New biography helps save legendary Liverpool footballer Billy Liddell from 'brink of extinction'

He was one of the shining stars of British football whose best years were cruelly curtailed by World War II, forcing him to wait seven years before making his professional debut.

Sunday, 26th December 2021, 4:55 am

Now, a new biography hopes to educate a new generation of sports fans about the remarkable legacy of Billy Liddell, hailed as “one of the greatest players” to ever turn out for Liverpool football club.

The book, released on the eve of the centenary of the player’s birth, aims to rekindle the story of the young boy from a former mining village in Fife who is still one of the Merseyside club’s most revered, if little known, forwards.

Compared with other former star players, the Scot’s achievements with Liverpool are less well known, in large part because his time with the club coincided with a sharp downturn in its fortunes.

Although he helped the side win its first top flight title in nearly a quarter of a century, the majority of his career saw Liddell contend with a dip in the club’s illustrious history, which ultimately led to it being relegated to the old second division.

Despite that, Liddell remains fourth on the list of Liverpool’s all-time record goal scorers, above the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard, and Michael Owen.

Peter Kenny Jones, the author of the new book, ‘Liddell at One Hundred: A Family Portrait of a Liverpool Icon’, believes there is a need to revisit Liddell’s achievements, warning that “life and era of football is on the brink of extinction.”

Read More

Read More
Forgotten football: The site of Scotland's ‘first Hampden’ is discovered
Billy Liddell bolts down the wing for Liverpool in a game against Fulham in 1949. Picture: Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty

He explained: “I really hope that this book helps provide the recognition he deserves. Liverpool FC does not begin with Bill Shankly. Had it not been for Billy Liddell, the ‘dump’ that Shankly labelled Anfield would have been in a much worse state and in a lower division.”

Born and raised in Townhill near Dunfermline, Liddell early playing days were spent with Fife sides Kingseat Juveniles and Lochgelly Violet. Although he went on to sign a professional contract with Liverpool in 1939, he was forced to wait seven years before making his official debut for the club.

In 1942, he was deemed good enough to make his Scotland debut in a wartime international against England. He scored and made two assists in a 5-4 victory at Hampden.

When he was called up by the RAF, Liddell served as a navigator in a Lancaster bomber, yet his time in the armed forces did not curb his playing career altogether, as he turned out for sides including a team of Scottish expats in Toronto, and Dunfermline, his hometown club.

Billy Liddell is one of Liverpool's record goalscorers. Picture: Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Getty

In peacetime, Liddell ended up playing in every outfield position for Liverpool, and was the club’s top goalscorer for seven out of eight seasons between 1949 and 1957.

Throughout his playing career, he worked as an accountant, and hanging up his boots, became a magistrate. He died in 2001 aged 79 after being diagnosed with dementia.

Liverpool great Jamie Carragher, who provides a foreword for the book, said: “Any fans today that are not aware of Billy just need to know that the Liverpool team was known as Liddellpool, and I think that just shows the impact he had.”

‘Billy Liddell at One Hundred: A Family Portrait of a Liverpool Icon’ is out now via Pitch Publishing

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.