Player profile

Billy Liddell

Billy Liddell

Birthdate: 10 January 1922
Birthplace: Townhill, Scotland
Date of death: 3 July 2001
Other clubs: Lochgelly Violet (1937-38); Chelsea, Linfield, Cambridge Town, Toronto Scottish, Dunfermline (wartime guest)
Bought from: Lochgelly Violet
Signed for LFC: £200, 27 July 1938 - Professional 17.04.1939
International debut: 15.05.1946 vs. Switzerland
International caps: 29/8 - 08.10.1955
Liverpool debut: 05.01.1946
Last appearance: 31.08.1960
Debut goal: 05.01.1946
Last goal: 05.03.1960
Contract expiry: 1961
Win ratio: 41.57% W:222 D:134 L:178
Games/goals ratio: 2.34
Honours: League Championship 1946/47
Wartime games/goals: 153 / 82
LFC league games/goals: 492 / 215
Total LFC games/goals: 534 / 228

Player profile

William Beveridge Liddell started his career with local teams Kingseat Juvenlies and Lochgelly Violet. Billy came first to Liverpool in July 1938 and nine months later signed a professional contract. Had it not been for a certain Sir Matt Busby, Liverpool's former captain and later Manchester United's manager, Billy might never have been a Liverpool player. Busby found out that representatives of Manchester City had been to see Billy's parents with a view to getting their son to join the club. After learning that Billy had turned down the invitation to go to City, Busby rang Liverpool manager George Kay and suggested that "this Liddell lad might be worth an enquiry"; and indeed he was ... and how! Before Liddell went to Liverpool, he was hired as an accountant at Simon Jude & West in Liverpool. His parents had it put into the contract that Billy would be allowed to continue his studies because they wanted him to have something to fall back on if things didn't work out. Liddell trained full-time in pre-season, but trained only twice-a-week as the season started, the only Liverpool player who held two jobs. But, he had hardly settled when World War II broke out, so Liddell had to wait six years to make his formal debut. Billy enlisted in the RAF and was sent to a training camp in Cambridge and later on to Manitoba in Canada.

Billy finally played his first game for Liverpool and scored his first goal on New Years' Day 1940, beating Crewe 7-3. He was said to have given a "most promising display, his ball control and sense of positioning being features." Liddell made his amateur international debut against England at Wembley on 18 April 1942, four years before making his official debut for Liverpool! His teammates were among others Bill Shankly and Matt Busby, but it was the young Billy that captured everyone's imagination. "Maestro Liddell. Ten minutes was sufficient for this boy to play himself into these criticial, hard-beating Hampden hearts," said a press reporter. "He took the equalizer with a lovely timed header. But it was the way he had in the second goal which put him in the Maestro class. Liddell did the spadework and Dodds did the finishing for what must be one of the greatest goals Hampden has ever seen. The outstripping of the defence, the quick pass with the "wrong" foot, and then Dodds' glorious first-timer. What a goal!" Scotland ran out 5-4 winners. Liddell made 152 appearances in wartime football for Liverpool and scored 82 goals. As early as 1940 a press headline read: "Liddell is war's best find."

