Bob PAISLEY OBE (1919-1996)

Bob Paisley
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THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Bob Paisley, football manager, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews on board a coach in central London.


Born in Durham, Bob spent his youth playing football for Bishop Auckland before he signed for Liverpool in 1939. In 1951, he was made club captain, and he remained with Liverpool until he retired from playing in 1954.


He stayed with the club as reserve team coach, as well as serving as the club's physiotherapist. In 1959, Bill Shankly was appointed Liverpool manager, and he promoted Bob to work with him as an assistant. Under their leadership, the fortunes of Liverpool turned around dramatically as they were promoted back to the First Division.


Shankly retired as manager in 1974, and Bob, quickly appointed as his successor, went on to lead Liverpool to a period of unprecedented domestic and European dominance.


His time and achievements as Liverpool manager has led to Bob being regarded as one of the greatest football managers of all time.


“I thought it was QPR’s centre forward!”

Bob's daughter Christine McMahon recalls her experience of This Is Your Life in an exclusive interview recorded in April 2013

Photographs of Bob Paisley This Is Your Life (click images to enlarge)

Bob Paisley article

The Liverpool Echo Thursday December 29 1977


STORY BY MICHAEL CHARTERS


BOB PAISLEY THIS IS YOUR LIFE


CLOAK AND DAGGER IS THE NAME OF THE GAME UNTIL THE LIGHTS GO ON AND EAMONN CONFRONTS HIS VICTIM


Cloak and dagger is the name of the game when ITV organise their “This Is Your Life” programme, leading up to that awesome moment when smiling Eamonn Andrews thrusts a microphone into the face of a startled soul and chants the ritual “Joe Dokes, this …”


As no doubt many of you saw on the box last night, Liverpool manager Bob Paisley was that startled soul recently. I was sitting five feet from the Liverpool boss when Eamonn loomed on the scene with his mike and his patter.


And I can assure you that the celebrity, the culprit, the fall-guy, whatever you wish to call him, is genuinely unaware of what is about to happen to him.


The TV people are masters at keeping it under warps; they’ve had a lot of practice at it.


How the secret was kept from Bob Paisley has the hallmarks of bizarre fiction. Not only his family were involved in the preparations for the programme, but dozens of people on the Anfield staff, including the players, had to be told.


It developed into a major spy production with whispered chats in the Anfield corridors, glances over the shoulder to see if the man himself was in sight, and shouts of “For God’s sake, don’t let him know”. It went on for three months.


The key figures in all this were Bob’s wife, Jessie, Liverpool’s general secretary Peter Robinson, who had this additional chore loaded on to his already heavily burdened shoulders, and a TV official called Maurice Leonard, who took up station in Liverpool three months in advance to keep all the characters in the charade in good form.


And the whole involved set-up nearly went for a costly burton the very week it was due to be recorded. It was planned to “do” the show the morning after Liverpool played QPR in London, when the principals were on hand to record it at the ITV studios near Euston Station.


The match was scheduled for a Tuesday night and Wednesday was going to be THE day. Then the fixture was switched to the Saturday and all the hundreds of detailed arrangements had to be hurriedly put back four days.


The show was recorded in November and Mrs Paisley was first told on August 1. From that moment, she had the seemingly impossible task of making sure the Paisley home life ran smoothly, despite the fact that she and the family were involved with Mr Leonard in working out all the long-forgotten little details which confront the embarrassed celebrity.


Bob told me: “I had no idea that anything was going on. There was one or two little things which I realised later were out of the usual, but these were at the club, not at home. Jessie kept it the complete secret. I didn’t have a clue.”


The remainder of the family, sons Robert and Graham, with wives Irene and Sandie respectively, daughter Chris and her husband Simon, were all involved and equally tight-lipped.


Over at Anfield, the big secret got under way. Peter Robinson had to organise the trip to London in exactly the same way as usual – routine train times, itineraries prepared as though they were returning after the match by the normal train, normal meal times and the rest of it.


The players were let into the secret because they had to appear on the programme and also stay in London an extra night. Coaches Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran were key figures in the big cover-up as the men working more closely to Mr Paisley than any other.


They never let a single word slip which might have given Bob a hint that something different was about to happen.


