Phil Thompson

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Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson (cropped).jpg
Personal information
Full namePhilip Bernard Thompson
Date of birth (1954-01-21) 21 January 1954 (age 67)
Place of birth Kirkby, Lancashire, England [1]
Position(s) Centre back
Senior career*
1971–1984 Liverpool 340 (7)
1984–1986 Sheffield United 37 (0)
National team
1977 England U-23 2 (0)
1978 England B 2 (0)
1976–1982 England 42 (1)
Teams managed
2001–2002 Liverpool (caretaker)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Philip Bernard Thompson (born 21 January 1954) is an English retired footballer, who played as a defender for Liverpool team of the 1970s and 1980s. During this time, he also represented the England national football team on 42 occasions, and captained England on six occasions. After retiring as a player, he later served Liverpool as assistant manager and, during the 2001–02 season, acted as caretaker for 6 months while manager Gérard Houllier was ill. He was a pundit on Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports for 22 years until August 2020, does on and off work as a pundit for TV 2 (Norway), and is a regular Visiting Fellow at the University of Liverpool where he teaches on the Football Industries MBA.


Club career


Thompson was born in Kirkby, Lancashire, and was a Liverpool supporter, who stood on The Kop as a boy. His dreams came true when he signed as a professional for the club on 22 January 1971, the day after his 17th birthday

He made his first team debut the following year against rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford. With the Reds 2–0 up in the 81st minute Shankly took off John Toshack, replacing him with the 18-year-old defender. The move was intended to tighten up the defence and keep a clean-sheet, but three minutes later, Emlyn Hughes popped up with a goal for Liverpool, with the game ending this way. In 1973, Liverpool won a double haul of trophies—the League championship and UEFA Cup and Thompson played a role in both successes earning league and UEFA Cup medals in the process. The next season led to him displacing Larry Lloyd from the side altogether and pushed Tommy Smith across to full back, and he settled into a defensive partnership with club captain Hughes.

Thompson man-marked Malcolm Macdonald out of the game as Liverpool beat Newcastle United 3–0 in the 1974 FA Cup Final, this after MacDonald had boasted what he was going to do to the Reds in the game. He remained a major part of the team which, again, won the League and UEFA Cup double in 1976.

1976 was also the year in which he was called up to play for England for the first time, his debut coming on 24 March in a 2–1 win over Wales in a friendly at the Racecourse Ground at Wrexham. During a summer mini-tournament held in the United States on 28 May 1976, Thompson scored his one and only goal for England in a friendly match against Italy in New York.

Liverpool's most productive season followed in 1977, but Thompson was to unluckily miss out. Although he played enough games to guarantee a medal when Liverpool retained the title, he suffered an injury which denied him a role in the exciting charge towards a unique treble, as Liverpool limped into the finals of both the FA Cup and European Cup. The veteran Smith took Thompson's place; while Liverpool lost the 1977 FA Cup Final to Manchester United, they won their first European Cup a few days later in Rome by beating Borussia Mönchengladbach (with Smith scoring Liverpool's second goal).

Thompson recovered from his injury and returned to the defence the following season, scoring a goal in Liverpool's victory over Kevin Keegan's Hamburg in the 1977 UEFA Super Cup final. Liverpool reached their first League Cup final at Wembley (a competition which they had previously not taken seriously) and after a goalless draw against Nottingham Forest, the game went to a replay. It was a disappointing evening for Thompson, who committed the foul on Forest midfielder John O'Hare that led to the penalty that won the game for Brian Clough's men. Thompson no doubt counts himself a little unlucky – although he did commit the foul, replays appeared to show that it took place outside the penalty area. Liverpool also surrendered the League title to Forest, but managed to retain the European Cup with a win over FC Bruges, a game in which Thompson this time played.

Thompson was accompanied by a new central defensive partner in Alan Hansen as Liverpool regained the title in 1979. When Hughes left the club for Wolves late in 1979, Thompson was appointed as captain and managed to lift the League trophy in 1980. He continued to play frequently for England and was in the squad which qualified for a major tournament's finals for the first time in a decade, though England's performances at the 1980 European Championships in Italy were disappointing.

Thompson's proudest moment as Liverpool skipper came in 1981 when he lifted the European Cup after a 1–0 victory over Real Madrid in the Paris final—the club's third success in the competition. Thompson also stepped up to receive the League Cup after a replay win against West Ham United, the club's first of four consecutive successes in the competition.

