Reds winger Thompson much more than a 'nearly man'
In the history of English football, there can rarely have been a player as unlucky as Peter Thompson.
Sure, he accrued 16 international caps. But in the tournaments that mattered, he became known as the nearly man.
First in 1966 he was selected by Alf Ramsey for England's initial 28-man World Cup squad, only to be released just before the tournament began. Once may have been unlucky, but it happened again to him four years later.
Though this time he was involved in the build-up to the Mexico World Cup long enough to have been in the Green Fire jewellery shop in Bogota when Bobby Moore was alleged to have pocketed a necklace.
For Bill Shankly, however, the omission of the mercurial Liverpool winger from those squads was an act close to criminal. As a player, Thompson was someone Shankly would never choose to leave out.
"He could run forever but more importantly in football he could run with the ball, probably the hardest thing to do," the great Liverpool manager once said of his right winger.
"His work-rate was outstanding, his fitness unequalled, he had the balance of a ballet dancer."
His ability was obvious from an early age. As a schoolboy in Preston, he received offers from 17 clubs to sign on as a professional.
He preferred to stay local and had made his debut for Preston North End before his 18th birthday.
Shankly was so impressed by his pace, agility and resilience during an FA Cup tie between Preston and Liverpool in 1962, during which Thompson scored the winner, that he bought the player later that season for a then sizeable fee of £37,500. It was money more than well spent.
Thompson went on to make 416 appearances for Liverpool across a decade between 1963 and 1973.
Always involved, anxious and keen to receive the ball, his bravery was telling. So much so, Shankly used to tell the other players in the team: "If you're tired give the ball to Peter. He'll look after it until you're ready to have it back. Mind you, there's every chance you'll have to tackle him."
Such was the Liverpool manager's enthusiasm for the player that when he eventually left the club for a short spell at Bolton Wanderers, he was moved to suggest: "I have no hesitation in placing Peter up among the all time greats, alongside such players as Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews and George Best."
It was a fitting eulogy for a player whose selectorial misfortune should never be allowed to define him. (© Daily Telegraph, London)