The following article was published in the Daily Mirror in May 1973
SOCCER’S record books are studded with the towering successes of Lancashire clubs. But, with due respect to the League and Cup giants of the past, there’s never been anything to compare with this season’s four-fold title triumph of Liverpool, Burnley, Bolton and Southport.
Never since the golden boxing era of McAvoy, King, Brown, Tarleton, Roderick and Kane have there been so many ‘champs’ around in the red rose county at any one time.
After the fans of Anfield, Turf Moor, Burnden Park and Haig Avenue have savoured their success they will no doubt get round to acknowledging the fact that the managers who led the way to this magnificent monopoly have something in common. Bill Shankly, Jimmy Adamson, Jimmy Armfield and Jimmy Meadows might be men of contrasting characteristics, but all of them have made a tremendous impact on the game as brilliant team builders. In its First Division context the exciting transition which Shankly achieved after searching the bargain basements for men like Ray Clemence, Kevin Keegan, Larry Lloyd and Alex Lindsay ranks as one of the shrewdest operations of all time. Although Liverpool have always been somewhere within reach of honours all through his regime, Shankly has never been content to sit back and let an unchanging side go ‘over the hill’ together as some clubs have done to their great cost.
Jimmy Adamson had coached and groomed a young side with great skill and patience when, largely due to a crippling wave of injuries that upset all his calculations, they tumbled into the Second Division. But he didn’t panic over that setback and the only notable additions he made to the side in which he never lost faith were goalkeeper Alan Stevenson and free transfer man Keith Newton.
Both men slotted in magnificently and it is a team of tremendous potential that Adamson now takes back into the top table.
Jimmy Armfield spent only £2,000 on strengthening the Bolton side that has brought such a warm glow of pride back to Burnden Park. Yet his youthful champions, with as many as five players of 20 or under, could now mature into a brilliant Second Division combination. If one takes into account the £17,000 fee Bolton paid for John Byrom before Armfield arrived, the total cost of the team has been under £20,000. Yet its value would now run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. In other ways, too, Armfield has steered the once desperate club back on the road to prosperity, for their attendances since Christmas have averaged 20,000 -a spectacular rise when compared with the figure of 4,000 for the same phase of last season.
After a big clearout at Southport there were only six professionals left on the staff when Jimmy Meadows arrived and, without much cash available, began his search for a team. At a total cost of £9,000 he built the Side that ran away with the Fourth Division and it speaks volumes for his canny judgement when one takes into account the fact that his squad included no fewer than seven free transfer men.
‘No matter if you have a million pounds or nothing with which to acquire players: says Meadows. ‘you still have to bear uppermost in mind the essential quality of blend. Any fool can buy players, but if they don’t fit into the Jigsaw they become bad investments no matter how much they might have cost.’
Meadows certainly made his Jig-saw come out right and it has presented a colourful picture for Southport fans.