Tag Archives: Jimmy Melia

Liverpool Win At Fulham As Liddell Dropped

When Liverpool went to Craven Cottage in 1958-59, the unthinkable happened as star player Billy Liddell was dropped from the side, but the Reds still returned with a victory.

fulhamlpool 5859

After five wins and five defeats from their opening twelve games, hopes of promotion were already diminishing for the Reds. Fulham, on the other hand, were unbeaten and flying high in the in he second promotion spot, nine points clear of Liverpool and with five wins from their opening six home fixtures.

The greatest talking point before the game was that of the team selection, as Scottish international Liddell, a virtual ever present since 1946, was sensationally left out and Louis Bimpson called up in his place. Liddell had scored nine goals from nine appearances so far that season, whilst Bimpson hadn’t featured at all and had never won the crowd over in previous appearances. Speculation about Liddell’s future intensified when he was also left out of the reserves side and manager Phil Taylor chose not to attend the game, going on a scouting mission to Grimsby instead.


Despite all the upheaval, the Reds were able to put in a resolute first half display with the defence repelling everything that was thrown at them. Reserve keeper Doug Rudham, a late replacement for Tommy Younger who had suffered a hand injury, belied his deputy status. Up front Alan A’Court was a constant threat and helped silence a previously confident home crowd. Unfortunately the other forwards, Bimpson in particular, failed to make use of his pinpoint crosses.

Liverpool upped the tempo in the second half and totally overwhelmed Fulham. The forwards played much more as a unit with Fred Morris and Jimmy Melia being very impressive, the former hitting a tremendous shot against the post. But Bimpson had a quiet game and it was clear he was not the answer to the Reds striking problems as he missed a number of chances. The ex Burscough man did get the game’s only goal however with a simple finish after A’Court had crossed in low from the left.

The win was a vital one for the Reds, who desperately needed to peg back Fulham.  With new leaders Sheffield Wednesday next up at Anfield, there was renewed optimism that a good run could be put together to get back in the promotion frame.  For that game Liddell was again left out, with the Board taking the unprecedented step of explaining his omission in the programme. Calling Liddell the greatest player the club had ever had who they hoped would have ‘many more games in the Reds jersey’ they wrote:

‘Every player in the game reaches the time where he can not satisfy without some relief. The greatest players of the game have shown the wisdom of a lighter programme of games in order that they can give their best and prolong their playing career. Our readers can be rest assured that the action taken was believed to be in the interests of the player as well as the club’

The team selection again proved justified as Liverpool came from 2-0 down to win 3-2, but there was again to be no promotion, as they finished a distant third behind Fulham and Wednesday. Liddell was used sparingly that season, and the next, eventually hanging up his boots in 1960-61 aged 38.



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.