Liverpool fans are well aware of Stevie G’s greatness or King Kenny’s exploits on the field, but there may be some legends that the fans may not know of. In here, we take a look at 8 such players.
8 Liverpool legends that younger generation may not know about
1. Ian Callaghan (1960-1978)
No player in the storied history of Liverpool has made more appearances than Ian Callaghan, who represented the club 857 times.
Callaghan played his first game only six days after his eighteenth birthday. His debut was so great that when the final whistle blew, 27,000 spectators gave him a standing ovation along with both sets of players, as well as the referee! And on that day started a career that would go down in Liverpool’s history books.
Callaghan stood at only 5’7″ but he was blessed with great speed and he looked as graceful on the ball as a gazelle running free in the wild. A midfielder unlike any other, there may have been better Liverpool players than Callaghan over the years at Anfield, but none comes to mind who matched his longevity.
“Ian Callaghan is everything good that a man can be. No praise is too high for him. He is a model professional, and a model human being. If there were 11 Callaghans at Anfield there would never be any need to put up a team sheet. You could stake your life on Ian.”
The legendary Bill Shankly said these words for a player who stood next to Shanks like Ian Rush stood next to Sir Kenny Dalglish. Callaghan oversaw Liverpool’s turnaround under Shankly as the Reds went from being an afterthought in the Second Division to dominating the First Division.
He spent four seasons under Paisley before finally calling it a day – poetically, his last game for the Reds was in the 1978 European Cup final when the team defeated Club Brugge 1-0 to become the first and only English team to retain Europe’s most prestigious trophy.
He is the first Liverpool player to be voted Footballer of the Year, in 1974. He was part of the famous England team which won the World Cup in 1966, and he won 19 honours during his 18 seasons with the club.
Ian Rush’s record of 347 goals might still be broken one day, but it is hard to imagine any player making more than 857 appearances for Liverpool.
- Football League First Division (5): 1963–64,1965–66, 1972–73, 1975–76, 1976–77
- European Cup (2): 1976–77, 1977–78
2. Ron Yeats (1961-1971)
Legendary Liverpool centre-backs such as Alan Hansen, Jamie Carragher and Phil Thompson are well known. There was, however, one man who came before all of them, one man who changed the club’s history.
The first time Ron Yeats spoke with Shankly, he asked if Yeats knew where Liverpool was. “We’re in the First Division of the English league,” Shankly said, answering his own question.
“Oh, I thought you were in the Second Division, Mr Shankly?”
“Yeah, but we’ll play in the First Division after we sign you, son!”
Shankly was a hard taskmaster who only smiled when his team won – but you would be hard-pressed to find a wider grin in England when the manager announced Liverpool signing Yeats in 1961: “Take a walk around my centre-half, gentlemen, he’s a colossus!”
These two instances can tell you more about “The Colossus” than anything else. Shankly had a plan to lead Liverpool to glory, and the purchase of the centre-back was the last piece of the jigsaw.
The towering defender was a sight to behold – his father was a butcher and it was fitting the boy would grow up strong as an ox. Yeats was an apprentice slaughterman at 15-years-old in Aberdeen. He started working at three o’clock in the morning and finished about seven hours later; this work ethic and discipline helped the man transform Liverpool into England’s best club.
After only half a season in the side, Shankly gave the 24-year-old the captain’s armband on Boxing Day 1961. Shankly’s prediction soon came true as with Yeats in the side Liverpool clinched their place in the First Division on 21 April 1962. After that, it was a journey of success for the two men together.
Yeats was the first Liverpool captain to lift the FA Cup, and he was the first captain to win the First Division title after the club had been promoted back to the top flight.
Think of Virgil van Dijk, but on a grander scale considering how one move shaped Liverpool’s history – just like Jurgen Klopp knew he needed the centre-back to lead his team to glory, Shankly knew he needed the centre-back to lead his team back to the top.
In a way, the Liverpool as we know it today might not have been the same had Shankly not purchased Yeats for around £20,000 back in 1961. Promotion, the FA Cup, the First Division – it was the defender’s influence on the field that made all the success possible.
