonial was in May 1934, has been hard to pin down but James Corbett and Rob Sawyer have located entries for him in the Everton Collection and Garth Dykes’ book on New Brighton in the ‘Complete Record’ series. The Blues’ Directors sanctioned a benefit match for ‘Carr and Smedley’ in response to a request from New Brighton suggesting 18 September 1933. Everton proudly displayed the FA cup during the event, which made £170 for each player. The Liverpool involvement remains a mystery.


Roger Hunt's testimonial was the the most popular one held at Anfield -
The gates were closed twenty minutes before kick off, with 5,000 more waiting to get inside - Click on image to read.

Pre-war ‘missing’ testimonials

We look in vain for such rewards being granted for some of Liverpool’s most famous players. Alex Raisbeck, Don Mackinlay, Elisha Scott or Berry Nieuwenhuys never had a testimonial, but that does not mean that they missed out on extra financial rewards for excellent service. 'Benefits' were funded from the revenue of normal league/cup matches, which are, in consequence, not identifiable as testimonials. Mackinlay is known to have had four such grants as his service almost lasted 20 years. You had right to a benefit every five years. For example, the league match against Woolwich Arsenal on 17 April 1911 provided the ‘benefit’ for goalkeeper Sam Hardy. Alex Raisbeck had a lucrative benefit against Aston Villa on 26 March 1904 on which he made £426. Raisbeck noted in 1915 that a benefit was never awarded against Everton as that would create envy amongst the players as it guaranteed the player a small fortune. After Nieuwenhuys had given Liverpool five years’ staunch service in the 1938-39 season, the club rewarded him, though, with a benefit match against Everton from which he received the princely sum of £658.

***CLICK TO SEE THE COMPLETE LIST OF LIVERPOOL FC TESTIMONIALS***


Post-war Superstars need adulation, not charity

By the mid-1960s, the main purpose of a testimonial had evolved. The impoverished footballer became a thing of the past when the wage cap (then £20 a week) was abolished in 1961, and charity was replaced by the fans being given a thanksgiving opportunity to recognise particularly long (ten years being a norm) and/or excellent service given to the club. Liverpool's extraordinary run of success in the 1970s and 1980s was reflected in the list of recipients of testimonials. To emphasize the point, since the Second World War, all but one of the recipients of testimonials at Anfield were, or had been, star players for the club. The sole exception was that for Bill Shankly on 29 April 1975 during that strangely developing relationship between club and erstwhile former manager. The top 27 attendances of all Anfield testimonials read like a who’s who of LFC favourite players during our golden era (see Appendix).

Soon, questions were raised about the ethics of footballers already rich beyond most fans’ wildest dreams being given even more money for doing what they loved best anyway. They were answered by Kevin Keegan’s refusal to accept such a testimonial, and by subsequent recipients who have given some or all of their testimonial proceeds to charity. Even so, the system has now fallen out of favour, and only two LFC players (Carragher and Gerrard) have had a testimonial in their honour in the last twenty years. The decline of the testimonial is a national phenomenon - Chelsea, for example, have had no such tribute for the departing Frank Lampard or John Terry despite pleading from fans. It probably explains why many LFC favourites have not been accorded the honour of a formal benefit match, notably Robbie Fowler.

Unlike some of the ‘away’ sited players below, the ‘home’ recipients were given a testimonial within three years of termination of contract. Hunt, Lawler and Yeats waited three years, whereas Carragher’s and Hansen’s were three years before retirement. Five more were a matter of months rather than years. They are all described as ‘testimonials’ on match tickets and programmes, with an extra ‘year’ or ‘season’ added for Ronnie Moran, Alan Hansen, Ian Callaghan and Jan Molby. The length of time contrasts with much less fortunate players, like Tommy Lawton or Dixie Dean who had to wait well over twenty years for theirs.

One odd feature of Billy Liddell’s testimonial was that he played for the opposition. It was not unusual for Stanley Matthews to have his name on the sheet in order to boost attendance, and then not turn up. Billy Liddell replaced him!

For ten of these LFC home games in more detail, see this excellent article on This is Anfield.

Post-war away testimonials

Not all ex-LFC stars had their testimonial at the ground - in twelve cases, they were usually at, and organised by, their new club. Ironically in view of improved training and fitness generally, another change from the pre-war period, however, is that career-ending injuries and even death are now more commonly found among those who had recently left Anfield; and you certainly can’t help wondering whether the gates on these foreign fields would have been far exceeded had the game been played at Anfield.

