TWENTY five years may have passed since he missed out on the “ultimate souvenir” but Brian Barwick is still kicking himself.
It was May 3 1986 and Barwick had just witnessed Liverpool player-boss Kenny Dalglish clinch the league title with the winner at Stamford Bridge.
The first leg of a dream double had been secured and in his role as a journalist with BBC Sport, the lifelong Reds fan was tasked with securing some post-match reaction for Grandstand.
“As the players headed down the Stamford Bridge tunnel in triumph I followed them and knocked on their dressing room,” he said.
“Suddenly a voice cried out.“Brian, come in, what do you need?” It was Kenny from inside the team’s private quarters.
“I took him up on his offer and found myself the only ‘outsider’ in the inner sanctum. Kenny gestured to me to sit next to him and I just let my professional face slip for a few moments and enjoyed a unique opportunity to share in my own team’s post-match celebrations.
“This was the team of great characters, the likes of Bruce Grobbelaar, Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson, Craig Johnston, Jan Molby and Ian Rush.
“And the players were absolutely cock-a-hoop with having clinched the title with a strong run-in which ultimately out-paced their chief rivals Everton and West Ham. The atmosphere in the dressing room was electric.
“I nearly left with the ultimate souvenir. As Kenny celebrated with his team-mates he joyously ripped off his famous number seven red shirt and hurled it at me.
“These were the days before shirt-swapping and the collecting craze of football memorabilia had really got under way.
“I caught Kenny’s shirt and held it for a few moments then just as I had designs on taking it with me out of the dressing room, Ronnie Moran, the Boot Room’s sergeant major, took charge of gathering all the sweat-soaked jerseys, spotted the errant shirt in my possession and swiftly took it from my grasp. Just so it could be part of the laundry!
“Even now, over 25 years later, I still kick myself for not having vacated the Liverpool dressing room seconds earlier with that shirt on that special day.”
It’s one of the many stories recounted in his entertaining autobiography ‘Anfield Days and Wembley Ways’ which charts his journey from growing up as a fanatical Reds fan in Childwall to the corridors of power at Soho Square.
From BBC sports producer, to editor of Match of the Day, controller of ITV Sport and then chief executive of the Football Association – Barwick has enjoyed a remarkable career.
He’s the former Quarry Bank pupil who went on to oversee the completion of the new Wembley and hire England managers Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello.
But throughout the past half a century one part of his life hasn’t changed – his undying love for Liverpool Football Club.
October 28 sees the 50th anniversary of his first game at Anfield – a Second Division clash with Leyton Orient.
Barwick, now based in Twickenham, remains a frequent visitor to Anfield and his admiration for the man whose shirt he nearly walked away with shines through.
“I have dropped in and out of Kenny’s life for off and on 30 years but always felt that bit happier for having spent some time in his company,” he said.
“And I have been the beneficiary of numerous acts of kindness from him and Marina, his wife and rock.
“As I was making my way through the ranks at the BBC it coincided with his special time at Anfield.
“He was a man who wouldn’t suffer fools gladly, could be obtuse, answer a question with a question – he still does – but once you had won his trust he was on your side. And I managed to do just that.
“By 1980 I was working at the BBC in its famous sports department. My career with them began as an assistant producer, then as producer of Football Focus and onwards to the highly-valued and influential role of editor of Match of the Day – all inside 10 years and Kenny and Liverpool were top dogs during this period.
“Whether it was choosing their fixtures to broadcast, editing their games to the right length, selecting the right interview or crafting the programme’s closing images with them featured, Liverpool were the television team of this era and Dalglish the main attraction.
“What Liverpool had in Dalglish, the manager, was a man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the game, both here and abroad. He would occasionally come into the Sportsnight offices in London, where we had broadcast feeds from football all over Europe. He would watch six games at a time and have the uncanny knack of never missing a goal scored in any of them. And he seemed to know every player on every pitch.”
Barwick’s rapport with Dalglish came in handy once again after Liverpool had completed the double in 1986 by beating Everton at Wembley and returned to the city for the open-top bus tour. He recalls: “I was on the Liverpool bus as it made its way slowly around the crowded streets. My professional brief was to grab reactions from the players as they were feted by their supporters.
“As we reached the outskirts of Childwall via Queens Drive I told Kenny how my mother stood at the same spot at the Fiveways each time either Liverpool or Everton brought the cup home.
“Typically mischievous, Kenny waited his moment and as we approached he pushed me to the front of the bus and there I was next to Liverpool’s all-conquering heroes and the FA Cup itself.
“And yes, I did then spot my mum and it took all of what was left of my professional discipline not to lift the famous trophy as she waved us by!”