Ian St. John

 

St.John.jpg (41780 bytes)

Born:                 Motherwell, 7.6. 1938
Transfer Fee:      35.000 (from Motherwell, May 1961)
Games:             424 (5 as sub)
Goals:               118
Honours:            First Division 63/64, 65/66
                         Second Division 61/62
                         FA Cup 64/65
                         Scotland Caps 21
Other clubs:       Motherwell, Coventry City 71/72, Tranmere Rovers 72/73
Manager:           Motherwell, Portsmouth

 

 

"Exhibition football is all very well in its way", said Ian St. John soon after joining Liverpool in 1961. "But give me football with a bite". Over the rest of that decade, that was guaranteed that any game involving the little centre- forward would be played with the sharpest of edges.

As ultra-competitive as his legendary manager, "The Saint" brought to his new team a feisty blend of fire and finesse that would soon make him the scourge of defences from Portsmouth to Carlisle. That was his worth as an individual and it was significant enough in its own right, but his contribution to the club's collective whole was of even greater value.

The purchase of St. John for more than double the previous highest sum ever paid by the Anfield board showed to the players, the fans and the football world at large that after years of under-achievement, The Reds finally meant business, particularly as it was quickly followed by the 30.000 signing of Ron Yeats.
Shankly knew it was make-or-break time for Liverpool, and he made sure the directors knew it too. What they also knew was that had they not sanctioned the St. John deal, their lack of ambition would probably have cost them the services of their manager, who was still fuming at their earlier refusal to finance a bid for the prolific Brian Clough. The signing of "The Saint", a newly capped Under-23 International, looked more of a gamble despite his cheaper price tag. But any boardroom misgivings would have been instantly laid to rest had they had the slightest inkling of the return that their stake was quickly going to reap.

Ian made his debut against Everton. Liverpool lost 3-4, and all Liverpool-goals were scored by, yes, Ian St. John. That first game served the most emphatic of notices of the new boy's talent for goals, but it did not even begin to hint at the partnership he would soon strike up with his attacking mate, Roger Hunt.
Although returning totals of 18, 19 and 21 goals in his first three seasons, St. John always played second fiddle to his comrade when it came to scoring, but made good the gap  in the number of chances he created for him.
St. John was phenomenal in the air, possessing immacualate timing, the most springed of heels and the strenght with which to bullet his efforts into the goal. Of all those strikes, the one that Liverpool fans will always remember with most affection was the flying, whiplash header that he hammered past Leeds United's Gary Sprake to win the FA Cup in 1965.

Like the whole of Bill Shankly's first great team, Ian St. John was at his peak during those three heady seasons during the mid-1960s. And as he entered his thirties during the latter years of that decade his form and fitness began to dip - until the end came - as it did for several other members of his side - with the shock FA Cup defeat at Watford in 1970.

The one opponent by which all footballers are eventually defeated - age - had finally taken the edge off St. John's game. Although there still remained the natural skill and the familiar determination and cussedness that Shankly had first seen in the young centre-forward he brought south from Motherwell, and who, in common with his mentor, ate, slept and drank the beautiful game.

There have rarely been better judges of footballing class and character than the legendary Liverpool manager, and so there are few higher compliments than can be paid to Ian St. John than the simple fact that he was the man whom Shankly chose to launch his Red revolution.
(From "Liverpool's Greatest Players" by David Walmsley)


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