Fields of Anfield Road is one of the more recognisable songs regularly performed by Liverpool fans. While it hasn’t been heard so much recently, there are few occasions where I haven’t heard it belted out around the ground.
While the lyrics act in remembrance of those no longer with us — from legendary managers Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley to the 96 tragically lost at Hillsborough — one man featured prominently is still very much with us.
Having played 475 times for the Reds, Steve Heighway is a certified Liverpool Football Club legend.
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And on this day almost half-a-century ago, the Irishman scored his first goal for the club.
It was Mr Paisley’s sons, Robert and Graham, who originally saw the flying winger playing for Skelmersdale United. Bob had a look himself and dubbed him “the best amateur footballer [he had] ever seen,” and so Shankly was convinced to sign him as a 22-year-old in February 1970.
By the following August he had made his official debut from the Reds, and on October 17, 1970, that first strike for the club came in a 2-0 victory over Burnley at Anfield.
It was a goal that typified his playing style and what he would bring over the next 11 years.
A report from the Liverpool Daily Post described it as: “A goal taken by speedy reflex as Heighway skated in after a forward headed flick by [Alec] Lindsay and, as Walters and Thomson dithered, he was in between them and the ball was in the net.”
It proved to be the start of a glittering career at Anfield. He scored 76 times in 475 appearance in the famous red shirt, but his main contribution on the pitch was to always use his speed, power and directness on the left flank to create opportunities and openings for others.
This unselfishness proved to be a trait as, after his retirement from playing and a stint coaching in the USA, he rejoined Liverpool in 1989 as a member of Kenny Dalglish’s coaching staff and went on to be in charge of the new Kirkby Academy when it opened in 1998.
Here, he was passing on his knowledge of the game to the next generation of Reds, and would have a hand in the development of the likes of Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler.
A hero for his ability and teamwork on the pitch, and a legend for his contributions off it. No wonder the Dubliner has been immortalised in one of Anfield’s most famous and well-known chants.
In the aftermath of his second-consecutive FA Youth Cup success as manager of the youngsters in 2007, he announced his retirement once and for all.
After 11 years as a player and another 18 working tirelessly behind the scenes, no-one can begrudge Heighway, now 71, a long and happy retirement.
Thank you Steve — the supporters will always adore you.