Bob Paisley upset Thompson the following season when he decided to hand the captaincy to Graeme Souness, though Thompson continued to play regularly in defence, winning further title medals in 1982 and 1983. He was in the team which retained the League Cup in 1982, but missed the victory in the 1983 final due to injury.

From 1984, Thompson's opportunities as a Liverpool player were diminishing, with Hansen now being paired with the younger Mark Lawrenson. Liverpool won the title, League Cup and European Cup in this year, but Thompson did not qualify for a medal in any of these successes.

Sheffield United

In 1985, he was offered the manager's job at Swindon Town but turned it down as he wanted to concentrate on playing. [2] He was sold to Sheffield United but could not settle, so he quit playing at the comparatively early age of 31 and was recruited by new Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish as a coach.

Off-the-field return to Liverpool

He was with the club in this role for four years, progressing to being Dalglish's right-hand man as the team (still containing, and now captained by, Hansen) won the League in 1988 and 1990 and the FA Cup in 1989. Thompson was working at the club at the time of the Hillsborough disaster, on 15 April 1989 at the beginning of the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest. The tragedy claimed 94 lives on the day, with the final death toll reaching 96. An abiding image of Thompson the coach came in the 1989 FA Cup final against Merseyside rivals Everton when a last minute chance for Everton to equalise went awry, and the camera caught Thompson, sweating in his suit and tie, sitting on the Wembley bench while shaking his fists in relief, delight and anticipation. Everton did equalise moments later and forced extra-time, which Liverpool eventually won.

When Souness, the man who replaced Thompson as captain, came back to the club as Dalglish's replacement in early 1991, Thompson was kept on. Thompson was sacked by Souness in 1992 for allegedly talking to Manchester United's Alex Ferguson and his assistant about issues at the club involving Souness. Word had got back to Souness via his connections at Rangers. It was agreed by both the club and Thompson that details of what happened would not be disclosed.

It was alleged that Souness believed Thompson was interested in his job as manager while Souness recovered from bypass surgery in the spring of 1992.[ citation needed ]

In late 1993, Thompson was widely linked[ by whom? ] with the manager vacancy at Nagoya Grampus Eight where he would get the opportunity to work with former England player Gary Lineker who was then playing for that club.

He earned a living through speaking and punditry until Gérard Houllier became Liverpool manager in 1998 and, needing a bona fide Liverpool man by his side following the departure of Roy Evans, asked Thompson to return to his old role, which Thompson accepted. [3] This second stint was eventful – a spat between Thompson and striker Robbie Fowler led to the sale of the popular centre forward to Leeds United; and Thompson spent several months in sole charge of the team (with some success) when Houllier underwent emergency heart surgery in October 2001.

During his time as assistant manager of Liverpool the Reds returned to winning ways as they completed a unique 'treble' of UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup in 2001.

When Houllier was relieved of his duties in 2004, Thompson also left the club.

In September 2010, Gérard Houllier was appointed manager of Aston Villa and this led to Houllier offering him the role of assistant manager at the Midlands club. However, Thompson rejected the offer as he felt he could not commit himself to the role due to the long journey to work, the inevitably large number of scouting missions and his unwillingness to uproot his family or live away from them. He then gave the job to Gary McAllister who played under Houllier and Thompson at Liverpool.[ citation needed ]

Career statistics


Club performanceLeagueCupLeague CupContinentalTotal
1971–72 Liverpool First Division 230200000250
1972–73 140201030200
1973–74 352904030512
1974–75 3202010123712
1975–76 4102030112572
1976–77 2624020303612
1977–78 2731070714314
1978–79 390601030490
1979–80 4208071206011
1980–81 2501060704010
1981–82 3401070504820
1982–83 2400040503410
1983–84 00000000110
1984–85 Sheffield Utd Second Division 100----100
1984–85 270----270
Career Total377736043150551413


England national team


As a player

Liverpool [4]

As a manager


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  1. "LFC profile" . Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  2. Liverpool Echo, 'Thompson is Back on Home Ground' – 18 July 1986
  3. "There was a real togetherness at Liverpool and that was down to Gérard Houllier". Guardian. 14 December 2020. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  5. "Liverpool duo scoop awards". BBC Sport. 3 December 2001. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  6. "Liverpool duo bag award". BBC Sport. 5 April 2002. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Emlyn Hughes
Liverpool captain
Succeeded by
Graeme Souness