The major keep-it-secret manoeuvres happened on the day of the match. ITV needed a film crew on the team bus and their excuse was that they were from German TV, recording Liverpool before their Super Cup games against Hamburg.


Director Royston Mayoh, speaking broken English with an impressive German accent, called himself Herr Dortmunder and got away with it until he lapsed into Irish-English for a moment in all the excitement. But Bob didn’t hear it.


While the match was on, the bus parked away from the ground and Eamonn Andrews was smuggled on board dressed in the casual gear of a TV technician. After the game, players and officials piled onto the coach on the way back to Euston, chairman John Smith directed Bob to sit next to him in a seat nominated as the best for the cameras and the blazing TV lights were switched on.


Bob chatted normally as the camera operator moved up the coach, apparently filming the players. But something stirred at the back of the coach, hidden from view before this by the TV crew.


It was the bold Eamonn, stealthily making his way forward to appear before Bob Paisley, timed to the second as the bus stopped near the TV studio. The rest you know … if you saw the programme last night.


ITV throw money away on this show as though there’s no tomorrow. It cost them £1,000 for the air fare alone to fly Bob’s pal Frank Carr from Hong Kong to appear on the show. Their London hotel bill for that weekend ran into thousands. It was £50 a night for two – without meals.


Jessie Paisley and her family had a hectic, but totally memorable weekend in London. And it was Jessie who told me the real punch-line in the whole show, an incident which almost sank it without trace before a camera rolled.


Two months before the programme, Bob went to his old home in County Durham to show his friends the League Championship trophy and the European Cup. He had a great day, feted by the village dignitaries. But he told Jessie afterwards that many of his old pals hadn’t turned up and he wondered why. She knew the answer, but could say nothing.


What he knows now is that the TV people had a near fit when they heard of his trip because he was going to meet people they had ear-marked for the show, with Eamonn chanting … “And here’s your old pal, Charlie what’s-it, whom you haven’t seen for 40 years.”


Bob was going to see Charlie and others a few weeks earlier until the TV men got busy and made sure they were “missing” when the cups came in.

programme details...

  • Edition No: 473
  • Subject No: 469
  • Broadcast date: Wed 28 Dec 1977
  • Broadcast time: 7-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Sat 12 Nov 1977
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 18
  • Edition: 6
  • Code: Pattern

on the guest list...

  • John Smith
  • Ray Clemence
  • Joey Jones
  • Phil Neal
  • Alan Hansen
  • Emlyn Hughes
  • Ian Callaghan
  • Ray Kennedy
  • Steve Heighway
  • Terry McDermott
  • David Fairclough
  • Kenny Dalglish
  • Tommy Smith
  • Jessie - wife
  • Robert - son
  • Irene – daughter-in-law
  • Graham - son
  • Sandie – daughter-in-law
  • Christine - daughter
  • Simon – son-in-law
  • Hughie - brother
  • Mary – sister-in-law
  • Tom Hope
  • Ned Blenkinsopp
  • Alwin Wade
  • George Walker
  • Billy Liddell
  • Bill Shankly
  • Norman Whitehouse
  • Joe Bait
  • Jack Moffat
  • Reg Stretton
  • Frank Carr
  • Bishop Auckland Football Team of 1939:
  • Carl Straw
  • Harry Young
  • Ben Twigg
  • Joe Hughes
  • Teddy Wanless
  • Bob Hardisty
  • Ken Humble
  • Laurie Wensley
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Kevin Keegan
  • Sir Matt Busby

external links...

production team...

  • Researcher: Maurice Leonard
  • Writers: Tom Brennand, Roy Bottomley
  • Directors: Royston Mayoh, Terry Yarwood
  • Producer: Jack Crawshaw
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
With very special thanks to Christine McMahon for her contribution to this page
Series 18 subjects: Richard Beckinsale > Peter Ustinov > Virginia Wade > Robert Arnott > Lin Berwick > Bob Paisley > The Bachelors > David Broome > Arthur English > Barry Sheene > Margot Turner > Pat Coombs > Michael Croft > Max Boyce > Nicholas Parsons > Richard Goolden > Ian Hendry > Marti Caine > Ian Wallace > Dennis Waterman > Anton Dolin > Terry Wogan > William Franklyn > Richard Murdoch > Harry Patterson > Jule Styne > Mike Yarwood