John Nicholson, captain of Doncaster Rovers, met a very sad end five years after leaving Liverpool – a road traffic accident on September 1, 1966, his thirtieth birthday next day, and his resulting death two days later. The match between Liverpool and a Representative XI (including George Best) contributed towards £2,000 raised towards the Memorial Fund for his family. Nicholson’s son and daughter saw their father being inducted into the Rovers’ Hall of Fame recently.

Bob Wardle, who was unable to replace Grobbelaar as our No 1 goalkeeper, had been loaned to Wrexham and Tranmere, but when he was forced to retire because of an eye injury incurred on the training ground, it was Shrewsbury Town FC, from whom we had recruited him, who laid on his testimonial in 1986, and in which he appeared as a sub for the home team.

Also among the beneficiaries who had left Liverpool only to have their career cut short, we have Richard Artus’s personal account of the origins of Ray Kennedy's testimonial. Ray had given wonderful service to both LFC and Arsenal, and it was fitting to use the event to support Ray in his fight against Parkinson’s.



Wayne Harrison, once the country’s most expensive teenager, had to retire early through injury, and Oldham Athletic, whence he had arrived at Anfield in 1985, and whither he had been loaned before playing for Crewe Alexandra and finally LFC reserves, clearly felt a desire to help in the circumstances. His knee problem worsened, and he was unable to play in his own 1992 testimonial. Harrison passed away on Christmas Day at the age of 46.

Knee injuries are not uncommon in football, (spoiling Alan Shearer's 2006 testimonial, of course), but not always serious enough to be career ending. Another exception, however, was Jim Beglin, who had left Liverpool in 1989 to join Leeds United. At 29, he finally gave up hope of returning to the game after four operations on his knee, playing only a token 17 minutes for Leeds in his 1992 testimonial which attracted over 8,000 fans.

Nicky Tanner’s testimonial, following retirement after a back injury within a year of leaving LFC, should have been at Bristol, where he had been a player for Rovers, but might have been switched to Swindon before Yeovil Town’s ground Huish Park was chosen. 7,000 attended, good in the circumstances but once again far short of the reception he might have had at Anfield.

Only half of the ex-LFC away testimonials did not involve injury of one type or another!

Peter Thompson’s was after four years at Bolton, and although it would be normal after that interval for the recipient to play for his new club, on this occasion he played for Liverpool at Burnden Park whereas Anfield had been far more lucrative. In fact, Thompson's move to Bolton had been delayed because of this issue. Thompson wanted to play at Anfield as Roger Hunt (a Bolton player as well when his own testimonial was played), Gerry Byrne, Ian St John and Ron Yeats had done and benefited from but he finally had to accept the away option.

No case better illustrates the confused use of terminology surrounding this subject more than that of Kevin Keegan. He had his testimonial when he retired as a Newcastle United player on 17 May 1984. It appears that he had been offered a testimonial by Newcastle, but refused (as reported in the Liverpool Echo 18 May), and made no financial gain from the match except his £20 appearance fee. In his autobiography, he refers to the game as ‘an end of season benefit match against Liverpool’ but does not say who was intended to, or actually did, benefit. It was noted locally as an ‘all ticket friendly’ and promoted as ‘Kevin Keegan’s Farewell’ on the match tickets. The match programme was headed ‘Auf wiedersehen’ and sponsored by Newcastle Breweries Ltd. (It is unclear whether it was the match or the programme that was being sponsored – probably the latter.) The proceeds (£80,000 from 36,722 fans) did not go to charity – it went into the NUFC coffers, the club being in debt at the time. Was this a testimonial? In spirit, of course; in law, very doubtful.

Sammy Lee played for four clubs after he left LFC in 1986, and it was during the second of these (Osasuna in northern Spain) that he was given a thoroughly deserved testimonial. Victim of yet another knee injury, he did not play in the match itself, and in the stand with him was ex-Red Michael Robinson, also injured. The high regard which he had earned as an LFC player was reflected in Dalglish’s decision to send a strong team for the match, the only testimonial outside the British Isles for a former Liverpool player.

