Tag Archives: Ian St John


Back in the 1960s Leicester were something of a bogey side for Liverpool but as they closed in on the 1964 league title the Reds finally broke the spell. Goals from Roger Hunt and Alf Arrowsmith gave the Reds a 2-0 win, but only after the Filbert Street groundstaff had re-painted the lines and posts.

With nine games to go of the 1963-64 season Liverpool were locked in a three way battle with Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the 1st Division. The title was in Liverpool’s hands as they had two games in hand on leaders Everton, who were two points ahead, but pundits suggested the Blues had an easier run in. One  of their fans was so confident that he even wrote to the Liverpool Echo suggesting that their fixture against FA Cup finalists West Ham on 25th April should double as the following season’s Charity Shield.

The Easter period, when teams faced a gruelling schedule of three games in four days would prove crucial and Liverpool faced Spurs at both White Hart Lane and Anfield, with the Leicester game sandwiched in between. Everton had home games on successive days against Blackpool and West Bromwich Albion, followed by a trip to the West Midlands for the return game with Albion.

Liverpool’s squad set off for London on the Thursday before Good Friday, the day that ten men were found guilty at Aylesbury Crown Court of various charges in relation to the Great Train Robbery. The Reds’ party of thirteen was without captain Ron Yeats, who was serving a three match suspension  after getting sent of for fighting in an FA Cup tie at Arsenal the previous month. Chris Lawler deputised for him at centre half but otherwise the Reds were at full strength, with Gordon Milne captaining the side.

In front of 56,952 at White Hart Lane, Roger Hunt hit a hat trick as the Reds dominated from start to finish in a 3-1 win. Many of the home crowd had already left when Maurice Norman scored a late consolation, while the threat of Jimmy Greaves and recent £72,000 signing Alan Mullery was completely nullified by the Reds back line.

There was a further boost when news came through that Everton had dropped a point at home, getting booed off in a 1-1 draw with West Brom. There was no time for celebrations though as the squad then headed for Leicester, where they would be playing less than 24 hours later. Bob Paisley had with him an electrical massage box, which was to be used on Milne and Hunt who had both picked up knocks to their ankles, but Shankly was confident they would be fit for the game.

They were joined in the East Midlands by an army of fans who had also gone to London, many not having any accommodation. Once in Leicester, a few fans scaled the low walls of Filbert Street and painted the goalposts, corner flags and line markings red. This exuberance though hid a deep fear that once again the Reds would come unstuck against the Foxes. Since promotion in 1962 Leicester had won all three league games between the sides without conceding a goal, as well as the FA Cup semi final the previous season.

By the morning the rain had led to the repainted markings and posts turning from red to runny pink. Many more Reds fans travelled to Leicester from Liverpool, while Yeats also made the journey, taking a seat in the stands alongside Scottish national manager Ian McColl who would be watching Ian St John, Willie Stevenson and Leicester’s Frank McLintock.

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The game was end to end at the start and much more open than previous encounters between the two sides. Ronnie Moran had a free kick deflected wide and after Tommy Lawrence slipped whilst racing from his goalmouth, Bobby Roberts missed an open goal when he prodded the ball wide.

Then in the seventeenth minute the Reds contingent erupted when Peter Thompson crossed and Hunt’s shot was deflected past Gordon Banks by Richard Norman. Colin Appleton got back to the goal but the ball had already crossed the line when he hooked it clear. As the Reds fans celebrated, every outfield Liverpool player ran to Hunt, all of them dancing with joy.

The rest of the first half was a tough affair, Gerry Byrne having his name taken for fouling Mike Stringfellow and the same happening to Leicester’s David Gibson for a foul on Milne. Thompson almost doubled the lead but he saw a shot headed off the line, but Leicester also came close when McLintock’s thirty yard effort came back off the bar.

Early in the second half the Reds had a let off when Billy Hodgson headed over from close range, but they then took the game to the opposition and another shot, this time from Hunt, was cleared off the line with Banks beaten. At the back Byrne and Moran gave nothing away, Lawler was like  a seasoned pro at centre half and the three of them played great balls to the forwards, creating attack after attack. Leicester were defending just like they had against the Reds in previous games but this time there was a major difference, they were not defending a lead but instead trying to prevent a heavier defeat.

