June 24, 1967
The Sky Blues will not be meeting complete strangers when they come up against Liverpool, for the Merseysiders, of course, provided the opposition at Highfield Road a couple of months ago in the benefit match for George Curtis and Mike Kearns, won 2-1 by the home side.
While it would be foolish to regard that game too seriously as a pointer to the Sky Blues’ prospects in the First Division, the fact remains that, exhibition game or not, Liverpool always play to win. And, though some may claim on their behalf that they did not fight quite so doggedly as if vital points had been at stake, the same applies with equal force to Coventry City.
Last season Liverpool looked likely at one time to retain their championship. They were heading the table, despite the fact that their attack had been rather below form, but after being knocked out of the fifth round of the FA Cup, they tailed off badly.
Their concluding eleven games produced only eight goals on the credit side and a mere eight points, so that finally they finished fifth.
Defensively, they were very sound throughout, with Tommy Lawrence reliable in goal. Liverpool invariably played a 4-2-4 formation, with the rear line consisting of Chris Lawler, Tommy Smith, the massive Ron Yeats, and the stylish Willie Stevenson.
Although Gordon Milne – transferred to Blackpool at the end of the season – always wore a No. 3 shirt, he operated as the midfield link with either Geoff Strong or Tommy Smith. Milne’s departure did not please all Liverpool’s fans, but in the closing weeks of the season the Merseysiders signed Emlyn Hughes from Blackpool, for a club record fee of £65,000, and obviously had to make room for him, hence their decision to part with Milne.
Hughes is a very promising player but still a bit on the raw side and lacking experience. He is no different in this respect, however, than some of the present regular players when first coming into the team. Manager Bill Shankly will soon rub the rough corners off Hughes, as he did in previous seasons with Gerry Byrne, Lawler, Smith and others.
Liverpool’s success has been largely due to wise buying alongside the steady improvement in their own junior players, plus the hard work behind the scenes of Bill Shankly and his right hand man, Reuben Bennett, the club’s chief coach, and the remarkable freedom from injuries.
Shankly is a fitness fanatic, and, whatever else they lacked last season, there was never any doubt about Liverpool’s ability to keep going at top speed from first to last minute. Their biggest weakness was lack of finishing power.
After three years of almost non-stop football Roger Hunt was out of luck in most disheartening fashion. At the start of last season he had scored 187 goals in 269 League appearances, but last winter netted only 14 in 39 games, the lowest seasonal total of his career. Though always trying desperately hard, nothing went right for him, and there was nobody else in the team really capable of taking the load off his shoulders.
Geoff Strong, the former Arsenal man, was second highest marksman with 12 League goals, and outside-left Peter Thompson netted ten, his highest since joining the club from Preston North End.
(Source: Liverpool Echo: June 24, 1967)