William Beveridge "Billy" Liddell (born 10 January 1922 – died 3 July 2001) was a Scottish international footballer who played as a striker for Liverpool from 1938 until 1961. A product of the Liverpool Academy, Liddell is the fourth highest goalscorer in Liverpool's history with 228 goals, which he amassed from 534 appearances. He was an immensely popular figure at Liverpool during his time there- to such an extent that Liverpool fans famously dubbed the club Liddellpool in his honour. He is widely renowned as one of Liverpool's finest ever players, and as a sign of his enduring reputation on Merseyside, he was voted into sixth place in the 100 Players Who Shook The Kop fan poll conducted in 2006. In 2002, Liddell was selected as one of the two representatives from the 1940s to enter Liverpool's Hall of Fame.
In 1938, the then-Liverpool captain Matt Busby came to hear of the promising youngster Billy Liddell playing for Scottish side Lochgelly Violet. Busby recommended that Liverpool manager George Kay scout Liddell and, after doing so, Kay signed Liddell on an amateur contract on 27 July 1938. Liddell, still only 16 years old, continued his development with the Liverpool Academy system and nine months after joining, signed a professional contract worth £3-per-week. In addition- at the behest of his parents- the club supported Liddell through his concurrent accountancy studies, found him a part-time job as an accountant and set him up with accommodation.
Still a youth player, Liddell suffered a career-threatening injury against Blackburn Rovers when a challenge caused his knee to clash against concrete. Liddell recuperated, but due to World War II, was unable to make an official debut for Liverpool until 1946 as the FA suspended official competition. His unofficial debut came on 1 January 1940 in a 7-3 victory over Crewe, with Liddell getting on the scoresheet after just two minutes of the match. He followed this up with a hat trick five days later in a repeat scoreline against Manchester City. He ended his first season at Liverpool (albeit an unofficial one) having netted nine goals in 16 games.
Liddell completed the war years scoring 82 goals in 152 games for Liverpool in the various unofficial competitions that were established by the FA. He was also volunteering for the RAF during this time, and suffered a broken leg for which he received treatment at the RAF Remedial Centre.
After the war, Liddell was finally able to make his official debut for Liverpool. This came on 5 January 1946- with Liddell now aged 24- at Anfield in an FA Cup tie against Chester City. Liddell netted Liverpool's first goal in a 2-0 win. The game was also notable as being Bob Paisley's official debut for the club as well. The League campaign in the 1945-46 season was still an unofficial war-time campaign, however the official First Division League resumed in the 1946-47 season and Liddell made his first League appearance for the club on 7 September 1946 in a memorable 7-4 win over Chelsea. Liddell scored twice in the match, including one goal direct from a corner. Liddell completed the season having scored eight goals in 40 appearances from a left wing role as he quickly established himself as one of Liverpool's best players. He proved instrumental as Liverpool won a fifth League title- and their first in 24 years, providing numerous assists to Liverpool's prolific forwards Albert Stubbins and Jack Balmer. Unfortunately, this would prove the only honour Liddell would win with Liverpool in his long career with the club, despite the personal strides Liddell would make establishing himself as one of the leading footballers of his generation.
In the 1947-48 season, Liverpool fell to 11th place in the League as Liddell's teammates struggled to replicate the type of performance that had seen them crowned League champions. Liddell himself was still performing to a high level as he found the net 11 times in 39 games. At the end of the season, Liddell joined Liverpool on their end of season tour of North America. He scored 13 goals in 11 games as his stock in football continued to rise. In the 1948-49 season, Liverpool continued to disappoint and claimed only a 12th place finish in the First Division however Liddell, by contrast, continued to impress. He scored nine goals in 42 games, however he had been used more as a utility player during the season, even spending a spell at left back. Liddell made his 100th appearance for Liverpool during the season, coming in a 1-1 draw against Burnley at Anfield on 4 December 1948 and in 1949, Liddell was voted runner-up in the Sportsman of the Year award, losing out to cyclist Reg Harris.
