Ian St John

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Ian St John
Ian St John (1966).jpg
Ian St John in 1966
Personal information
Full name Ian St John[1]
Date of birth (1938-06-07) 7 June 1938 (age 80)
Place of birth Motherwell, Scotland
Playing position Centre-forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1957–1961 Motherwell 113 (80)
1961–1971 Liverpool 336 (95)
1971 Hellenic 23 (4)
1971–1972 Coventry City 18 (3)
1972 Cape Town City
1972–1973 Tranmere Rovers 9 (1)
National team
1959–1965 Scotland 21 (9)
1959–1961 Scottish League XI 4 (6)
Teams managed
1973–1974 Motherwell
1974–1977 Portsmouth
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Ian St John (born 7 June 1938) is a former footballer who played for Scotland 21 times and for Liverpool throughout most of the 1960s as a stalwart member of the team that won several major championships and was runners-up for several more. He later became a manager and pundit. In 2008, he was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.

Early career[edit]


Ian St John began his career at boyhood favourites Motherwell where managed by Bobby Ancell he was part of the conveyor belt of talent that was nicknamed the "Ancell Babes". Among the coaching staff at Fir Park was someone destined to play a significant role in his career, Reuben Bennett.[2] St John's debut was against Dumfries side Queen of the South in an away fixture at Palmerston Park. St John scored one of the fastest hat-tricks in Scottish football history when at Motherwell: two minutes and 30 seconds, against Hibernian in 1959.


On 2 May 1961 he transferred to Liverpool where Bennett was now part of Bill Shankly's 'Boot Room' coaching staff.[2] The fee was more than double the previous highest transfer fee paid by Anfield's board, £37,500. He was brought to the club by manager Bill Shankly, who was preparing for his second season as Liverpool manager with the club still in the Second Division. Many years later, after Shankly's retirement as manager, he described St John's arrival at the club – along with that of Ron Yeats the same summer – as the "turning point" for the club as they began their transformation into one of Europe's top footballing sides.[3]

Ian made his debut in a red shirt against Merseyside rivals Everton in the Liverpool Senior Cup Final. Although Liverpool lost 4–3, he announced his arrival in spectacular style by scoring all three of his side's goals. That first game served notice of the new boy's talent for goals, returning totals of 18, 19 and 21 goals in his first three seasons. His official debut came in a 2–0 2nd Division victory over Bristol Rovers at the Eastville Stadium on 19 August 1961, his first official goals came 11 days later on the 30th when he bagged a brace in the 39th and 90th minutes of a 4–1 win over Sunderland at Roker Park, strike partner Roger Hunt got the other two in the 26th and 69th minutes, the two would go on to strike up a formidable partnership which tormented defences in England and Europe.[citation needed]

Along with Ron Yeats, St John was brought in to turn around Liverpool's luck as they had finished 3rd or 4th six times in a row in Division 2 thus missing out on promotion back to the big time by a single spot on each occasion. The purchases paid dividends as Liverpool romped to the 2nd Division title by eight points over Leyton Orient with St John playing 40 times scoring 18 goals. They finished a respectable 8th in their first season back in the top flight but surprised everyone by winning the League Championship the following season[2] overturning a 17-point deficit to win the title by 4 points over bitter rivals Manchester United and five over reigning champions Everton, St John played a major role in the title success appearing 40 times scoring 19 goals. He went on to score many vital goals for Liverpool, including a diving header past Leeds United's Gary Sprake in extra time, the winning goal in the FA Cup in 1965,[2] the first time in the club's history it won that trophy.

Another League championship followed in the 1965–66 season as Liverpool finished six points clear of Leeds. St John chipped in with 10 goals from 41 outings. He and the rest of Liverpool tasted defeat, however, as they were beaten in their first European final, Borussia Dortmund beat them 2–1 at Hampden Park in the Cup Winners Cup.[2]

St John was selected to play for Scotland 21 times, making his debut, as a Motherwell player, in a 3–2 friendly victory over Germany at Hampden Park on 6 May 1959. The first of his 9 goals came a year later, again, at Hampden, but this time in a 3–2 friendly defeat at the hands of Poland on 4 May 1960.[citation needed]

Like the vast majority of Bill Shankly's first great team, St John was at his peak during the mid-1960s. And as he entered his thirties during the latter years of that decade his form and fitness began to dip, until the end came as it did for several other members of his side, with the shock FA Cup defeat at Watford on 21 February 1970.[4]

He left on 25 August 1971 after playing 424 games and scoring 118 goals for Liverpool.

Coventry City and Tranmere Rovers[edit]

St John transferred to Coventry City where he played for Coventry for just one season,.

He then moved on to Tranmere Rovers for the 1972–73 season, after which he retired from playing.[citation needed]

After playing career[edit]

Since retiring from playing he has managed both former club Motherwell (1973–1974) and Portsmouth (1974–1977). He served as assistant manager at Sheffield Wednesday (1978–1979) and Coventry City (1972–1973).[5] As Motherwell manager, St John sold goalkeeper Keith MacRae and gave a debut to young forward Willie Pettigrew.[6] Motherwell finished ninth in the 1973–74 season, his only term in charge.[6]

He retired from club management after leaving Wednesday in 1979, and became a football pundit, striking up a successful TV partnership with fellow ex-footballer Jimmy Greaves which lasted until the end of the Saint and Greavsie programme in 1992. He has also set up several football academies for the coaching of younger players called the Ian St John Soccer Camps. Often still seen at Anfield, St John is still a crowd favourite and was voted in at No.21 on the Official Liverpool Football Club website[7] poll, 100 Players Who Shook The Kop.[citation needed]


In June 2014 he announced that he had undergone surgery for bladder cancer in April of that year, removing his bladder and prostate gland.[8]





  1. ^ "Ian St John". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "BBC - Beginning a football revolution". BBC News. 30 November 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  4. ^ This is only partially true: in his own book, My Autobiography (London: 2005, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd,; ISBN 0-340-84114-1 pp.195/6) St John records the first time he was dropped – against Newcastle United F.C. in autumn 1969
  5. ^ "Ian St John - Football Ian St John". After Dinner Speakers 4 U. 7 June 1938. Archived from the original on 6 October 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Ian St. John". www.motherwellfc.co.uk. Motherwell FC. Archived from the original on 29 June 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Home - Liverpool FC". Liverpoolfc.tv. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  8. ^ "Liverpool FC legend Ian St John recovering from cancer operation". BBC. 10 June 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2014.

External links[edit]