“Big Ronny is the best centre-half I have ever seen,” goalscoring legend, Roger Hunt, said in 1974. “With him in the team and at his best, we used to think we were unbeatable.”
- Football League First Division (2): 1963-64, 1965-66
- FA Cup (1): 1964-65
3. Chris Lawler (1960-1975)
While Yeats was a rock for the defence and let no one get past him, Chris Lawler was a goalscoring phenom from the back who remains one of the most underrated players in the history of the Reds.
Ranking just outside the top 10 in terms of appearances made, Lawler spent 15 seasons with the Reds and made 549 appearances for the team – but what stands out is his record of 61 goals scored, which was astounding for a right-back at the time.
Lawler arrived at Anfield just after he turned 19, and spent the majority of his career as the first-choice right-back for both Shankly and Paisley.
“What a goalscoring full-back,” said Ian Callaghan on his teammate. “They used to call him the ghost. He could turn up anywhere, unexpected and score vital goals.”
Indeed, Lawler’s timing and anticipation which enabled him to turn up in the right place at the right time to score vital goals earned him the nickname ‘The Silent Knight’.
Gliding on the field as effortlessly as a dolphin in the water, Lawler had an astute footballing brain that made him an invaluable asset for the two legendary managers. Of course, he was adept at defending too!
Before Trent Alexander-Arnold, there was Lawler. The part that stood out the most from his game was not even his goalscoring ability; it was his demi-god stamina and resilience.
After the 1964-65 season when he became a first-team regular, Lawler missed just three games in the next seven seasons due to injury – he played 316 consecutive games from 2 October 1965 to 24 April 1971, helping his side win the Championship in 1966, reach the Cup Winners’ Cup final the same year and another FA Cup final in 1971.
Nearing his 30s, Lawler still retained the fitness and stamina to play in every single one of the 66 competitive games the club played in four different competitions during the 1972/73 season and he made his final Liverpool appearance against Hibernian in a UEFA Cup tie on 17 September 1975.
As far as Liverpool legends of the club’s golden era go, Lawler should be right up there at the top as his performances from the back helped the Reds reach the top of the mountain in the 60s and early 70s.
- Football League First Division (3): 1963-64, 1965-66, 1972-73
- FA Cup(2): 1964-65, 1973-74
4. Alex Raisbeck (1898-1909)
Not many remember Liverpool FC’s history before Shankly arrived. However, the club has existed since 1892 and arguably Liverpool’s first superstar player was Alex Raisbeck.
A commanding centre-half, Raisbeck made his debut for the Reds in 1898, aged just 19 at the time. Two and a half seasons later, he was made the captain in 1900 and led the Reds to their first-ever league title in 1900-01.
One of seven brothers who either became soldiers or footballers, only a select few in Liverpool’s history has commanded so much respect and admiration as Raisbeck.
Liverpool Echo’s Bee on Alex Raisbeck said of the legend: “A man of Raisbeck’s proportions, style and carriage would rivet attention anywhere.”
Despite being “only” 5’10”, his timing and athleticism enabled him to reach the ball before taller opponents. He was an energetic centre-half and was at the forefront of Liverpool’s defence, but also the instigator of Liverpool’s attacks – Raisbeck’s stamina was a sight to behold.
Raisbeck’s best traits were his speed and his intelligence, both of which were way ahead of his time.
The scribe in the club programme, after Liverpool’s and Everton‘s cup replay at Goodison Park on 8 February 1905, captured his essence as a player: “He was here, there and everywhere. Now initiating an attack, now breaking up another, and again chasing Sharp when that lithe young man appeared to be all on his own.”
“He dominated the whole field, and was, without question, the one superlative player. I am never inclined to over-elaborate praise, but truly, Alex Raisbeck was a giant among pigmies.”
Only Steven Gerrard, Ian Callaghan, and Emelyn Hughes have made more appearances as the captain of Liverpool than Raisbeck, who led the team on 267 occasions.
