All round the Fields of Anfield Road
Where once we watched the King Kenny play (and could he play)
We had Heighway on the wing
We had dreams and songs to sing
Of the glory round the Fields of Anfield Road
Anyone connected with Liverpool knows “The fields of Anfield Road” song. The chorus sings the glories of King Kenny, but it also mentions another Liverpool colossus. A man that stands side by side with Kenny Dalglish in the song, but is never given the full credit he deserved for his remarkable and unique contribution to Liverpool FC.
At the end of the season Liverpool will lose their longest serving legend: Steve Heighway. The man whose career at Anfield started as an amateur under the management of the great Bill Shankly in 1970 and will end 37 years and four decades later under Rafa Benitez.
In those 37 years, he experienced everything: He forced his way into Shankly’s second great team, He made himself a derby hero, he was an intricate part of the team that eclipse the successes of all English teams that went before them. The team that first conquered all Europe with three European titles in three years, and a unique three league and European doubles in five years. After the glorious golden years under Paisley, he went on to become the man who discovered an array of priceless Liverpudlian talent: Fowler, Owen, Carragher, Gerrard, Mcmanaman, Matteo and Thompson. But to undertand his immense contribution to the club, it is only fair and right to tell his story from the beginning.
Steve Heighway was born in Dublin on the 25th November 1947. A part of the post war baby boom. His parents moved to England, and he attended Eccleshall Junior School and then High Storrs school
His skill as a winger was not noticed in his childhood, so, at nineteen he started a degree in Economics at the University of Warwick and his footballing talent was confined to the non-league.
At the age of twenty-two, he was studying for his finals and playing for Skelmersdale United, but his future plans changed when he was spotted by Liverpool scouts. Bob Paisley can claim a lot of the credit for bringing the 22-year-old Heighway to Liverpool, as it was Paisley’s sons spotted him playing against South Liverpool and recommended him to their father.
Bill Shankly was in the process of rebuilding his successful sixties team,and in May 1970, Heighway was signed on an amateur basis with no fees changing hands. Despite his amateur status, Bill Shankly saw him as a perfect replacement for Peter Thompson on the left wing. The former England international’s successful Liverpool career was drawing to a close.
It quickly became apparent that Heighway was more than capable of filling those shoes. He was a strong and fast winger. He was left footed but could use both feet and his often showed when he cut inside full backs to unleash his hard shot. He was an accurate crosser of the ball, which was appreciated by many great strikers that he has served both nationally and internationally.
He made his debut in the League Cup against Mansfield on 22nd September 1970 and he scored his first goal in October, but it is for the Mersey derby that that year that he is remembered. Go to youtube, look on any compliation video or DVD and you can find that years game. 0-2 down at half time, Heighway tore Everton a part on the wing, scored a great solo goal and helped Liverpool win 3-2.
His status on the kop was assured and he kept his place in the team for the next nine years. Liverpool were in a similar prosition to today. They finished 5th in the league and were closing in on their top form. They beat Everton in the FA cup semi finals, to set up a final against Arsenal.
Heighway put Liverpool 1-0 up in extra time. He made a typical run down the left flank, beat the full back, saw the goalkeeper coming out too far for his cross and so shot. Liverpool eventually lost 2-1, but this season was the birth of a great left winger.
It was due to Heighway’s academic achievements that he got his nickname ‘Big Bamber’, team-mate and fellow academic Brian Hall was dubbed ‘Little Bamber’ both after the television programme University Challenge host Bamber Gascoigne.
The next Season saw the partnership of Toshack and Keegan flourish, but the third man in that triangle of attack was Heighway who fed them with crosses or cut inside and tried his luck. They ended the season in 3rd place, just one point behind the champions, Derby.
This season saw Liverpool explode on the national and international scene. Shankly’s new team won the league title ahnd completed a classic double by beat Borrusia moenchengladbach 3-2 over two legs to win the UEFA cup (in the days when some argue it was as good as the European cup). Heighway was the only Irishman in the team!
In 1973/74 Steve was an important team player again. He played 35 League games and 16 in Cup competitions. He scored five goals in the League, one of which was in a 1-0 win over Leeds United, but that wasnt enough, and Liverpool finished second to them in the league.
He returned to Wembley for his second FA cup final, this time, scoring the second of three goals in a 3-0 win over Newcastle, collecting his third major medal in two seasons.
The season started with uncertainty following the sudden departure of Shankly and the promotion of his little known assistant, a certain Mr Bob Paisley. This though was unneeded as Liverpool won five and drew one of their first six games. Liverpool were top of the table on boxing day but eventually finished second to Derby County. The transition year was over. Liverpool were ready to win more silverware.
