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Football News: Former Liverpool Managers Part 5 - The Uneventful Years

Former Liverpool Managers Part 5 - The Uneventful Years
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Former Liverpool Managers - Part 5


George Patterson 1st June 1915 - 14th December 1919 & 7th March 1928 - 6th August 1936


It is fair to say that George Patterson, despite making history as the first man to have two spells as Liverpool manager, did not make the biggest impression in terms of media coverage or interest. Even the Liverpool Echo of the time described him once as 'unobtrusive' and he was a man who did not seek the limelight at all.

Born in 1887 in Liverpool, Patterson was, judging by the little information available, a bit on the clumsy side, suffering an injury hit playing career with local non-league sides such as Marine and Orrell. The Echo said of him in 1918 "he has an extraordinary number of wiggling bones that have been broken." In 1916 he actually ran into a tree on his way home at night in the dark and needed stitches. Which later got infected.

Initially he joined Liverpool in 1908 as assistant to manager Tom Watson, doing the paperwork while Watson looked after the team. While he is often referred to as 'assistant manager' in later accounts of the time, in a match programme from 1914 his picture was published with the label 'clerk', so it is only natural that he took on the role of Club Secretary after Watson's death in 1915, a position which he held up until ill health forced his retirement.

With formal competitions suspended, there was no need of a separate club manager, so Patterson took the reins on a caretaker basis. His job at the time was mainly administration and finding players to make up a team from those exempt from military service and the military personnel that were based locally. He led Liverpool into the 1915-16 season of football in what was called the 'Lancashire Circle', with a team made up mostly of players that were given leave by the services so that they could play on Saturdays. As the war went on, it became more difficult to put together teams with service personnel, as they were mostly stationed on the continent, so in July 1917, and 1918, Patterson advertised for players who were exempt or discharged from military service.

It was not until the 14th September 1918 that he was officially confirmed as Tom Watson's successor with the Liverpool Echo describing him thus: "He is a practical man, unobtrusive, and shows wisdom with pen and in football matters. He is following one of the best in the late Tom Watson, but has been well schooled, and will make good."

Patterson's main contribution to Liverpool was his recruitment, his first spell producing the signature of LFC's first Scouse club captain and proper superstar, Tom Bromilow. Bromilow was even endorsing products in adverts, featuring in an advert for a health tonic called Phospherine in the 1920s. Bromilow's signing came about by chance as Patterson himself recounted later: "His signature was obtained in the strangest manner. He came to the ground in uniform during the war and asked for a game. I asked George Fleming, who was in charge of the second team then, how he was fixed and he said he could do with another player. Bromilow played at outside right and was an instant success."

Competitive matches resumed in August 1919, but Liverpool won just 7 games before December, of the 18 they played, and he stepped down with Liverpool just above the relegation zone in 18th of 22 teams. The role of secretary and team manager were split apart Patterson continued on as secretary and assisted first David Ashworth and then Matt McQueen in their time as managers. Despite his previous lack of success, when McQueen left in March 1928 the club once more appointed him to take charge of the football team.

His reign began on 7th March 1928, making him the first man to manage Liverpool twice, only Kenny Dalglish has also done so in the club's history. Patterson's time in charge is often described with words such as unspectacular as he led the club into midtable mediocrity, following his first full season, which gave him his highest finish of 5th. Despite that he was not afraid to spend money, splashing a club record on England captain Tommy Cooper from Derby County at the end of 1934. Outbidding Stoke City and legendary Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Frank Buckley to get his man.

Patterson launched the careers of a number of youngsters, such as Jack Balmer and Phil Taylor, who later featured in the club's success. He was also responsible for signing Matt Busby (unlike Tommy Cooper and Phil Taylor it does refer to the Matt Busby that first comes to mind) in 1935, who later became club captain before becoming a legendary Manchester United manager.

Ill health had long been a problem for him and it was added to by stress as the 1935/36 season ended badly, with a real slump in form as Liverpool got just 3 wins in their last 20 games to escape relegation by just 3 points. It was too much for Patterson and he resigned his role of team manager in the summer after 366 games in charge. The role of club secretary and team manager were never again combined after this. Despite being taken to hospital in 1937, Patterson was still working for the club until at least 1939, when it is recorded that he negotiated the deal to sign a goalkeeper called George Poland from Wrexham.

His tendency to avoid the limelight meant there is little known of his life after this, other than that his son, also named George Patterson, became a player for the club. He passed away in 1955 just as he lived his life, unheralded and quietly.

To read Part 4 - The End Of The Untouchables please click HERE

Written by Tris Burke June 07 2018 15:08:49


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