Emlyn Hughes is one of Liverpool finest ever players and captains, having given 12 years sterling service to the club and captaining the Reds to their first European Cup success in 1977.
Emlyn saw and did it all during his time on Merseyside, but of all the weird and wonderful things he experienced as a Liverpool player, perhaps nothing was as surreal and memorable as his first night as a Red.
The following is an extract from Emlyn’s book, entitled ‘Emlyn Hughes: Crazy Horse’, and recalls an eventful evening travelling to Liverpool with Bill Shankly after joining the Reds from Blackpool in 1967.
You probably know the jist of the story, but here is the full account of it in Emlyn’s own words…
“The journey to Liverpool turned out to be an unforgettable experience with Shanks at the wheel of his Ford Capri. We seemed to be caught at every set of traffic lights.
After the third set, Shanks said, ‘Aye, so you’re joining Liverpool, son.’
‘Yes,’ I replied, unable to think of anything better.
‘Aye, and what colour do Liverpool play in?’ he asked.
‘Red, Mr Shankly,’ I replied, somewhat mystified by his question.
‘Aye, you’re right, son, and have you noticed that they even make the traffic lights in red?’ he said. After a few more sets of lights he was snorting, ‘I’ve had a bellyful of these red lights.’
Now Bill Shankly isn’t the greatest driver in the world, and at Anfield they still talk about the day he put his new club car into automatic transmission for the first time and shot straight into the car park wall.
The drive to Liverpool was not without incident. About two miles out of Blackpool he decided to overtake another car. Then he changed his mind, slammed on his brakes and there was a terrible crunch as the car behind came sailing into us.
I felt it was Shanks’s fault but he bounced out of the driving seat and was on the attack.‘Where the hell did you come from? What speed were you doing? I’d only just looked in my mirror, the road was clear and then - bang!’ he argued.
Looking in the mirror was an irregular pastime for Bill. Anyway, he calmed down, they exchanged registration numbers and we set off again with a smashed rear lamp.It was late afternoon in February and darkness was closing in. We were just driving into Preston when a police motorcyclist with a siren blaring cut in front and waved Bill down.
‘Excuse me,’ he said to Shanks. ‘Do you realise you’re travelling without a rear light?’
The reply was fierce: ‘You would be travelling with no rear light if some **** had just knocked it out! I’ve just had it damaged two minutes ago. What do you want me to do - not go anywhere?’
The policeman was polite but persistent. ‘You’re still travelling with no rear light,’ he insisted.
At this, Shanks erupted: ‘You stupid man,’ he roared. ‘How am I supposed to get home? Do you know who is in this car?’
I thought Shankly was referring to himself and it seemed a rather silly remark. The policeman said guardedly, ‘No, I don’t know who you are.’
Then Shanks made the stunning observation: ‘Not me. There sits the future captain of England.’
I couldn’t believe it. I had been a Liverpool player for an hour and we had had one crash, my new manager had been apprehended by the law and he was now talking of me as an England captain. It took some swallowing!’
It may have seemed an outlandish claim at the time, and who knows whether Shankly was being serious or not, but Hughes did indeed go on to captain England on no less than 23 occasions. Whether or not the motorcycle policeman remembered him or not when he did is another story.