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How a legendary Liverpool goalkeeper went viral – with millions of views worldwide

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Legendary Liverpool goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence was a hero in the 1960s, but it took a chance meeting for 21st-century supporters to really celebrate him.

In his new book ‘Sweeper Keeper’, author Peter Kenny Jones tells the life story of Lawrence with the help of his family and those who knew Bill Shankly‘s No. 1.

Lawrence featured 390 times for Liverpool, playing a key part in the Reds’ league title successes in 1963/64 and 1965/66, as well as the club’s first-ever FA Cup win in 1965.

Despite his successes, in the 21st century he has arguably become best known for a 2015 vox pop with a BBC reporter on the streets of Liverpool.


Watch the clip above

Reaching hundreds of millions of viewers, the clip shows a journalist asking members of the public if they remembered a 1967 Merseyside derby that was shown on a big screen at Anfield, as the fifth-round tie was being held at Goodison Park.

Unknowingly, the reporter had asked Liverpool’s goalkeeper on the day, Lawrence, who replied: “I do [remember it], I played in it!”

It was a moment that made his name national news again, and allowed younger supporters to learn about his playing exploits before he passed away aged 77 in January 2018.

GBYR49 Soccer - Football League Division One - Liverpool Photocall. Squad photo: 1966/67 Back row: Geoff Strong, Chris Lawler, Tommy Lawrence, Gerry Byrne, Tommy Smith. Front row: Ian Callaghan, Roger Hunt, Gordon Milne, Ron Yeats, Peter Thompson, Ian St John, Willie Stevenson

Looking back at the event, author Jones told This Is Anfield: “It’s easy to forget who these players are and why they’re so popular and famous back in the day.

“He was a very important player that was probably forgotten by time. It goes in the book that he fell on hard times, but this gave him the moment in the spotlight again.”

After the incident, Lawrence’s fame increased massively, with Jones recalling: “A couple of years later, really right before he passed away, [his family] go ‘I’ll go and pick the car up, we’ll come back round and get you’.

“He was mobbed by fans. It gave him that reinvigoration of that, you know, he was an important player at this club.”

Gordon Wallace and George Scott were team-mates of Lawrence’s in his early days at Liverpool, with the former making his debut in the same match, a 1-0 defeat at West Brom in October 1962.

After the famous interview in 2015, Lawrence returned home, where his son asked what he had been up to that day.

Scott revealed he replied: “‘Nothing, son. I’ve just been in Liverpool by Marks and Spencer; met some reporter, had a chat with them, nothing much’.

“Next minute, the six o’clock news came on and there’s Tommy all over the six o’clock news. Next day, it’s viral all over the world on Twitter!”

Talking about his new book, ‘Sweeper Keeper’, Jones said: “I think for Tommy, there’s that entry level – that video. I think everyone has seen it, I don’t think you’ll find many people who haven’t referred to that video.

“There’s a story behind him, you know, he was part of that first Shankly team. He was also part of the Shankly team that changed, that then went on to become Ray Clemence and the rest of the squad that went on to win everything with Bob Paisley.

Liverpool celebrate wrapping up the League Championship with a 5-0 win over Arsenal: (back row, l-r) Alf Arrowsmith, Ronnie Moran, Gerry Byrne, Ian Callaghan; (front row, l-r) Roger Hunt, Gordon Milne, Ian St John, Tommy Lawrence, Peter Thompson, Wilf Stevenson, Ron Yeats. 1964. (TopFoto/PA Images)

“If you want to know about that side of it, then obviously it’s a great access into that, but then [too] how footballers at this time were treated by the game and how they weren’t given the protection in terms of injuries.

“Shankly hated injured players, [Tommy] wasn’t given a testimonial. You know, he was forgotten by football and if it wasn’t for that interview which put him straight back in popular culture, he probably would have been forgotten.

“This is important that his story is remembered. It was important to his family, it’s important to any Liverpool fan just to know, like, he was a really important player in our history.”


You can buy a copy of ‘Sweeper Keeper’ by Peter Kenny Jones here.