On his upbringing in Scotland
"In 1936 my father's wage, as a mineworker was £2 5s a week. We lived in the mining village of Townhill near Dunfermilne. Life was pretty tough, and the family's main diet was porridge (with salt, of course), Scotch broth (kait we called it) and bread. Plenty of bread."
"It was a struggle making ends meet and many were the sacrifices my parents made for their children. One of the earliest I recall was when I was about seven. I had asked for a pair of football boots for Christmas, being yoo young to realize what a hole that would make in the family exchequer. But the boots were in the pillow-case hanging at the foot of the bed when I woke up on Christmas morning. It was only in later years I appreciated the significance of that gift in relation to my father's earnings.
Football boots are little use without a football, and that my father could not afford. Luckily, a boy down the road received one. Never since have I broken in a pair of boots so speedily, I kept them on all day, playing morning and afternoon until darkness drove me home."
*Billy started his football career with Lochgelly Violet in native Scotland
"They operated in the Fife Junior League. Often we played on grey cinder pitches with grass only at the corners. If you fell badly, you got gravel raso."
Billy reveals how he came to be so accomplished with both his left and right foot
"I used to run messages for my grandmother who lived in the village. I always had a ball with me, a tennis ball or a sponge ball, and when she asked me to go to the grocers I always ran there on the left hand side of the road, pushing the ball against the wall and stopping it before it went into the road. I did that all the way to the grocers which was a quarter or half a mile away from my grandmothers. Then on the way back I would run on the same pavement so that I had to use my other foot to stop the ball going into the road."
On his way to Liverpool
"The turning point of my young life came after I had been to a Youth Club dance one Saturday night. On returning home shortly before midnight I was surprised to see a light in the living-room. Normally my parents were in bed soon after ten o' clock. Both mother and father were still up and dressed, and were obviously not there to tick me off for being out so late. There was clearly something in the wind, though what it was I couldn't imagine. Certainly I was not prepared for the words which came immediately I had answered their questions about the dance. Mother could not keep silent longer. Neither could she prepare me gradually for the shock to come. Right out without any preliminaries, she asked: 'Willie, how would you like to live in Liverpool?'
I could only stand and stare. I hadn't the slightest idea what the question conveyed. Football at that moment was far from my thoughts and Liverpool had never been in them at all. When I found words at last all I could say was: 'What on earth do you mean?' Then it came out bit by bit, and as it did I realized that, at the age of sixteen-and-a-half, I was at an important crossroads in my young life."
Billy did not know who had recommended him to Liverpool, but found out when he read Matt Busby's book later on his Liverpool career.
"Although a Liverpool player at the time, Matt still retained many connections with Manchester City and his former colleagues at Maine Road. During the summer he and Alex Herd used to play golf together back home in Scotland. One day Alex did not turn up for their usual round, and upon making inquiries from him later Matt learned that he had taken Willie McAndrew, the manager of Hamilton Academicals, in his car to see my parents about getting me to sign for his old club. On being told by Alex that I had turned down the invitation Matt immediately telephoned Mr. George Kay at Anfield and suggested that this Liddell lad might be worth an inquiry. 'Liddell eventually became a Liverpool player, a very fortunate day for Liverpool', says Matt, who goes on to add some complimentary remarks about me which are best left unsaid here. But let me add it was also a very fortunate day for Billy Liddell."
Presbyterian minister Rev. D.G. Gray played a big part in Billy's move to Liverpool
"He not only composed the letter my father sent to the club, a letter setting out the stipulations about my having a profession outside football, but Mr. Gray followed this up by making ectensive inquiries about the company Liverpool intended to place me with. Not until he was satisfied did he tell my father it would be in order for me to join the club. Certainly if had not given the all-clear my father would not have allowed me to sign."
Liverpool's greatest player was only a part-timer!
"When I came down to Liverpool from Scotland as a youngster I had a job lined up for me. My parents insisted I had something to fall back on if my soccer career fell through. They thought football was too risky. I was good with numbers so I joined an accounting firm in Liverpool. I made sure I was allowed to keep my job once I broke into the first team. I think I was the only one who did. I would train pre-season and then only twice a week when the season started. The rest of the time I worked."
Liddell was overawed in his first day of training
"Believe me, my eyes were here, there and everywhere. I recognized some of the famous players of those days, and Eric Patterson named those I couldn't identify. I recognized Matt Busby, Jim Harley, Phil Taylor, Berry Nieuwenhuys, Jack Balmer, Tom Cooper and several others, mainly because I had seen their pictures in the papers from time to time."
