As Liverpool prepare to take on Hull City at Anfield, Jeff Goulding steps back 57 years to an eight-goal Merseyside classic.
Liverpool 5-3 Hull City
Division Two, Anfield
August 29, 1959
When it comes to glorious memories Liverpool fans are often spoiled for choice. This classic match feature is a case in point: I could have taken a trip back to the 2009/10 season in order to find a classic home game against Hull. What a game that was too; full of goals and featuring players who grace the club’s hall of fame—and a European Cup-winning manager to boot.
The curtain may have been coming down on Rafa Benitez’s reign during that season, but with Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard’s Scouse hearts beating in the dressing room, Pepe Reina in goal and Dirk Kuyt and Fernando Torres up front there was much to sing about. On the bench we also had the Twitter king, Ryan Babel, and the ’70s Russian porn star, Andriy Voronin, to entertain us. The game itself finished 6-1 to the Reds, with a hat-trick for Fernando, a brace for Babel and a goal for the captain too.
It all seems a perfect fit doesn’t it? But why would I feature a seven-goal thriller when an eight-goal one will do?
In order to find such a treasure trove we must journey back through the mists of time, almost 60 years to the year 1959. Here we find ourselves in Liverpool, a tough working-class city still recovering from the ravages of war. Its citizens don’t know it yet, but they will soon find themselves at the epicentre of a cultural revolution. Liverpool, the city, its musicians and footballers were about to conquer the bloody world.
In a suburb of the city, three lads called John, Paul and George had set up this band, they’d been making music for three years but couldn’t decide on a name. They’d been The Quarrymen, Johnny and the Moondogs, Japage 3 and The Quarrymen again. Eventually, in 1960, they would bin them all off and settle on The Beatles. Look them up, they were alright.
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Meanwhile, Liverpool FC were a team in the doldrums, languishing in the second division of English football. Little did Kopites know that their club was also on the cusp of an equally momentous decision, in replacing manager Phil Taylor with some fella called Bill Shankly.
Of course that wouldn’t happen until the December of 1959, but in the August of that year the Reds would feature in a struggle of titanic proportions against a newly promoted Hull City. It was a game that would see Liverpool, roared on by the Spion Kop, battle back from 2-0 down at half-time to win by five goals to three.
Kickoff was 3.15pm in front of a crowd of 35,520. The Reds’ lineup boasted three men who would become true legends in the club’s history. Ronnie Moran would captain the side on the day. He would eventually go on to form a key part of the world-famous Boot Room; a dynasty that masterminded Liverpool’s dominance of European football for decades. Against City, in the summer of ’59, he would line up alongside future super-scout Geoff Twentyman, as well as one of Anfield’s greatest sons, Billy Liddell.
As the game got underway Liverpool came under fierce attack. Bert Slater was in goal and, according to the Liverpool Daily Post, he was far from a safe pair of hands. Two bad errors by the ‘keeper led to City going in 2-0 up at half-time. However, in what was to become a hallmark of Liverpool’s world-famous fans, Kopites would rally to the cause in the second half.
Within just seven minutes of the restart Jimmy Harrower pulled one back. Here I’ll hand over to the Post, who described it as “one of the finest goals ever scored on the ground”:
“Harrower survived an appeal for a foul charge at the start of his run; went on undisturbed, beat three men in close order and then, after making his shooting angle a few degrees squarer, hit a left-foot shot which flummoxed deputy goalkeeper Fisher, and sent spectators wild with enthusiasm.”
Just six minutes later Liddell crossed for Jimmy Melia, who headed home a leveller to a crescendo of noise rolling down from the famous old terrace. Game well and truly on. Then it was the turn of the captain, Moran, whose free-kick flew through a wall and into the net. Imagine his delight at scoring his first for the club, in front of his fellow Scousers in the Kop end. Within 20 minutes Liverpool had completely turned the game on its head.
Liddell served Liverpool as a player for 23 years, racking up 492 appearances and 215 goals, winning one League Title in 1947 and an FA Cup runners-up medal in 1950. He was so synonymous with the club that fans often referred to the team as Liddellpool. Billy was recently voted sixth in a list of ‘100 Players Who Shook The Kop’, but in 1959 he was nearing the end of his powers. Still he managed a somewhat lucky goal for Liverpool’s fourth.
It had been a great game for the legend. He had a hand in Melia’s goal and had hit the woodwork twice. But despite all of that, the drama was far from over. Alan A’Court would add a fifth, with “probably the best shot of his career,” and Hull looked to be on their knees. Somehow though, they rallied enough to notch a late consolation goal at the Anfield Road end with just four minutes left on the clock.
The Reds would see the game out, though, taking both points and climbing to seventh in the second division table. These were far from illustrious times, but all of that would soon change. Nevertheless Kopites left the ground happy enough that day. Here’s how the Post wrapped up their match report:
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“Hull City were good up to a point—the point at which Liverpool got a hold of them and shook them with a characteristically fierce come back of the sort which sends the fans home happy.”
Shankly took over as manager just three months later, in December, and John, Paul and George decided to call themselves The Beatles in the new year—the rest, as they say, is magnificent, glorious history.