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Pool’s Paisley, a giant among managers

IT happened earlier this season. It was like a scene from the playground.

 The substitute’s board went up. But the Chelsea goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, refused to come off. And that was that.


He stayed on. Wembley looked on. At the Chelsea manager.

That moment underlined how much the game has changed. The Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri, grew up loving football.

He gave up a top job in the financial world to become a manager. Rising up through the ranks. Deep in the vaults of non-league Italian football.

There was a piece on Football Focus one Saturday. It showed the little village where he comes from near Naples. It revealed the pride and the humility of the people in what he had achieved. And now this. How they must have felt for him.

The banker standing behind the ever-revolving counters of Stamford Bridge.

But football’s modern-day millionaire’s row is a different planet to the dusty streets that Sarri played on as a boy.

How would the old Boot Room have handled it. The Anfield retreat of Paisley, Moran, Fagan, Evans, Bennett and Twentyman.

Here’s how. The player’s locker would have been cleared and he would have been given his P45 before you could say Bob Paisley.

Bob wouldn’t recognize the game today. He wouldn’t be able to grasp the meaning of ‘losing the dressing-room.’

He was reared in Roger Whittaker’s Durham Town. Where they didn’t fill the sugar bowl with sentiment.   

In Bob’s world, you did what you were told. In school, at work, and in the army. Going against an order. It just wasn’t done.

Bob spent most of his life at Liverpool. Player, physio, coach, odd job man. He didn’t want the manager’s job at all.

He was following Bill Shankly. Personalities as different as cheese and chalk.

Bob never said much. He was from mining stock. He was a grandfather. He wore a cardigan and slippers. He’d be reading the racing pages before the kick-off.

His team-talks were shorter than a Fr Cassidy sermon. Fr Cassidy said 6 o’clock Saturday evening mass in Dun Laoghaire.

Auntie Lily set her watch by him. Before mass, she’d order the take away fish and chips in The Ritz across the road from the church.

She’d rush to collect them after mass and she’d be on the number 7 bus home to Sallynoggin before the town hall clock struck 6.30.

If any other priest emerged to say the mass, the congregation would utter a silent groan. And Lily’s tea-time plans would go up in smoke.

Today’s media obligations of the manager wouldn’t have rested comfortably on Bob’s shoulders.

But he understood the game. And he understood people. He knew the value of respect. And he grew into the slippers.

So much so that when he brought his team to Milltown to play Shamrock Rovers many years ago, he was the most decorated manager in history.

But this was a manager who gave the player’s their league winner’s medals in the dressing-room on the last day of the season with the words: “See you for pre-season on July 1st.”

Bob’s simplicity was his genius. Playing his best players in their best positions.

The message never changed. Play the game the Liverpool way – pass and move.

Terry McDermott tells a story of playing for Liverpool after he signed from Newcastle.

He hit one 40-yard pass to a team-mate and was quietly admiring his work when he saw an irate Ronnie Moran bouncing up on the side-line roaring at him to get up and support the play.

Terry quickly learned his lesson – it was Liverpool’s way or the Heighway.

Terry never questioned such instruction. And he became one of the best footballers in England. His new-found industry complementing his superb passing skills.

And then when Bob felt your best days were over, he’d bring in somebody else. There was nothing personal. The team had to come first.

Many a heart was bruised. But Bob kept picking his winners.

A new signing for Liverpool could spend plenty of time in the reserves. And he would have been watched many, many times before he got the invite to join the club.

That was the Liverpool method. Character was the brick work of any player. And Bob Paisley knew that better than anyone.

In his earlier life, he was a bricklayer.

In that game against Rovers in Milltown, there was a raffle in the programme. The first prize was a teddy bear.

Bob Paisley was no teddy bear.

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