With fifteen minutes left Ian Callaghan clashed heads and was severely dazed, leaving Liverpool effectively playing with ten men. But Leicester couldn’t take advantage of this and with five minutes left Hunt passed to Arrowsmith and he drilled the ball past Banks into the bottom corner to the delight of Reds fans on all four sides of the ground. Before the end it was almost 3-0 but Banks saved Arrowsmith’s shot at point blank range.

The win kept Liverpool in second due to Everton beating Blackpool 3-1. However the tide had clearly turned and in the Daily Post on the Monday Horace Yates wrote how the victory was achieved by unrivalled teamwork and that the two away performances had the ‘stamp of champions.’ The following day Spurs were beaten 3-0 at Anfield which, coupled with Everton’s 4-2 defeat at The Hawthorns, took them to the summit of the 1st Division. They were never off it and won the next three games against Manchester United, Burnley and Arsenal to clinch the title with three games to spare.


Fifty years and one day before Liverpool travel to the Emirates Stadium for an FA Cup 5th round tie, the two sides met at Arsenal’s old home of Highbury, Liverpool progressing thanks to Ian St John’s goal.

A week before the cup tie, the Reds were beaten 3-1 by Everton at Goodison Park, meaning they dropped to third in the table. But there was no time to dwell on the derby defeat for captain Ron Yeats, who travelled to Largs straight after the game with victorious opponents Jimmy Gabriel and Alex Scott for a Scottish national team training camp.

Melwood was quieter than normal on the Monday and Tuesday, with Yeats in Scotland and Roger Hunt, Peter Thompson and Gorson Milne at an England squad get together in Matlock. Bill Shankly was not happy about Alf Ramsay’s sessions at all, especially when Blackburn’s Keith Newton suffered cartilage damage. He told the Daily Post: ‘It might so easily have been one of our own players. This special training question is a matter of doing something that is going to be useful at the right time. It might have been better at the get-together to have been satisfied with talks and tactical functions without any real strenuous exertions. They actually played two games, players at this time of the season do not need extra training.’

Shankly was also not happy about Liverpool’s kick off being put back to 3.15pm, to ease congestion as Tottenham were also at home that day, starting at 2.45pm. The Reds’ party was booked to return on the 6pm train but despite protestations the kick off time was upheld and the Metropolitan Police promised to escort the players to Euston. Around 15,000 Liverpool fans made the journey to North London, with nearly 1,000 travelling with Ribble Motor Company, whose coaches set off at 11.30pm on the Friday night. A select group even travelled by plane, the Shareholders’ Association chartering a 58 seat Viscount aircraft which was £6 for the return flight and coach to Highbury. 


Following a poor attacking display against Everton, Shankly decided to make a change and dropped Jimmy Melia, bringing in young forward Alf Arrowsmith in his place. The teamsheet implied that Arrowsmith would be an inside forward as he was numbered ten, but when the players took up position it was clear he would be playing in the centre with St John taking up Melia’s role. This confused Arsenal as they were subjected to him chasing everything very early on, linking well with Ian Callaghan and almost forcing Ian Ure into a short backpass.  Arrowsmith was everywhere, on one occasion going down the right wing to put in a cross that was shepherded back to keeper Jim Furnell by Vic Groves, only for the Reds forward to run up and try to block the kick from his hands.

Arsenal were beginning to get on top early on, with Tommy Lawrence saving from both Geoff Strong and John Snedden and Ron Yeats needing to be his best to win the aerial battles. Then in the fifteenth minute the Reds took the lead with their first real chance of the game. Gordon Milne floated a ball into the box and St John ghosted in unnoticed at the far post to score with a low header that was greeted by pandemonium amongst the Liverpool fans amassed on the Clock End. Less than a minute later Arsenal were almost level when Strong hit a shot that Lawrence couldn’t hold but Gerry Byrne got there to clear the danger.

Lawrence had another escape when he dropped the ball from a corner and Yeats cleared but only as far as Eastham. He fired the ball low towards the goal but the Reds’ keeper made up for the previous error by turning the ball around the post. Arsenal then had a huge penalty appeal turned down when from a corner Eastham’s shot was blocked on the line by Ronnie Moran, with the crowd screaming for handball.  Photographs later showed it had been headed away but even if it had struck Moran’s hand it had been travelling so fast there was no way he could have got it out the way. They had two more appeals turned down in quick succession with fouls being waved away and this led to some oranges being thrown at the referee and linesman. They could only sportingly applaud Lawrence though when he made what Leslie Edwards described as the ‘save of a lifetime’ in that night’s Echo, the Reds’ keeper managing to adjust his dive in mid air to turn away a deflected Armstrong shot.

