The debate about who has been Liverpool's greatest manager tends to begin and end with the name of Bill Shankly, though Bob Paisley has his supporters.
The case for Joe Fagan, Paisley's reluctant successor, is rarely advanced, apart from a nod to his 1984 achievement in becoming the first English manager to win the treble of League, League Cup and European Cup, in his first season in charge.
Fagan is doubtless overlooked because he lasted less than two years in the top job, stepping down in favour of Kenny Dalglish in the immediate aftermath of the Heysel disaster, though he announced his intention to depart an hour before that fateful game was due to kick off. He was also belittled as having merely inherited his treble side, but it should be remembered that Liverpool's Double squad of 1985-86 contained no fewer than five players he had signed.
As this sympathetic biography, co-written withhis grandson Andrew, emphasises, before taking over he had spent 25 years behind the scenes at Anfield as a highly influential coach, playing a major role in helping to lift the club from the doldrums of the Second Division and leaving an indelible legacy as the creator of the Boot Room tradition.
His catchphrases – "It's a very simple game" and "Just pass the ball to the nearest red shirt" – concealed an astute tactical brain and the Liverpool greats interviewed here all sing his praises as a brilliant manager of men.
While the book's narrative pace would have been improved by trimming the lengthy match reports it contains, it is a highly readable account of a tough but modest man whose achievements deserve better recognition.
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