November 22, 1997
Liverpool supporters who have witnessed Liverpool’s many European campaigns, which stretch back to 1964 and embrace 173 games in the various competitions, might be stunned to learn that what is believed to be the first British triumph in Continental football involved today’s visitors Barnsley.
They met Swindon at the Parc-de-Princes in Paris in the final of the then prestigious Dubonnet Cup in 1911, with the Wiltshire club emerging as 2-1 winners.
The imposing bronze and marble trophy was proudly exhibited in Swindon’s boardroom for more than 80 years until it mysteriously disappeared during rebuilding work at the County Cup in 1992.
But earlier this season an anonymous tip-off to the club led to the lost cup being found in a garden … where it had been given the undignified role of a flower pot!
Now it has pride place once more at the club, whose spokesman Jason Harris enthused: “The trophy is huge and very impressive. At the time it was certainly worth winning and it’s wonderful to have it back”.
Which brings us to the World Cup. Four months before the tournament was staged in England in that glittering year of 1966 the Jules Rimet Trophy itself was stolen.
Solid goal and insured for what was then a massive £30,000, it was taken while on display in London, causing the organisers acute embarrassment. But just a week later the trophy was found, also in a garden and also undamaged. It had been wrapped in a copy of the News of the World and was discovered in the front garden of a house in Norwood by a man and his dog, Pickles.
While his pet achieved canine immortality his owner became richer by £5,000 in reward money and England captain Bobby Moore went on to lift the trophy to the Wembley skies after Alf Ramsey’s side had conquered West Germany in the Final.
The Jules Rimet trophy was eventually given permanently to Brazil in recognition of their third success in 1970 but, sadly, was stolen in 1983 and never seen again.
That leads us to Bill Shankly and a much happier outcome. Earlier this year Merseyside sculptor Tom Murphy, who had been commissioned to fashion Carlsberg’s 7ft 6in bronze statue of the legendary Liverpool manager which is being unveiled at Anfield next month, had a 28-inch glass fibre prototype taken from his studio.
It was missing for more than a month. But, enter, another man and his dog and – Hey Presto – the statuette was found. The finder who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I was walking my dog when I spotted the statuette on a pile of bin bags and recognised it right away as Bill Shankly.”
So, thanks to another four-legged friend, all’s well that ends well. And I know exactly what he police man when they say in cases of missing item: “We got a lead on it!”
(Liverpool F.C. Match Programme: November 22, 1997)