Joey Jones was on his third spell at Wrexham, fourteen years after leaving LFC, before his reward for services to both clubs. Still fondly remembered as a fiery left back (later earning him similar popularity at Chelsea and Huddersfield), Joey had spent only three years at Anfield, and by 1992/93 was a coach back at Wrexham. He was genuinely surprised when almost 12,000 turned up for his match, providing him with a £50,000 nest egg.

Jimmy Case played – and scored a trademark blockbuster goal – in his Wrexham colleague Joey Jones’ testimonial, by which time Jimmy himself was with his fifth club, having left LFC in 1981. Like so many legends, he was regarded as one of ‘Liverpool’s own’ having been brought up in Allerton. The title of his autobiography (‘Hard Case’) echoes that of Tommy Smith (‘I did it the hard way’) with the added pun on the old ball itself. The Brighton match programme, and Jimmy himself, described the game in 1994 as a ‘benefit’, not a testimonial.

Steve Staunton’s testimonial at Lansdowne Road, Dublin occurred during his second spell as an LFC player, and was essentially an Irish celebration which he shared with Tony Cascarino. Staunton had played over 100 times for his country.

If only.. Bobby Charlton wore Liverpool's colours
in the testimonials of Billy Liddell and Tommy Smith

*

Finally, Liverpool has been an away visitor for some who have never played for the club. Earliest of these, post-war, was an invitation by Brighton & Hove Albion in 1951, for the benefit of three players, Brighton showing a desire to avoid rewarding only one of their team. Goalkeeper Harry Baldwin had been with the club since 1939; keeper Jack Ball played over 100 times for Brighton; and Jack Dugnolle who had recently left the club after two spells there, and was later southern area scout for Liverpool. Why was Liverpool invited? Well, there had been a strong connection during the war, when several LFC players turned out as guests for B&HA. Additionally, with the visitors having won the League as recently as 1947, and still in the top half of the table, we provided a good attraction for the then Third Division Brighton. The key to the choice, however, was Don Welsh, former wartime guest, and newly appointed manager, of LFC, who had recently moved from Brighton, and who was thanked in the match programme for bringing Liverpool FC for the event.

By 1956/57, we were near the top of Division 2 when Brighton came calling again, inviting Liverpool to take part in a match for their ‘Players’ Benefit Fund’. It was one of a number of friendly games from which the proceeds were put into a common pot to be shared between goalie Eric Gill, centre-half Roy Jennings, outside right Dennis Gordon, right half Don Bates and Tom Bisset who played as defender and forward during his nine years with the club. It was an interesting spread across the field of play, and a solution to having individual benefit games which might have had widely different outcomes to the chagrin of some.

The other testimonials with which Liverpool was involved as a guest were more traditionally centred on one individual player. First of these after the war was in 1951 for Don Spendlove, Rhyl’s extraordinary forward who had just celebrated his 300th goal for the club. (He went on to a total 629 during his career.) As well as having a Kop End of the Belle Vue ground which Rhyl liked to attack in the second half, an even closer connection with Liverpool was their manager John Dougary who had been a scout for LFC.

A somewhat mysterious testimonial was on 16 March 1954 at Brunton Park, Carlisle, for Billy Hogan, who had played for Manchester City (1942-49) and Carlisle 1949 until 1956 when he retired with a (another!) shattered knee. Hogan’s failure to appear for this match was not mysterious, however – he missed his train. That story has been told many times, but it does not explain why he was not on the match ticket which named the teams. The mystery of why Manchester City was not involved is easily explained - he had played for their first team only three times, so perhaps the urge to celebrate his career was not at testimonial level. (He played over 200 times for Carlisle.) Could Bill Shankly have been the agent who brought Liverpool to the fixture? He had been Hogan’s manager from 1949 to 1951, but at the time of the testimonial, Bill's only connection with LFC that I could find was his single guest appearance during the war.

Carlisle FC historian David Steele has a much more likely explanation. 'I am fairly certain it was connected to the transfer of Geoff Twentyman from Carlisle to Liverpool in December 1953. The main stand at Brunton Park was destroyed in a fire in March 1953 and United had difficulty in building a replacement. Much of the finance was found by the sale of Twentyman, who of course was a former teammate of Hogan, for £12,500. I think that the transfer probably went ahead including an agreement that Liverpool would play a friendly match at Brunton Park. A number of friendlies were played that season, aided by the fact that Carlisle were still in a minority in having floodlights at the ground.'

