Saturday, August 10 – 1968
For two years, Liverpool have come within an ace of adding further successes to those they achieved in the previous three amazing season. On both occasions, however, they have slipped during the final crucial matches leading up to the championship run-in and the Cup final.
And now Liverpool face perhaps their sternest test as they prepare for another season. There are no new faces at Anfield and the same squad of players has the task of putting Liverpool back on top.
I put some questions to the club chairman, Harold Cartwright, to find out his views on Liverpool’s prospects this season and their plans for the future.
Mr. Cartwright, what is the aim at Liverpool?
Of course, we only hope we can have a fair measure of success as we have had over the past few years but to do that we have got to look further ahead than just this season.
We have still got players with vast experience and still young enough to keep the club in top flight, but age will tell on two or three of them in the next year or two.
We shall be looking to the future to find the right players, not only youngsters coming up through our other sides, but I also experienced young starlets who may become available.
Have any efforts been made to sign such a player in the last few months?
It’s no secret that we have been trying to buy a skilful young midfield player.
Mr. Shankly, our manager, is always alive to the position and I’m sure for any player who is of the caliber that he would like to buy, the board would always give him 100 per cent support in his efforts to obtain that particular player.
I must state that the manager and his staff are the best judges of what staff we require and there’s no interfering whatsoever between the board and the manager.
In the last few years Liverpool have met with tremendous success to what do you attribute this?
The spirit that exists among the players who are playing together so often regardless of the bad and mediocre game here and there. None of them is ever afraid of being dropped after a bad game and consequently he gets over the bad spell and comes back to his best.
This plus the wonderful personality of the manager who can make a mediocre player a good one. But mostly it is the spirit that is the backbone of the club.
There has always been this wonderful spirit right through the club from the boys though the manager, in the board. We on the board don’t try to keep poles apart but try to mix as much as possible. I don’t like to think that, as chairman. I’m unapproachable but any approach from the players must naturally be done through the manager.
How do you see the First Division race developing this season?
It looks once again to be the big six, the two clubs from Merseyside, the two from Manchester, Leeds and either Tottenham or Chelsea, with the odd point separating them all.
One or two could find it harder to maintain their position. Leeds and Everton may have the younger players who are a little bit older now and coming better. I expect a stronger challenge from Everton this season.
The wheel of fortune is always changing and turning. In recent years it has changed for Rangers and Milan who have never known anything but the top and it could change for Liverpool despite the players we have.
Each season gets harder to stay in the top flight. The strain must begin to tell after six years of playing an average of 50 to 60 matches a season.
Have you any improvements in mind for the Anfield ground?
We had a lively ground committee under the late Mr. Richard Lawson Martindale which was always trying to think up improvements for the benefit of the fans. A lot of their ideas couldn’t be carried out because of lack of space or other impossibilities.
We are always trying to improve the catering and toilet facilities and now after 30 years more modern toilets have been installed on the Kop.
Most improvements this year have been at our training ground at Melwood.
What exactly has been done at Melwood?
To the manager the training facilities for senior and junior players at Melwood are the most important part of Liverpool F.C. We have made a hard all-weather pitch that has cost £12,000 which means that players can train in any weather during both the day and the evening.
We’ve improved the flood lighting on one of the grass training areas and on the hard area. New sumptuous dressing rooms have been built with sauna baths, heat baths and normal baths.
Everything has been done to make it among the top flight of training grounds in the country.
What plans have you for the future?
We have plans for an indoor gymnasium should the manager ever require it. But Mr. Shankly thinks that as football is an outdoor winter game players should be trained under those conditions.
At Anfield I feel we have probably gone as far as we can go for the time being apart from replacing any damage.
It often costs us as much as £200 to £300 to repair damage after a Central League game.
Generally, however, we have no structural changes planned for some time. A new stand costing £300,000 is out of reach financially at the moment and I can’t see it being started within five years.
We feel that the cost of players is soaring to-day with 18-years-old boys quoted at £70,000 to £80,000, that the money we do have must go on players rather a stand that already answers our needs. It’s no good having a sumptuous ground with a mediocre team.
Don’t you feel though that with an average attendance last season only 7,000 short of the ground capacity, the club needs to expand in some way to accommodate the extra fans when you have a sell-out?
More and more people want to see matches in comfort sitting down and had we been able to provide another double-decker stand at the Anfield Road end as we had intended, we might have had an extra 7,000 to 8,000 season ticket holders who won’t pay to stand on the Kop.
The ground can cater for those who want to see all except for perhaps two or three games a season. It’s like any good show, there’s always a few who can’t get tickets.
But the hard core of supporters in this city doesn’t number more than 35,000 for each club. The other 10,000 or so are floating.
How do you view Liverpool’s prospects during the next five years?
In five years half the present team is unlikely to be here, but we have many skilful young boys like Lawler, Smith, Hughes, Thompson and Callaghan and good boys coming along in Clemence, Wall and Ross.
What I’d like to see is more of the local schoolboy stars choosing Liverpool or Everton freely of their own accord instead of having to be cajoled into a trial in the face of opposition from a dozen other clubs.
It’s time we got back to the time when pride dictated that a young lad wanted to play for his local team instead of his parents hauling him around from club to club.
(Liverpool Echo, 10-08-1968)