Liverpool restored some pride in the 1949-50 season as they climbed to eighth in the League, and they also reached the final of the FA Cup- Liverpool's first ever appearance at Wembley. Liddell had scored some key goals on the way to the final, including the winner over Blackpool in a 2-1 victory in Round 6, and a goal against Merseyside rivals Everton in a 2-0 win in the semi-final. In the final, Liddell was notoriously targeted for rough treatment by Liverpool's opponents Arsenal- with liverpoolfc.com reflecting that Liddell was "kicked off the park," as Liverpool lost 2-0. Liddell finished the season with stats of 19 goals in 48 appearances, in what was his most prolific season to date. After the season, Liddell rejected a contract worth a reported £12,000 to move to Colombia- this would have represented a substantial sum of money to Liddell, with British footballer wages capped at £12-per-week, however Liddell later stated "the disadvantage of leaving home, family and friends outweight the financial benefits. All my interests are here at Anfield, and I should hate to leave."
At the start of the 1950-51 season, Liddell netted his 50th goal for Liverpool in a 4-0 victory over Sunderland at Anfield on 26 August 1950. He scored twice in the match, with his milestone goal being his first of the game. At the end of the calendar year 1950, Liverpool went 10 games without victory until Liddell netted the only goal of the game against Chelsea on 2 December to end the baron run. In January 1951, George Kay was replaced as manager by Don Welsh, representing only the second manager Liddell had worked with at Liverpool in his near-13 year stretch at the club. Liddell found the net 15 times in 36 games as Liverpool finished ninth. Liddell made his 200th appearance on 10 March 1951 as Liverpool drew 1-1 away to Middlesbrough.
In the next two seasons, Liverpool finished 11th and 17th as the club began to decline. Liddell however- who had already firmly established himself as a footballing star and the idol of Liverpool fans everywhere- was still producing exceptional performances, and netted 32 goals in 83 games over the two years. In the 1953-54 season however, Liverpool finally slipped too far down the League and, in hitting 22nd place, were relegated to the Second Division. Liddell himself had struggled to maintain his great goalscoring stats of the prior seasons, netting just seven times in 37 games, however he was able to celebrate his 300th appearance in a Liverpool shirt, which came in a 4-0 home win over Burnley on 19 September 1953. He also netted his 100th career goal for Liverpool- a penalty in a 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on 13 March 1954. Liverpool's relegation was confirmed with a 1-0 defeat to Cardiff on 17 April 1954, with Liddell missing a penalty in the match. With Liverpool's relegation, Liddell would have had little difficulty finding a new club to stay in the top flight, but he opted to remain at Anfield in an effort to help the club rebuild.
Liverpool appeared at risk falling through the divisions, however Liddell, who had now switched to a centre forward role, netted 31 goals in 44 games as he formed a devastating partnership with 33-goal John Evans. Despite this, the club could still only manage an 11th place finish, however fears of successive relegations were laid to rest. In addition to his goalscoring exploits, Billy Liddell's popularity alone kept large crowds turning out at Anfield at a time when Liverpool fans were feeling some despair at their club's prospects. As liverpoolfc.com reflects, Billy Liddell "was largely responsible for keeping the club's head above the abyss of Football League oblivion."
The 1955-56 season was in many ways Liddell's finest in a Liverpool shirt. He took over the club captaincy at the start of the season and had what would prove to be his most prolific season for the club, finding the net 32 times in 44 games as Liverpool climbed to a promising third place finish in the League. Liddell was involved in a memorable controversy in the FA Cup during the season as, on 21 February 1956, Liddell netted a dramatic equaliser in a Round 5 tie against Manchester City with the score at 2-1. The referee, however, blew for full-time with the ball in mid-flight, and Liverpool exited the competition. During the season, Liddell scored his 150th goal for Liverpool. This came on 17 December 1955 in a 5-2 victory over Nottingham Forest at Anfield. Liddell netted a hat trick in the match, with his second goal marking his 150th. Liddell also celebrated his 400th career appearance for Liverpool in a 4-0 away defeat to Plymouth on 11 February 1956.