Coventry City laid on a testimonial for two long-serving players, George Curtis and Mick Kearns on 9 May 1967, with LFC as the opponent. Curtis had joined the Sky Blues in 1955, the former becoming club captain and a then record of 538 appearances in Coventry’s successful period, with Kearns (1957-68) reaching almost 400. I’ve been unable to establish a family or formal staff connection between the two clubs, but Coventry FC historian Jim Brown suggests that the answer might lie in the relationship between Bill Shankly and Jimmy Hill, who had just taken Coventry into the First Division.

Geographical proximity between two clubs concerned is sufficient to guarantee a good LFC crowd to supplement the home fans, and therefore a good financial benefit for the player. That alone is sufficient to explain LFC’s involvement with Tranmere Rovers on the other side of the river Mersey. Their captain, John King, having also played for Everton and Brighton and Hove Albion, had a testimonial in 1967 with over 200 appearances for the Rovers under his belt, and Liverpool gave him the compliment of fielding a strong, attractive side which brought in almost 10,000 spectators. (He had a second benefit game, against Everton, in 1990.)

Bill Shankly, keeping to a promise, took Liverpool’s ‘strongest possible’ side to the testimonial for Harold Jarman of Bristol Rovers in 1970, following eleven years at the club. Larry Lloyd had transferred from the Rovers the year before, and Jarman himself had asked for LFC as an opponent for his benefit match. Local interest in Lloyd’s progress at Anfield, plus the fact that he was in the LFC team on the day, brought a good crowd of 6,626 who were no doubt delighted with the 1-1 draw!

In July 1971, Arfon Griffiths, Wrexham’s ‘Prince of Wales’, had his testimonial half way through a twenty-year playing career. Once again, Shankly sent a very strong team, but he claimed that this decision was as much for Liverpool’s benefit as Arfon’s as he regarded it as what we would now call a ‘pre-season’ trial. In a Daily Express interview, Shanks confessed that in 'many benefit games, when the idea is to entertain, in every possible way, the public who have come to support one of their favourites...... Liverpool Football Club don’t believe in frolics two weeks before a new season…. This is why Arfon Griffiths isn’t the only beneficiary.’ Accordingly 12,000 fans made Arfon £3,400 richer, though he was yet another player who had to sit out his testimonial because of injury. This was one of only two LFC testimonials ever held in July, (none in June by the way).

Enemies or mere rivals? Such attitudes, even subconsciously differentiated, would determine the outcome of a ‘friendly’ match across Stanley Park. A peacetime opportunity came on 13 March 1973 for Brian Labone’s testimonial, with Dixie Dean in the crowd. It was played, said the Guardian, ‘in a sporting spirit’ as indeed it should have been, the Echo noting that there were only four, relatively minor, fouls in the whole game. The reporter must have been counting, possibly expecting, if not hoping for, a higher figure!

Shankly's testimonial was an emotional occasion

Shankly’s double farewell is shared between Anfield and Celtic Park, where Liverpool was invited to occupy the away dressing room for Billy McNeill’s testimonial on 12 August 1974. It was everything you would not expect from a friendly testimonial – 60,000 applauding both teams, and watching ‘a sparkling display of power and skill’, ending in a fitting draw. (Aberdeen Press & Journal 13 August) Both of Liverpool's only two remaining Scots (Cormack and Hall) were in the team, boosting a recurring Scottish call for a British First Division on the basis of the quality of this match. ‘It must be very rare in football for a match to turn out exactly as everyone concerned wanted it to be.' (Liverpool Echo 13 August)

Shankly's testimonial against a Don Revie XI didn't draw the record crowd for a testimonal at Anfield, which is surprising. Liverpool fan, Chris Wood, remembers the occasion vividly: 'There was no way I was going to miss Shankly's special night and considering what he had given us as supporters I expected an attendance in the region of Hunt's rather than Byrne's. I arrived at Anfield early expecting to see massive queues around the stadium but it soon became clear that the stadium's capacity would not be threatened. I think the choice of opponents might have had something to do with the lowish crowd figure. If I attended a testimonial match, I wanted to see a 'proper' match against recognised opponents. But Liverpool's opponents on the night only had the name of the individual who was managing them.' One of the most emotional occasions Anfield has seen took place at the end of the match. 'We all knew the final tribute would come at the end of the main match. Bill walked slowly around the stadium to the tumultuous acclaim of the supporters. As he reached the Kop the decibel-count increased even further. There had been a regular chant in the 1960s about Shankly being our 'king'. As he walked in front of the Kop for one last time, a thunderous, repetitive roar broke out to the same tune of "You'll always be our King"; and so he was.'

