- Birthdate: 25 November 1947
- Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
- Other clubs: Skelmersdale United (1966-70), Minnesota Kicks (1981)
- Bought from: Skelmersdale United
- Signed for LFC: 28.02.1970
- International debut: 23.09.1970 vs. Poland
- International caps: 34/0 - 1981
- Liverpool debut: 29.08.1970
- Last appearance: 08.04.1981
- Debut goal: 17.10.1970
- Last goal: 11.11.1978
- Contract expiry: 1981
- Win ratio: 52.63% W:250 D:128 L:97
- Games/goals ratio: 6.25
- Honours: League Championship 1972/73, 1975/76, 1976/77, 1978/79; FA Cup 1974; European Cup 1977, 1978; UEFA Cup 1973, 1976
- LFC league games/goals: 331 / 50
- Total LFC games/goals: 475, / 76
Heighway often took the “highway” up the left wing, riding tackles, showing perfect ball-control at breakneck speed, delivering great passes. He was one of the greatest entertainers who has ever graced the Liverpool shirt. Heighway was spotted playing for non-league Skelmersdale United by Bob Paisley’s sons, Graham and Robert. Bob sr. himself decided to have a look and was very impressed. “When I first saw him he almost took my breath away because he had “Star” written all over him and he was playing for Skelmersdale against South Liverpool,” Bob said. “I even told one of our coaches that here was the best amateur footballer I’d ever seen.” Heighway signed for Shankly’s Liverpool in May 1970 when he was 22-years-old. Like his teammate Brian Hall, Heighway was a University graduate, with a degree in Economics, a very different background to most professional sportsmen. The club had a fairly settled side at the start of the 1970/71 season as Shankly rebuilt his team. Bobby Graham broke his leg in the home match with Chelsea in early October and that was the start of a long run of success for Heighway as a Liverpool player for the rest of the 1970’s and into the 80’s.
Tommy Smith recalls one incident that showed Heighway could stand up for himself, even when facing the frightening Bill Shankly. “Shortly after Steve Heighway first joined we were at a meeting with Shanks. Now Steve in those days was still an amateur player in his mind as well as having a university degree, and he would take offence pretty quickly. He’s a great lad, terrific fella, but I remember a time when Shanks called him out for not helping a teammate in a situation where he could have helped. Shanks said: ‘Tell me, son, if your neighbour’s house was on fire what would you do?’ ‘Would you get a bucket of water and help him put it out, or would you watch it burn down?’ I don’t know how everybody kept a straight face, because Steve in his wisdom gets up and says, ‘Well, all I can say is till you ask me a serious question, I can’t answer.’ ‘If you ask me silly questions, all you’re going to get is silly answers.’ That knocked Shanks back on his heels and set the place rocking, I can tell you.”
The Dubliner had an unorthodox style and his pace caused many a problem for defenders. Heighway’s first chance to impress came in Gerry Byrne’s testimonial on 8 April 1970. Heighway confessed that the his new club was so unfamiliar to him that he had to ask when taking his position on the pitch which end the Kop was at. Lifelong Red, John Martin, remembers well his performance that day. "It was raining at 7 o’clock in the morning and it never stopped all day. A strange name appeared on the Liverpool teamsheet when the sides were announced. At outside left would appear not P. Thompson but S. Heighway. My seat was near the front of the Kemlyn Road Stand (now the Lower Centenary Stand) towards the Kop end so I was ideally placed to get a close up of our new man. The full back who was marking him was Jimmy Armfield who, although well past his best, was still a formidable opponent. The young Heighway ran him ragged and put over a succession of centres and other passes that had our forwards queuing up to convert them. It subsequently turned out that he wasn’t even on the club’s books at the time but Shankly wasted no time in tying him to a contract."
Heighway turned one of the most memorable Merseyside derbies in history in November 1970 when, with Liverpool two goals down to the defending champions at Anfield, he received the ball out on the left-wing after a raking pass from Tommy Smith. Side-stepping John Hurst's attempt to cut him in half, he made his way into the penalty area and, with everyone expecting a cross, squeezed the ball past Andy Rankin at the near post. Seven minutes later his pin-point cross from the left landed on John Toshack's head and Liverpool were level. Chris Lawler scored the winner for the Reds a few minutes from time. Shankly's young side reached the FA Cup final that season and Heighway scored a similar goal past Bob Wilson but despite taking the lead, Liverpool suffered the heartbreak of an extra-time defeat to Arsenal. Like a number of his colleagues that day, Heighway would return to Wembley three years later as a winner and again he scored, this time against Newcastle. By then he was an established and important member of the side and had many caps as a regular international with the Republic of Ireland to add to the Championship and UEFA Cup medals he had won with Liverpool in 1973.
Heighway reached double figures three times as a goalscorer but his main role was to create numerous openings for players like Keegan and Toshack and later on for the likes of Dalglish, Johnson and Fairclough. Heighway added another UEFA Cup winners' medal in 1976 before being part of the team that won the greatest prize of all in Rome in 1977 and he added a second European Cup winner's medal a year later when he came on for Jimmy Case against Bruges at Wembley. He couldn't be absolutely sure of his place after that but still made 28 League appearances in 1978/79 as he collected the fourth of his First Division Championship medals. He was hardly called on at all during the next two years and left England for the United States in 1981 after playing 475 first-team matches in all competitions for Liverpool.
1981 was not a happy time for the popular Irishman who was affected by severe financial problems at his American club, Minnesota Kicks. After leaving Minnesota he featured for Philadelphia Fever in the Major Indoor Soccer League in the 1981/82 season. He liked living in the USA, developing his coaching skills on the staff of Umbro which led to a position at the Clearwater Chargers Youth Soccer Club where he pioneered the role of Director of Coaching in the United States. In 1989 Kenny Dalglish appointed Heighway to the key role of youth development officer at Anfield. He was at the forefront of Liverpool's School of Excellence and then the Academy, that was established in Kirkby in 1998, until his retirement in the summer of 2007. A number of Liverpool stars benefited from working with Heighway such as Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard.
Bob Paisley was Heighway's boss for seven years and couldn't praise him enough: "I've never seen a footballer move more gracefully than him. He should have been an Olympic athlete because he was so beautifully balanced."
Published in the Daily Mail on 7 December 1970.
The Irish Kop is a tribute from the heart of Anfield to those amazing fans who go to incredible lengths to follow Liverpool FC.
An article by Chris Wright from Liverpool Daily Post on 27th April 2007.
John Martin talks about his favourite players on the left hand side of Liverpool throughout his years supporting the Reds.
An article by Chris Bascombe from Liverpool Echo on 11th of January 2007.
Liverpool Echo's DAVID PRENTICE talks to Liverpool Academy Director Steve Heighway in December 2005.