I Liverpool 1969 - 1974
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The partnership of Larry Lloyd and Tommy Smith was regarded as one of the hardest central defensive pairs in the league at that time.
Lloyd partnered one of the players that survived Shankly cull, captain Tommy Smith. The pair were at the heart of the defence that took Liverpool to the 1971 FA Cup final losing 2–1 after extra time to Arsenal who had already won the league title.
Sir Alf Ramsey gave Lloyd his international debut on 19 May 1971 in a British Home Championship match against Wales. The game was played at Wembley and finished 0–0. Lloyd’s club teammates Chris Lawler, Emlyn Hughes and Smith all started the game.
1972 saw Lloyd score his first goal for the Reds. It came in the 3–0 league win over Manchester City at Anfield on 26 February. His goal was the first of the 3 and came in the 37th minute. Kevin Keegan (53rd) and Bobby Graham (65th) completed the scoring.
Liverpool won the League and UEFA Cup double in 1973. Lloyd did not miss a single minute of the 54 matches played in the whole season. He scored in the first leg of the UEFA Cup final helping Liverpool to a 3–2 aggregate victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach. The following year he suffered an injury losing his place to the young Phil Thompson and missed out on victory in the FA Cup final against Newcastle United.
Shankly quit that summer. Successor Bob Paisley preferred Thompson and Lloyd transferred to Coventry City.
Lloyd had already won four England amateur international caps by the age of 17, but only played one season with lower-league Bristol Rovers when he was bought by Shankly to replace Ron Yeats. ‘Larry, I have come to the conclusion that you would kick your grandmother for a fiver,’ Bill Shankly told Lloyd as their talks began about a move to Liverpool. ‘I would actually kick her for half of that,’ Lloyd replied.
Liverpool’s interest in Lloyd was aroused when Shankly and chief scout Geoff Twentyman saw him play for Rovers in a fifth round FA Cup-tie against Everton at Goodison Park two months earlier. Shankly had watched him three times since and although Lloyd lacked pace and skill he was dominant in the air, strong in the tackle and had the qualities of a leader. He played in two consecutive League games for the Reds in the autumn of 1969 and the last six first division matches of that season. Yeats filled in occasionally at left-back in the 1970/71 season, leaving the tall Bristolian free to establish himself at the heart of Liverpool’s defence. He only missed two League fixtures that year and reached the FA Cup final, where Liverpool were beaten in extra-time by Arsenal. More disappointment followed a year later when a controversial disallowed ‘goal’ a few minutes from the end of the final League game cost them the League Championship. But in 1972/73 those near misses were forgotten as Liverpool captured the Championship with Lloyd featuring in every single one of the 66 competitive matches of that draining season and also headed in the decisive third goal in the first leg of the UEFA Cup final against Mönchengladbach.
Lloyd was still very much first-choice at the start of the next season and played in 27 consecutive first division games up to and including the home fixture with Norwich City on 2 February 1974. He was substituted for Peter Cormack on that day and the Scot scored the last-minute winner to keep Liverpool in touch with Leeds at the top of the table. While Lloyd was out for the season with a thigh injury Cormack established himself in the middle and fellow midfielder Phil Thompson was moved to centre-half in place of Lloyd. Shankly wanted to build more from the back and the partnership of Hughes and Thompson fitted the bill, Lloyd didn’t. The club were prepared to listen for offers for a man who was still only 25-years-old and had several good years ahead of him. In August 1974 Coventry City paid £240,000 for Lloyd which was for that time a very high fee, by comparison Liverpool had just paid a club transfer record of £180,000 for Ray Kennedy the previous month.
Lloyd struggled at Coventry and in his third season at the Sky Blues he moved on to second division Nottingham Forest which turned out to be very fortuitous for him and the club. Brian Clough’s team was promoted that season in 1976/77, took the League title off Liverpool the following year and prevented a third consecutive European Cup title for the Reds by knocking them out in the first round in 1978/79 and going all the way to win the trophy. Liverpool recaptured the domestic title but in 1979/80 Forest followed in Liverpool’s footsteps by winning the European Cup for the second year running. After five exceptional years at Forest Lloyd moved to Wigan as player-manager in March 1981.
Bill Shankly har sagt:
“He’s bigger than Yeats and as strong as a bull. He’s afraid of nothing.”
Shankly had seen enough qualities in twenty-one-year-old Larry Lloyd’s play, especially his tackling and aerial strength, that he easily tagged him as an ideal partner for Tommy Smith in the heart of defence, after it was decided that it was time for Ron Yeats (and many others) to move on. He was also noted for his ability to take possession at the back, and quickly identify the best way forward into attack. His skill at distributing the ball gave confidence to his team-mates to start pushing forward as soon as he had it on his trusted left foot.
Thus Larry Lloyd became one of the pillars of Shankly’s second great squad. Yeats, Hunt, St. John, and Lawrence, were all dropped in favour of Lloyd, Heighway, Clemence, Hall, and other young players. As the 1970’s began, only Tommy Smith, Chris Lawler, and Ian Callaghan remained from the 1960’s roster. Amazingly, it only took two seasons before Lloyd and the rest of the new players found themselves closing in on major trophies when they faced Arsenal in the 1971 FA Cup Final. Unfortunately, it was not to be as Arsenal won 2-1 after extra time. That season also saw Larry Lloyd and his new Liverpool colleagues gaining some valuable European experience as they reached the semi-final of the European Fairs Cup. By the time that season ended, Larry had played over fifty first team games.
The partnership of Larry Lloyd and Tommy Smith was regarded as one of the hardest central defensive pairs in the league at that time. Alf Ramsey recognised Lloyd’s physical strength and work ethic, and invited him to make his international debut against Wales, just a few days after the FA Cup defeat, on May 19th, 1971. That was to be the first of only four full caps for England, added to his eight caps for the Under-23 side.
The 1972-73 season saw double success for Larry Lloyd and his team-mates as Liverpool won the League Championship and the UEFA Cup. The club played a total of sixty six competitive matches that year (forty two League, four FA Cup, eight League Cup, and twelve UEFA Cup) and Lloyd showed how durable he was by playing in every minute of every one of those games. That looked to be the height of Larry Lloyd’s Liverpool career, as a thigh injury kept him out of most of the 1973-74 season. As a result, Phil Thompson took his place in central defence and went on to keep Larry out for the remainder of the season. That included the 3-0 FA Cup Final win over Newcastle, shortly after which Bill Shankly made his shock announcement that he was retiring from football.
As Bob Paisley took over from Bill Shankly, Phil Thompson was the preferred choice in Paisley’s more ‘continental’ side, and Larry Lloyd became surplus to requirements. It was a sad day in August of that year when he was sold to Coventry City at the age of twenty six. At that time Larry Lloyd should have been looking forward to more success with Liverpool, and it was considered to be the end of his successful years as he was perceived to be dropping down a level. At the very least, he could be considered to have been a faithful servant to the club over the five years that he played, and that he was well worth the money as he only cost Â£50,000 and was sold for £225,000.