George Patterson had been appointed as assistant to Tom Watson in 1908 and took the post of secretary after Watson’s death in 1915. Having already worked at Anfield for 20 years at the time Matt McQueen decided to retire, it was no surprise that Patterson was asked to take over the reins with the title of secretary-manager. It was extremely common for such duties to be combined at that time. Even around 30 years later when Bill Shankly was first approached by Liverpool, he was told that the team would be picked by the Directors, to which he replied ‘œWell, what am I manager of then ?’.
Patterson had played for Merseyside club Marine when he was younger but two decades of football administration clearly made him the right candidate to replace McQueen, especially as the club was already carrying out an unwritten policy of ‘˜promoting from within’. As things turned out, the 8 full seasons during which Patterson was in charge were some of the quietest years in the club’s history, quiet in that nothing really sensational happened good or bad. They retained their place in the top division but never finished higher than 5th; they twice finished low enough to cause concern but not enough concern for relegation to be a serious possibility. But after finishing 7th in 1935, there was an alarming slump the following season with the team being victorious in only 3 of the last 20 league games. They eventually escaped relegation by 3 points but it had been a close call. The pressure of managing a First Division club where results were not good when added to a serious illness forced Patterson to resign from the managerial side of his double-post, although he continued as the club’s secretary.
Patterson gave debuts to two youngsters who would go on to make their own marks in the club’s history, Jack Balmer and Phil Taylor, who would later become a Liverpool manager himself. But probably the major arrival during Patterson’s reign was Scotsman Matt Busby, signed in 1935 and a man Liverpool were keen to add to their coaching staff at the end of the Second World War. But he decided to go to Manchester United instead. Busby was of course still a player when George Patterson stood down and it was another George (Kay) who was persuaded to leave his post at Southampton and head north to take over at Anfield.
Profile by Chris Wood, January 2005