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'This is the second time I have conquered Rome, the first time was on a tank in 1943!


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Esteemed TV and radio journalist Stuart Hall pays tribute to the man he regards as the greatest manager in the history of English football - his good friend Bob Paisley.

 

 

 

There's no doubt in my mind that the late Bob Paisley is the greatest and most underrated manager in English football history. His record speaks for itself and it's just a shame he doesn't get the recognition his awesome achievements deserve.

 

For many years I've been tearing my hair out in fury, appearing on programme after programme, extolling the virtues of Bob. People talk about the likes of Matt Busby, Alex Ferguson, Jock Stein, Alf Ramsey and Don Revie as being the greatest manager but, for me, the one and only Bob Paisley was peerless and I think all true football fans believe this.

 

I was with Alex Ferguson at a function just the other night and even he raises his hat to Paisley, acknowledging that until he's won three European Cup's he's not in the same league. Three European Cup's - how good is that? Not to mention, countless League Championship's and all the other honours.

 

I first met Bob when he was Bill Shankly's assistant. Bill was a great friend of mine and I used to go in the bootroom after every game and sit there with Joe Fagan, Ronnie Moran, Roy Evans, Tom Saunders, Bob and Bill. It was amazing to hear them expound at great length their philosophies on football.

 

Then when Bob took over as manager, in his cardigan and carpet slippers, he too became a great friend. I used to go down to Melwood and chat with him for hours about football. He was such a quiet, unassuming, fella that I never thought he'd make a football manager.

 

Hall on Paisley v Ferguson

I was with Alex Ferguson at a function just the other night and even he raises his hat to Paisley, acknowledging that until he's won three European Cup's he's not in the same league. Three European Cup's - how good is that? Not to mention, countless League Championship's and all the other honours.

 

Of all the people to succeed Shanks, I never believed it would be Bob.

But what he did was he surrounded himself with all the same people from the Shankly era and they all continued to support each other. It was a wonderful team. When you observed them in the bootroom, the total respect they had for each other was clearly evident. They never fell out and that was vitally important.

 

Even though management did harden him as a person slightly, Bob Paisley was so kind and gentle. He didn't shout, didn't give his players the hairdryer treatment or rush into print to criticise anyone. He was the complete opposite of the archetypical modern day football manager.

 

Saying that, I think Bob would fare fantastically well if he was still a manager today. The pace of the game is lot faster than it was during the late seventies/early eighties but he'd simply buy players who could adapt.

 

He'd have quick-silver strikers like Keegan darting through, blistering wingers like Heighway and players with the brains of Dalglish to combat the pragmatic, functional, negative style football that is now played by most teams in the Premiership. Whatever system was being employed against him, Bob Paisley would have an answer.

 

I have many special memories of the great man. He was quite simply the most wonderful man I have ever met in football but there's one memory of him that I cherish above all others.

 

It was 1977 and Liverpool had reached their first European Cup Final. I was working for the BBC and had this idea of filming the mass Liverpudlian exodus to Rome. In his own words Bob thought it 'was a bloody good idea'. I then expanded and explained how the BBC was forking out £3,000 worth of expenditure on the project and in return it would be good if we could film in the dressing room. 'There's no problem with that,' was his reply.

 

Can you imagine that today? This was the biggest match in this man's career and he was allowing Stuart Hall, with a camera crew, into the dressing room!

 

I also obtained Peter Robinson's permission but my only problem now was the Italian FA, who refused me entry into the stadium. 'Just leave it to me,' said Bob. 'Kevin Keegan can carry the camera's, Emlyn Hughes the lights and Phil Neal whatever else. You put on a tracksuit and wear the number 14 shirt underneath.'

 

So off we went on the team coach to the Olympic Stadium and into the marble floored dressing room. It was not long though before the Italian officials began to smell a rat and so to put them off the scent Bob ordered me to take a walk around the pitch with the rest of the players and wave to the fans!

 

When we returned the dressing room kick-off was drawing ever closer and you could start to feel the tension in the air. All the lads were going round stamping their feet and geeing each other up but there was no shouting from Bob. He just shuffled around having a few quiet words with certain players.

 

When the time arrived for the team to walk out I followed them in single file out of the tunnel and onto the pitch. I then took my place alongside Bob, Ronnie Moran and the Liverpool subs on the bench, having to pinch myself that this was really happening.

 

Watching such a momentous match as that from the touchline next to Bob was an unbelievable experience. Of course, Liverpool went on to win a fantastic game 3-1 and afterwards we did all our filming as the players celebrated. Just then, the head guy of Italian FA walked in and saw what was going on but knowing he was beaten quickly turned on his heels and went.

 

Once everyone had finally evaporated into the night and the players were back on the coach ready for the journey to the post-match banquet there was just myself, Bob Paisley, Ronnie Moran, Joe Fagan, Tom Saunders and Roy Evans sitting on these wooden skips. We were drinking warm Coca-Cola as opposed to champagne and Bob turned to me and said 'This is the second time I have conquered Rome, the first time was on a tank in 1943!' It was a really special moment and we all embraced.

 

 

Hall on the aftermath of Rome '77

On returning to England I rang James Callaghan who was then the Prime Minister and told him that if he wanted to win the next election then he should give Bob Paisley a knighthood. Make him the King of Merseyside I said because this was the greatest moment in Liverpool Football Club's history and although they'll go on to win more European Cups this moment will never be repeated. What happened? John Smith the Chairman was knighted instead, Bob got nothing and two years later Labour were voted out in favour of the Conservatives!

Everything about Rome '77 was just perfect. If you are going to win the greatest prize in European club football where better than the Eternal City and I'll always remember it as one of the most joyous times of my life.

 

On returning to England I rang James Callaghan who was then the Prime Minister and told him thatif he wanted to win the next election then he should give Bob Paisley a knighthood. Make him the King of Merseyside I said because this was the greatest moment in Liverpool Football Club's history and although they'll go on to win more European Cups this moment will never be repeated.

 

What happened? John Smith the Chairman was knighted instead, Bob got nothing and two years later Labour were voted out in favour of the Conservatives!

 

Had Bob become a 'Sir' back then he'd be renowned universally as the greatest manager in English football history. Of course, that's what he is. But by not receiving what would have been a totally deserved accolade his achievements do not get the nationwide attention they should.

 

Despite all this, I don't support the campaign for Bob to now be given a posthumous knighthood, simply because it's too late. An accolade like that should have been bestowed upon him when he was alive.

 

To the people who know, and by that I mean the Liverpool public, it doesn't matter. They are the best informed and most knowledgeable people I have ever come across when it comes to football and they know Bob was the greatest. And for me, that says enough.

 

 

My first Liverpool manager.

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The Greatest Manager Ever, but also one of the nicest people ever. In the era of egostatistical and ungracious Managers we live in now he would have been a breath of fresh air. Modest, old fashioned, quiet, yet simply the best there ever was.

 

Hope the fans can render a song for the great man tommorow.

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do you think he was even better than Shanks.. personally Shanks edges it for me in term of importance but if success is the barometer there is not a better club manager in the history of the game

 

 

Shanks layed the foundation and Bob built the empire so both were great managers in what they done.

Bob Paisley was what i hope Rafael Benitez will one day be,a true Liverpool legend loved by the greatest football fans on the planet earth.

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