The Daily Telegraph
Outstanding coach who instilled match-winning ways into generations of Liverpool footballers
RONNIE MORAN, who has died aged 83, was for half a century the unheralded heart of Liverpool Football Club; variously team captain, coach, physiotherapist, kit man and caretaker manager, he was the embodiment of Anfield’s famed Boot Room and a major contributor to the side’s dominance in the 1970s and 1980s.
Together with Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Roy Evans – all of whom succeeded their mentor Bill Shankly as manager of the club – and Reuben Bennett, Moran inculcated generations of footballers in the Liverpool way of playing. The balding Moran’s particular role was that of the hard taskmaster; his nickname was Bugsy, after the gangster Bugsy Moran.
But his constant cajoling of his charges was no more than the expression of his own beliefs: that only work in spades brought victory; that good players should be made to feel they could play still better; and that no one should rest on his laurels. It was a philosophy that during his time on the bench, from 1966 until 1998, brought the club 12 league titles, four European Cups, 2 Uefa Cups, four FA Cups and the League Cup five times.
Moran was so dedicated to Liverpool that he played for the team on the afternoon of his wedding, and even in old age would stretch his legs by walking around the training ground at Melwood. He was always most comfortable there, rather than in the limelight when he briefly took over as manager following Kenny Dalglish’s resignation in 1991, and again the following year after Graeme Souness had heart surgery, allowing Moran to lead the team out for the FA Cup Final.
For it was from the dossiers he compiled on training sessions, and through the discussions of players and opponents in the Boot Room, that many matches were won; Moran sat through more than 1,400 as a coach, missing just one in 25 years. When someone referred to the Boot Room as the officers’ mess, Kenny Dalglish corrected him: “They’re not officers; they’re generals.”
Ronald Moran was born at Crosby, on Merseyside, on February 28 1934. He was the youngest of nine children of a family with Irish origins, although his surname could be traced back to Spanish sailors wrecked off Ireland during the Armada. His father worked as a binman.
Having a bent for mathematics, Ronnie passed the 11-plus and went to Bootle Technical College, which had the best football team in the area. Originally a centre forward, he played for Lancashire Schools and was recommended by his postman to Liverpool’s chairman, TV Valentine. He signed forms with the club a week before Everton approached him.
By then he was an apprentice electrician at Liverpool’s docks. All his life, he retained an awareness of what the club meant to the working population of the city. Duty came naturally to him, as did self-discipline, virtues reinforced by his subsequent stint in the REME as a vehicle mechanic during National Service.
Having been shifted to left back simply because there was a vacancy there, Moran made his first team debut at 18, against Derby. In the mid-1950s, Liverpool had declined following a period of post-war glory and were mired in the Second Division. This changed decisively, shortly after Moran had been appointed captain, when Bill Shankly became manager in 1959.
Moran recognised almost immediately that the team was bound for better things with the Scotsman at the helm. The first sign was his changes to training, which replaced an emphasis on distance running for one that mirrored the short bursts of action on the pitch.
Shankly was not a great believer in coaching tactics – “Don’t tell them anything, son” – he said when Ian St John went on an FA course – but awareness was all: of where to pass, and where to run.
Not that Shankly did not prize physical commitment and a desire not to yield. Powerfully built, Moran was not the quickest defender, but he read the game well, was ferociously competitive and retained a fierce shot in his left foot. He often took the side’s penalties. As talents such as Ron Yeats and Roger Hunt were recruited, Liverpool won the Second Division title in 1962, and two years later were champions of England.
By then Moran was as good a full-back as any in the league, although he was kept out of the England side by Ray Wilson. And as his career at Anfield started to wind down, he was increasingly replaced in the side by Gerry Byrne.
His chief regret was not being selected for the 1965 FA Cup Final, in which Byrne played throughout with a broken collarbone, no substitutes then being allowed.
The last two of his 379 matches for the club were the semi-finals of the European Cup against Inter Milan a few days later. Straight afterwards, Shankly put him in charge of the reserve side.
An illuminating biography of Ronnie Moran, Mr Liverpool, was published earlier this month. Latterly. he had been suffering from vascular dementia.
He is survived by his wife Joyce, whom he married in 1957, and by their son Paul. Their daughter Janet predeceased him.
Ronnie Moran, born February 28 1934, died March 22 2017