“Back on yer bloody line, Lawrence!” The advice came from the all-singing, all-swaying Kop when Tommy Lawrence began patrolling the outer limit of Liverpool’s penalty area during games instead of the edge of the six-yard box or the goal-line, where convention dictated goalkeepers stood in the 1960s.
Decades later, recalling the fans’ incomprehension, Lawrence explained he was acting on the orders of Liverpool’s fabled manager Bill Shankly. The logic was that the Scotland international – a frustrated centre-forward – would effectively be an extra defender. His team-mate Ian Callaghan remembered him tackling strikers like a centre-half. Lawrence’s recollection was typically humorous and honest: “I used to bring ’em down. If they pushed the ball past me, I just hit ’em.”
Joe Mercer, later to have a brief spell as England manager, dubbed him “Sweeper Keeper” as early as 1966. He owed his more widespread nickname “The Flying Pig” to a bulky physique, yet Shankly remained faithful to him from 1962 until 1970, during which time Lawrence won two Football League championship winner’s medals, the FA Cup for the first time in Liverpool’s history and three caps for his country.
Lawrence, who has died aged 77, was born in Ayrshire but his family moved to England when he was a child. On leaving school he worked in Rylands wire factory at Warrington and kept goal for Stockton Heath Albion. After attracting the attention of Liverpool he signed for the club – then languishing in the Second Division under manager Phil Taylor – in 1957, soon after his 17th birthday.
He had to wait until October 1962, when he was 22, for his first-team chance. Liverpool lost 1-0 at West Bromwich but Shankly was impressed. In Lawrence’s first full season, 1963-64, his consistency, courage, handling and temperament shone through, along with a perhaps surprising agility – most notably when Liverpool clinched the League title in the spring…