In 1924, an article in the Liverpool Echo read: “We have never seen in England, a speedier half-back, who could tackle a speedy forward, turn with him, and overtake and tackle him again. His judgement was sound, his valour outstanding and, naturally for a half-back, his control and placing of the ball was equally confident.”
During his 11 seasons with Liverpool, Raisbeck made 341 appearances and called it a day at the end of the 1908-09 season, when he departed for his home country Scotland.
There may not be any clips of the player, but by all accounts, Raisbeck was one of those rare talents who could have fit in any era of professional football. Liverpool’s first successful captain, he set the standard for the leaders that would follow him for years and years to come.
Football League First Division (2): 1900-01, 1905-06
5. Elisha Scott
Yet another pre-Shankly personality, Elisha Scott is regarded by many to be the greatest goalkeeper in Liverpool history and still holds the record as their longest-serving player, having been at the club from 1912 to 1934.
Had World War I not taken away four years of his professional career, Scott would undoubtedly have made many more than the 468 first-team appearances for his one and only English club.
Originally a striker, the then-teenager changed his position drastically after being mocked by his teammates: “My granny could be a better goalie than you!”
At Liverpool, it took a long time before Scott became the first-choice keeper; although he made his club debut in 1912, he only became a regular starter after years and years of hard work from the bench when he displaced Kenneth Campbell in 1920. After that, success followed.
Scott only missed three League matches when the League Championship was won in 1922 and he missed none the next season when the Reds retained the title.
Although relatively small for a goalkeeper at 5’9″, Elisha’s agility and courage made him the club’s first-choice keeper for over a decade. He had spectacular reflexes and was known for his famous diving saves which delighted the fans back then.
At the beginning of the 1930s, Scott lost his position to another goalkeeper and eventually decided to leave Liverpool in 1934. In his last game, the Reds beat Chelsea 2-0.
The Liverpool Echo bade Liverpool’s talisman farewell: “Invariably his work has been that of a master – a master of divination and anticipation, amounting to little less than positive genius.”
“Intuition some people would call it; double sight or perceptive powers we prefer to say; and all due to an instanter reasoning out of “where“ the opposition intended to plant that ball. And so it just “happened” that Scott got there first.”
Everton’s all-time record goalscorer Dixie Dean said: “Elisha was the greatest I’ve ever seen.”
Indeed, Scott’s popularity and greatness were such that in 1939 a survey was conducted among Liverpool supporters to name the greatest player Liverpool FC had ever had in their ranks – the former keeper ranked at the top of the prestigious list.
Football League First Division (2): 1921-22, 1922-23
6. Tommy Smith (1962-1978)
Shankly famously said about Smith: “He wasn’t born, he was quarried”. However, our very own Iron Man was actually born in Liverpool, on April 5, 1945, in a family of diehard Reds’ supporters. If a man was destined to become a Liverpool player, that was just the case.
“I was born with football in my blood. Red of course, not Blue,” Tommy recalled. “My grandfather and father supported Liverpool. There was no debate. No argument. I would also follow the Mersey Reds. I was a fanatic, brought up on a diet of football, football and more football.”
“Merseyside mothers kept his picture on the mantelpiece to keep their kids away from the fire,” Shanks once said and that pretty much summed up the way Tommy was on the pitch – if you were a forward, he’d mark you till the pits of Tartarus and if you were his teammate, you would do well not to make a mistake as his wrath would come down on you.
Shankly was an old-school manager who wanted his team to work hard and leave no prisoners behind on the field – Smith was his man on the field who obliterated the opposition with his tackles and to get past him was a momentous occasion in the life of any forward.
“Some players were good dribblers, others good headers, I was a hard tackler and I used it to gain that ‘edge’ that Shanks was always looking for,“ Smith said.
The Iron Man was a larger-than-life personality who always knew just when to charge for the ball and how to hound his opponent into making a mistake.
In the legendary 1977 European Cup final against Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome, it was Smith’s header which gave Liverpool the lead as the Reds won their first-ever European Cup.
