January 2, 1975
All Merseyside football fans, irrespective of their club loyalties, will applaud the award of the M.B.E. to Ian Callaghan, master footballer, model professional, modest sportsman and most likeable of characters,
What a year 1974 was for the Anfield maestro. It started when he was voted, overwhelmingly, the Echo Sports Personality of the Year and has carried on in similar vein, with recognition of his talents from many different organisations.
At the end of last season, before collecting his second F.A. Cup winners’ medal, he became the Footballer of the Year – the first local player to receive this highest nomination in the game. At the same time, he won other wards from national newspapers and now comes this national recognition in the New Year’s Honours List.
It is fitting that his M.B.E. came in the same year as the O.B.E. to Bill Shankly, the man under whose skilled guidance he developed from an uncertain football – a part-timer undecided whether to make the game his career – to the position he holds today as one of the greatest Liverpool players of all time.
Callaghan has shattered all appearance records for Liverpool. He is now on the way towards his 700th first team appearance, with more than 500 in the League. Along the way, he has won a World Cup medal, two England caps, four Under-23 caps, three League Championship medals, two F.A. Cup winners’ medals, a U.E.F.A. Cup winners’ medal … and a million friends.
But behind the statistics and the trophies is the vastly more important picture of the man himself. I described him as a model professional. He is, in fact, a model for anyone in his approach to life on and off the field.
His greatest asset is his sportsmanship. In his 16 years of professional football, with all the tensions and pressure that entails, he has never been cautioned, never been sent off, never been a moment’s trouble to anyone.
He began as an orthodox outside-right, switched in mid-career to a midfield role, and has been a major figure in Liverpool’s great successes over the past dozen years.
He is playing as well as ever – and the team don’t play as well on the rare occasions he is below his own very high standards. He is an object lesson to younger men, a source of amusement to older folk, that he can retain his enthusiasm, his fitness and his skill.
He is a credit to himself, his club and his native city of Liverpool. The M.B.E. award, rare for a man still playing, could not have been awarded to a more deserving sportsman.
Liverpool manager Bob Paisley, who has known Callaghan since he joined the playing staff straight from school, summed up the club’s feelings for their great servant: “I cannot say enough in praise of Ian; I cannot speak too highly of him.
“He is a credit to the game in every sense. Despite his success, there is no side to him. He’ll talk to anyone, be pleasant and friendly to everyone.
“He emphasizes the phrase ‘it’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.
“He plays to-day with the enthusiasm of the 15-years-old I first saw come into the Liverpool staff. If all players were like him, there would be no need for managers or coaches – or referees for that matter.
“People who watch him play can see his work, his efforts and his enthusiasm for the game and for Liverpool. He is just the same in training – a model in everything he does.
“The young apprentices can learn his approach. The older players can as well.
“He never complains. He just gets on with training and keeps himself 100 per cent. fit. He proves that on the field.
“His only critics are those who say that he has not scored many goals in his years with the club. In all those games, he has scored around 60 goals, but the figure is misleading.
“I always tell those critics that they should add the 60-odd goals. Chris Lawler scored to Ian’s total. Without Ian filling in behind him when Chris moved up to score, those goals would not have been scored.
“They dove-tailed perfectly – it takes two men to score the goals Chris did as full-back.”
(Source: Liverpool Echo: January 2, 1975)