Forgotten Heroes: Peter Thompson

When a sprightly, if rather distant championship challenge withered in April 1963 – the Reds first spring in the top flight for 9 years – Bill Shankly made a momentous decision. He earmarked Peter Thompson as the one crucial ingredient missing from his title-winning recipe and signed the Preston winger, in the face of opposition from Juventus, Everton, and Wolves, for a club record fee of ”
40,000. A year later Bill’s mission was accomplished and the new man had played a thrilling part in the 1st of many triumphs before his Anfield days were done.

Peter Thompson was a soccer sorcerer, a pleaser of crowds and a teaser of full backs. On his day he brought to the game a dancers grace and the daring of a matador, but when the Muse was not with him he was prone to over -elaboration and could be the most frustrating man on the park. Unlike certain other gifted players, however, he offered no hint of the ‘˜prima donna’ and he was never afraid of hard graft.

Despite being right footed, Peter came into the side of the left flank where Alan A’Court and Kevin Lewis had both been judged deficient during the previous campaign. He made an eye catching debut at Ewood Park, running at the Blackburn defenders, making them twist and turn in their efforts to stay with their elusive opponent, and rendering the offside trap too perilous to contemplate. As autumn turned to winter and the points piled up, Peter and Ian Callaghan, whose more direct approach was in marked contrast to Thompson’s jinking and swaying, became the most formidable wing partnership in British football.

The Deepdale man’s impact at Anfield could hardly have been greater, though there were those who said he should have scored more goals and that his final pass too often went astray. The fact was that his fierce shot could be a wayward weapon but his crosses, while not always matching the brilliance of his approach play, were as reliable as those of his contemporaries. There was also a theory that Peter should switch to the right to encourage him to reach the byline and cross with his favoured right foot instead of being forced infield as he was on the left, but such a scheme took no account of the excellent Callaghan.

The nitpickers were predictably notable by their silence when Peter capped his 1st richly rewarding term as a Red with his most devastating display to date. He scored twice and turned the Arsenal defence inside out as Liverpool made certain of the title, drubbing the Gunners 5-0 in front of an ecstatic Kop.

Peters progress continued as Shankly’s men lifted the FA cup in 1965. His personal highlight was waltzing past John Hollins and Marvin Hinton to grab the 1st goal in the semi final against Chelsea with a fearsome left footed drive between Peter Bonetti and his near post. A 2nd championship medal soon followed but the nearest Peter came to further cup success was in 1971 when he came on as a substitute to breathe life into a hitherto dull final which Arsenal won to clinch the double. By then he was plagued by knee trouble and after alot of time on the treatment table he moved to Bolton in November 1973. Surprisingly in view of past injuries, he was able to put in four spirited years before retiring.

One perennial gripe of Liverpool fans was Peters banishment for long periods to the international wilderness. After starring in Brazil in 1964 his appearances were cruelly curtailed by Alf Ramsey’s decision to do without wingers, though he did represent his country as late as 1970. But in the final analysis, it is in the Red shirt that Peter Thompson will be remembered by fans. As and entertainer, a showman, and one of the finest of his time.

Shanks once said ‘œif your feeling tired Boys, pass the ball to Peter and let him go for a run with it’. Peter was a man who could dribble for 90 minutes, and still have enough left in the tank for more. As most of you will know dribbling is an artform, and a very tiring one at that. Jinking left and right, stepping over the ball, and changing pace and direction can be an extremely tiring excersise. Peter was born to do it, and love it.

A true Liverpool Great’¦.Mr Peter Thompson.

Games – 404 (8)
Goals – 54
16 England Caps.

Liverpool 1963/64 – 1971/72

Article Copyright (c) Roper 2003