He was the mastermind behind Liverpool's unprecedented treble success of 1984, a priceless cog in the Anfield machinery for 25 years before then and founder of the legendary bootroom.
But to coincide with the recent launch of his long-overdue biography here are ten lesser known stories that best sum up the legend that is Joe Fagan.
1. Preparing for his Roman Conquest
Joe was always meticulous in his preparation for games but often gave the opposite impression. Just hours before the 1984 European Cup Final the Liverpool players were finishing their pre-match meal when Joe stood up in the dining room of the hotel and asked the waiters to leave the room. He wanted to speak to his team in private and everyone expected a big impassioned speech. Joe then proceeded to mumble a few words before adding: 'But they're not as good as us. Now the bus leaves at such a time so make sure you get plenty of rest before then and don't be late!' As captain Graeme Souness recalls: 'It was typical Joe and it put everyone at ease.'
2. Turning down Everton
Although he displayed no real allegiance to Liverpool or Everton during his childhood, once Joe joined the Anfield ranks as assistant trainer in 1958 his loyalty to the red cause was beyond doubt. Just four years into the job, however, Liverpool's future could have taken an immeasurable turn for the worse when Everton manager Harry Catterick, his former boss at Rochdale, came calling with the offer of a position on the Goodison coaching staff. The Blues were, at this point, the pre-eminent club on Merseyside and one of the richest in the land. It was a tempting offer but as Joe's late wife Lil later testified 'He was more than happy at Anfield. He had made good friends there and the club was progressing as he would have hoped. He felt part of something and saw no reason to go elsewhere.'
3. No time for egos
Joe had no time for over-inflated egos and, when need be, wasn't afraid to deliver some harsh truths. One such occasion came in the aftermath of a shameful 3-1 home defeat to Manchester City on Boxing Day 1981. It was a result that left the Reds floundering in mid-table, way adrift of the league leaders and being written off as no-hopers in the title race. Cue an uncharacteristic blast from Joe. As one senior player of the time remembers, 'he went beserk.' Ranting and raving was never his style but things had gone too far, standards had dropped and something had to be done. No player escaped his wrath and so shaken were they by his fury they quickly realised the error of their ways, embarking on a run of form that sparked a miraculously recovery. Joe's outburst had the desired effect and five months later Liverpool were crowned champions yet again.
4. Dispelling the myth that he wasn't a great public speaker
Interviews with Joe were very few and far between but it was a popular misconception that he was uncomfortable when it came to speaking in public. He once attended a dinner where he was invited to stand up and address the audience. Armed with numerous sheets of paper he gave the impression that he was nervous and tentatively shuffled them about when rising to speak. What followed was a lengthy speech delivered with intelligence, humour and sincerity. As he returned to his table with a rousing round of applause ringing in his ears, Joe acknowledged the cheers with a glint in his eye and cheeky grin before turning the papers over to show the pages were blank!
5. Dancing on the tables in Bucharest
You get nothing for winning a semi-final. That was the general way of thinking at Liverpool during Joe's day and only in exceptional circumstances did the management go overboard following victory at this stage. One such occasion was the 1984 European Cup semi-final when, against all odds and amid so much intimidation, the Reds overcome Dinamo Bucharest. With the jubilant players screaming, shouting and dancing about in celebration, Joe entered the dressing room and bellowed at the top of his voice, which again was rare, "All of you just shut up and sit down!" The players turned to each other with a bemused look and the dressing-room fell silent. He looked at them all, jumped on the nearest table and screamed, "You f*****g beauties!" With that, the whole place just erupted again and the party continued. It was a rare show of emotion but proof that victory in Bucharest had meant so much to him.
6. Instigating a fight
In Joe's eyes there was no such thing as a meaningless game and he displayed an insatiable will-to-win at all times - even against a bunch of part-time waiters during an end-of-season kick-about in Benidorm. After a long and trying campaign Liverpool's players were in no rush to over-exert themselves. To Joe, this thinking was alien so, with a glint in his eye, he beckoned Tommy Smith to the touchline. 'Start a fight, Smithy,' he said. Thinking he had misheard Smith asked Joe to repeat his instruction. He got the message loud and clear a second time and duly obliged. A trademark no-nonsense tackle provoked a skirmish. The crowd started to get into the game and, suddenly, so did Liverpool's players. A few strong challenges were delivered, the blood started to boil and Liverpool won at a canter. Joe had reminded the players of their obligations: every time they put on the red shirt they were expected to give their all.
7. Walking to work
Can you imagine a Premier League manager living just down the road from his club's own ground and walking to work each day? It's a scenario that is barely imaginable in the modern era but Joe did exactly this, living in the same semi-detached house in Anfield from the day he joined the club in 1958 until the day he died in 2001. With his trademark sheepskin coat and flat cap he was often spotted making his way up Arkles Lane to the place he called work. Passers-by would acknowledge him with a nod of the head and a polite hello, to which he would reply in kind. He could have been anyone: a regular guy out for a morning stroll to the local newsagents to pick up the papers or a pint of milk. But this was Joe Fagan, manager of the most successful club in Europe at that time.
8. When Joe met Elton
Joe's post-match hospitality towards the opposition was renowned throughout football but in terms of a culture clash there could have been few bigger mismatches than on the occasion he met Watford's diva-esque pop-star chairman Elton John following an impressive 3-1 victory over Watford in December 1982. Ever hospitable Joe welcomed Elton into the hallowed Bootroom and the conversation went as follows: 'Hey, lad, would you like a drink?' he asked. 'I'll have a pink gin please,' replied the Watford chairman. With a shake of his head and look of horror on his face, Joe replied: 'Pink gin, lad? You can have a brown ale, a Guinness or scotch, lad, and that's yer lot!'
9. Celebrating the title with a brush and shovel
A goalless draw away to Notts County in May 1984 was enough to clinch the second leg of Liverpool famous treble and the boss celebrated this momentous achievement in typical style - by sweeping the Meadow Lane dressing room floor! While most other managers in his position would have milked the occasion for what it's worth; knocking back the champagne, revelling in the back-slapping and basking in the media glare, Joe's only concern was leaving the place as he had found it, his only acts of over-indulgence that day being a rare interview with John Motson for Match of the Day and an extra-large Whiskey while sat at home in his favourite armchair watching it back later that night.
10. Treating his players like adults
Drinking lager while lazing on a beach and lapping up the sun is hardly textbook preparation for the biggest game in club football but it's exactly how Liverpool geared up for the 1984 European Cup Final. And they did so with Joe's blessing. In fact, he was there with them in Israel while opposite number Nils Liedholm and the AS Roma players were cooped up in a mountain retreat high in hills above Rome. As preparations go there could not have been a more stark contrast. A group of Italian journalists had been sent to the Holy Land with the brief of gaining a closer insight into what shape Liverpool were in ahead of the final and the news wires back to Italy were red hot with reports of Fagan's 'unprofessional approach'. Little did they know that by treating his players like adults and allowing them to let their hair down the first seeds had been sown for the ultimate European triumph.
To read more about these and other similar stories get your copy of 'Joe Fagan, Reluctant Champion - The Authorised Biography', published by Aurum Press and co-written by Joe's grandson Andrew Fagan and LFC TV producer Mark Platt. Click here to buy online now>>