Sammy Lee was one of the most popular and successful Liverpool footballers of his generation. Whether it was from the amusing songs that would echo round Anfield on a matchday, or from his fearsome tackling and great passing ability, Sammy will always be remembered, not only as a player, but as a huge influence in the coaching team at Melwood. In 2006, Sammy was also inducted into the famous ‘’100 players who shook the Kop’’ poll, after being voted in at number 47. Here, we look back on Sammy’s career to remember a true Liverpool legend.
Sammy joined Liverpool as an apprentice in 1975, making his first team debut on 8 April 1978, as an early replacement for the injured David Johnson. His debut also provided his first goal for the Reds, in a 3-2 victory over Leicester City. Sammy cemented his place in the middles of the Liverpool engine room at the start of the 1980’81 season, and quickly won the fans over with his passing ability and unceasing stamina. One of his greatest moments in a Liverpool shirt was during the 1981 European Cup Semi Final, when he was given the task of shackling the West German playmaker Paul Breitner. With Breitner unable to dictate the tempo of the game due to Sammy snapping at his heels, Liverpool moved into the Final, before beating Real Madrid 1-0 to win the European Cup for the time.
After the European Cup success, Sammy didn’t need to wait long to win his first League title. During the 81’82 season, Sammy was an integral part of the Liverpool midfield, contributing goals and assists as Liverpool triumphed. He also won his second League Cup, after helping the reds defend the trophy won only 12 months earlier. The success of the 81’82 season also followed in 1983 and 1984, with two more league titles and in 1984 Liverpool’s fourth European Cup. Lee played in every game en route to the final in Rome, scoring a vital goal in the semi final at Anfield against Romanian side Dinamo Bucharest.
International recognition soon followed, when Bobby Robson picked Sammy for his debut, and the first of 14 caps, against Greece, where once again he scored on his debut during a Euro ’84 qualifier.
In the summer of 1984, Liverpool moved to secure the young and talented Ajax playmaker Jan Mølby, and Lee struggled to retain his place in the side. Several knee problems also hampered his progress, and Sammy left Anfield in 1986, firstly heading to Loftus Road to join QPR. After leaving the London based side, he enjoyed spells in La Liga with Osasuna CF, before returning to England in 1990, playing for Southampton, Norwich and Bolton, and finally retiring in 1991.
During his career Sammy won 3 consecutive first division titles between 1981 and 1984, four consecutive League Cups between 1981 and 1984, three Charity Shields and Two European Cup winners’ medals in 1981 and 1984. He also gained a total of 14 caps for England, scoring two goals. He made well over 200 appearances for the Reds during his 9 year association as a player.
In 1993, Sammy returned to Anfield as part of Graeme Souness’ backroom team, and remained in this position during the tenures of both Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier. Under Gerard, he moved from looking after the reserves to the position of First Team Coach.
Such was Lee’s impact at Anfield in a coaching capacity, he joined forces with England in 2001, initially on a part time basis, before leaving Anfield for a second time to become an integral part on Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Euro 2004 and 2006 World Cup qualifying team.
His next move took him across the North West to the Reebok Stadium in 2006, as assistant to then manager Sam Allardyce. He also turned down the role of England U21 manager and left the England setup completely in 2006.
When Allardyce left Bolton in 2007, the reins were passed on to Lee. He struggled as full time manager, winning only 1 game in 11 matches, before being relieved of his post. He remained out of football until May of 2008, when he rejoined Liverpool again as full time Assistant Manager to Rafa Benitez. He also fulfilled a boyhood dream in late 2008 when taking charge of Liverpool for a draw with Arsenal, when Benitez was admitted to hospital.
He remained at Anfield as Assistant Manager after Benitez left, and held the same position when Roy Hodgson joined the Reds. When Kenny Dalglish joined in January 2011, Sammy kept up the role he had held for 3 years, before leaving in June 2011 to pursue other ventures.