Liverpool's future talisman played his first official game for the club in the FA Cup against Chester at Anfield on 5 January 1946. Liddell scored one goal in a 2-0 win. The League competition started in the autumn, but he missed pre-season, because he was still in the air-force. Liverpool had already played two games when Liddell made his League debut in a 7-4 win over Chelsea. He scored two goals, the first of which came straight from a corner kick in front of the Kop in the third minute. Despite the 24-year-old left-winger had never turned out in the League previously for Liverpool, he was already viewed as a key player for the side evident by "Bee" Edwards' report for the Liverpool Daily Post. "Liddell like Fagan is still not his fittest, and I believe this condition led Chelsea to their great chance in the later stages. Liddell means so much to his side." In the first post-war season Billy scored seven goals in 35 games and Liverpool celebrated their fifth League title. But Liverpool couldn't match their triumph despite Liddell's brilliance. Billy twice represented Great Britain against Europe, in 1947 and then in 1955 when Liverpool was playing in the Second Division, which goes to show how highly-rated he was. Only Billy and Sir Stanley Matthews managed to be chosen to play both these games. Billy was disappointed to miss out on the FA Cup after being kicked from pillar to post in the 1950 final defeat against Arsenal. Liddell was especially painfully fouled by the Arsenal right-half, a fellow Scotsman, Alex Forbes. "I couldn't put my jacket on the next day," Liddell recalled. Nobody could have blamed him for abandoning ship when after promising seasons that always ended up in mid-table Liverpool were relegated in 1954. Liddell had established himself as Liverpool's greatest star, the club's top-scorer four seasons out of eight in the top-flight, but there was only so much one man could do.

Liddell had number of admirers but felt at home at Liverpool. He was moved up front and made captain in the 1955/56 season. Goals came easy to him and he scored 115 in five seasons in the Second Division. All careers must to come to an end, even Billy Liddell's!He retired 39 years of age when the Shankly revolution was about to start. Shankly did enjoy the powers of his compatriot on occasion and certainly wished that Liddell had been twenty years younger. "Liddell was some player... He had everything," Shankly enthused. "He was fast, powerful, shot with either foot and his headers were like blasts from a gun. On top of all that he was as hard as granite. What a player! He was so strong – and he took a nineteen-inch collar shirt!" It was no coincidence that Liverpool became to be known as "Liddellpool". Ian Callaghan considers Billy, Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard as Liverpool Football Club's finest and there's no reason to argue with Cally. "Billy was my idol when I was at school and it was fantastic to take over from him," Callaghan said. "I had so much respect for him. Great man - He was a god in Liverpool. I took over from him on the wing and he finished playing not long after that. When I went to my first professional football match it was Liverpool. When Billy got the ball the anticipation from the crowd was just huge. What is he going to do with it? Is he going to shoot from 30 yards or take it past people? He was wonderful. Billy played with a heavy ball on the heavy pitches. The way he used to kick the ball, wow! He was so strong."

On 31 August 1960 Liddell made his last-ever appearance for Liverpool in a 1-0 defeat to Southampton in the Second Division. No other player had made more appearances for the club than King Billy, a total of 534 eclipsing Elisha Scott's total of 468. Three weeks later Liddell's testimonial took place against an International XI which included several greats such as Bert Trautmann (Manchester City), Sir Stanley Matthews (Blackpool), Nat Lofthouse (Bolton) and Sir Thomas Finney (Preston North End's legend). Liverpool won 4-2 with Liddell scoring for the opposition and netting £6,000 for which he bought a house. On the eve of his testimonial Billy revealed once more his affection for his club and the city it was based in. "It has often been said that there is no sentiment in football, but I believe that my career, at least, has proved that wrong. Every Scot is proud of his heritage, but I am equally proud to know that in the city of my adoption I am accepted as a fellow-Liverpudlian. It hardly seems 22 years since I was being warned about the "terrible" city which has meant so much to me. I cannot recall who said that a city is not just bricks and mortar and fine buildings, it is the people in it, but it expresses what I think. I would like to take the opportunity of thanking the much-maligned Liverpool supporters for the encouragement they have given to me. I have always been happy at Anfield for I know we have the staunchest bunch of supporters in the land."

"What can you say about him? Liverpool have had some good club players, but I think he is the finest in their history. Look at him today. I used to do a bit of running around, but he does a lot more than I ever did," said Donald Mackinlay, Liverpool's captain from the 1920's, in 1955. He added poignantly: "Matthews is a great entertainer, but for me that Liddell man is “It”. He is one of the greatest club men ever to have played football.”

