Ronnie Moran: Five tales from the Liverpool 'Boot Room'
Memories of the Anfield hero, who has died at the age of 83
Liverpool player and coach Ronnie Moran, a key member of the fabled Anfield "Boot Room", has died at the age of 83.
He won 44 honours during his 50 years at the club, seven as a player and 37 as a coach, earning a place in Anfield folklore alongside Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan.
"If Shankly was the visionary, the architect of Liverpool's rise, and Paisley the club's most successful manager, then Moran was the relentless driving force," says Paul Joyce of The Times. "He was the glue which held Liverpool together, responsible for setting exacting standards and, as befits a man who referred to the first-team players as 'Bigheads,' never allowing those levels to drop."
Here are five stories that sum him up.
'Bugsy' did it all
Not only did he win every trophy imaginable, Moran held almost every role at the club and was still a huge influence towards the end of his career. He helped coach the likes of Michael Owen and Jamie Carragher, who describes "Bugsy" as a father figure and "the man who decided at 18 I should play centre back before anyone else had even thought of it".
Andy Hunter of The Guardian says: "[Moran] served the club as player, captain, reserve-team coach, first-team coach, physiotherapist and caretaker manager for 49 years.
"He won the First and Second Division titles during his 379 appearances for Liverpool between 1952 and 1968 and as part of the famed Anfield boot room, was a key influence behind the scenes as the club won four European Cups, 13 league championships, five FA Cups, five League Cups, two Uefa Cups and one European Super Cup."
Box of medals
Most tributes mention the most famous story about Moran, which concerns his powers of motivation and the way he would hand out league medals at end of each successful season.
"Tales of Moran placing a box full of winners medals into the middle of dressing room and challenging players to take one 'if they felt they deserved it' have become a feature on the after dinner speaking circuit," says Chris Bascombe of the Daily Telegraph. "It was not an act. Its purpose was manifest in the unprecedented trophy haul.
"Long before sports psychology was a university course, Moran was fundamental to ensuring every league title or European Cup win fed the insatiable quest for the next one."
Moran made almost 400 appearances for Liverpool between 1952 and 1968, winning the league, FA Cup and Charity Shield. But he could never shake off a famous incident that, in the light of Liverpool's subsequent glories, seems trivial, but was significant at the time.
In 1964, Liverpool, who had never won the FA Cup and had not won the league since 1947, were drawn against second-division Swansea in the last eight of the competition. "A game that appeared straightforward, however, became anything of the sort," writes Dominic King of Mail Online.
"Liverpool - who were top of Division One - trailed 2-0 at half-time. Bill Shankly's side halved the deficit through Peter Thompson and, with ten minutes remaining, they were awarded a penalty.
"The responsibility, as ever, was bestowed on Ronnie Moran in front of The Kop. But on this occasion, his aim was out and his thunderous left foot shot went the wrong side of the upright. Liverpool were out and the FA Cup curse continued. It was a story that Moran, in later years, would be reminded about in times of gentle leg pulling."
King of the Boot Room
"Little larger than a cupboard tucked away under the Main Stand, the Boot Room was the talking shop and occasional drinking hole where the coaching staff who worked under Bill Shankly would gather when the day's work was done or a match was over," says the Liverpool Echo.
"Moran was always there, the permanent fixture amongst the backroom boys who helped to oil the wheels of a winning machine the like of which the English game had never seen before.
"Moran served Liverpool as a player, captain, trainer, coach and caretaker manager. He was the club's longest-serving employee when he retired in 1999."
Former Everton player Peter Reid recalls seeking him out there after the Toffees had won a Merseyside derby at Anfield in the 1980s. He wanted to return a complement that Moran had paid him the last time the two teams met. He was met with an "Anglo-Saxon" response, he says.
Respected to the end
"Long after Ronnie Moran had retired from Liverpool, he would still turn up at Melwood every day, get changed into his training gear and go on a walk around the perimeter of the complex to keep up his fitness," writes Joyce in The Times.
To the younger, overseas stars at the club, who may not have been familiar with the Boot Room legends, he "cut a slightly odd figure". One of them was Spain's Fernando Torres, who asked coach Sammy Lee who the old man was, says Joyce.
"Lee imparted a brief history lesson, showing the Spaniard the pictures of Liverpool in their pomp and speaking about the trophies the club plundered in the days they stood as not just England and Europe's best but arguably the world's finest team. From that moment on, Torres made a point of greeting Moran with a cheery 'hello' every morning."