Liverpool's game vs Chelsea on 7th of September 1946 was remarkable for various reasons. A sun-drenched Anfield watched one of the most thrilling matches in memory only in Liverpool's third game since the resumption of the League after World War II. Two of the biggest legends in Liverpool's history, Bob Paisley and Billy Liddell finally made their League debuts SEVEN years after signing professional forms for Liverpool.
Liverpool lined up as following: Charlie Ashcroft, Jim Harley, Bernard Ramsden, Phil Taylor, Laurie Hughes, Bob Paisley, Berry Nieuwenhuys, Jack Balmer, Bill Jones, Willie Fagan and Billy Liddell.
Liverpool made a bright start and especially Liddell. After a a nice pass by Fagan, Liddell "got the referee's OK on an offside doubt and sent a tremendous shot wide of the post to plough a furrow among the heads on Spion Kop. Success came in exactly two minutes and Paisley was the man who went forward to get the corner kick which produced a direct goal for Liddell. The corner swung in, and Robinson, trying to punch away, put the ball on the inside of an upright whence it turned into the net."
So Liddell has a dream start to his Football league career by scoring direct from a corner after only two minutes! Despite the 24-year-old Liddell had never turned out in the League previously for Liverpool, he was already viewed as a key player for the side having featured for Liverpool in 152 games, scoring 82 goals in the regional divisions of wartime football.
"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." (Ernest "Bee" Edwards at the Liverpool Daily Post)
Paisley had less opportunities to play for Liverpool during the war (58 games - 12 goals), but he was important to Liddell's success as former Spurs' captain, Danny Blanchflower, once pointed out: "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."
Liddell was full of confidence after his brilliant start to the game and attempted an outrageous shot from the touchline when "by all the rules a squared centre was the only thing worth doing." Paisley had meanwhile "received a boot thrust in the midriff" and caused a slight delay to proceedings while being attended to.
Bill Jones scored two in six minutes and Willie Fagan scored Liverpool's fourth just before half-time.
An official total of 49,995 people were watching inside Anfield, but as the game went on, the total went easily over 50,000 as "big crowds locked out were keeping careful tally of the enormous cheers which greeted Liverpool's successes. During the interval hundreds of young spectators were allowed to leave the Kop and elsewhere and go immediately behind the touch-line and goals. This was not due to excessive packing, but merely to prevent temporary casualties in the stifling heat of a late summer's day. All entrances at Anfield were closed some minutes before half-time, shutting out about 5,000 would-be spectators, although a number of youths got into the ground by scaling the wall on Anfield Road."
Liverpool were insatiable for goals and Balmer added the fifth only a couple of minutes after the restart and Liddell made it 6-0 in the 50th minute: "Liddell weaved his way through and went on courageously to shoot a sixth. When the ball was travelling to goal he was taking a full-length dive to avoid colliding with Winter." (Liverpool Echo). The People noted that when scoring his second goal, Liddell "took a knock-out blow to his body that kept him from being a force for the remainder of the game."
The legendary duo of Bob and Billy were impressing the crowd at Anfield: "Paisley and Liddell engineered a move which ended in Paisley shooting over the bar. These two were making a big difference."
Chelsea finally got on the scoresheet after 55 minutes and astonishingly added three more goals in the following 17 minutes. The score 6-4 after 72 minutes of play. Willie Fagan's goal in the 87th minutes sealed Liverpool's win and when the final whistle had been blown "For once the police were powerless to keep the youngsters from invading the pitch and mobbing the players as they left the field."
Liddell later went on to break Elisha Scott's appearance record for Liverpool making a total of 534 appearances.
Copyright - LFChistory.net - excerpts from Liverpool Daily Post and Liverpool Echo
"Most defenders knew who was windy amongst the opposition attack but Billy never chickened out. He was big, strong, speedy and he played it hard but fair. He put his heart and soul into the game. He was a great competitor. He wasn't a Matthews or a Finney. He was direct, no frills. Even when you had taken the ball from him he'd have another bite at you."
Harry Johnston - Blackpool 1934-1955 and England full-back 1946-1953