Under new manager Phil Taylor, in the 1956-57 season Liverpool again finished third in the League, and again Liddell was Liverpool's top scorer, netting 21 goals in 42 games. His drop in goalscoring compared to the previous two seasons could largely be attributed to his move out to the right flank to cover injuries. In the 1957-58 season, Liddell achieved a major milestone when he overtook Elisha Scott's record of 430 appearances for Liverpool. Liddell equalled the feat on 9 November 1957 in a 4-0 victory over Notts County. Liddell marked the occasion with a goal. He overtook Scott's record on 16 November in a 3-1 defeat to Ipswich Town. Liddell netted his 200th Liverpool goal on 19 February 1958 in a 1-1 draw against Doncaster Rovers at Belle Vue. Liddell was still prolific with Liverpool, completing the season with 23 goals in 40 games, however he was beginning to reach the twilight of his career.
For the 1958-59 season, Liddell lost the captaincy to Johnny Wheeler and only made 19 appearances, however he did score 14 goals in those games. He also made his 500th appearance for the club in a 2-1 home win over Sheffield United on 10 September 1958, with Liddell netting the first of Liverpool's two goals in the match. He was dropped by Liverpool for the first time in his career on 18 October 1958 in a game against Fulham at Craven Cottage, and he was famously dropped again on 15 January 1959 for Liverpool's FA Cup tie against non-League Worcester City, which the Reds embarrassingly lost 2-1. New Brighton attempted to capitalise on Liddell's situation by making him an offer to take over there as player-manager, however he rejected their offer. First Division outfit Aston Villa were also keen on moving for the 36-year-old, but Liverpool dismissed the idea. The Liverpool fans responded to Liddell being dropped with outrage, and campaigned for his recall to the side.
Despite this, Liddell's decline continued in the 1959-60 season as he hit just five goals in 17 appearances. Injury contributed to his disappointing season, and he was also having to battle with new striker Roger Hunt for a place in the team. In late 1959, Bill Shankly took over from Phil Taylor as manager and briefly reinstated Liddell to the starting line-up. Liddell played 10 consecutive games for Liverpool under Shankly and netted what would prove to be his final goal in a 5-1 victory over Stoke on 5 March 1960. Liddell's final appearance for Liverpool came on 31 August 1960 in a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton. Liddell retired at the age of 39 having scored 228 goals in a club-record 534 games. Liddell's appearance record would ultimately be broken by Ian Callaghan. At the end of the 1960-61 season, Shankly gave the then-18 year old Callaghan his debut, who came into the side ahead of Liddell. Liddell himself considered Callaghan his 'successor.'
Liverpool staged a testimonial in honour of Liddell's career in September 1960 as they took to the field against an international XI. Liverpool won 4-2, with Liddell netting a goal for the opposition. The match recorded an attendance of nearly 40,000, and the revenue generated helped Liddell buy a new house. Prior to the match, Liddell reflected upon his career and life at Liverpool, stating: "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."
Billy Liddell is still fondly remembered by those who saw him play as one of the best to have ever worn the Liverpool shirt- if not the best, and although he missed the Shankly revolution and the great successes that followed, it is often suggested that if it wasn't for Liddell, Liverpool would never have been in the position to be taken to the top of English football. Ian Callaghan names Liddell as one of Liverpool's three greatest footballers in its history, along with Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard, and Bill Shankly often lamented the fact that he never had the opportunity to coach Liddell in his prime.
Billy Liddell was commended as a skilful player capable of using both feet and with a thunderous shot. He was also aerially dominant and very fast. Bill Shankly spoke of his playing style, stating: "Liddell was some player... He had everything. 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!"
- League Championship (1): 1946-47
- Member of the Liverpool F.C. Hall of Fame
- No. 6 on 100 Players Who Shook The Kop (2006)
- No. 8 on 100 Players Who Shook The Kop (2013)
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