On 9 February 2015, BBC journalist Stuart Flinders was in Church Street Liverpool with a camera crew, interviewing elderly passers-by, asking if they remembered the 1966-67 FA Cup Fifth Round clash between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park.
“I do.” Said one old guy. “I played in it. I was the goalkeeper for Liverpool.” It was none other than Tommy Lawrence, one of the Reds’ great goalkeepers who sadly passed away in January 2018.
Though born in Scotland, Tommy grew up in the North West. When a youth, he played for Mid Cheshire League side, Warrington Town, before joining Liverpool as an apprentice. Though he signed professional forms in October 1957, it was five years before he made his League debut. With first choice keeper Jim Furnell injured, Tommy made his debut on 27 October 1962, against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns. Though the Reds lost 1-0, Tommy kept his place for the rest of the season, playing in a further twenty-eight League and six FA Cup matches.
For the next six seasons, Tommy missed only four League games and during the 1968-69 season, conceded just twenty-four goals in forty-two games. Under Bill Shankly’s guidance, Tommy was encouraged to become a sweeper-keeper. Gyula Grosics of the great Hungarian national side of the early 1950s, is thought to have been the first, in effect playing as an extra defender and stepping out of area to close-down attacks. The Reds were not the only side to have experimented with Hungarian tactics, as Manchester City had played with a deep-lying centre forward in what was known by them as the ‘Revie plan.’
Tommy excelled at being a sweeper-keeper, such as during Liverpool’s Sixth Round FA Cup clash against Second Division Watford on 21 February 1970. In the first half, Tommy came out and blocked a great opportunity for Barry Endean. However, it was this very same match that would ultimately cost Tommy his first team place. The Vicarage Road playing surface was, to say the least, sticky. During the second half, Watford midfielder, Ray Lugg took a throw in deep inside Reds territory. The ball found Steve Scullion who passed it back to Lugg, who then kicked it through the legs of Reds defender Peter Wall. Lugg ran around Wall and reconnected, placing the ball in the box for Barry Endean put it in the net, though Tommy was unlucky not to stop it. Shankly subsequently blamed Tommy for the defeat.
After 387 League and Cup appearances Tommy moved to Tranmere Rovers, his place taken by his understudy, Ray Clemence. Ray would go on to make 656 League and Cup appearances for the Reds as well as winning more than sixty England caps. From the beginning of the 1970-71 season, to the end of the 1980-81 season, Ray would miss only six League matches out of 462.