Heighway’s attacking play on the left wing made him a key player and vital supplier of crosses for Keegan and Toshack in the 1975-76 season.
Liverpool won League championship, for a record ninth time, with a 3-0 win at Wolves on May 4, 1976, Heighway collecting the fourth major medal of his career.
In the UEFA Cup that season, Steve’s most crucial contribution was in winning the penalty from which Kevin Keegan gave Liverpool a 3-2 home win in the first leg of the final against FC Bruges (after being 2-0 down at half time). A 1-1 draw in the return leg meant Liverpool triumphed 4-3 on aggregate, completing their second League-UEFA Cup double in four seasons.
By now, Heighway was a regular for the Republic of Ireland winning a total of 34 caps.
The icing on the cake for this team was in the season 1976-77 which saw them surpass their success of the previous three year and establish themselves ahead of Bayern Munich and Ajax as the best (current) team in Europe and the greatest team in British football history. They came within a whisker of the glorious treble, and had to settle for an equally fantastic second double in two years, and ‘žtreble double’œ in five years. A feat that it missed by most history books. Liverpool won the League by a point, with an unbeaten 11-match run that gave Liverpool back-to-back titles and saw Steve Heighway pick up his third championship medal in only five seasons. They again defeated rivals Everton in the semi’s to reach the FA Cup final, which they lost unluckily thanks to Brian Greenhoff’s deflectable bottom.
Despite the defeat, the team showed greatness of character a mere four days later when they went on to beat Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1 to clinch their first European Cup. Heighway setting up both of Liverpool’s outfield goals for Terry McDermott, a defence splitting pass, and Tommy Smith, a corner. The third was a penalty from Phil Neal. Steve had made a massive contribution to the most important triumph in the club’s 85-year history. A fact born out by his season statitistics: He made 58 appearances in all competitions and scored 14 goals. He also found the net six times in knockout competitions.
Although Heighway was not ever present in the 1977-78 season, he still made 28 appearances in the League and scored five goals. The Reds ended the campaign with an unbeaten run of 12 matches but were unable to complete a hat-trick of League titles, finishing credible runners-up to Nottm Forest. Heighway made 17 appearances in other competitions, one of which was the European cup where Steve would pick up another major medal, and Liverpool would again re-write the record books and push back the boundaries of excellence. A unique sixth consecutive appearance in the league top two (three wins and three seconds), and the magnificant second European cup success, that completed the unique hat trick of European trophies (UEFA cup, Euro Cup, Euro Cup). Steve came on as a second half sub for Jimmy Case in the final. Liverpool beat old rivals FC Bruges 1-0 at Wembley on May 10, with a goal from Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool moved from the best team in Europe, to European giants.
The following year he was again in the side frequently as Liverpool won yet another League title. Steve appear in all but one of the first 26 League games, scoring four goals including a brace in 4-1 win at Norwich City in October, but he lost his place in March and started only one of the last 16 games. David Johnson took over the No 9 shirt Steve had nearly always worn since his debut in 1971 and seized his chance by scoring eight goals in the last 14 League games, helping Liverpool regain the League title as they finished eight points ahead of runners-up Nottingham Forest with a First Division record of 68 points ( two points for a win). Steve’s 28 League appearances were more than enough to win him his fourth League championship medal but, no longer a first team regular and the wrong side of 30, he must have feared for his future.
Heighway’s Anfield career was slowly drawing to an end after Johnson continued his fine goalscoring form into the 1979-80 season, finding the net five times in the first four League games. He ended up the side’s top scorer with 21 League goals and, with Ray Kennedy excelling on the left side of midfield in a successful 4-4-2 formation, there was no place in the side for Heighway. He made only nine League appearances that season, starting only two games, which meant (under the old rules !!!) he wasn’t entitled to a League championship medal as Liverpool won the title for the fourth time in five seasons and for a record 12th time in total.
The following campaign followed the same pattern with Johnson holding onto the No 9 shirt, Ray Kennedy on the left wing and Heighway hardly getting a look-in. He made four League appearances, the last at Arsenal in March 1981, His final game came as a second-half sub in a 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich in a European Cup semi-final, 1st leg tie at Anfield on April 8. Even at 33, he still contributed to Liverpool’s third European cup victory. The team went on to beat Real MAdrid in the final, but Heighway wasnt in the squad.
He left Anfield in 1982 after a glittering career and a large medal collection.
He had played 444 matches and scored 76 goals.