Seven minutes before half time Joe Baker and Yeats went down together after a foul on the Liverpool skipper. Both got up exchanging punches before Yeats went back down with a cut eye, leading to Bill Shankly coming onto the pitch to check he was ok. The referee, who had been following play, came back and promptly dismissed both men from the field and told Shankly to leave too, but not before he had quickly given some tactical instructions to players. It led to both sides having fiery tempers and St John was furious when he was denied a penalty after apparently being tripped from behind by Billy McCulloch. The Arsenal left back then turned his attentions to Ian Callaghan, fouling him near the touchline and receiving a booking, while the Liverpool winger needed treatment. There was little more goalmouth incident before the break, the only chance of note being a Strong header that was well held by Lawrence.

Thankfully for the Reds the half time interval did Callaghan good and he came out not showing no signs of limping. He was soon a danger down the flank and put in a cross for Arrowsmith but his volley was just wide. Arsenal were not playing like  a team that were a goal down in a cup tie, as they passed the ball around too much and didn’t try to break the strong Liverpool defence, which now had Willie Stevenson playing at centre half with St John dropping from inside left to left half. Too many times they resorted to long shots and the Reds were happy to sit back and try to catch them on the break for a second goal. Despite the beckoning of Strong, too many of the home players remained near the halfway line with only Eastham posing any real threat. Liverpool looked more likely to increase rather than surrender their lead and Peter Thompson had a low right foot shot well held by Furnell. Lawrence was first called into action when Armstrong crossed for Strong, whose downward header was caught by the keeper.

Towards the end of the game Arsenal did increase the pressure, but Stevenson was doing a great job at centre half and on one occasion cleared a Snedden header off the line. Arrowsmith was by now playing as a lone striker and struggled to deal with the offside trap, but he did spring it once to round Furnell only to roll the ball wide. Liverpool continued to weather the storm, then in injury time Arrowsmith again broke clear and went past Furnell, only to be rugby tackled by the ex Reds’ keeper. A penalty was awarded but Hunt’s kick was saved by Furnell. There was no time for Arsenal to go down the other end and score and the final whistle was greeted with a pitch invasion by hundreds of travelling fans. Also with them was Yeats, who couldn’t bear to watch the game after his sending off so had instead changed and gone to a local coffee bar, arriving back just as Hunt was placing the ball on the penalty spot.

It was a great victory for the Reds. They hadn’t played attractive football but they had done what they needed to do and Bill Shankly said afterwards: ‘We knew it would be hard, we prepared for a tough fight. I was proud of Liverpool, every man Jack of them.’ St John called it a ‘real tonic after we were right down in the dumps after our showing against Everton.’ The Reds may have had a police escort to get them home but not all fans had it so easy. Twenty fans missed their coach and had to come home courtesy of British Rail, who agreed to let them travel without tickets providing they promised to pay when sent a bill. The Reds were through to the quarter finals for the second year in a row, but were surprisingly beaten 2-1 at home by Swansea in the next round.

Liverpool Overcome Valiant Effort

On 27th January 1964 Liverpool kept up their hopes of an League Championship and FA Cup Double when they overcame plucky Port Vale after extra time in a 4th round replay at Vale Park.

Just two days earlier the 1,000/1 outsiders from the 3rd Division has stunned Anfield when they held the Reds to a 0-0 draw. Liverpool Chairman T.V. Williams said afterwards that Vale did not deserve to lose a game in which former Reds reserve forward John Nicholson went close to scoring in the second half.

Not everyone else was quite as complimentary however, with forward Ian St John criticising them for putting too many players behind the ball, writing in his Daily Post column that ‘word seems to have got around that the only way to beat Liverpool is to bolt and bar the way to goal with a packed defence.’ in the Liverpool Echo, Reds correspondent Leslie Edwards was critical of St John and his fellow forwards, saying they had played too narrow and it was Vale who created the better chances.

The 1,200 fans who left Lime Street in the late afternoon on three football special trains were the last to do so for quite a few years. That morning, British Rail announced that following vandalism on a train carrying Evertonians home from their cup tie at Leeds on the Saturday, the latest in a long line of incidents, they would not be running any more specials from the city. Fans queuing for the trains expressed disappointment, as the specials fares were about 60% of the price of the regular services.

