Last season saw the renewal of a league rivalry with Liverpool that gave us some memorable encounters in the late 1970s and early 1980s. What many people might not know, is that we were also in the same division as Liverpool in the early 1960s.
After gaining promotion from Division Three (South) in 1958, Albion were trying to establish themselves as a second division club.
Liverpool, after winning the first division title in 1947, had endured a difficult few years and were relegated to division two in 1954. Things came to a head for the Reds in January 1959, when they were knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league Worcester City. They tried to stop the rot by appointing a young manager called Bill Shankly, who immediately set about revolutionising the way the club was organised.
In January 1961, Shankly brought his young side to the Goldstone for a league fixture. Albion were relatively safe in mid-table, struggling to find consistency under manager Billy Lane, but Liverpool were faring better. At the time the teams met, they were third in the division, behind Ipswich Town and Sheffield United.
The week prior to the game, Albion had beaten fellow Division Two side Derby County in the FA Cup, setting up a fourth round tie with league champions Burnley. Liverpool were also through, but were made to work by third division Coventry in a narrow 3-2 win.
Albion manager Lane welcomed Liverpool to the South Coast and wished them well. “(Liverpool) have always been recognised as a first division club and it is my wish that they get promotion to that division this season, but not at our expense this afternoon”.
Mr Lane named an unchanged team for the third consecutive game, with Charlie Baker in goal. Full-backs Joe Carolan and Bob McNichol were alongside centre-half and captain, Roy Jennings. The two wing-halves were Jack Bertolini and Steve Burtenshaw, behind wingers Mike Tiddy and Bobby Laverick. Ian McNeill and Tony Nicholas were the inside-forwards, with Dennis Windross at centre-forward.
Liverpool included future manager Ronnie Moran at full-back, with another future football league manager, Gordon Milne, at right-half. Playing at inside-forward was Roger Hunt, who went on to make over 400 appearances for Liverpool and was a key member of England’s World Cup winning squad in 1966.
Albion took the game to Liverpool and were 1-0 up at half-time through Nicholas. Further goals came from Windross and a Jennings penalty, before Liverpool got a consolation from left-winger Alan A’Court.
The win wasn’t enough to galvanise Albion’s season, and we won only another five games until the end of the season. It was enough to keep us in division two but Lane resigned in May 1961, after more than ten years in charge.
Liverpool narrowly missed out on promotion but made no mistake in 1962. This was the start of a period of dominance for Shankly’s men and we did not meet them again until the 1979/80 season.
With Jurgen Klopp’s men sitting at the top of the Premier League, it would be nice to see a repeat of that result in January 1961, 58 years ago almost to the day.
HAVE YOU READ?