Sweeper Keeper: The Story Of Tommy Lawrence

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Liverpool has a rich history of remembering those who helped make the club what it is today and thanks to author Peter Kenny Jones, we now have the latest instalment of memoirs from which to celebrate another legendary figure. 

Just a few hundred yards from Anfield, we attended the first launch of the compelling story of legendary goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence hailed as the first ‘sweeper keeper’ with a foreword from another Liverpool icon, Ian Callaghan. Sweeper Keeper: The Story of Tommy Lawrence, Scotland and Liverpool’s Legendary Flying Pig

The first goalkeeper in Bill Shankly’s Liverpool revolution, nicknamed ‘the Flying Pig’ – seemingly for a reason unbeknown to anyone – Lawrence led a fascinating life on and off the pitch. This book encapsulates a life story told by those who knew him best including family, friends and former teammates.

Previously untold tales, a lifelong friendship with ‘Sir’ Roger Hunt and of course, that 2015 interview that continues to go viral every month…

Sweeper Keeper: The Story of Tommy Lawrence, Scotland and Liverpool’s Legendary Flying Pig – OUT NOW

We spoke to the author, Lawrence’s son and grandson as well as two former teammates of Lawrence, George Scott, and Gordon Wallace as well as the Voice Of Anfield himself, George Sephton. 

Peter Kenny Jones

On the inspiration for the book: “Stephen and Tracy had a desire to get his legacy to continue. It was an honour to be asked to do it. I hadn’t actually finished the last book when I agreed to do it. So it was quite an overwhelming decision to make. But at the same time, it’s a massive honour.”

On the interview: “It is great because it makes them relevant. And you know, there’s a lot of people who are in that same team as him who don’t have to seem legacy today because they didn’t accidentally bump into someone that’s been someone on North West Tonight. But yet it’s so much more than that though. There’s there’s three different sides facing away from football and then there’s also that interview. The first chapter is the interview.”

On the ‘sweeper keeper‘: “He was the first person to come off his line. So that’s very transferable to the modern game. I think. It’s an era where you can pass the ball back and pick it up. So it meant you didn’t have to be glued to your feet. So the job was to come off his line and take every single ball the man had probably asked the chair whether that was that’s all he had to do so he was offered the contract of Warrington Town with an owner’s now as an outfield player.”

Chris and Scott Lawrence

On the pride of seeing the book come to life: “Yeah, we’re very proud. Yeah, when we got approached by Peter it was just like, just brilliant. You know, we never thought we’d ever wanted that. To be fair, but I think since that interview in 2015, he just like went viral and I think he’s just like, just made it all come back again, keepers always forgotten about.”

On that video: “Every time it’s going viral every month at least twice. Obviously, I never knew about his playing days and all that stuff. So I’ve always seen him as just granddad. So I never knew how famous he was until he sadly passed away and obviously had all the TV cameras everything at his funeral it was it was overwhelming it was amazing support it really was.”

On the memories in the book: “Yeah, big memories. Well as young kids we still look at these all the time so you don’t really get to deal with it. You know, we get tucked away in an attic somewhere. And then they come out and think oh my god, it’s like George and Gordon, they look at all the pictures and then name every single person in the pictures from like 70 years ago! How do you remember?”

George Scott & Gordon Wallace

Memories of Tommy: “We both have wonderful memories of Tommy because I mean not only was he a great goalkeeper but he was a wonderful person, a nice guy, encouraging to younger players.”

What made him so good?: “Difficult question to answer. I mean, he was, as you probably know, called the ‘Flying Pig’ and where that came from I don’t know. But he was so good at his job. I mean, nowadays, goalkeepers frighten me nowadays. When people pass the ball back, and they start fiddling, and then, you know, passing this ball in the area, trying to get the way out of it. But yeah, Tommy was a good player. He thought he was an outfield player. He was brave. He was fearless. You dive in the feet in the mud, you know, and you do everything to keep the ball out!”

On the book: “Tommy was one of life’s fantastic people you know, I hope it’s a big success.”

George Sephton

On his memories of Tommy: “You may not believe it, but I was here when Tommy was not working here but I was a fan and obviously I almost started working here in class I’ll remember the history the assessors who average goalkeepers nothing spectacular but Tommy really did change the outlook of keepers. I was at a function with him a few years before he died on a particular day Pep Guardiola has been going on about his keeper being an extra outfit. And Tommy said to me how was doing in the 60s? So no, I was it’s a great thing if you’re running a team if you’re confident that you’re keeping those what you’re doing, you’re back and forth and get on with the work. It’s like having 12. And Tommy was just a joy to watch.”

On Tommy the person: “It was just an absolute joy and a pleasure to be able to talk to him. There was no sight to him. I was talking to somebody earlier about that famous interview on TV. It was cold in the middle of the street. I happened to be watching TV when it came on live. I shouted at the interviewer. And I say to them, ‘It’s Tommy Lawrence’. That’s the great Tommy. But Tommy, God bless. He could have made a fool of the interview, but he didn’t.”

On remembering Liverpool legends: “I guess still thank god, there are still people who remember the other people who went before nobody’s around. So I’m just so pleased that this book going out. Careers are being acknowledged, really, as well. It’s also the education process. We’re a Liverpool fan, but one thing Liverpool fans are famous for is educating the children. The young know Liverpool, who doesn’t know all about Bill Shankly, and I hope the same will happen with Tommy Lawrence in the days to come.”

The next book launch event will be held at Church Anfield, Oakfield Rd L4 0UF Friday, April 5th 7pm all profits to the Spirit Of Shankly former players fund – tickets here.

To buy a copy of the book, click here


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