You can’t judge a book by its cover.
On the face of it Bob Paisley was not your stereotypical top-flight football manager. He wasn’t media friendly, wore a flat cap to work and bore none of the charisma exhibited by other managers of the time such as Brian Clough and Malcolm Allison.
He was also burdened with the scepticism many had about his ability to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Bill Shankly. Indeed Paisley himself was reluctant to step into Shankly’s shoes.
Fast-forward nine season to 26th August 1982 when he announced that the 82/83 season would be his last as manager of Liverpool FC and you could hear the tide turn in the Mersey such was the shock.
For Liverpool fans everywhere realised the truth of Kenny Dalglish’s words when the Liverpool star said: “There was only one Bob Paisley and he was the greatest of them all…There will never be another like him.”
His record over those nine seasons stands head and shoulders over most other managers not just in England but wherever the game is played.
European Cup winners: 1977, 1978, 1981
UEFA Cup winners: 1976
League championship winners: 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983
League Cup winners: 1981, 1982, 1983
Charity Shield winners: 1974, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1982
Manager of the Year: 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983
But when Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement as manager of Manchester United in May 2013 started a debate as to who was the greatest British manager of all time, I wonder how many put ‘Uncle’ Bob Paisley at the top of their list?
Perhaps today we look too much at image rather than substance. For many Paisley was like your favourite uncle. He didn’t rant and rave, he didn’t class himself as the special one – long before Jose Mourinho claimed the title. He simply turned up for work and got down to the business of turning eleven fit, skilful young men into world beaters. And he did it again and again.
Even there he had his detractors. There were those who said his success came from inheriting Shankly’s team, forgetting that as Shankly’s assistant Paisley had a great say in how that team was constructed.
And Shankly wasn’t the only one in the Liverpool camp with witty one liners.
For instance, when one Saturday after Shankly had retired Paisley was asked by a reporter what the former Liverpool manager was doing that afternoon he replied: “He’s trying to get right away from football. I believe he went to Everton.”
What would he have made of the debate after Ferguson’s retirement earlier this year about who was the greatest England manager? Personally I don’t think he would’ve got involved. He didn’t need to. He’d simply opened his trophy cabinet and point. Enough said.
That was Bob Paisley; a book with success written on every page, if you bothered to look beneath the cover.
By Richard Bowdery