Bill Shankly took an unusually large squad of fifteen players to the game, making sure he had an extra man in each department should anyone still have any aches and strains from Saturday. When kick off approached he decided to make some changes and go for experience, recalling Ronnie Moran and Jimmy Melia in place of Bobby Thomson and Alf Arrowsmith. Moran’s return was no great surprise, but Melia’s inclusion raised some eyebrows. The winger was often made the scapegoat by the crowd when the team struggled and he was rumoured to be set for a move elsewhere. It was harsh on Arrowsmith, who had scored four in the previous round against Derby County and followed this up with a wonderful late winning strike against Chelsea the week after.

There was a huge crowd of 42,179 at the game and it was estimated that another 6,000 got in when the gates were rushed at the Railway End. A man from Leek died of his injuries a few weeks later, but such events were not seen as unusual at this time and the incident didn’t even get a mention in the Echo or Post.

Vale didn’t take the game to the Reds as expected, instead defending deep and employing a man marking system which shackled St John and Melia. It took half an hour for the Reds to have a meaningful shot on goal when Peter Thompson’s drive from outside the box shaved the bar as it went over. Five minutes later though Liverpool did take the lead, Roger Hunt breaking free of his marker to latch on to a long ball from Gerry Byrne and cleverly guide it past Tom Hancock.

The second half was no different from the first, with Vale seemingly accepting that their chance had gone. Tommy Lawrence didn’t make his first save until the hour mark, easily holding a low shot from John Rowlands, but despite being in control of things the Reds failed to up their game and finish the tie off. They paid the price with eleven minutes to go when Rowland beat Moran on the left flank and crossed to Stan Steele who nodded the ball down into the path of Albert Cheeseborough, a last minute replacement in the side for the injured Jackie Mudie. Vale’s stand in striker hit an unstoppable shot past Lawrence to the delight of the home crowd. Revitalised, Vale went for the jugular and only the solidity of Moran and Ron Yeats prevented them finding a winner before the ninety minutes were up.

Half time saw very little action, with both sets of players tiring after playing ninety minutes for the second time in three days. There were just two minutes left when Gordon Milne hit a hopeful shot that cannoned off a defender into the path of Peter Thompson, whose volley flew into the top corner. This led to delirium amongst the thousands of Liverpool fans in the ground, two of whom fell through the roof of the railway end and had to be taken to hospital along with another supporter his by falling debris.

For the remainder of the game the Liverpool supporters sang ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ and ‘We Love You Yeah Yeah Yeah’, then the final whistle was greeted by a mini pitch invasion. Although there was some over exuberance, the behaviour of fans was otherwise exemplary, with none of the special trains being damaged and the licensee of the nearby Star Hotel telling the Post reporter: ‘I have never met a finer lot of people than I did last night. They drank well and behaved well and if they ever come to Burslem again there will always be a welcome for them and their supporters.’

In the next round Liverpool beat Arsenal 1-0 at Highbury, only to be sensationally knocked out by 2nd Division Swansea Town at Anfield in the quarter final. In the league they more than made up for it though, clinching their first title since 1947 with three games to spare.

Reds Go Top Unnoticed Due To World Events

A strange omen about the impending Mersey derby on 23rd November 2013 is that it gives Liverpool the chance to go top of he league, fifty years to the day since they went top for the first time in the 1963-64 title winning season.

All the games on 23rd November 1963 though were overshadowed by the assassination of John F Kennedy at 6.30pm British time on the Friday.  A Daily Post journalist was dispatched around some pubs in Liverpool city centre to get some opinions and was told by one drinker: ‘You feel as if you knew him personally. It’s hard to believe that such a thing could take place.’

One pub goer who thought he could bring a humorous touch to the event failed to do so. A planned screening of serial Emergency Ward 10 on ITV was cancelled, leading to a man to comment that they should have left it on as the doctors may have been able to help. The Post reported that he was knocked off his barstool by a left hook from another regular, to the cheers of others.

On the River Mersey ships flew their flags at half mast but life went on and there were no cancellations of the planned football matches, although a period of silence was held at all 1st Division games. The one that took place at Goodison Park though was interrupted by a fan shouting ‘Long Live Kruzchev’ leading to his arrest for a breach of the peace. The shooting clearly did have an effect on the attendance at Old Trafford though as the crowd of 54,654 was less than the 60,000+ which had been expected.