Appearances per season

Season League FA LC Europe Other Total
Totals 492 42 0 0 0 534
1939-1940 0 0 0 0 0 0
1945-1946 0 2 0 0 0 2
1946-1947 34 6 0 0 0 40
1947-1948 37 2 0 0 0 39
1948-1949 38 4 0 0 0 42
1949-1950 41 7 0 0 0 48
1950-1951 35 1 0 0 0 36
1951-1952 40 3 0 0 0 43
1952-1953 39 1 0 0 0 40
1953-1954 36 1 0 0 0 37
1954-1955 40 4 0 0 0 44
1955-1956 39 5 0 0 0 44
1956-1957 41 1 0 0 0 42
1957-1958 35 5 0 0 0 40
1958-1959 19 0 0 0 0 19
1959-1960 17 0 0 0 0 17
1960-1961 1 0 0 0 0 1

A more detailed look at the player's appearances

Total Opponent
23 Middlesbrough
20 Derby
19 Stoke City
19 Huddersfield Town
18 Wolves
17 Bolton Wanderers
16 Chelsea
16 Portsmouth
16 Sunderland
16 Burnley
16 Arsenal
15 Blackpool
14 Manchester City
14 Blackburn Rovers
14 Charlton Athletic
14 Manchester United
13 Aston Villa
13 Sheffield United
12 Lincoln City
12 Newcastle United
12 Everton
12 Fulham
10 Grimsby Town
10 Preston North End
10 Bristol Rovers
10 Swansea City
9 Nottingham Forest
8 West Ham United
8 Rotherham United
8 Notts County
8 Barnsley
8 Sheffield Wednesday
7 Birmingham City
7 Doncaster Rovers
7 Bristol City
6 Cardiff City
6 Leeds United
6 Bury
6 Tottenham
6 Port Vale
5 Ipswich Town
5 Hull City
5 Plymouth Argyle
4 Scunthorpe United
4 Leyton Orient
4 Leicester City
3 Southend
2 Luton Town
2 Brighton & Hove Albion
1 Norwich City
1 Walsall
1 Southampton
1 Brentford
1 Exeter City
1 Chester City
1 Workington
1 Accrington Stanley
1 Gateshead
1 Stockport County
1 Northampton Town
Total Competition
492 League
42 FA Cup

Goals per season

Season League FA LC Europe Other Total
Totals 215 13 0 0 0 228
1939-1940 0 0 0 0 0 0
1945-1946 0 1 0 0 0 1
1946-1947 7 1 0 0 0 8
1947-1948 10 1 0 0 0 11
1948-1949 8 1 0 0 0 9
1949-1950 17 2 0 0 0 19
1950-1951 15 0 0 0 0 15
1951-1952 19 0 0 0 0 19
1952-1953 13 0 0 0 0 13
1953-1954 7 0 0 0 0 7
1954-1955 30 1 0 0 0 31
1955-1956 27 5 0 0 0 32
1956-1957 21 0 0 0 0 21
1957-1958 22 1 0 0 0 23
1958-1959 14 0 0 0 0 14
1959-1960 5 0 0 0 0 5
1960-1961 0 0 0 0 0 0

A more detailed look at the player's goalscoring

Total Competition
215 League
13 FA Cup
Total Open play/Penalty
194 Open play
34 Penalty

Wartime Appearances / Goals

Season Appearances Goals
1939-1940 16 9
1940-1941 37 12
1941-1942 36 22
1942-1943 15 5
1943-1944 6 4
1944-1945 15 13
1945-1946 28 17

Milestone Appearances

# Date Against Stadium Competition
1 05.01.1946 Chester Sealand Road FA Cup
50 27.09.1947 Everton Goodison Park League
100 04.12.1948 Burnley Anfield League
150 11.01.1950 Blackburn Rovers Anfield FA Cup
200 10.03.1951 Middlesbrough Ayresome Park League
250 26.04.1952 Preston North End Deepdale League
300 19.09.1953 Burnley Anfield League
350 25.12.1954 Ipswich Town Anfield League
400 11.02.1956 Plymouth Argyle Home Park League
450 30.03.1957 Lincoln City Sincil Bank League
500 10.09.1958 Sheffield United Anfield League

