On this day in 1972, Phil Thompson made his Liverpool debut in a 3-0 win over Manchester United.
Phil Thompson is regarded as one of the greatest players to pull on the Liverpool shirt and is one of the most decorated footballers in English football history. He signed professionally for Liverpool in January 1971 and made his debut at Old Trafford when he came on as a substitute for John Toshack. He gained some very useful experience during the ‘double’ league and UEFA cup triumph year of 1972/73.
Starting out as a midfielder in the team, he just qualified for his first championship medal by making 14 first division appearances, but the following season, which was Bill Shankly’s last, he became an established part of Liverpool’s centre of defence. His distribution from defence was class and he formed a great partnership with Emlyn Hughes and added to his already impressive medal collection when he was a part of the Liverpool side that conquered Newcastle at Wembley in the 1974 FA Cup Final.
The Reds finished League cup runners up to Derby County in 1974/75 and that would be the last season without a trophy and winners’ medal for the rest of Thompson’s time at Liverpool. The club repeated it’s 1973 success at home and in Europe during the 1975/76 season. Tommo only missed one league match and scored the winning goal from close range in the UEFA Cup semi-final against Barcelona which took the club through to the final with Bruges where they won 4-3 on aggregate to secure the trophy. To top of an incredible year for the defender, he also made his full international debut for England and would eventually go on to win 42 caps at senior level and captain the team on six occasions.
Thompson won his first third division championship medal in 1977 but missed out on the club’s great triumph in Rome due to a cartilage operation. Successive championships followed in 1979 and 1980 with Thompson only missing three league games in the first of those seasons and being an ever-present in the second and in 1979 the lad from Kirby was given the ultimate honour of captaining the team and his biggest moment in an LFC shirt came two years later when he was first to walk up the steps in Paris to collect the club’s third European Cup in 1981 after a 1-0 victory over Real Madrid.
He later lost the armband to Greame Souness. Thompson won his sixth and seventh championship medal in 1982 and 1983, as well as winning another League cup winners’ medal in 1982 although he did miss the 1983 final against Man Utd due to injury. With Thompson now approaching his 30thbirthday and the young Mark Lawrenson had become partner to Alan Hansen in defence, Tommo eventually ended his playing career at Anfield and agreed to join Sheffield United in March 1985 after being on loan at Bramall Lane for 4 months.
Thompson returned to Liverpool in 1986 by replacing Chris Lawler as reserve coach. Speaking about his former coach, Robbie Fowler said ‘He was a coach who would push youngsters to see how tough they were, and a lot of young lads coming through despised him for it.’ But for Phil Thompson who had been coached by Ronnie Moran, that was normal. ‘Ronnie was my mentor and he was very, very hard at times, but it was the Liverpool way.’ Tommo stayed as coach until 1993.
He returned to Liverpool in 19968 as assistant manager and hailed it as a ‘dream come true.’ Speaking at the time, Houllier said that he wanted more discipline amongst the Liverpool camp and Thompson made sure everyone was doing their best. Thompson was left in charge of Liverpool when Houllier was recovering from his heart operation and guided the club to a respectable second in the league during the 2001/02 season. He left the club after Houllier’s reign finished six years later.
Phil Thompson is regarded as a Liverpool legend and is one of the best examples of a true professional.
Article by Lauren Black – @LaurenBlack9
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