Jessie & Graham

To mark the 10th anniversary of Bob's death, Paul Rogers from the official club website met up with his widow Jessie and son Graham on 13th February 2006.

lap in her house in Woolton. She's not very mobile at the moment. Currently waiting to go into hospital for a knee operation, she tells me she won't be able to visit Bob's grave on Tuesday. Instead, the family will take some flowers.

In the corner of the room, a computer sits on a table with the Liverpool FC website staring out from it. On the homepage is a piece written about Bob by his great friend Stuart Hall. As I arrive, Graham Paisley, her youngest son, is printing the article out for Jessie to read.

When I walk in, she looks up from another earlier print out to say hello. Amazingly, she's reading one of the posts about Bob from our Message Board. It's nice that the fans still remember him fondly, she says, before asking Graham if the internet site with all these nice articles can be seen as far away as Bishop Auckland, where members of Bob's family still live.

"They'll be able to see it in New Zealand never mind Bishop Auckland," laughs Graham.

Jessie, how did you first meet Bob?

"It's not something I could forget. It was half-term at the school I was teaching at and I was going with a friend to stay with some other friends in London. We got on the midnight train to London and sat opposite each other in the compartment. I had taken my sandwiches with me because you didn't get any refreshments on the train in those days and then a young soldier joined the train. He came in to our compartment and threw his big coat over my sandwiches. I wasn't very pleased about it but he apologised so nicely and then he came and sat next me. My friend always said to me that if I had sat on the other side of the compartment, I wouldn't have become Mrs Paisley.

When you met, he was a footballer but he wasn't playing for Liverpool, was he?

"Well, yes, but only part-time because he was still in the army but then they released him to play for Liverpool on a Saturday."

At that point did you think that he would dedicate the rest of his life to football?

"Football always meant everything to him; he never seemed to think of anything else. He did other jobs like bricklaying and he was down the pits for a while but from what I could see, nothing really seemed to mean anything to Bob apart from football. I had no doubt that he would make it his career."

Jessie on bringing Bob home

We stayed the whole day together but he had to go back to his barracks in Woolwich that night so before he left, we arranged to meet a couple of days later. I wondered if he was just kidding when he said he was going to come and meet me so I made my friend come with me just in case he didn't show up but he did.

After a while I decided to take him home to meet everybody. In those days, taking a boyfriend home to your house was a big thing.

My dad was a Manchester City supporter and I told him I would like to bring a young man home. He asked me what he did for a living? I said he was a footballer. At this response, my dad looked pretty grim because he thought footballers were all drunken hooligans. I then told him that Bob was a professional footballer but this impressed him even less. So I told my Dad that he was a bricklayer as well. 'Oh, that's much better,' said my dad. 'He's got a proper job'. After that, it wasn't long before they fell for Bob as I had done. He was just finishing in the army at that time."

Bob first came across Liverpool people when he served alongside them in his regiment, didn't he?

"Yes and he liked the Liverpool people very much. He fell in love with people in Liverpool whilst playing but he also fell in love with the place and he always admitted that, no matter where he went, Liverpool would remain his favourite place. I remember when he was given the Freedom of the City and he said just how important the place and people were to him."

Do you think Bob's down to earth nature was shaped by the fact that he came from a mining village?

"Well, he came from Hetton, which is only a little down to earth place. It was a mining village at the time but not any more. It's strange that quite a lot of football people come from quite humble backgrounds. Bill Shankly came from that type of little village and Harry Potts lived down Bob's street and he became a manager as well. Coming from quieter villages seemed to influence them somehow."

It's always reported that Bob never wanted the Liverpool manager's job. Come on, he must have secretly wanted it?

"It's positively true. The first time I heard about it was on the radio whilst I was a schoolteacher. My friends were all asking whom I thought would be picked as the next manager and who Bob thought it would be. Bob always thought that it would be somebody like Ian St John. Bob never considered himself and he didn't want it - mainly because he didn't want Bill Shankly to give it up. He even tried to persuade Bill to stay. He said to him, 'Go away. Take your wife on holiday. Have a break and you might feel differently'. But Bill wasn't having any of it and nobody to this day really knows why Bill retired when he did. He was fit, healthy and the team was doing very well. In the end, the board said that the only person that they wanted was Bob. A lot of people hadn't even heard of him at the time."

He was a very different character to Bill, wasn't he?

"They were very different but they hit it off straight away and got on famously for years. I think they worked together for fifteen years and although they were like chalk and cheese, they never quarrelled. Maybe that is why they did get on so well - if they had been alike then maybe they would have quarrelled. They liked different things, for example, Bill hated travelling whereas Bob loved it."

Bill loved dealing with the media...

