Bob Paisley, English football’s reluctant genius

February 14, 1996
Bob Paisley, English football’s reluctant genius, died yesterday bequeathing our national game a record that will never be surpassed. The man whose penchant for woollen cardigans gave him the appearance of a favourite uncle rather than the Liverpool manager who terrorised Europe, was 76.

He passed away in a Merseyside nursing home at 9.30 am after suffering for several years from Alzheimers disease. But his deeds, amassing 19 trophies in nine seasons between 1974 and 1983, assure him of a place in history.

Bob signed Kenny Dalglish from Celtic for £440,000 in August 1977 and still had a few bob in the bank from the £500,000 sale of Kevin Keegan to Hamburg. Paisley rated Dalglish as the greatest Liverpool player he had seen and the legendary Scot paid a fulsome tribute to his former manager on hearing the news of his death.

There was only one Bob Paisley – he was the greatest of them all,” said Dalglish.
He went through the card in football. He played for Liverpool, he trained players, he treated them, he coached them and he managed them. There will never be another like him.

I just wish I had a better command of the English language to express exactly what I feel for the man.

I was privileged to have played under Jock Stein at Celtic and Bob at Liverpool. They were great influences on me and their examples helped me enormously when I went into management.

My sympathies go out to Bob’s wife Jessie and her family. It is a sad day for them and a sad day for football.”

Keegan, now hoping to taste title success as manager of Newcastle, said: “I don’t think anyone who came into contact with Bob could have anything but total respect for his honesty and absolute integrity. Nobody should underestimate what he did for Liverpool. If I won a quarter of the things Bob did I’d feel privileged.”

Current Liverpool boss Roy Evans said: “I had a love and respect for Bob and the sympathy of the whole club goes out to his wife and family.

I am also deeply grateful to him. But for Bob I probably wouldn’t be manager now, maybe not even in football. He spotted something in me and appointed me as a coach in 1974, when I was a player of 25.

I didn’t want to coach but he encouraged me and I’ll never forget that. He was one of the all-time greats. I learned so much from him and today I feel very sad.”

If Bill Shankly ignited the Liverpool fire when he took over a dilapidated Second Division outfit in December 1959, then Paisley fanned the flames of unprecedented achievement. But it needed massive persuasion from then chairman John Smith and secretary Peter Robison for Paisley, at 54, to accept the task of managing Liverpool.

Paisley also revealed a stunning tactical brain and player judgment. He never matched Shankly for oratory but was out on his own collecting silverware. Under his canny command Liverpool swept to six championships, three European Cup triumphs, three League Cup successes, a UEFA Cup win, five Charity Shield wins and Super Cup victory.

It earned Bob the OBE, when many believed him worthy of a knighthood, and six Manager of Year awards.

Bob did an amazing job for a man who was so reluctant to be manager and we had a frightful task persuading him to do so,” said Robinson, now Anfield chief executive.

Under him we enjoyed the most outstanding period of any British club in history. He set the standards and I think it would be difficult for any club to dominate English football as we did over that period.”

Journalists sometimes wondered how he communicated fully with his team. You would ask Bob what his side was going to be and he would answer: “Same as last week with doings and doings added.”

He would notoriously fail to finish sentences. But his record is the greatest in British managerial history. Yet as Tommy Docherty recalled yesterday he was never boastful.

Docherty was boss of the Manchester United team that beat Liverpool in the 1977 FA Cup Final to deny Paisley’s champions and European kings the treble.

At the end of the game Bob swallowed his disappointment to congratulate us and I was deeply impressed by his sheer humility,” said Docherty.

I can vouch for that. Bob used to say: “It’s nice to be important but important to be nice.” Bob was both. And after the 1977 European Cup Final conquest of Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome he said: “There’s only two sober people in this city tonight. The Pope and me. I decided not to have a drink because I want to savour every minute.”

Liverpool, their fans and English football savoured every minute of Bob Paisley’s contribution to English football.
(Copyright: Daily Express: February 15 , by John Keith)

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Bob Paisley factfile

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