I carried the European Cup at Wembley for Kenny Dalglish!

Covering Liverpool for nearly 60 years must give you some stories to tell the grandkids. For John Keith, this is definitely the case.

Now working for radio, Keith has been covering Liverpool and football on Merseyside since the early 1960s when he started at the Bootle Times.

Despite being a boyhood Wolves supporter, you would be hard-pressed to find someone with a more comprehensive knowledge of the Reds.

His journalism journey has taken Keith all the way from Bill Shankly, through Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish‘s tenures, right up to the present day with Jurgen Klopp.

Working on the beat for that long has inevitably given the journalist some memorable moments, and one that stands out above all took place at Wembley in 1978.

Keith recalled writing Kenny Dalglish‘s column immediately after the European Cup final, telling This Is Anfield: “I got laryngitis, I couldn’t speak.

“The office came to me and said: ‘You’ve got to get Kenny tonight after the match because we want a column right after the match phoned over as soon as possible, so we get it in the early editions tomorrow morning.'”

Keith added that after the game he “had to get down to the pitch.”

He said: “I got down to the pitch side and as we got near the players’ tunnel – they’d ran around the pitch – Kenny gave me the European cup and he said: ‘Hold that and come straight down to the dressing room’.

“A steward saluted me as I went down, so I carried the European Cup off the Wembley pitch and right down to the dressing room. Kenny had told Bob Paisley why I was there.

“Bob said: ‘Aye, well come in, come in. Sit down there, sit down there.”

It was a surreal situation in which to find himself, but even more so given his current inability to speak properly.

“Kenny and I sat on the bench and I couldn’t speak, so Kenny just spoke to me,” Keith added.

“I didn’t have to ask a question, he just talked and talked.”

Dalglish wasn’t the only legendary Scotsman that Keith encountered earlier in his career.

Shortly after starting out, the reporter got to know Bill Shankly while covering the Reds. The boss knew him too.

In fact, Shankly even asked him to write his testimonial’s match programme. Keith recounted the phone call from which he’ll “never forget” the words.

“He (Shankly) says: ‘Hello John’.

“I said: ‘Hello Bill’.

“He said: ‘I’ve got this brochure’. He says: ‘Listen, what happens when your lights go out?’.

“I said: ‘Well, I get an electrician, Bill’.

“‘Right. And what happens if you get a blocked up sink?’.

Bill Shankly, 1972, changing room, Liverpool

“I said: ‘Well, I’d get a plumber’.

“He says: ‘You know what I do when I need a writer?’.

“I said: ‘No’.

“‘I ring you’, Shankly replied.”

With a smile on his face, Keith explained how this made him feel “10 feet tall,” and added that he would do the same the Liverpool players.

Summarising, Keith declared that Shankly was a “psychologist” and Paisley was a “tactician.” The perfect combination.

John Keith recalled another story – it was a sad but moving recollection involving Shankly and legendary Everton goalscorer Dixie Dean.

John Keith with Bill Shankly and Dixie Dean. 
Taken at the former Holiday Inn Hotel, Paradise Street, Liverpool on March 1, 1980 - the day Dixie Dean died at Goodison Park.

Above is a photo of Keith between the pair on March 1, 1980. He explained: “The occasion was the launch of the Everton and Liverpool club annuals which I compiled with photographer Harry Ormesher.

“Shanks stood up at the lunch and made a wonderful tribute speech about Dixie which had people in tears. It was the day of the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, and Shanks and Dixie were my guests at the match.

“In the taxi taking us to Goodison, Dixie told Shanks and I that he hadn’t seen a derby since he’d played in the 1930s.”

Sadly, that was the day Dixie died of a heart attack while watching the match. Keith added: “The day remains one of the most sadly poignant of my life.”

If you would like to listen to John Keith’s podcast series, Merseyside Legends, in which he goes over old interviews with legends like Bill Shankly, click here.