Billy's time at Liverpool didn't get to the best of starts as his right knee caught "a terrific blow against a concrete post near the corner flag" in "A" team game vs. Blackburn and while he was recovering from the nasty injury, he got worrying news from home in Scotland
"My anxious state of mind was not improved when a letter from home told me my folks had had an extremely narrow escape from death. Gas from a fractured main in the street outside had seeped into our house at night and my parents and three younger brothers had only been saved when a neighbour awoke and raised the alarm on smelling the gas."
Even though Billy seemed invincible, he was once knocked unconscious during a game
"I played my 400th Football League game for Liverpool, against Bury at Anfield, and three weeks later was carried off on a stretcher for the first time in my life. This was when we were playing Doncaster Rovers and I went up for a high ball at the same time as Jim Kilkenny, the Rovers' left-half. Our heads met with a terrific bump and we both fell to the ground like logs. I was unconscious, so that it was only later that I knew Kilkenny had also been taken off. Neither of us resumed, and apparently Jim had come off worst; at any rate he had to have six stitches in his wound, whereas three sufficed for mine."
Billy's popularity with the Liverpool fans was immense
"It was reported somebody had stolen my photograph from a public house. A few days later I received the following letter:
I am writing to say that I am very sorry for taking your photograph from that public-house, about which you may have read, but I hope it has not displeased you. I want to assure you that it was not hooliganism, like there was after the game at Blackburn. I did it only because I am one of your greatest fans, and liked the photo so much I could not resist taking it, but now I am very sorry."
Unfortunately the writer, presumably regarding discretion as the better part of confession, did not give his name and address, otherwise I would have sent him an autographed picture and got the original one back to return to the owner."
The closest Billy ever came to leaving Liverpool was possibly in 1950 when a Colombian club offered him lucrative terms.
"In 1950 an agent acting on behalf of clubs in Colombia, in South America, approached several English players and influenced them to go out to Bogota, the Colombian capital, to play for leading teams there. The Bogota clubs were supposed to be exceedingly lucrative, because Colombia had broken away from FIFA. Franklin and George Mountford, one of his Stoke City colleagues, were the first to go, and they were followed by several other English and Scottish players. As a matter of fact I was approached myself by the English agent with an offer of £2,000 to sign on, with top wages and hefty bonuses. It was enough to make anyone consider the matter seriously, and I certainly gave it a lot of thought. If my twin boys had been four or five years old, instead of only a few months, I would have had a still harder decision. The fact that they were so young finally decided me against accepting the offer. Later on, after hearing of the conditions in Colombia, I was jolly glad I had stayed at home."
2nd division Liverpool won 1st division Everton 4-0 in 1955 with the help from an Echo reader.
"Some chap wrote to the manager pointing out the way Everton's defence moved up to catch the opposition offside at free kicks. We worked on a move in which John Evans hung back, and then came through late to keep onside and it worked perfectly. John found himself all on his own and pulled the ball back for Alan A' Court to score. I had already scored to put us in front, and Alan's effort really finished them off. It was the only time I remember us practicing a set piece move, and we worked at it all week. Manager Don Welsh was so pleased he gave us 10 shillings each!"
Billy was Justice of the Peace in Liverpool from 1958-1992.
"I've been recognised a few times. Once a street seller who traded without a license shouted hello to me as I walked past and said, 'Billy, I was up before you last week!'"
Billy remembers the how football was in the good ol' days, where the Merseyside derby was incomparable.
"My memory isn't as sharp as it was, but I can still remember the excitement of running out in front of a full house. The grounds were different then. Nearly everyone stood up, not nearly so much cover so the crowds looked even bigger than they were. And they were lot bigger than they are now. We used to play in front of 60,000 at Anfield, and I think the first time I played in a Goodison derby there were more than 78,000 packed in. I played in the first derby after the war, and what an occasion that was! Interest in football then was fantastic - you couldn't get a ticket for love nor money."
Most of the quotes are from "My Soccer Story" by Billy Liddell, published in 1960. Others are from various newspapers.
"I saw him play many times. And I met him. I was there the day we were relegated to the second division. We lost to Cardiff City. We won a penalty which Billy took and it was saved by their substitute goalie, their full back. In those days there were no official substitutes allowed on the bench, so if the goalie was injured one of the original 11 had to take over. Not only was it a very expensive save for us but Billy rarely missed penalties. He must have been one of the most successful penalty takers of all time for LFC and Scotland. And that was when the ball was heavy leather with big stitches weighing a lot more than it does now."
Seamus on the great Billy Liddell