Brian Hall: Science graduate who became the unobtrusive linchpin in the great Liverpool sides of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley

He was ‘Little Bamber’, while Steve Heighway, another graduate, was ‘Big Bamber’

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The Independent Online

In a Liverpool team containing the eye-riveting likes of Kevin Keegan and Steve Heighway, Emlyn Hughes and Tommy Smith, the busy little midfielder Brian Hall was never going to be hailed as a star. But his contribution to the Anfield cause during the first half of the 1970s, as Bill Shankly’s titanic managerial reign was drawing to a triumphant if poignantly premature close, and the foundations were being laid for even more lavish success under Bob Paisley, was as immense as it was admirably selfless.

Hall tended to be an unobtrusive performer not often given to spectacular interventions, although his adroitly hooked volley which beat Everton in an FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford in 1971 was a glorious exception. His forte was foraging ceaselessly for the ball then passing it with the minimum of fuss to the nearest red shirt in time-honoured Liverpool fashion. He kept moves flowing and could invariably be relied on to support the man in possession, embodying the messianic Shankly’s devotion to the creed of the collective.

But the engagingly amiable Hall was hardly a typical footballer, having graduated as a Bachelor of Science from Liverpool University. This amused most of his team-mates enormously, earning him the nickname of “Little Bamber”, a reference to University Challenge host Bamber Gascoigne, while fellow scholar Heighway rejoiced in the tag of “Big Bamber”.

Born in Glasgow but raised in Lancashire, Hall had trials with Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Preston North End as a teenager before signing amateur forms with Liverpool in 1965, turning professional three years later when he had completed his degree. He made several appearances as a substitute in a period of transition for the club while Shankly was rebuilding after his first fine Liverpool side had passed its peak, then the energetic newcomer claimed a regular berth on the right flank when the indomitable Ian Callaghan suffered knee trouble in the autumn of 1970.

So splendidly did the skilful, wirily resilient deputy slot into the team pattern, that when Callaghan regained fitness he was allotted a central role, enabling Hall to continue in the wide position, making light of a slight deficiency in pace by his ceaseless industry. The goal against the Blues which took the Reds to Wembley, his first for the club, proved to be a prelude to disappointment, as the final was lost to Arsenal, but thereafter the diminutive Glaswegian consolidated his importance to the squad. Even though he lost his place at times to the newly arrived Peter Cormack, a more artistic footballer, Hall made a major contribution as Liverpool completed a rousing double, being crowned as League champions and lifting the Uefa Cup in 1972-73.

There was a rare spat with his mentor, Shankly, when he was dropped for the first leg of the European final against Borussia Mönchengladbach at Anfield. The game was abandoned after half an hour because of a waterlogged pitch, but the manager had spotted the Germans’ aerial weakness and drafted in big John Toshack for the rematch in place of Hall. Liverpool won 3-0, with Toshack rampant, but the midfielder was not happy, although it didn’t damage his long-term relationship with a man he revered.

Hall continued to buzz productively in 1973-74, delivering one of his most influential displays in the exhilarating FA Cup final victory over Newcastle United, only to be staggered, along with the rest of the football community, when Shankly announced his retirement shortly afterwards at the age of 60, declaring memorably that he was “tired with all the years”. It was a decision that the great man would later regret bitterly.

Hall continued to prosper under Paisley, however, enjoying his most active season in 1974-75. But although he made a dozen starts as another League title was garnered in 1975-76, he was ousted by the dynamic young Jimmy Case and, having made 222 senior appearances and scored 21 goals for the Merseysiders, he was sold to second-tier Plymouth Argyle for £35,000 during the following summer.

Aged 30, with plenty of high-level experience and an ingrained work ethic, Hall represented a scoop for the Pilgrims, and he declared his belief that they could reach the top flight. Alas, Tony Waiters’ team was poor and instead of going up in 1976-77 they went down, then struggled again in the lower grade.

In November 1977 Hall moved to Second Division Burnley for £25,000, toiling initially at Turf Moor but becoming established in 1978-79. After that, though, his situation deteriorated along with that of Burnley and he was granted only a handful of outings as the Clarets were relegated in 1980.

That summer he was freed to join non-League Northwich Victoria, while embarking on a new career as a teacher. But the pull of Anfield remained strong, and in 1991 the personable, articulate Hall rejoined Liverpool as Football In The Community Officer, a public-relations role he retained under several different titles until he retired in 2011, suffering from leukaemia. 

Brian William Hall, footballer and teacher: born Glasgow 22 January 1946; played for Liverpool 1968-76, Plymouth Argyle 1976-77, Burnley 1977-80; married (two daughters, one son); died Preston 16 July 2015.

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