"That's right. Bob hated it whereas Bill loved it and would chat to anybody. Bob would always get out of the limelight if he could. He had to get used to it though because it was part of the job. He was quite happy just getting on with the job and he always used to say to the press, 'Let the lads just get on with their job'. Which was fair enough I think."

Times have changed quite a bit since Bob's day. What would he have made of Sky's coverage and the internet?

"Oh, I don't think he would have liked being a manager today at all - especially all the money involved. He wouldn't have liked that at all.

Do you think he'd recognise the game today?

"I don't know. Nothing's the same now. Back then you knew everybody and you all lived near each other. We all lived down in Huyton we had about six or seven semi-detached houses in a row and paid 25 shillings a week rent to the club. Billy Liddell lived opposite, Eddie Spicer next door. We all used to get on really well. It was like a family."

Jessie on Bob's love for Liverpool

"He liked the Liverpool people very much. He fell in love with people in Liverpool whilst playing but he also fell in love with the place and he always admitted that, no matter where he went, Liverpool would remain his favourite place."

Jessie and Bob together on "This Is Your Life" in honour of Bob on 12th November 1977

Did Bob ever bring his work home?

"Not really. He never really brought it home and he'd never discuss it. Well, he would never discuss it with me anyway! He very rarely had people from the club at the house and he wouldn't talk about football very much at home."

Was he away a lot because I imagine winning the European Cup every year means a lot of travel!

"He was always away. The children, when they were young, said that they never saw him. He was on 'This Is Your Life' and the presenter asked the kids what their dad thought of something and they said that they wouldn't have a clue, as they didn't really see their Dad as he was away so much. It wasn't just when they went abroad either because when they went to play away matches, they went for a couple of days. I used to joke that I brought up the kids alone!"

I don't suppose you spent many Saturdays together, did you?

"No, not really, but I would go to the matches."

So you did have an interest in football then?

"Well, I watched a bit when he was a player. When he was a trainer, I went a lot more and when he was finally the manager, I got very interested and went all of the time. I used to be interested in watching his reactions on the sidelines because I knew what his little nervous habits meant because he would tell me after the games."

Would you ever try and offer him some advice?

"Oh no, I wouldn't have had a clue and I don't think he would have listened anyway!"

Graham Paisley on his dad Bob

"When he became the manager, that's when it started to hit home. As a boy living in Liverpool and growing up here, what better job could my dad have than to be manager of the European champions? I was very lucky really that I never got any stick growing up because there was nobody really saying that he shouldn't be doing the job because during his nine years in charge, he and the club did very well."

Did it feel weird being married to a man who was practically married to Liverpool Football Club?

"No, I never really thought of it like that. I was just married to Bob and that was his life. That was it really. We wished we could spend more time together but because of both of our jobs, we couldn't really. I was a schoolteacher, so often as term ended as the season was underway but we learned to accept it."

Did your children inherit Bob's passion for football?

"The boys did, yes, but my little girl was younger at the time so she wasn't interested as much. In fact, Graham at the time would have loved to have gone into football but his dad said that you had to be a very, very good player. Robert, my eldest, is still connected with Quarry Bank. They are all mad on football still."

Ness, Shanks' widow and Jessie with Joe Fagan on the last day of the Kop in 1994

Graham, as a kid, were you aware of just how famous your dad was?

"When he became the manager, that's when it started to hit home. As a boy living in Liverpool and growing up here, what better job could my dad have than to be manager of the European champions?"

Did it seem normal to you?

"It was quite exciting but I used to miss a lot of the Saturday games because I played for Quarry Bank. It was just accepted, I suppose. I was very lucky really that I never got any stick growing up because there was nobody really saying that he shouldn't be doing the job because during his nine years in charge, he and the club did very well."

Do you think your dad would have been a manager today or do you think he would have simply refused because of the all the media demands?

"He was always conscious of how many people used to say the game isn't what it used to be. He was never one for looking back. Like my mum said before about him not really enjoying talking to the press, it used to annoy him but it was never at the level it is now. It would have been interesting to see how he would have coped now. Although a lot of people thought of him as an old-fashioned manager but he was always very conscious of making sure he kept up with the changes and his methods evolved."

Did he ever watch you play football?

"When I was playing for the school team, when I was about twelve, he came and watched me for about ten minutes. Like any schoolboy, I always had ambitions of playing professionally. When I got home, he said to me, 'You're welcome to go for a trial at Liverpool but I'll tell you now, you'll never make it!"

Nothing like a bit of fatherly encouragement...

[Laughs] "It hurt a bit but you sort of accept it. I was a decent amateur player but like every other lad, I nurtured the ambition that I could make it to the top. It's not a realistic aim though unless you are really gifted."

Would he talk to you about football or the job?

