LEADING ARTICLE : Bob Paisley: hero of post-war Britain

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The Independent Online
Bob Paisley, who died yesterday, was the personification of a post-war ideal. He was a working-class man who made good, but whom extraordinary success failed to corrupt or sour. His obvious and most remarked traits were loyalty, quietness and doggedness. But what these sheltered was the keen intelligence without which he could not possibly have become the most successful club manager in British soccer history.

His was a perfect mix of the true experiences of a whole generation together with the Boys' Own fantasy of sporting triumph. An ordinary soldier in the desert campaigns and in Italy, Paisley returned to play for Liverpool FC after the war, winning a championship medal in 1947. He never left the club, joining the coaching staff after his playing career, and taking over from Anfield legend Bill Shankly as manager after a 20-year apprenticeship as a coach. Under Paisley the city of Liverpool, plunging throughout the late Seventies and early Eighties to record unemployment and municipal bankruptcy, saw its premier soccer team lift the Championship six times and the European Cup three times. It is a record that will almost certainly never be equalled.

Nor will the manner in which it was achieved. Paisley's Liverpool were not Revie's talented but unloved Leeds team, nor the dour technicians of George Graham's Arsenal. They were the marriage of individual brilliance with commitment to team and plan; the elegance of Dalglish and Hansen welded to the determination of Souness. When they beat the best that Europe had to offer it was not with the long-ball game, or with unfair tackling, but with the same insistence on technique and tactics that many lament is now missing from the British game.

But what is truly remarkable about this is the fact that Paisley was never feted in the way that other, far less successful soccer managers have been. He was not the wide-boy with a quip for all occasions, like Clough or Venables - or the fearsome martinet with a sharp taste in clothes, like Graham or Ferguson, or the medallion-dripping extrovert like Docherty or Atkinson. He did not have a way with the press, was not actively considered to become an international manager, is not featured in endless videos, never sold thousands of Bob Paisley T-shirts and "related merchandise". One wonders whether today he would have been considered for the post at all.

Bob Paisley stands for all those hundreds of thousands of his generation whose intelligence and loyalty achieved much, but whose attributes went largely unrecorded and underestimated. And who did not mind.