The Reds sat back early in the game and Peter Thompson almost gifted united an opportunity when he tried to play a ball upfield but instead sliced it across the edge of the penalty area. Thankfully Denis Law and Bobby Charlton were taken too much by surprise to capitalise on it. United’s gameplan to stop Liverpool seemed to be to stifle Roger Hunt, which gave Willie Stevenson some space and his hard low shot was only just tipped around the post by Harry Gregg. United hit back though with Albert Quixall having a shot go just over the bar and another pushed away by Tommy Lawrence within the space of a minute.  Ronnie Moran then misplaced a pass into the path of Paddy Crerand, whose cross was headed inches wide by Law.

Most of Liverpool’s attacks were coming from the back, with Hunt dropping back on one occasion and undertaking a thirty yard run, but Jimmy Melia failed to take advantage when the ball was laid off to him and he shot well wide. The Reds had another great chance when Ian St John prodded the ball past Gregg but as it slowly dribbled towards the goal the united keeper managed to recover and get to it before Hunt could help it over the line. United were continuing to look dangerous, with Charlton giving Ferns a hard time and Quixall trying a shot at every opportunity. They then came close to taking the lead in comical fashion when Gordon Milne’s attempted clearance looped over Lawrence’s head but the keeper managed to acrobatically get back to tip the ball over the bar.  United then strongly appealed for a penalty when Ron Yeats tackled David Herd on the edge of the area but the referee waved their claims away.

After surviving the first half onslaught Liverpool almost took the lead shortly before half time when Thompson took a corner which was headed goalwards by Yeats bit cleared off the line by Maurice Setters, who clattered into the post. The game was stopped while both Setters and Gregg, who had been knocked out by Yeats, received treatment with Bob Paisley lending a hand. Gregg was stretchered off the pitch with Herd taking over in goal but Setters was able to carry on. Yeats was booed by most of the crowd when he touched the ball for the first time and after the half time whistle went Gregg continued to receive treatment for a couple of minutes at the side of the pitch before he was able to get up and walk to the dressing room.

When the second half began Liverpool adopted a more attacking approach as they sought to utilise the extra man advantage and United’s lack of a regular keeper. Thompson put in a dangerous cross from the left which was knocked down by Ian Callaghan to Jimmy Melia, whose shot was deflected wide by Noel Cantwell. Thompson then cut inside after Hunt had drew some defenders away from him but his shot was skied well over the bar. After Liverpool’s initial flurry United managed to get to grips with the numerical disadvantage with Quixall posing a significant danger. Ferns was still struggling and hauled back the United winger, leading to calls for his dismissal from the crowd but the referee had a word with him and nothing more.

Liverpool’s best chance came just after the hour mark when St John’s pass got behind Bill Foulkes and gave Hunt a clear run on goal, but his effort was weak and gratefully gathered up by Herd. The stand-in United keeper then had a let off when Crerand hit a poor backpass but he managed get out of the box and clear the ball before St John got to it.  Herd then had to make his first save when Melia hit a low shot near the post after a cross by Callaghan. With fifteen minutes remaining Liverpool took the lead through Yeats, who came forward for a corner and ran onto the ball, stooping low head the ball past Herd and claim his first goal for the club.

United almost got straight back into the game when Setters tried a long range effort but it went just wide of the post, but Liverpool had two good chances to double their advantage with St John and Thompson hitting shots over the bar. With nine minutes left the crowd was stunned when Gregg re-appeared with his arm strapped to his chest to take his place on the right wing. As he went on to the pitch the Liverpool players joined in the applause for a player who turned out to have a fractured collar bone. Gregg only touched the ball once, but Moran was able to tackle him without making bodily contact as the Reds held on for victory.

Cynics may have pointed out that Liverpool had only won the game due to Gregg’s injury, but in his analysis in the Daily Post on 25th November Horace Yates commented that he doubted United could have fought any harder even with eleven men. He also believed that Yeats’s header was so powerful that even Gregg wouldn’t have saved it.  Bill Shankly afterwards pronounced that the Reds scorer was the greatest centre half in the world, while any suggestion that he had been responsible for Gregg’s injury was ridiculed by Yates. He wrote that ‘only the nincompoops’ thought he should take any blame with Yeats himself saying ‘it was just one of those unfortunate things.’ 

With leaders Sheffield United losing at Fulham, it meant Liverpool were now top of the league but only just, with the top four teams being separated only by goal average. By the end of the season though it was far more clear cut as the Reds eventually clinched the title with three games still remaining.