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Quiet Genius: Bob Paisley, British Football’s Greatest Manager By Ian Herbert

Release date: 04th May, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sport

List Price: £19.99
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Work commitments meant that as he was unable to get to Anfield to collect his season ticket at a time when you swapped a cheque plus the used stub from the previous campaign for a new book of tickets, my Dad sent my Mum to collect it. She had never been to Anfield and asked a man in the car park if he knew where she could collect the season tickets, explaining that she was a little unsure.

“Come this way, it’s quicker,” the man said, escorting her towards the door earmarked for directors and players. He opened the door for her and invited her along a corridor, chatting as they wandered past pictures and trophies towards his office. “This is very kind of you,” ventured my Mum as a lady arrived with a pot of tea. “Our supporters are the most important people at this club,” replied her avuncular host, at which point the penny dropped. The man pouring my Mum a cup of tea was Bob Paisley. He sent someone to collect the season ticket and the pair chatted for five minutes until it arrived. He shook her hand as she left and said, “I hope your husband enjoys next season. I have a feeling we’ll do ok.”

True story.

Not only was Bob Paisley Britain’s greatest ever football manager, he was also a gentleman and, as his parting comment proved, a master of understatement. Liverpool were reigning European champions and would claim a fifth league title in seven seasons that year.

Knighthoods and plaudits have been dished out to lesser football lights (Messrs Ferguson, Charlton and Ramsey being notable exceptions), but it’s strange that no-one associated with Liverpool FC has ever merited one.

In Quiet Genius, author Ian Herbert clearly suspects that Liverpool’s reputation as a radical city with two great football clubs at its heart accounts for this omission. Indeed, it could be argued that the city’s rebelliousness enjoyed a high point between 1974-83, the years when Bob Paisley guided Liverpool to unprecedented success.

No Briton (and only one other manager, Carlo Ancelotti) has lifted three European Cups, yet it’s fair to say that Bob Paisley has never received the praise he deserved. He never complained, but just got on with his job, nurturing and recruiting outstanding footballers, almost all of whom were leaders and ensuring they played simple football. “Play the way you’re facing,” was a standard Paisley refrain, an effective tactic that often produced scintillating football and remarkable success.

Herbert has written perhaps the best Paisley biography, emphasising how hard work, an uncanny eye for a player and a belief that football is, at its heart, a simple game, worked wonders. It also re-iterates the fact that the quietly-spoken Geordie was an absolute gentleman, but many of us knew that already.

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