Paisley's opinion on Peter Thompson

How do you take over from a living legend? That was the first question that Peter Thompson had to answer. For he was the 17-year-old teenager who was plunged into the Preston North End side to fill the shirt that had been worn so magnificently over the years by wing genius Tom Finney.

Tom had hung up his boots at the end of the 1958-59 season and most Preston fans must have thought they had seen the last of the great wingers. Then, out of the blue, along came this twinkle-toed teenager called Peter Thompson who reminded them all what wing play was about.

There were the obvious comparisons with Finney but they meant nothing at all because they were as different as chalk and cheese. Tom was very direct - more like Bill Liddell than Stan Matthews - and while Peter had the same sort of physique he relied more on his skill on the ball than his brute strength.

In fact that has always been my major criticism of Peter and it has never been meant in in a deragatory way because he was an inspiration to the side on so many occasions. But I have a theory that he could have been remembered as one of the true wizards of the wing - throughout the world!

He was always a very good winger but I don't think he ever exploited his skills the way he should have done. He was probably too nice a person, too even tempered. If he had a little bit more venom he would have got more caps for England than he did.

He wasn't a gentle build, in fact he was the perfect build for racing along and using his strength but it's something he wouldn't do. We tried to get him to do it on so many occasions but we could never convert him to our way of thinking - he just couldn't do it..

Very, very skilful, he was two-footed and even though he was naturally right-footed you would have a job to have worked it out from watching him. He beat people with his right foot but was genuinely two footed and one of the most talented players to turn out for the club.

Like Ian Callaghan, I can never remember him losing his temper. There can't be many teams in the world who had such a good pair of wingers in the team at the same time and when both were on form they were an absolute joy to watch.

I think every footballer admires a player with skill and Peter was certainly someone I admired, from the day he took us apart in the F.A. Cup when he was still in his teens.

When you train with someone day in, day out, you really get to know how skilful they are and you would go a long way to find anyone with more natural ability than him. He and Cally were both very much alike as each of them would be sent crashing but they even wouldn't get upset by that. That's when Tommy Smith came to their rescue!

We picked Peter up from Preston where he had spent three years honing his skills and he proved to be a steal at the £40,000 we paid. He went on to play more than 400 games for the club, sparkled on so many of our European jaunts, so I don't think anyone could complain at a signing who cost us less than £100 a match!

Peter was also the player who told one of Shankly gems. He was called into the office one day and Shank told him: "You've been seen drinking. You are smoking too much and you were spotted in a night-club, with a pint in one hand, a woman in the other and a cigarette in your mouth." A flabbergasted Thompson protested his innocence violently to Shank who then told him: "Well, the way you're playing you've been doing all three."

It was a typical way that Shank would get over his message that he expected something more from the player. No doubt Carlisle-born Peter went away with a wry smile but the message would have got through.

He was also a shrewd businessman and throughout his time with us invested in what became a thriving caravan park at Knott End, near Blackpool.

A bad knee finally finished him at Anfield but he went on to have four-year Indian summer at Bolton Wanderers where he played another 100 plus games in the Second division.

Copyright - Bob Paisley - My 50 Golden Reds (1990)

Sir Bob quote

"Bob made us laugh probably more than you realize. He had distrust for people. In Dresden for instance. At half-time somebody was going to pour the tea from an aluminium pot and he said: 'No, you're not drinking that. It's bloody drugged. Well, you're laughing. This room is bugged as well. Come on, we're going outside.' And he went and took us outside for our team-talk. This is a serious game in the last sixteen of Europe. We're in stitches of laughter when you should be told about the opposition."

Phil Neal

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