I was fortunate enough to recently have a chat with ex-Liverpool left back Jim Beglin about his time at the club, Liverpool’s season so far and how he sees the future at Anfield. It was incredibly kind of Jim to agree to do this so I hope it goes down well, here’s how it went…
JF: You joined Liverpool in the 80s, when you got the call that Liverpool were interested, what were your first real feelings?
JB: It was more than a thrill. I was set to go from Shamrock Rovers to Arsenal, I had my bags packed and everything. I’d played in my hometown Waterford for Shamrock and on the way back to Dublin that night I was supposed to fly to London. The Chairman called me and told me the deal was off. I thought I was only going on trial but he said it’s not going to happen and I never found out as to why. I’d been at Shamrock Rovers for a couple of years and it was a full-time setup but it wasn’t working out as they’d hoped so it was starting to break up, so I was unsure about what was going to happen to me. I’d started a course with Aer Lingus as a work experience kind of thing, and within a week of starting that I got the news Liverpool were interested in having me over; and I thought “This is it, I can’t mess this up, this has to work.” Thankfully it did because I knew I had nothing but part time football to go back to, so I knew I had to make an impression in the month they had me over for. Thankfully it was the end of the tax year so Bob Paisley wanted to sign me, I was his last signing, I can assure you it was a joy.
JF: It’s amazing how quickly you can go from ‘rejection’ to the beginning of your career in England
JB: Yeah, we played Liverpool in a centenary match and I remember thinking I wanted to make an impression, I wasn’t particularly happy with my performance, but they asked me over and it was incredible because I didn’t know how things were going to go for me, but all of a sudden it wasn’t any English club, it was Liverpool. It doesn’t get any better than that.
JF: You had some wonderful memories with Liverpool including a League and Cup double, what was your proudest moment?
JB: I always say it, my proudest moment was being deemed good enough to play in that side because the standards were so high. I only spoke to Kenny [Dalglish] about it not long ago, the coaches there, Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans were there at the time, were very perceptive, they’d pick up on things others would miss, their forensic analysis was incredible. Ronnie Moran always said “I’ll stop moaning at you when I don’t think you can get any better” and you can’t really argue with that. He improved my game and it toughened me up. Playing in the European Cup final was awesome, it was obviously a tragic night and it’s remembered rightly for that; and to win the double a year later – at that stage I was walking on water.
Winning the cup to go with the league was awesome, especially against Everton, but winning the league was the thing, that’s what the lads wanted more than anything. 42 games playing against different styles, it’s the true test of a team. There was always a belief though at Liverpool that we’ll worry about our style, let’s not worry about them too much.
JF: When you first joined Liverpool, did you feel straightaway how much the Merseyside Derby meant to the fans – was there a pressure to win those games?
JB: Yep, absolutely, from day one. My brother in Ireland is an Evertonian, we took him to the doctor but they couldn’t do anything! I was aware of that from day one. I played in the mini-derbies and they were fiercely contested. I remember Warren Aspinall, he was a striker for Everton and he left one on me in a mini-derby and I thought ‘you little..’ and I lost the plot, I was just chasing him around the pitch trying to catch up with him, and I booted him! Nowadays it would be an absolute scandal. But yeah I realised straight away. By the time I did play in one, I expected it to be ferocious and it didn’t let me down.
JF: We’ve got the Merseyside Derby coming up after the international break, how do you see that one panning out?
JB: It’s different now, when the two sides met at Goodison, Liverpool played the better football, Everton were uncertain. Liverpool went into it with more confidence and momentum, and the goal from Mane was deserved. Now it’s changed, Everton have momentum and a couple of youngsters have come in and they look better. They look capable of coming to Anfield and making it a stiffer test. Having said that, if Liverpool can get the kind of form back pre-christmas, it’ll be different for any team to deal with Liverpool, so I fancy the Reds.
On James Milner…
JB: When the January slump hit, people started looking for reasons and they picked on James Milner a bit, I thought it was harsh. As a former left back myself, I think Milner has done a terrific job. He did have a little dip but he’s come through it, I have great admiration for what he’s done.
JF: Jurgen Klopp’s been here long enough now to judge what he’s done, how do you feel his first year and a bit has gone?
JB: Well, I have to admit, having met him, I’m swayed, I like him. I like him as a character, I was looking ata the stats comparing him to Brendan Rodgers, but I’ve been impressed with how he’s taken things on. I can understand the disappointment that crept in in January, but I think he’s on schedule. He said in four years they’d win the title, it’s been inconsistent, but I think if they make the top 4 this season, I said pre-season: top 4, I think what happened pre-Christmas got everyone excited, everyone’s been brought back down to earth. There is an issue it could become one dimensional, I don’t buy into this fatigue over the campaign, but I do think after the bigger games there have been slip ups. The higher intensity games take more out of you physically, emotionally and mentally, and Liverpool have suffered after the bigger games. That’s something he has to deal with. They’ve got to win to learn ugly, back in our day we could play for fun, but we could grind as well. Our Plan B was finding a way of not losing, we stayed in games, you didn’t care if it was ugly. You kept on grinding away, that’s something this team needs to learn about. Bournemouth was particularly disappointing, 3-1 up – I was at Goodison that day and I got loads of stick off Evertonians. Overall, I think he’s on course, he knows he could’ve done things differently, but that’s all part of the job.
