The night Emlyn wanted to pay Arsenal players to lose
FOOTBALL hero Emlyn Hughes tried to get a team-mate to bribe players from a rival club to throw a game.
The sensational claim, made in a new book, was in fact a set-up – designed to ruin the career and reputation of legendary Liverpool hardman Tommy Smith.
England and Liverpool captain Hughes is accused by Smith of trying to incite him to bribe Arsenal players on the eve of a championship decider in the Seventies.
Hughes, says Smith, told him to pay £50-aplayer to the Arsenal team to throw a crucial end- of-season match so that Liverpool could pick up the league trophy.
However, in his book Anfield Iron, Smith, 63 last week, says he believes that Hughes was setting him up because of their burning dislike for each other.
The match-fixing incident happened at the end of the 1971-’72 season when the Reds and Leeds United were vying for the old Division One title. As Liverpool prepared for the game at Highbury, Smith says Hughes approached him to try to get their Liverpool team-mates to raise the cash to buy off the Arsenal players without their manager Bill Shankly’s knowledge.
Smith claims that Hughes told him he had been speaking to the Arsenal players who were happy to throw the match for money.
Hughes told Smith: “Look, Arsenal will finish fifth no matter what happens tonight. We pay each of them fifty quid and the game’s ours. If I go in that room and ask each of the lads for the fifty, they’ll tell me to sod off but they would give it to you.”
Smith says he was so sickened by Hughes’s proposal that it left him feeling “used and abused” by the footballer who went on to become a household name as a team captain in TV’s A Question Of Sport.
Only later, after discussing the bung outrage with close friend and team-mate Ian Callaghan, did Smith realise that Hughes had been trying to set him up. Any attempt by Smith to bribe the Arsenal players would have left him exposed nationally as a cheat.
There is no suggestion that Arsenal players were approached or agreed to a bribe.
“Over the years I have pondered this matter a lot and come to the conclusion that Emlyn hadn’t spoken to the Arsenal lads of this sordid proposal,” Smith writes. “I knew the Arsenal lads. I couldn’t imagine them agreeing to such a thing.”
Smith, who was awarded an MBE after playing 467 times for the Merseysiders as well as winning a cap for England, says Hughes’s attempt to embarrass him left him crying “tears of bitter frustration”.
He adds: “I had the strength of character not to seek any sort of retribution, for the good of the team and the club, I never alerted Shanks nor Bob (Paisley, his assistant) to the matter.
“Had I done so it would have become public knowledge and the thought of such a scandal within the club would have devastated Shanks. I couldn’t allow that to happen.”
Nevertheless the incident merely compounded Smith’s feelings of near hatred for the player dubbed “Crazy Horse” by the Anfield faithful.
Hughes died from a brain tumour three years ago at the age of 57 after a glittering career which peaked with him lifting the European Cup for Liverpool. He also appeared 62 times for England. Hughes, who once famously put his arm around Princess Anne when she appeared on A Question Of Sport, was often reviled by fellow professionals.
Smith says the team regularly travelled with an 13-man squad for away matches and players would room in twos. Hughes would stay on his own.
When the players were allowed a beer at a hotel, they split up in groups of four but Hughes would hang back and offer to buy only when everyone had a drink.
In another “despicable” incident, says Smith, Hughes almost landed a young man in trouble with the police after letting him illegally drive a car provided by the England squad.
Smith, who suffers rheumatoid arthritis and has had both knees, a hip and right elbow replaced, as well as enduring a heart attack, said at his Liverpool home: “I did not like Emlyn and he did not like me.
“There is a lot more I could say but I know his family and I don’t want to upset them.
“But I would take a lie detector tomorrow about the story.”
Anfield Iron by Tommy Smith (Bantam Press, £18.99).