Honours Won : League Championship (1947)
George Kay was recruited from Southampton in June 1936, to replace George Patterson, who was unable to continue the managerial side of his role. Kay’s career as Liverpool manager started poorly, with only three wins and four draws from the first twelve matches. This run included a 2-6 defeat at Portsmouth’s Fratton Park on 2 September and a 2-5 defeat at Brentford; the only bright spot in this spell was a 7-1 victory over Grimsby Town on 12 September, with two goals from Fred Howe. Results improved slightly as the season progressed and Liverpool finished Kay’s first season in charge in 18th place in Division 1.
Despite the set-back of an opening day 1-6 defeat at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, Liverpool finished the 1937-38 season comfortably in mid-table, with Alf Hanson top scorer on 14 league goals. In the following season, Liverpool again finished in 11th position in the table, with Berry Nieuwenhuys, Willie Fagan and Phil Taylor joint top scorers in the league with 14 goals each.
In readiness for the next season, Kay snapped up young defender Bob Paisley on a free transfer from Bishop Auckland, as well as another future Liverpool legend Billy Liddell, but all their careers were then interrupted by the outbreak of World War II.
After the war, the club took the unusual decision to tour the United States and Canada. It was Kay’s theory that the climate and diet in North America would be extremely beneficial to the players. The punishing schedule of 10 matches in less than a month meant that the Liverpool squad started the first post-war season in far better physical shape than many of their competitors.
The season started slowly, with four victories and three defeats in the first seven games. The victories included a 7-4 match against Chelsea on 7 September, in which Bob Paisley made his league debut for the club and Billy Liddell scored his first league goal. There was also a 5-0 defeat away to Manchester United (played at Maine Road). Things began to improve and a run of seven consecutive victories in February and March set the club on the way to the championship.
Liverpool had a long run in the F.A. Cup, eventually going out to Burnley in the semi-final, after a replay. The club did, however, pick up the Lancashire Senior Cup, Lancashire County Combination Championship Cup and Liverpool Senior Cup along the way.
As the season reached its climax, several clubs were still in contention and on 31 May 1947 Liverpool went to Molineux to meet the leaders, Wolverhampton Wanderers needing to win to take the championship, as well as other results going in their favour. Liverpool won the match 2-1, other results went their way and the Reds were champions of the Football League for a fifth time. It was George Kay’s finest moment as a football manager.
Top scorers in the Championship season were Jack Balmer and Albert Stubbins with 24 league goals each. They continued to be prolific scorers during Kay’s period in charge but the club was unable to come close to another championship, finishing each of the next three seasons in the lower part of the top half of the table. In 1950, they reached the F.A. Cup final for the first time in 36 years, but the match at Wembley ended in a 2-0 victory for Arsenal.
By now, Kay was clearly not a well man and he retired in January 1951, to be replaced by Don Welsh