JF: What do Liverpool need to do in the Summer?
JB: Whatever about a left back, it’d be good to have a good solid leftie, but he probably needs to look at a stronger spine to the team: a goalkeeper, a centre back and another striker is needed now. I’d also like to see a passer in midfield. I was commenting in the Burnley game how young the bench was, Alexander-Arnold, Wilson, Woodburn. There have been some weak benches, I think that overall he took criticism over not bringing someone in in January, but signings are an all year round thing, I know it’s frustrating, especially when it coincides with a spell like that, if the talent is not there to improve the team, and it has to improve them team, then why make a move? I can understand it from his viewpoint. He said it on MOTD, there will be change, but not wholesale change. It’ll be sensible. It becomes more important – next season, Klopp will be under pressure to have a side that competes for the title, recruitment becomes more important, especially if it coincides with a Champions League campaign. There are some great kids on the horizon, but you need a more senior presence. There’s so much spending power with Manchester City, United and Chelsea, when you’re faced with that kind of buying power, it makes it even harded. I have faith, I have faith in what Klopp’s doing, there are areas that need addressing but he’s across that.
On the future…
JB: You have to expect a few downs, even Chelsea have had to deal with one or two downs, I think the players themselves need to get upset and angry about the times they’ve slipped up, in my time, you’d get told on the pitch before you even got to the dressing room if it’s not good enough. You have to get that in your head and you have to have the desire to want to make up for it, not just the next game; it has to be the next 10, 15 or 20 games. They have to get that hatred of losing, and a winning mentality. It’s easier said than done, it can be built out of disappointment you get from slip-ups, if you can get that into players’ heads collectively, that can make up the next 10,15%, that refusal to accept defeat, that’s how winners are born, being unwilling to accept 2nd. That has to happen in the Liverpool dressing room.
Quick fire questions, Chelsea have pretty much wrapped up the league, who gets the top 4 at the end of the season?
JB: I’m beginning to think it’ll be Arsenal and Manchester United who miss out. As you say, Chelsea are probably going to win the league and I wouldn’t argue with that. I just fancy it to be Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham, not necessarily in that order.
JF: Followers questions, Phil Williams on Twitter says he was in the Kop for the ’85 semi final against Panathinaikos, what was your memory of the goal that made it 4-0?
JB: We’d worked on it in training, it’s lovely when something works when you’ve practised it. We saw that Panithinaikos just ran with players, they’d go with the movement. My job was to look disinterested, not look part of the set-piece and loiter outside the box as if I’m going to hold my position. Sammy Lee ran over it and Kenny [Dalglish] basically just had to beat the crowd, and the rest of the team had to run to the near post. The ball was inch perfect, at the last minute one of their guys seemed to realise what was going on, he tried to readjust, but I came onto it and caught it plum on the forehead, it was my only goal at the Kop End, my only European goal for Liverpool, but that has a special place.
The following night I went to the local chippy, as soon as I walked through the door and this guy told me to get out. I was like ‘what have I done?’ and he said ‘I had £100 on 3-0 last night, and then you bloody pop up!’ He gave me a bit of stick but he got me my fish and chips.
JF: Ashwin Ramesh wants to know who’s the best person you’ve commentated with?
JB: I’ve been very fortunate to be with some good guys. Because I work with Peter Drury and Jon Champion a lot, it’d probably be those two on an equal basis. I also work a lot with George Hamilton on RTE in Ireland, I get on really well with George. They’re the guys I spend most of my time with working so they’re my top three, I won’t single one out!
JF: Best Liverpool game you’ve ever commentated on?
JB: That’s easy, it’s one of the best nights ever in my commentary nights, it’s Istanbul. I was working for Irish TV and I remember saying it was men against boys, it could’ve got embarrassing. I probably said everything everyone else said and to see what happened in the second half was just incredible. It was an off the scale night. It’s etched on your brain forever, it was an incredible night.
I’m not often lost for words but I think I remember getting to a stage that night where I didn’t know what else I could add. We felt like the stars aligned for Liverpool, with the draw they got with Juventus, Leverkusen and then Chelsea with that night at Anfield. I remember when that double save from Dudek happened, I remember George went really big on this thing that Liverpool were going to win this, I remember looking at him thinking “how can you say that?” Ultimately he got it right. I remember hearing Jamie Carragher speak and he said of course it wasn’t the best team in Europe, but we found a way of doing it, and I admire what they did that night. The rest of the world thought it was over, but there was a refusal. They thought if they could get a goal it wasn’t over, and when Gerrard did get the goal, the game changed – it was a long way to go! But I have great admiration for what that team produced in those circumstances. The way they didn’t accept defeat was fantastic.
Thanks again to Jim for taking his time to let me get in touch, there were plenty more questions that I could’ve asked but I didn’t want to bore him for too long. You can follow Jim via Twitter @jimbeglin – and I implore you to do so.