Book Review: Secret Diary Of A Liverpool Scout

The story of the scout who helped make Liverpool great is a behind-the-scenes account of a glorious period in Anfield history, and gives an understanding of how footballing talent was discovered before the advent of multi-million pound academies...
As Liverpool embark on their latest quest to capture the Holy Grail of the Premier League title, a graphic reminder of how the Reds dominated English football in the 1970s and '80s has appeared in the form of a new book - Secret Diary of a Liverpool Scout, which is subtitled, 'stories behind the signings that shaped football history'.

The book is based on the scouting diary of Geoff Twentyman, the Reds' chief scout from 1967 until 1985. The diary had been rescued from the legendary Anfield Boot Room by one of his sons, William, who worked closely with journalist Simon Hughes to produce a unique insight into what helped make Liverpool so successful under a quartet of outstanding managers: the identification, assessment and signing of players who would fit smoothly into the teams of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish.

The inimitable Shankly is rightly revered for taking Liverpool from the Second Division to the summit of the First and creating an unprecedented culture at Anfield, while Paisley is credited for building on that dynasty and leading the Reds to domestic and continental dominance. But behind the scenes, Geoff Twentyman also played a hugely significant role.

A former Liverpool defender, Twentyman was recruited as a scout by Shankly and went on to unearth a pantheon of world-famous stars who helped maintain the Merseyside club's pre-eminence during a glittering, trophy-laden era.

Twentyman worked tirelessly for Liverpool, travelling the length and breadth of Britain in the club car previously owned by Shankly - a distintive orange Cortina - to watch matches and compile reports on hundreds of young up-and-coming professionals. Those he scouted and reported back on include such greats as Alan Hansen, Terry McDermott, Steve Nicol and Ian Rush. There were also others who didn't join Liverpool but became household names elsewhere, such as Malcolm Macdonald and Trevor Francis; and some hopefuls who failed to make the grade at the top level.

Secret Diary of a Liverpool Scout
publishes those early reports for the first time and reveals how the dedicated Twentyman assessed young footballing talent with Liverpool's needs always in mind. His guideline for targeting players was reflected in his advice to his own sons (one of whom, Geoff Jnr, enjoyed a solid career with Preston North End and Bristol Rovers): "Concentrate all the time, roll your sleeves up, look like you want to play, get your arms up for balance."

Twentyman's brief was to make Liverpool successful as cheaply as possible, by finding the best young players Liverpool could afford with the potential to develop in the future and fit into 'the Shankly way'. Unlike many other scouts, he deliberately adopted a clandestine approach, standing inconspicuously apart from the other coaches, chatting to the local fans to get an insight into the player he was looking at - his strengths, weaknesses, family life, drink of choice, mental ability.

Interestingly, Twentyman and Shankly decided early on to concentrate on players 'with a northern soul' - who would adapt more quickly, identify more with the club and please the Liverpool fans, who wanted to see local lads coming through. As Hughes points out, "No southern-born footballers played for Liverpool with any distinction throughout Shankly's reign and then after him until Paul Walsh signed for the club (against the recommendation of Twentyman) in 1984, unless you include Phil Neal, who was born in Irchester (Northamptonshire)."

While Twentyman's meticulous, hand-written diary entries provided the inspiration for this illuminating book, its heart is the collection of one-to-one interviews conducted by Hughes with many of those who were scouted. Ray Clemence, Alec Lindsay, David Fairclough, Larry Lloyd, Steve Heighway, John Toshack, Kevin Keegan, Terry McDermott, Joey Jones, Phil Neal (pictured above), Alan Hansen, Alan Kennedy, Ian Rush, Bruce Grobbelaar and Steve Nicol reads like a Who's Who of Liverpool's Golden Era, and their recollections of Twentyman's scouting network and methods are fascinating. So too are the stories of those who, for one reason or another, were scouted but never joined the Reds - including Francis Lee, Gordon McQueen, Kevin Beattie, Tim Flowers, Tony Cascarino, Trevor Francis, Martin Buchan, John Gregory and Andy Gray.

Twentyman parted company with Liverpool in 1986 when some Anfield board members expressed unhappiness that he hadn't realised the potential of Gary Lineker, who signed for neighbours Everton and scored 40 goals in his one season at Goodison before moving to Barcelona. But when Graeme Souness was appointed manager at Rangers in 1986, one of his first acts was to install Twentyman as his chief scout in England, and Geoff played a part in the Glasgow giants' recruitment of Terry Butcher, Mark Walters, Trevor Steven, Mark Hateley and others as they embarked on a decade of dominance in Scotland.

Sadly, Twentyman succumbed to Alzheimer's and died in 2004, but his legacy was profound, as Alan Hansen confirmed succinctly in his foreword to this book. Hansen wrote, "Geoff proved time and time again [that] there was no better judge of talent in the English game."

Graham Lister, Goal.com


Secret Diary of a Liverpool Scout is published by Sport Media, with a recommended retail price of £14.99, and available from all good retailers and www.merseyshop.com.