Milestone Goals

# Minute Date Against Stadium Competition
1 30 05.01.1946 Chester Sealand Road FA Cup
50 14 26.08.1950 Sunderland Anfield League
100 18 13.03.1954 Sheffield United Bramall Lane League
150 80 17.12.1955 Nottingham Forest Anfield League
200 15 19.02.1958 Doncaster Rovers Belle Vue League

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Related Quotes

"Oh, what power! Opponents were frightened to death of the most gentle man on earth. Bill was so strong it was unbelievable. You couldn't shake him off the ball. It didn't matter where he was playing, though I suppose his best position was outside-left. He could go round you, or past you, or even straight through you sometimes!"

Bob Paisley on Billy Liddell

"My first match at Anfield was at right-back for Aston Villa. The roar from the Kop was awesome as Billy Liddell waltzed down the wing making us look like idiots. Then I began to recognize the source of Liddell’s magic. He was Liverpool’s inconspicuous craftsman at left half, Bob Paisley."

Former Spurs' captain and Aston Villa player Danny Blanchflower

"Yeah, it's incredible to think that I replaced him. The club used to be called 'Liddellpool' in the 1950s, which shows you just how much he was respected. In my opinion Liddell, Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish were the three best Liverpool players ever, but I would put Billy ahead of the other two as the greatest."

Ian Callaghan’s hero was Billy Liddell

"For five years as a schoolboy I used to play Rugby every Saturday morning and Soccer each afternoon, and all I could think of was that one day I might be good enough to play for Glasgow Rangers. Instead, Liverpool brought me south, and I’ve never regretted the day. I reckon the greatest honour to come my way was to be chosen for Great Britain against the Rest of Europe in 1947, and my most thrilling memory was the first goal I scored for Scotland, in my first international against England at Hampden Park in 1942."

Billy Liddell in 1950

"What can you say about him? Liverpool have had some good club players, but I think he is the finest in their history. Look at him today. I used to do a bit of running around, but he does a lot more than I ever did. Matthews is a great entertainer, but for me that Liddell man is “It”. He is one of the greatest club men ever to have played football."

Donald MacKinlay - Former Liverpool captain from the 20's in 1955

"Billy was so strong. His head and neck was all in one. This is my impression of him; I can remember him with two defenders hanging off him. He was so strong. With both feet, left or right, on the wing or centre-forward. He could play anywhere. Brilliant player."

Gerry Byrne - Liverpool 1953-1969 - Quote from LFChistory's exclusive interview with Gerry in 2008

Billy was my idol when I was at school and it was fantastic to take over from him. I had so much respect for him. Great man - It's very hard to compare decades, but in the 50s, they used to call them Liddellpool. He was a god in Liverpool. I took over from him on the wing and he finished playing not long after that. Billy Liddell was incredible. When I went to my first professional football match it was Liverpool. When Billy got the ball the anticipation from the crowd was just huge. What is he going to do with it? Is he going to shoot from 30 yards or take it past people? He was wonderful. Billy played with a heavy ball on the heavy pitches. The way he used to kick the ball, wow! He was so strong!

Later I worked for the Littlewoods Pools Company Spot the ball and Billy was on the panel. Billy was the chairman and I actually took over as chairman from Billy. I got to know him and he was a really quiet and a really nice man. Terrific. He is one of those of the people who will always be remembered in Liverpool like Shankly and Paisley.

Ian Callaghan - Liverpool 1960-1978 - Quote from LFChistory's exclusive interview with Ian in 2008.

"Of all the players I have seen though, the outstanding one was Billy Liddell. When he was at his peak just after the war, George Kay used to hold pre-match tactical talks and just tell the others: "Give the ball to Billy whenever you can, and he'll win it for us." He usually did too."

Leslie "Bee" Edwards, the sports editor of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo.