390 appearances, two league titles, an FA Cup and a nickname that will live on forever. Not bad for a career’s work. Today we said goodbye to a Liverpool legend and an all-around gentleman, who just happens to be my Grandad.
Tommy was the kind of guy that would stand outside for ages signing autographs for fans who had come to see him. He would equally make time for the away fans, going behind his goal after each game and thanking them for coming to watch.
He made his debut at the age of 21 and quickly became a fan favourite for Liverpool. Thanks to his bulky frame and the ability to dive around the penalty area like he was flying, Tommy was dubbed ‘The Flying Pig’. Not the most flattering nickname but never the less he loved it.
From there the rest is history. He went on to be a part of arguably Liverpool’s most influential team, giving the current club the foundations to become who they are today.
One of the best things about having a Grandad who was a professional footballer was seeing all the famous players who had scored past him, from George Best to Johan Cruyff. However, seeing him save an unstoppable shot from some of the all-time greats such as Bobby Charlton and Billy Bremner would make me the proudest Grandson in the world.
My grandad had some amazing stories about his time at Liverpool. Many of which have sadly been lost forever but some will famously live on, such as Tommy losing the FA Cup plinth or Bill Shankly questioning his birth after letting a ball slip through his legs; but one stands out above all others. You probably know about his famous interview on the BBC a few years back where he was unknowingly asked about a game which he had played in, well here’s the full story:
Tommy had made a once in a blue moon visit to Liverpool city centre after going down to LFC TV for an interview. On his way back, he was stopped by a BBC journalist wanting an interview. The journalist asked Tommy about an FA Cup derby match against Everton in 1967, where he iconically replied ‘I played in it’. After asking my Grandad about this he swore to me he thought it was a wind-up, as the cameraman was laughing his head off (which describes the shaky camerawork). When he got home being the humble man that he was, Tommy mentioned nothing of it. As you can imagine it came as a great surprise to his wife Ellie when she sat down for tea and saw that her Husband was the main feature on BBC North West Tonight. When she questioned him about it Tommy replied: “oh yeah, the BBC interviewed me today!”
This story embodies all the characteristics of Tommy. From the pride seen in his when asked about Liverpool to the humility shown not to see his interview as a big deal when in fact it was trending number one UK wide on Twitter and was translated into over 100 different languages.
Football has changed a lot since the sixties. Yet if you strip it down to its bare bones, put aside the money, merchandise and trophies, the raw addiction is still there as potent as it has ever been. The fans still scramble for autographs and pictures to show their friends. A club is only as good as its fans and right up until his death Tommy never forgot that. Liverpool Football Club was his life and he treated the fans as his family. He used to say the best thing was sitting down and having a drink with the fans after a game. He was the embodiment of what a footballer should be. If more players were like him, the game would be a better place.