John Toshack was a target man who had a fantastic strike partnership with Kevin Keegan at Anfield.
'Tosh' made his name as a striker with his home-town club Cardiff City, signing professional forms for them on his 17th birthday in March 1966 and giving them fine service for over four years, during which he scored 75 league goals from 162 appearances. Liverpool had tried to sign Frank Worthington from Huddersfield Town but the player failed a medical after the clubs had agreed a fee and Bill Shankly turned his attention instead to the young Welshman with the growing reputation.
In November 1970 he made his move and Toshack arrived for £110,000 and endeared himself to the home public in only his second match when he thumped a headed equaliser into the Kop goal in the cauldron of a Merseyside 'derby' against Everton. Although Toshack 'only' scored five times from the 21 league matches he was picked for in his debut season at Anfield, it was clear that his aerial power would be an important part of Liverpool's attack for some years to come. But 'Tosh' was more than just a tall target man. He could play a bit too and over the next six years - but especially in his partnership with Keegan - he would prove that time and time again. A typical Liverpool attack was a pass from the wing, headed down by Tosh for his smaller accomplice, Keegan, to score.
Toshack was unlucky with injuries during his time at Anfield, not serious long-term injuries but usually niggling ones which meant that he only once played in 30 or more league matches in any of the six full seasons that he was a Liverpool player. But he still contributed greatly to all the success enjoyed by the club during the 1970's. After near-misses in 1971 and 1972 in the FA Cup and the Championship respectively, Bill Shankly's rebuilt team finally started to collect the trophies, something carried on of course by Bob Paisley after the Scot's shock retirement in 1974. Toshack missed 20 league games in 1972-73 but still scored 13 vital goals as the title was won after a tense struggle with Leeds & Arsenal. But it was in the UEFA Cup final of that year that Toshack made perhaps his most telling contribution.
Left out of the starting line-up against Monchengladbach on an evening when torrential rain caused the home leg to be abandoned after less than half an hour, he was brought in to replace Brian Hall 24 hours later and caused havoc in the Germans' defence, laying on two first-half goals for Kevin Keegan. He also played in the whole of the second leg in Germany two weeks later when, despite conceding two goals to Jupp Heynckes inside the first 30 minutes, Liverpool just held on to take their first European trophy 3-2 on aggregate.
The Reds were unable to retain their domestic crown in 1974 but ample compensation was achieved in the FA Cup when eight of the players who had tasted defeat against Arsenal three years earlier were named in the side to face Newcastle United. Toshack had already scored the only goal of a difficult quarter-final trip to Second Division Bristol City and the important third goal which sealed the semi-final replay victory against Leicester City at Villa Park. At Wembley it was his flicked-header from Ray Clemence's long kick downfield which allowed Steve Heighway to run on and put Liverpool into a commanding 2-0 lead with only 15 minutes left to play. 1975-76 was Toshack's most productive and injury-free season on Merseyside. He only missed seven league matches, played in 50 competitive matches for the club in four different competitions and again won League and UEFA Cup winners' medals in the same season. He passed 20 goals in a season for the only time as a Liverpool player, including a hat-trick of headers against Hibernian in the UEFA cup and also the goal which brought a famous win in Spain against Barcelona in the first leg of the semi-final. At 27 years of age, he should have been approaching his peak as a player but injury meant that he missed the last part of the 1976-77 season and he could only watch and admire as his colleagues won the European cup for the first time.
After only making four appearances for Liverpool the next season, Toshack decided to return to South Wales to become player-manager at Swansea City and enjoyed outstanding success there in the club's meteoric rise from the Fourth Division to the First. He proudly led his team out at Anfield on October 3, 1981, an afternoon of mixed emotions coming as it did only days after the death of the man who had brought him to Merseyside nearly eleven years before. As the teams lined up for a minute's silence in memory of the great Bill Shankly, Toshack took off his Swansea tracksuit to reveal underneath a red Liverpool shirt with his number 10 on the back. It was a moment which endeared him to the supporters who had seen him score nearly 100 goals for the club and showed just how much playing for Liverpool under Shankly had meant to him.
Some years later he flew back from Spain, he was managing Real Sociedad at the time, and stood anonymously on the Kop in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy at Hillsborough so that he could pay his own respects to those who had died supporting the club which had given him his big chance. Toshack had been a Welsh schoolboy international and was a member of his country's full international squad for many years, eventually finishing with 40 caps to add to the three he had won earlier at Under-23 level. Although Swansea returned to the lower divisions almost as quickly as they had risen from them, Toshack's name and reputation had been noticed outside the United Kingdom and in the summer of 1984 he was named as the new manager of Sporting Lisbon. Although that post lasted less than a year, he later achieved success in Spain with both Real Sociedad and Real Madrid and is one of very few Britons to have won both league and cup competitions in another European country. He is currently manager of the Welsh national team, having been appointed in November 2004 for the second time. He was manager of Wales for the first time in 1994, but only spent 41 days in the post, resigning after a 3-1 defeat to Norway.
Toshack was in at the start of the great Liverpool dynasty that dominated domestic and European football in the 1970's and on into the 1980's. It is strange looking back that had it not been for Frank Worthington's failed medical, Toshack might never have become a Liverpool player at all! A total of 96 goals from 246 games in all competitions is testimony to his importance to the club during seven wonderful years.