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,
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
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,
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.