"If you asked him about it, he would. Later, when he wasn't manager anymore, we would watch the football on the television together. My wife used to watch it with him and she would say it was such an insight because of the way that he would talk her through it. He would pick out things that nobody else would be able to see. He was the same with injuries. Sometimes when I would come home on a Saturday and I had a knock or cut, he would look at it and just tell me I could run it off or just dismiss it. I remember one time though, I came home and just by the way I was walking and moving he said exactly what was wrong. He told me he was sure I had a stress fracture of my tibia, so we went to the hospital and he was exactly right. He would do the same when watching the television; he was fantastic at diagnosing injuries."

Did you regret not seeing more of him as you were growing up?

"Well, we would still get to see him and like I said, it was great having a Dad who was the manager of Liverpool. I also got to meet some great people - like the players who were all my heroes. It was a big thrill but it was just part of our life. It helped that our mum was very level-headed."

The Paisleys on Istanbul 2005

Jessie: "I still get very excited at the games although at half-time in the final I was ready to turn off the television. I thought, 'That's it. We have not been good enough.' When Steven Gerrard's goal went in though, everybody screamed! It was fantastic."

Graham: "I'm still flying from last May! I always thought that the'77 European Cup was the best but last year takes some beating. We all watched it."

Jessie, did he have any other hobbies away from football?

"He was very interested in horse racing but often didn't have much time to go and watch it. He did have some very good friends that were involved in horse racing though like Frank Carr in Yorkshire. He used to sometimes go in the summer to stay with Frank Carr and go out with the horses in the morning."

There's an image of Bob Paisley that everyone seems to have - it's like a sort of big, friendly uncle. Does that ring true to you?

"That was the image people tried to paint of him but if somebody did something wrong, he could be totally ruthless."

The other thing that everyone goes on about is how he always wore slippers everywhere…

"There are lots of stories about Bob in his slippers and we don't know if they are true or not. He did enjoy wearing cardigans though."

Of all the people that he worked with, would you say that the one he was most fond of was Kenny Dalglish?

"Well, he always spoke highly of Kenny but I don't know whom he was fondest of. When he started off, he had great friends like Billy Liddell who he loved."

Do you still have an interest in how Liverpool get on?

"Oh yes, we're still very interested. We still go to the games and all of our extended family fight over the tickets now!"

There has been a lot of talk recently about whether Bob should have been knighted or not…

"I suppose I am biased but, yes, I think that he should have been knighted."

Did he ever mention not being knighted to you while he was alive?

"No, it never bothered him at all. He never mentioned it. To be honest, it would never have bothered him even if he had never actually been given a medal for winning things. He only ended up losing everything anyway. Personal accolades weren't his thing."

The fact that Alex Ferguson was knighted so soon after winning just one European Cup is what bothers most Liverpool supporters…

"I think the fact that Alex Ferguson got knighted after only three weeks really stirred it up didn't it?"

Graham: "A lot of the fans were angry but so was I. I just think my dad lived at the wrong end of the East Lancs."

Finally, I have to ask you, was Bob the greatest ever?

Jessie: "Well, he was my husband! What else can I believe."

Graham: "Yes. What he did was fantastic. The record speaks for itself. We're both immensely proud of what my dad achieved and we both think he was the best."

© - liverpoolfc.tv - Interview reproduced by kind permission of Paul Rogers and liverpoolfc.tv

Sir Bob quote

"In Israel just before the European Cup final, we’d been playing fizzbuzz, one of those drinking games. There was Alan Hansen, Kenny, Bruce Grobbelaar, Stevie Nicol, myself, Ronnie Whelan, Ian Rush, Sammy Lee, all drinking in the square in Tel Aviv. Things got said and a fight started. Me and Rushie were quite close so it’s us back to back against everybody else. Somehow it calmed down and I went to the hotel with Rushie and Alan Kennedy, who fell on the ground and couldn’t get up. The old Liverpool director Mr Moss was coming out of the hotel just at that moment. So I’ve got down to pick up Alan Kennedy and I couldn’t get up either. And Mr Moss is stood above us frowning. He says: ‘Gentlemen, this is Liverpool Football Club.’ So I grabbed hold of his trousers and pulled myself up his body. And I put my arm around him and said: ‘Mossy, you old bugger, you might be a director but I think you’re a great fella.’

After breakfast the next morning, they call this big meeting upstairs and around the table there’s Bob, Joe Fagan, Moran, Evo and Mr Moss, who stands up. ‘I’ve been at this club for over 20 years and I’ve never witnessed anything like last night in my life. I’ve had many accolades passed on to me, but never have I received one so touching than from David Hodgson.’ Then they lift the tablecloth and underneath it’s piled high with beer!’ After that meeting, Bob Paisley turned to me and said: ‘You’re a good Geordie, son. That’s what you are.’"

David Hodgson

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