Liverpool this week lost the former striker, the man who gave them the first Cup in their history and who, in the mouth of Bill Shankly, changed the ‘reds’ forever
This week the flags were flown at half mast at Anfield. Liverpool mourns the loss of one of those men who forged the legend of the ‘reds’ when the club was still far from reaching its current dimension. Ian St John taught the club to win and helped build the spirit who would accompany them since then. To understand the character of Ian St John, his ability to leadership, his answer in the difficult moments, just take a look at his childhood, to the years in which life taught him his Bitter face
Alex, his father, died at age 36 in a work accident while working in a steel industry. Ian was only 6 years old at the time. Helena, his mother, had to raise him and his five brothers with a modest widow’s pension that compensated cleaning houses. They were all forced to pitch in much earlier than usual. At age 10 he was already engaged in distribute milk and bread in a horse-drawn cart for a cooperative of Motherwell, the Scottish city where he was born in 1938.
Beginnings in boxing
Ian St John, who in the college had begun to show that he was a clever boy with the ball at his feet, it could have been boxer because it was the sport he enjoyed the most. But at 15, everything changed. One day he came home with multiple bruises after a fight and his mother, horrified, forced him to focus on a modality where there was less risk.
At 10 years old, he distributed milk and bread in a horse-drawn cart. His father died at 36, his mother had to raise Ian and his five siblings
It pushed him to run after the ball and forget about boxing forever. Ian, who at that age had already dropped out of school to work in a steelworksHe was obedient and focused all his talent on carving out a career as a footballer. He entered the Motherwell and at the age of 18 he had already been installed in the first team.
Bobby Ancell, the coach of the Scottish team, gave the alternative to a group of young players who in Scotland became known as the ‘Ancell Babes’ (following the fashion that had created the ‘Busby Babes’ of Manchester United). St John was a pure striker, a light scorer, skillful, fast, with smell and quality to make those who played at his side better.
In his time at Motherwell, goals fell out of his pockets. In his five seasons at his hometown club he scored more than 100 in less than 150 games. His popularity with his neighbors was immense. The same ones who had seen him grow up without a father, the same ones who saw his mother suffer to get ahead, the same ones to whom he brought milk and bread when he was a child enjoyed their goals in the old man on Sundays Fir Park. The dream of giving those people a title to get drunk with happiness, something that he promised his brothers, was left unfulfilled. Because in 1961, when I was 23 years old, the Liverpool knocked on her door.
Bill shankly, the man who built great Liverpool, had been at the club for a couple of years trying to bring it back to the top flight and put an end to a difficult stage. His compatriot San Juan he was one of the footballers on the list. Payment 37,000 pounds for him. An important amount for his time, especially for Liverpool who had never faced a transfer like that.
However, it was one of the best invested amounts in the club’s history. In his memoirs, many years later, Shankly would say that the arrival of the Scottish forward “marked the inflection point to turn Liverpool into what it would be ”. The club had not won a league in the First Division since 1947 and they had not won the English Cup once.
The ‘reds’, at that time, were very little. But everything began to change. Along with St John appeared at Anfield Ron Yeats, the other pillar on which Shankly was establishing his work. In his first season at the club, Liverpool won the long-awaited promotion to the First Division (they had been in the second category for seven years and in six of those seasons the award had escaped them by a sigh).
He drew attention for his ability to move in the area and solve, with a limited physique, the most complicated situations. The fans did not take long to adore him because, with him as a flag, the club was pushing forward and closing the distance with the greats of its time. Then came 1964 and the work of Shankly it was almost finished.
In 1961 he arrived at Anfield at the age of 23. Bill Shankly, the man who built great Liverpool, was its great supporter
That season St John scored more than 20 goals, but was instrumental in making it Roger hunt reach the best figure of his career (31). That lethal combination led Liverpool to win the title and initiate a extraordinary cycle which had its continuation only a year later. The Anfield team reached the cup final in search of what would be his first wound in the most revered competition on the islands.
I was waiting for you in Wembley Leeds United of Don Revie. The ‘reds’ went ahead thanks to a goal from Hunt, but Billy bremmer, the Leeds captain, equalized shortly after. The party reached the extension and there emerged the figure of San Juan. A center from the side found him a bit out of position, but the forward formed in the patios and openings Motherwell exploited one of its great virtues.
He arranged the body to find a tricky head shot that allowed him to ascend the 37 steps leading to the Wembley box to receive the trophy. That season could have been more round had it not suffered in Milan a small collapse that made them lose to him Bury a European Cup semi-final after winning the first leg 3-1.
Perhaps they could have been the first British team to win the European title, three years before the United manchester. Another league title would come, the final of the Recopa loss to Borussia Dortmund, but also weight loss at the club.
In those wonderful years he only lacked personally a greater presence in the national team Scottish. Just 20 games, very few surely for its merits. But then it was common for footballers who were in the English League to have a more complicated presence, a kind of “punishment” that was imposed on them for leaving the local championship.
The unacceptable ‘betrayal’
With the arrival of Hateley to Liverpool in the summer of 1967, the manager was delaying the position of St John. But two years later the most painful moment came, the day Shankly knocked him out of the lineup to face the Newcastle. He did not tell her. The forward found out because Milburn, a former soccer player turned commentator, told him that he was not on the list that club officials had provided them.
Once retired, he found his space on television and radio by partnering with Jimmy Greaves. Cancer killed him at 82 years old
For St John it was like a treason that I couldn’t accept. Shankly and he were like father and son. Both Scottish, they had relied on each other to succeed and for Liverpool to be one of the greats.
The point is that the relationship between the two deteriorated completely. The front never forgave that to his soccer father. Two years later he left the club. He hardly played again. A slight flutter in South Africa and then in the Coventry.
He spent time on different benches (it even sounded like a replacement Don Revie at Leeds before he chose Brian clough) but where he would end up finding his space would be like tv commentator paired with a legend like Jimmy Greaves. They connected immediately and St John ended up consolidating his own style that the fans appreciated.
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He was scathing, spontaneous, with a dry sense of humor and delivered sentences that they were lethal. He had judgment and an eye. That lasted until 1992 when ITV, the chain they worked for, lost the broadcasting rights of the Premier. But he found his niche in the radio, always with Greaves by the side. To that he dedicated himself until his old age, until the forces and the Cancer They told him it was time to rest at home. This week he died at 82 years And that’s why the Anfield flags fly at half mast.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.