Liverpool FC - My very first boyhood favourites

January 17th, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

Let me make one thing absolutely clear from the start, Liverpool Football Club are my second favourite Premiership side behind Manchester United. Liverpool were in fact my very first boyhood favourites. Tottenham Hotspurs comes a close third.  Indeed the reason that I have been a life long follower of United is down to the fact that back in the middle fifties my late brother Jimmy was living and working in Manchester where I visited him on a few occasions and his special treat to me was a trip to Old Trafford to see United in action. It was of course a very different place away back then but to stand among the teeming, swaying, surging crowds at the Stretford End is a magical emotional very noisy occasion that remains with me till this day. The term health and safety had yet to be invented. A memory of a game there in April 1957 was one of the big events of my young life and would define my passionate love and interest in this great club right up until the present day.  United were playing Real Madrid, it was the second leg of the European Cup, Real were leading 3-1 from the first tie. Jimmy had secured two tickets from a close friend who was unable to attend himself and as far as know it was the very first game played under flood lights at Old Trafford. 

It was a magnificent occasion, and my memories are of Madrid going two goals up at half time, their black clad goalkeeper Alonso playing a blinder and United with goals from Tommy Taylor and Bobby Charlton fighting back in the second half as the game ended in a draw 2-2. But United were out of the European Cup. The game was fought at a fierce pace and there were some very dirty and heavy tackling from both sides. One distinct memory I retain is of Tommy Taylor going down injured in the second half from a fierce tackle. The United players and side line men were lifting him off close to the goal behind where we were standing so I had the perfect view of what occurred next. We had the amazing sight of the Madrid players attempting to prevent the injured player being taken off. They were dragging and pulling to keep the player on as the United players were doing the opposite to remove him from the penalty area. It was a sight which I have never before or since seen. It was comical in many ways. Eventually peace was restored and the player was substituted.   

Real Madrid were the dominant force in world soccer back then just like Barcelona are to day. They won five European Cups in a row and that night in Manchester they turned on a brilliant display with Di Stefano, Real, Zarraga, Santamaria, Gento and the brilliant French man Kopa in scintillating form. That game has for me a multitude of bitter, sweet memories because this brilliant Manchester side known as the Busby Babes in reference to their legendary manager Matt Busby would be decimated in the Munich air disaster the following February 1958 as they flew home following another European Cup match. Little did I realize as I watched them in Old Trafford that foggy, gloomy April evening that I would never see them playing together again. 

Seven of those players were to die at Munich. The Dublin man Liam Whelan, England captain Rodger Byrne, Mark Jones, little Eddie Coleman, Geoff Bent, the great centre fordward and top scorer Tommy Taylor and the greatest of them all the powerfully build Duncan Edwards who had played for England at just eighteen years of age.   They had painted a future filled with promise and the felling that anything could be achieved.   Some years ago in the company of my late brother in law Tommy Slattery I visited St Francis Church, Laurel Road Dudley where there are two beautiful stained glass windows commemorating the life of Duncan Edwards who the experts believe would have gone on to become one of the worlds greatest players. Incidentally the only Gaelic footballer I am aware of who has a stained glass window dedicated to him is our own Eamon Fitzgerald, Castlecove. The All Ireland medal winner and 1932 Olympian has a little window commemorating his life in the beautiful Castlecove church which is situated next to the famed Black Shop owned by Carmel and Brendan Galvin.

And so before this one game that April evening fifty five long years ago Liverpool had been my favourites and my great interest in them had arisen when two o Sullivan brothers who lived near us in Lower New St Killarney would return on a yearly basis from Liverpool where they worked on the docks and they were the first people I ever heard talking about a English soccer team. And then there was the one and only soccer magazine on sale in Killarney which was our sole connection with the English league.  It was called "Charles Buchan's Football Monthly", priced 1/6 in "old money" as they say. I still posses a tattered prized copy dated February 1956. The front color cover sees two players rising to head the ball, Eddie Low (Fulham) and John Atyeo Bristol City). The very same Mr. Atyeo prevented Ireland going to the 1958 World Cup finals when he headed a last second equalizing goal in Dalymount Park Dublin. Phil Greens commentary on that occasion is one of the great moments in Irish sport. 

I also retain memories of listening on our old Bush radio and being bitterly disappointed as Liverpool lost to Arsenal in a Cup final in the early fifties. They were regulated to the second division in 1953-54, knocked out of the cup by a non league side Worcester City, in 1958, they then appointed Bill Shankly as manager and the whole history of the club changed for ever. Shankly introduced the "boot room strategy" where team play and tactics were open to discussion. Joe Fagan and Bob Paisley who later led the club to major success were educated in this environment and as they say the rest is history. But for me one game, one April evening in Manchester in 1957 in the company of my late brother Jimmy who lies buried in the medieval town of Shrewsbury cemented and nurtured for the rest of my life that passion and love of United which has always been a special part of my sporting life.   

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