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Forgotten Heroes: Ron Yeats

‘œTake a walk around my new centre half, Gentlemen’ The gleeful invitation came from the master of banter Bill Shankly, introducing his mountainous new signing to assembled pressmen at Anfield in the summer of 1961. ‘œThe Colossus’ in question of course was, Ron Yeats, who had just arrived from Dundee United to become a cornerstone of the Liverpool Legend.

Shankly’s admiration for the 6ft 2in Scot dated back to his days in charge of Huddersfield Town but the Yorkshire club didnt have the brass to prose Ron from Tannandice. Thus, after failing in a bid for jack Charlton of Leeds, the Reds would put the ‘˜ fear of God’ into opponents with Yeats. Having already tempted Ian St.John south of the border, Shankly had built the backbone of his 1st great side.

Ron – inevitably nicknamed ‘œrowdy’ after Clint Eastwoods TV cowboy of that era – was made skipper within 5 months of his arrival and exercised monumental influence as the team galloped to promotion in his first season. Division 2 centre forwards seemed to be swallowed up by his all -pervading presence and even Sunderlands free scoring Brian Clough, rampant against most opponents, was rendered ineffective.

Elevation to the top flight served only to emphasise Rons talents. His aerial ability was awesome, his tackling was thunderous, and his distribution sensibly simple. Some said he was slow on the turn but, as Shankly revelled in pointing out, not many attackers got past him to find out.

He led the Reds to 2 championships and through a succession of stirring European adventures, but reserved some of his most rousing personal performances for the victorious 1965 FA cup final campaign. In fact, it all nearly went wrong at West Brom in the 3rd round when a whistler in the crowd gulled Ron into picking up the ball in his own penelty area. Justice was done though when Bobby Cram missed the resulting spot kick.

In the 5th round at Bolton the Liverpool captain gave one of his bravest displays after pulling a muscle ten minutes into the match and going on to subdue the potent airborne menace of Wyn ‘˜The Leap’ Davies. He garnered further glory by laying on Roger Hunts winner in the quarter final against leicester and then comfortably snuffed out the threat of Leed’s Alan Peacock at Wembley.

As the 60’s wore on the Yeats game, though still essentially rugged, acquired a little more polish and it was a rare adversary who could unsettle him. One who did was playing for Ajax on that infamous Amsterdam night in December 1966 when the Reds were eclipsed 5-1, but Ron was neither the 1st nor the last defender to be given a chasing by Johan Cruyff.

By the end of the decade Ron had turned 32 and was beginning to suffer back trouble, but when he eventually yielded his place to Larry Lloyd he still had the impressive mouthpiece for colleagues in dealings with management, and he was a commendable influence on younger players.

The admirable attributes remained at the club as cheif scout for the Redmen. But Yeats will go down in Liverpool folklore as an inspiring leader who never gave in, while ‘œRowdy’ stood firm , there was always hope that the Reds would win. As Bill Shankly said ‘œHe was a fantastic man, and a rock of a player’

Ron was the reason Liverpool started playing in all red. Shankly decided one day that he would try it out, and had the inspirational skipper try out his new idea ‘œYee look Massive Ron!!!’ – and from that day forth Liverpool became all red.

A huge round of applause for one of the reasons we are where we are today’¦.Mr Ron Yeats.

Games – 450 (1)
Goals – 15
Scotland Caps – 2

Article Copyright (c) Roper 2003