One week after Shankly’s Anfield farewell, Paisley took a strong team to Plymouth, helping the Argyle celebrate the career of John Hore, who played for them 441 times (and Exeter a further 221). He also managed both of those clubs. John remembers the occasion very fondly, full of admiration for the quality of LFC and of Bob Paisley (who helped to calm his nerves!) John, having once had to mark Pele, had what he describes as the ‘impossible’ job of marking Peter Thompson. As usual for these events, John Hore was given the option of a testimonial any time in the season, organised by an ad hoc committee, but the suggestion to invite Liverpool as the opponents came from Southport-born manager Tony Waiters, a former youth development trainer at LFC. Liverpool accepted the invitation on condition that it didn’t interfere with their Cup runs, and as it happened, were knocked out of both by the end of January 1975.

Ray Mathias served Tranmere Rovers for 21 years and 637 appearances, being their captain for 12. He later managed Wigan, Tranmere, Chester and Stockport. In 1976 LFC was invited to play in the first of his testimonials (v. Everton ten years later), the game being well remembered among the pub quiz aficionados for Ray Clemence’s double, one of which scored from twenty yards!

In November 1976, LFC went to Northampton Town to celebrate the work of Dave Bowen, who had been manager of the club twice, with a spell at Arsenal adding to his playing career – he was also a Welsh international. I’m sure the arrangement must have been made before August, because the manager at the time of the testimonial was Paddy Crerand. So how did they get an entrée into Liverpool’s busy calendar? The answer, obtained from a ‘cobblers’ fan, was almost certainly the work of local boy Phil Neal, who had played for the Town 1967 to 1974, when LFC bought him (and gave him his own testimonial eleven years later). Paddy was probably satisfied with the 1-1 draw!

The surname Kennedy is enough to give away why Liverpool played at Gigg Lane, Bury, on 19 May 1982 – the player honoured was Keith, brother of Alan who made over 400 appearances for Bury during a ten-year spell. The scoreline (8-7) and unknown attendance tell you everything about the spirit in which the game was played.


Ray Clemence scored two goals in Tommy Smith's testimonial

Sometimes these friendly games are of little passing interest to the football connoisseur, but occasionally when they are being played abroad against British opposition (as in the more modern pre-season tours, for example), they can arouse passions in the rival overseas fans every bit as strong as back home. That was the background to Billy Drennan’s testimonial, played at Windsor Park, Belfast before 30,000 fans on 3 August 1983, between LFC and Manchester United. Drennan himself was the very successful retiring secretary of the Irish FA, and both clubs agreed that not even travel expenses should be taken from the proceeds. It was a match worthy of the occasion, United snatching a winner six minutes from time.

The game a week later was at the other end of the testimonial scale. Held in the Stade Mohamed V in Morocco, the player being honoured was the variously named Larbi Ihardane, best known for his Olympic international games in 1972 when they drew with the USA. The testimonial was a very one-sided affair, the legendary Larbi himself lasting only nine minutes before embarking on a victory lap to great applause. How did Liverpool become involved at all? A probable explanation takes into account LFC’s pre-season itinerary, as well as the goodwill generated. Two tournament matches had been played (against Hamburg and Feyenoord) in the Netherlands during the previous five days, and two more followed (Atletico Madrid and Dinamo Bucharest) across the straits of Gibraltar in Spain in the four days following.

23 July 1987, and Liverpool was honoured to take part in the testimonial (‘abschiedsspiel’, or ‘farewell game’) of Dieter Hoeness, Bayern Munich’s legendary forward. With Bayern further advanced in their pre-season training, and new boys Beardsley and Barnes still to be bedded in, the loss was incidental to Dalglish’s plans for the season – nevertheless, the fact that it was no surprise that LFC had been invited to take part must surely have been taken as an indication of our standing in European football, and a welcome one with the club being banned from European competitions due to the Heysel tragedy.