“His fearless nature not only unsettled the opposition, it inspired his teammates. They drew strength from his example,” Paisley said of the legend once.
The brilliant centre-back can rightly be classed as one of the most consistent and influential players ever to have been at Anfield.
He led the team on 158 occasions and made 638 appearances for Liverpool overall in a career where he won 4 league championships, 2 UEFA Cups, 2 FA Cups, one European Cup and one UEFA Super Cup.
Tommy Smith died at the age of 74, on April 12, 2019, just a week after his birthday. He’ll never be forgotten.
- Football League First Division (4): 1965–66, 1972–73, 1975–76, 1976–77
- FA Cup (2): 1964–65, 1973–74
- European Cup(1): 1976–77
7. Gordon Hodgson (1925-1936)
We’re all aware of Ian Rush’s goalscoring exploits. However, two places behind him in the list of the club’s all-time leading goalscorers is Gordon Hodgson – one of the Football League’s greatest-ever forwards.
While Rush scored 346 goals for the club in 660 appearances, Hodgson’s tally of 241 goals in just 378 appearances is equally astounding. All of the forward’s 233 League strikes came in the First Division from 358 games, a fantastic goals-per-game ratio.
Only Roger Hunt has scored more league goals for the Reds than Hodgson, who was the club’s first world-class goalscorer.
Hodgson signed for Liverpool on 14 December 1925 – he made his debut in February and featured in 12 matches in the 1925/26 season, scoring four times, just a taste of what was to come.
No one in Liverpool’s history has scored more hat-tricks than Hodgson, who scored 17. Standing at 6’1″, the South African was a strong and powerful striker with amazing leaping and heading ability.
From 1926 to 1935, Hodgson was the first name on the team sheet and he barely missed any games during that spell, scoring prolifically throughout that period.
He was top-scorer in seven out of the nine whole seasons he played at Liverpool. It’s a shame that his peak years coincided with the club’s barren spell of trophies, as a striker of his talent deserved many more trophies to his name – unfortunately, he departed Anfield in 1936 after not winning anything with the club.
Regardless, Hodgson’s name should come up alongside the likes of Ian Rush or Roger Hunt – he was the one who set the precedent for all the great Liverpool strikers who came in the future.
8. Ian St John (1961-1971)
Ian St John would prove to be one of the most significant signings ever made by Liverpool as his contribution to the success the club achieved in the 60s is immense.
Liverpool signed him for £37,500 in 1961, setting a then-club record. At the time, the Reds were still in the Second Division. Years later, Shankly described St John’s arrival at the club (along with that of Ron Yeats during the same summer) as the “turning point” for the Reds.
Yeats said of his teammate: “I loved him to death. He would do anything for you. He was strong, for a 5 foot 8 player he was great in the air and scored a lot of goals with his head. He was an inspirational centre forward.”
Although not the tallest of players, Ian was a strong and tricky forward whose timing enabled him to outjump much taller defenders and he was adept at both creating chances for others or finishing them off himself.
St John made an immediate impact by scoring a hat-trick on his Liverpool debut in a 4-3 defeat to Everton in the Liverpool Senior Cup final at Goodison Park. The Reds had been trying to get out of the Second Division for 7 years, and with St John, they were able to easily as they finished top of the table by 8 points.
The forward scored 18 goals in 40 games that season, and he was the leader of the attack as Shankly’s men won the First Division in 1963-64 – St John scored 21 goals during that historic campaign.
Another league championship followed in the 1965–66 season, and the Reds reached their European final in 1966 with St John leading the attack.
Like most of Shankly’s team, the striker enjoyed his peak years in the 60s and eventually left in 1971 after playing 424 games and scoring 118 goals for the club.
“I didn’t sign the best centre forward in the country… I signed the only centre-forward,” Shankly said in 1961.
Yeats at the back and St John at the front – these two legends fulfilled Shankly’s vision of establishing Liverpool as the best team in England. As such, Ian St John is a legend of the club whose contributions should never be forgotten.
- Football League First Division (2): 1963-64, 1965-66
- FA Cup (1): 1964-65