Wednesday 21 February 2018

Carragher leads Moran tributes

Jamie Carragher. Photo: Getty
Jamie Carragher. Photo: Getty

Chris Bascombe

There are many who try to define 'The Liverpool Way'. Others try to replicate it. And a precious few embody it.

Ronnie Moran, the former Liverpool captain and coach who yesterday died aged 83, personified the club in his words and deeds as much as any of the legendary figures he so loyally served.

He was loyal, he was modest, he was successful and he was exceptional.

The tributes to Moran will cross Anfield generations. Former captain and assistant manager Phil Thompson spoke movingly yesterday about Moran's legacy being equally if not more important than Bill Shankly's.

Ronnie Whelan tweeted: "Terrible news to hear of the passing of Ronnie Moran. A huge influence on the great teams of the 60s 70s and 80s. RIP Bugsy"

Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen were among the most enthusiastic beneficiaries of his coaching sessions. They were at the start of their careers when they worked under him and would go on to play for some of the most finely-tuned footballing minds of the modern era. Nobody made them enjoy going to work more than the man former players affectionately called 'Bugsy'.

"The man who decided at 18 I should play centre back before anyone else had even thought of it. Thank you Bugsy!," tweeted Carragher yesterday.

Shankly, Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan are recognised as the architects of Liverpool's rise as a global power, but every player who worked under them would cite the influence of Moran's powers of motivation, or his demanding yet fulfilling training sessions.

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.

Tales of Moran placing a box full of winners' medals into the middle of the dressing room and challenging players to take one "if they felt they deserved it" have become a feature on the after-dinner speaking circuit.

It was not an act. Its effectiveness was evident in the unprecedented trophy haul.

Many former players freely admit they found Moran's consistent nit-picking disconcerting at the time. If a striker scored a hat-trick, he would be told he should have had four.

Meaningless

Long unbeaten stretches were dismissed as meaningless if the performance level dropped in the next game.

Title-winning campaigns would end with Moran reminding players not to overdo it during the summer as they would need to raise their games the following season. You have only to look around the modern game to see how tough it is for those who have reached a peak to stay there. Standards drop too easily. Moran would never tolerate that.

Liverpool's success when Moran was part of the backroom staff was such that there was a time during the 1980s when it seemed every aspiring coach from home and abroad would visit Melwood, seeking the wisdom of Anfield's bootroom, as if Moran and Fagan were a footballing version of the Dalai Lama.

Whenever asked what separated Liverpool from the rest in that era, Moran often gave a shrug.

"There was no 'secret' behind our success," he once said. "We always knew what we wanted, the hard part was getting the right players into the club to do it."

They say the word 'legend' is used too liberally in football. So too is 'humility'. Many aspire to it, some meticulously orchestrate campaigns to make it seem like they have it. I have never met a more successful and influential yet humble man in football.

Seek an anecdote about the European finals he was part of, and Moran would want to talk about Ian Callaghan and Tommy Smith in 1977, of Kenny Dalglish against Bruges, Alan Kennedy against Real Madrid and Graeme Souness's leadership in the 1984 season.

"But what about you Ronnie? What about what you did to prepare and help these players?"

"It was never about me," he would say. "I would just want to help the club in any way I could."

He meant it, too. He never sought fame or acclaim, even though few - if any - English coaches in the history of our game deserve more recognition.

His story was told in the recently-released autobiography Mr Liverpool, which has now become a more poignant read.

The timing of Moran's passing at least offers the consolation of the fullest, most appropriate tributes.

This weekend Liverpool's legends play Real Madrid in a replay of the 1981 European Cup final. A week later is the Merseyside derby. If there was ever going to be a week for Moran to take his place back alongside Bill, Bob and Joe, this was it.

Telegraph.co.uk

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