24 Oct 2011

GARY GILLESPIE: "When I say this to people, they’re amazed..."

Gary Gillespie played under Kenny Dalglish for much of his career at Liverpool, so he's well qualified to comment on the qualities that made Dalglish such a success at Anfield. What was the secret coaching ingredient that underpinned Liverpool's all conquering side of the late 1980s? It's not what you think...

Gillespie, who played all but 5 of Liverpool's games in the legendary 1987-88 season, revealed:

"When I say this to people they’re amazed: In 8 years at Liverpool, the days we were actually coached I can count on one hand. We were just told to go out and play".

Very interesting! This kind of approach would be considered anathema in today's football world but it clearly never did Liverpool any harm.

As much as people try and intellectualise it, football is ultimately a very simple game, and acknowledging this simplicity has always been at the heart of Liverpool FC's philosophy of football. As Bill Shankly said:

"Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple".

Based on Gillespie's comments, it seems like this philosophy was literally applied at Anfield for decades, and the club reaped the rewards. Gillespie added:

"At times, the game becomes a little bit too technical and...I think formations sometimes go out the window. Ultimately, with good players in the side...that know the game, and know exactly what they’re doing...they'll find their positions.".

Does Kenny Dalglish still use 'go out and play approach' now in his second stint at Anfield? Probably not. It just wouldn't compute with modern footballers, especially with the rise in England of the continental approach to management.

Gillespie concluded:

"You’ve got to have a structure to work with, but too much is made of it. Within that structure you’ve got to have license, and think since Kenny’s come in, he’s given them a bit more license to express themselves".

It seems that the more Liverpool move away from the simple approach to management, the less successful the club becomes in the league. Perhaps it's time to return to 'just go out and play' approach?

Jaimie Kanwar


  1. LoL @ football being a simple game !

    Rocket science & Brain Surgery are simple too , for those skilled enough to practice it .

    I'm not calling Gillespie a liar but anyone who watched Liverpool play between 86 & 91 cant deny the tactical excellence of those sides , particularly the 87 -90 side . & the ease with they switched formation from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 to 4-4-1-1 & a few others .

    They played different formations on different occasions & they played in those formations like they never played in any other formation in their lives , only practice makes perfection like that .

    Yes Clubs like Wimbeldon exposed a few weakness's in us defensively , perhaps defenders werent coached enough on defending but instead were allowed to attack "Total football" style all the time in training ?

    Its a strong possibility especially if you watch any goals from defenders back then & look at how they joyously break from defense into space deliberately created by those in midfield & or attack .

    My own personal theory is if you have your players drilled & comfortable within a formation , namely they can defend as a unit & attack as a unit ,  that players of international standard dont require any instruction from any coach on their individual games because invariably they have enough pride in their game to constantly work at  improving it & maintaining their standards .

    Perhaps that is what Gillespie is referring to ?

    Good players love playing with good players , its a simple rule of thumb & once you get 11 good players together in a system they are comfortable in , magic happens .

    Just like maing a 147 break in Snooker is the simplest thing in the world to do , until you actually try to do it , football is the simplest game in the world to play , and like in snooker only the very best can make it look as simple as we all think it should be .

  2. May be thats why we are in the state we are in...

  3. If by the state we are in you mean we haven’t won so much as an argument since 06 ?

    I think its because for far too long now we have been trying to do things on the cheap & have brought in too many over rated foreigners who have terrible attitudes which in turn has lowered the standard of the attitude of the Domestic players , not just at our club but throughout the entire league .

    We havent brought in any genuine top class foreigners since Karl Heinze Riddle or Moreientes .

    Neither performed for us as expected , they were here for a big contract & didnt give a shit about the feelings of us fans or our ambitions .

    Yea some of the Foreigners we brought in developed on the job not too badly but the point I'm making is they weren’t Stars before we made them stars & for me theres no point in spending big money to develop hit & miss foreigners when its just as easy to develop domestic talent with a much higher success rate in terms of individual player performance & trophy haul .

    Too many Domestic players in one squad isnt a good idea either , they get complacent & lazy & we end up scrapping & merely winning by the skin of our teeth when we should be winning comfortably with the talent at our disposal .

    A balance needs to be struck & thats where the skill of Dalglish & Comolli comes into play , they have to mix & match personality’s , characteristics , physical talent & game intelligence into a winning blend .

    It is not an exact science , but those two appear to be getting it right so far .

  4. Ya I can say it wasn't the same approach Benitez had. He would have told Adam to never try to dribble his way out from the half way line because it would give the opponent team a chance on the counter attack. 

  5. When Gary was brought did n't he go into the reserves first and did n't make his debut till nearly a year later and not a regular until the 86/87 season is n't this when he his taught and coached to play the Liverpool way and which has been lost and what is being reintroduced again from the bottom to the reserves to play a certain way so they can step up to the first team with the minimum of fuss like players use to.
    May be Gary did n't reliase he was being coached ready for the first team football and he was taught it all in the reserves?

  6. If you look at the team in the 80s, one thing that stands out is, if you look at the team sheets, the same players played 90 percent of the games in the season. Changes where only made when it was forced on the team due to injury or suspension. you earned your spot in the team. 

    In todays game, you could score four goals in a game, and end up sitting on the bench the next game. Where is the incentive to put in a good shift? 

    I Must say rafa was guilty of this, and kenny is doing the same. 

    Look at newcastle, same players playing week after week and there up in 4th. same with reading when they where in the prem, and the same with Blackpool. There problems came when they had to change the team due to injury or suspensions and a lack of squad quality but there first elven where good enough to compete with anyone. 

  7. Tornike Khomeriki7:03 pm, October 24, 2011

    This is actually very interesting - I've been having this feeling that Kenny is actually not really interested in tactics and that side is managed by Clarke and Keen. If that is the case, then I'm not sure how long, and how well, would that serve us in the long run.

  8. Brehon, I can understand your point but if Gary said they hardly trained then they probably hardly trained.  
    The average player of today would not get into a starting 11 of the 80's, imo, because of the inability to play anywhere on the park. Just like you said. 
    And Bill Shankly said, football is a simple game. pass and go, make space, receive the ball pass and go again. The team that do this well are usually the successful teams. But you are right, the better you are at it the simpler it looks.

  9. I agree 100 per cent. It also made the teams know each other inside out so the gelling process came quicker.

  10. Times have changed so if Kenny doesn't change his methods with time...things will only get more difficult

  11.  He didnt say they hardly trained , he said that they were rarely coached .

    The average player in the 80's was pissed outa his head in between games & their idea of a healthy diet was getting an extra slice of lettuce on their cheese burgers or having salad with their kebab & chips .

    Physically very few could match the levels of fitness of todays average pros however they did have much more heart , grit & determination & the rules of the game have changed to make it a much softer game today .

    But out of all the players who have been at our club since 91 I'd say only Gerrard has a genuine chance of competing for a place in that 88 team .

    It was a different world back then & there were no big time charlies or superstar players , even the most successful match winners at every club were still only one of the lads .

    Personally I think the game has fallen from that peak not just in England but throughourt Europe back then , technically its easier to play with no honest challenges allowed therefore average players like Ashley Young , Nani , Ballotelli , Mata , Silva , Valencia , Walcott , Arshavin , Kalou , etc etc mince their way through games where as before the rule changes only the very best managed to survive the butchering from defenders & express their skills & flair .

  12. Gary Gillespie still has tha charisma at the club.