A Quick 18 with David Fairclough: "We were the most feared name in football"

A Quick 18 with David Fairclough: "We were the most feared name in football"
David Fairclough

David Fairclough

They called him Super Sub but while former Liverpool legend David Fairclough will always been associated with the number 12, he took time out for a Quick 18 with Tee to Green.

1 - How did you get into golf?

It wasn’t until I retired when there was a trend for charity events. I wasn’t interested before though lots of the lads used to play. The older players like Emlyn Hughes, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, and then Alan Hansen, who was scratch at one time. But I never got involved until I retired. The lads would have golf days and I never played. I didn’t want to go out and be in that environment. I didn’t have enough confidence, possibly.

2 — What are you playing off now?

I’m off 13 though I played to about a nine the other day. I’m a member of Formby, which is a great links in Liverpool.

3 — Driver or putter?

Can I have a seven iron? Or my Scotty Cameron putter? I have a Scotty Cameron Laguna that I love.  If there was a fire, there are lots of things I’d save from the house. But from my golf bag, there’s my seven iron or my Lynx clubs. I’ve got a relationship with them now by pure chance. I met one of the owners of the company during the Ricoh Women’s British Open and it went from there.

4 — What about a cherished possession from your football days?

I have three European Cup winner’s medals but the one that means more to me is my first League Championship medal. We won that league between my 18th and 19th birthdays. To win the League Championship in my first season (1975-76) was pretty enormous really.

5 — You won six League titles, three European Cups, three League Cups, five Charity Shields, a UEFA Cup and a UEFA Super Cup between 1975 and 1983. Did you realise at the time what a great team you had?

I don’t think we did. Coverage wasn’t as big. The media didn’t intrude as much into our lives as it would now so we didn’t perhaps realise how great we were as a team and what Liverpool had. I know speaking to one of two South American friends that they felt Liverpool were the best team in the world at the time in the late ‘70s. We were the most feared name in football. We could go away and get results in very difficult places. We loved a first leg away because we’d be going back to Anfield.

6 Is there a mulligan in sport that you’d like?

I am always amazed when people say they wouldn’t change a thing. If we’re honest, we’d all change something. I do look back and I said it my autobiography last year (Supersub: The Story of Football's Most Famous Number 12, deCoubertin Books). I was a little too soft and should have been tougher and demanded I played more. If I am being honest, I don’t think people saw enough of the best of me. I could have banged my own drum a bit more.

7 Have you a special favourite in golf?

I loved Tiger Woods when he was in his pomp. What a player. But I guess I’d have to say Seve Ballesteros back in the day and Justin Rose today. I was at Royal Birkdale when he chipped in on the 18th in The Open in 1998. I was just 50 yards from him. I’ve always had a soft spot for him after the tough start he had to his career, missing all those cuts. 

8 Who was the Seve Ballesteros in that Liverpool dressing room? 

Kenny Dalglish would have been some competitor as a professional golfer. He could have applied his mental toughness to the world of golf had he gone that direction.

9 What’s your favourite major?

We all love the Masters but the Open is special and it’s on just down the road in Royal Birkdale next year.  And I’ve been to the Ricoh Women’s British Open at few times.

10 Who would be in your dream fourball?

Samuel L. Jackson would be one. We played once when he was filming the 51st State and he was completely engrossed in the golf. But afterwards when we had a cup of tea, he was more interested in me and football. I was amazed how much he knew. So Samuel L Jackson, Seve and Robert De Niro.

11 Who are your sporting heroes?

Chris Hoy in cycling after learning how much he has been through to reach the top. Steve Redgrave, Alan Wells are other athletes I admire. But I guess I am a huge Steven Gerrard fan for what he achieved over 20 years at Liverpool. He is a keen golfer too.

12 Do you think the glory days will come back around for Liverpool?

I can’t see that coming around again. I think that’s impossible to be honest. I don’t think the strength of character is there any more. You wouldn’t believe the strong characters we had in the dressing room. People like Clemence, Neal, Hughes. Thompson. Absolute winners. Then midfield players like Case and Souness, Ray Kennedy. Really strong minded individuals. We were very lucky to have as many people like that. I played with people like Smith and Callaghan. These names only come around once in a lifetime. We were fortunate to have those guys. You can see it today in their personalities what made them so special.

13 You need 11 Stevie Gerrards then?

To be honest, the modern age doesn’t develop those kids of personalities. You’d never get a group like the one Liverpool assembled over 10 years from the mid 70s to the mid 80s. It will never come around again. 

14 What characteristics do you most admire in a person?

Honesty, loyalty. Determination. I think we are in a different world nowadays. Loyalty doesn’t exist. Money determines everything. I could be very damning on loyalty. People like Bill Shankly always wanted loyalty. The modern game doesn’t build loyalty. Only the fans remain loyal. They are there through thick and thin. That’s what’s wrong with clubs. They don’t realise how loyal football fans are. Players like Stevie Gerrard were almost from a different era. He came from different stock. Ask ex-Liverpool players who’d fit into that team of the 70s and 80s and Gerrard is the one they all pick.

15 What’s your idea of perfect happiness?

That’s a tough one. I’ve had personal tragedy in my life in recent years. We lost my wife very dramatically. Seeing my children achieve things. That would be it. Knowing my children are grounded and learned lessons from us.

16 What’s the David Fairclough motto?

My mother said you can only be what you are. Be yourself. And treat people they way you’d liked to be treated.

17 When people meet you for the first time, what’s the first thing they mention?

The winner against St Etienne in the European Cup in 1977 gets mentioned, if not every day, six days out of seven. It’s unbelievable. People say, ‘I was there that night.’ It’s like a JFK moment for people of that era.

18 Gerald Sinstadt has a lot to answer for with that "Supersub strikes again!" comment.

He didn’t do a bad job for me. People always said I hated being called “Supersub" but I’ve got to be grateful now. I remember my heroes, Roger Hunt and Ian St John, scoring goals in the 60s. So for people to remember goals I scored 40 years ago, it’s just amazing. 

This Quick 18 first appeared in the Irish Independent's Thursday "Tee to Green" golf supplement on August 25, 2016.