There were three further testimonials in 1987/88, all for Scottish players. As with Matt McQueen in the twenties, it is surely no coincidence that they happened to be when we had a Scottish manager. The first was for Tommy Burns, still a Celtic player, and later coach and manager, who had been a member of the great Celtic teams of Billy McNeill (see above); he had a second testimonial, with Ajax as the opponents, when he finally hung up his boots two years later. Except he didn’t (hang up his boots, that is) – when the time came, he threw them into the crowd. The Liverpool match, which attracted 42,000 fans, netting £130,000 for Tommy, was competitive. Burns observed that ‘Liverpool never come to play exhibitions, they play to win, and the spectators saw a real match.’

The second Scot to benefit from a visit by LFC that year (and the 14,463 spectators who enjoyed the match) was George McGeachie of Dundee, and Liverpool were back in Dens sixteen months later for goalkeeper Bobby Geddes’ testimonial, probably invited because of the very successful visit for George McGeachie. The match was also the last one for Kenny Dalglish as a player, but oddly not mentioned in his autobiography.

Last – but probably most – in the quality of recipients who benefitted from Liverpool’s involvement were the two titans of Scottish football management – Jock Stein of Celtic in 1978 and Walter Smith of Rangers in 1998. LFC’s was a subtly based approach, or sheer good fortune, to have been able to treat the rival clubs so evenly, almost a precursor to Rodgers and Gerrard in the present century.

*

So we have seen the club honour players and managers for over a hundred years, encompassing those almost forgotten by this century to a few who will probably be remembered into the next. The testimonial represents a specific opportunity for clubs and fans to thank those who have given them excellent service, though rarely in a way which is expected to mirror their skills now failing with age, but a reminder that football is part of the entertainment industry. Fans must expect to be entertained at either end of a spectrum, either by skill as in Billy McNeill’s testimonial, or slapstick, as in Tommy Smith’s.

Have we seen the last of the testimonials? In the sense of rewards going to individual players named in advance, probably. But if seen in the light of good causes, for which it was originally designed, maybe not. Although the image of football has been damaged by the money now involved, it could be partially repaired by an imaginative use of an otherwise anachronistic system. Even if it’s not the first team playing as fixture lists get more congested, there are plenty of fans who would have watched a game for Sean Cox, for example. As early as 1896 we had played a first team match for the benefit of the local infirmary in Northwich, and nowadays would happily pay to see an Everton friendly, proceeds to Alder Hey. There are precedents, however, for football directors refusing to put on benefit matches for apparently political purposes (such as support for the unemployed).

***CLICK TO SEE THE COMPLETE LIST OF LIVERPOOL FC TESTIMONIALS***


APPENDIX
Most popular testimonials at Anfield

Attendance
Recipient
Date
55,214 Roger Hunt 11 April 1972
44,362
Steven Gerrard
3 August 2013
41,000 Gerry Byrne 
8 April 1970
39,612 Bill Shankly
29 April 1975
38,789 Billy Liddell
21 September 1960
35,694 Tommy Smith
27 May 1977
35,361 Jamie Carragher
4 September 2010
33,300
Ronnie Moran
16 May 2000
31,552
Alan Hansen
16 May 1988
30,461
Kenny Dalglish
14 August 1990
29,908
Ian St John
30 April 1973
28,170 Ron Yeats
13 May 1974
25,856
Ian Rush
6 December 1994
25,290
Emlyn Hughes
27 March 1979
23,480
Phil Neal
12 August 1985
21,837
Ian Callaghan
19 September 1977
21,757
Ronnie Whelan
9 August 1993
20,516
Bruce Grobbelaar
10 October 1992
20,435
Chris Lawler
11 October 1978
20,000
Ray Clemence
14 May 1980
20,000
Bill Connell
21 April 1924
18,553
Phil Thompson
10 May 1983
17,137 Steve Heighway
11 May 1981
12,243 Steve Nicol
10 October 1993
10,000 Jack Cox
7 September 1903
8,316 Jan Molby
9 August 1996
6,000 Jackie Sheldon
15 November 1922
5,000
Andrew Hannah
26 March 1894
5,000
John McCartney
6 September 1897
5,000
Joe McQue
6 April 1896
4,000
Matt McQueen
23 September 1895
2,000
Archie Goldie
6 March 1899
2,000
Daniel Kirkwood
23 March 1893
1,500
Raby Howell
30 September 1904
300
William McGregor
8 January 1894
Unknown
Billy Dunlop
18 September 1899
Unknown
Malcolm McVean
12 April 1897
Unknown
Tom Wilkie
19 September 1898

Written by Colin Rogers for LFChistory.net

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