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Blog/Phil Thompson: Former LFC Player's Extraordinary Career and Life Off-Pitch
Phil Thompson: Former LFC Player's Extraordinary Career and Life Off-Pitch
2 min read

Phil Thompson: Former LFC Player's Extraordinary Career and Life Off-Pitch

2 min read
phil-thompson-football-career
Kyle McManusDec 23, 2021

A Closer Look at the Football Player and Pundit's Achievements

Philip Bernard Thompson is a former footballer, manager, and pundit. He has played for Liverpool and Sheffield United, temporarily managed the Reds, and worked with the University of Liverpool on its innovative Football Industries MBA.

Join us as we take a look at Phil Thompson's remarkable career on and off the pitch, starting with his debut match. We'll also explore his personal life and reveal how you can receive a special message from Thompson today.

The Liverpool champs with their trophies. Image credit: LFC.
The Liverpool champs with their trophies. Image credit: LFC.

How Long Did Thompson Play for Liverpool FC?

Thompson had an incredible opportunity to sign for Liverpool the day after he turned 17 years old, after passionately supporting the team throughout his childhood. He made his debut as defender in a game against Manchester United in 1972, and was instrumental in helping Liverpool win both the UEFA Cup and League championship the following year. Thompson received league and UEFA Cup medals for his part in these achievements.

Phil Thompson in the prime of his time playing for the Reds. Image credit: Liverpool Echo.
Phil Thompson in the prime of his time playing for the Reds. Image credit: Liverpool Echo.

In the next season, Thompson formed a tight defensive pair with Emlyn Hughes, then the club's captain. Unfortunately, Thompson went on to miss a number of matches in the 1977 season after suffering an injury. He was unable to join his teammates on the pitch when Liverpool claimed its first European Cup by beating Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome, shortly after losing the FA Cup Final against Manchester United.

In 1979, Thompson started playing alongside Alan Hansen (his new fellow defender) and took over Liverpool's captaincy after Emlyn Hughes transferred to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Thompson led the team to win the League in 1980 and the 1981 European Cup, after defeating Real Madrid.

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Graeme Souness later replaced Thompson as captain, but Thompson continued to play in defence successfully for some time. Sadly, an injury again forced him to miss another crucial match for the club: the 1982 League Cup final. He was later signed by Sheffield United after declining to sign up as Swindon Town's manager in 1985. However, Thompson felt the time was right to retire as a player, and started working as a coach for Liverpool instead.

How Many Times Did Phil Thompson Play for England?

Thompson made a total of 42 appearances for England between 1976 and 1982.

Thompson plays the match of a lifetime for England. Image credit: Phil Thompson/Twitter.
Thompson plays the match of a lifetime for England. Image credit: Phil Thompson/Twitter.

He played for England for the first time in a friendly against Wales, which England won 2 - 1. He scored his first goal for the national team in another friendly game, this time against Italy, that same year. He made eight appearances for England in 1976, then again in 1979. Thompson made 11 appearances, his highest number for England, in 1982.

When Was Phil Thompson Assistant Manager for Liverpool FC?

Thompson stepped into this role in 1998, when Gerard Houllier signed up to manage Liverpool. Roy Evans had been the team's manager since 1994, and was initially expected to share managing duties with Gerard Houllier in the wake of long-time coach Robbie Moran's retirement.

However, Evans soon resigned, and Houllier took sole charge of the Reds. However, he wanted to work with someone who knew Liverpool in great detail, and Thompson's experience of playing with the Reds made him an obvious choice for the job. Together, the former Liverpool captain and Houllier shepherded the club to earn the 'treble': winning the UEFA Cup, FA Cup, and League Cup in 2001.

Thompson takes his career into the next phase. Image credit: Minute Media.
Thompson takes his career into the next phase. Image credit: Minute Media.

Thompson later served as caretaker manager for several months when Houllier needed a heart operation in October 2001. However, he stepped down from his role after Houllier left LFC in 2004.

When speaking to the Liverpool Echo in 2015, Thompson discussed what it takes to be a successful second-in-command: "The big important issue about the relationship between the manager and his assistant is trust. It has to be 100%. It is most important the players see the manager and assistant are together and of one voice when they are in front of them."

Why Didn't Phil Thompson Join Houllier at Aston Villa?

Thompson declined the offer to sign up with Aston Villa as assistant manager when Houllier started managing the club in 2010. Thompson said that the "thought of doing a daily commute on the M6" and not wanting to "uproot" his wife and children, contributed to his refusal to sign up for the job.

Phil Thompson and Gerard Houllier celebrate their win. Image credit: Getty Images.
Phil Thompson and Gerard Houllier celebrate their win. Image credit: Getty Images.

Thompson has also discussed how demanding being part of Liverpool's management team was at times. "When you work with Gerard, you are signing up to 12 hour days," he said, "in other words, you have to be totally committed." He did, though, say that he "would love to throw [himself] at such a challenge again" when speaking of the job offer.

How Long Was Phil Thompson a Pundit on Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday?

Thompson was a popular pundit on Soccer Saturday, a major weekly Sky Sports football programme, and appeared on well over 400 episodes between 1998 and 2020. Thompson, and fellow pundits Charles Nicholas and Matt Le Tissier, all left Sky Sports when the broadcaster chose to sign new talent for Soccer Saturday in 2020.

The younger generation might remember Thompson more for 'Soccer Saturdays'. Image credit: Sky Sports.
The younger generation might remember Thompson more for 'Soccer Saturdays'. Image credit: Sky Sports.

The former player has looked back on his time with Sky Sports positively, and understands how much viewers invested in him and his co-pundits. "We did it for 16 years," he said, as reported by The Daily Mail. "Even though people didn't remember us as players, they knew us as Soccer Saturday. So it was part of their life." He continued that it "even became a cult thing", and praised Jeff Stelling as "the best TV sports presenter."

What Other Television Shows Has Phil Thompson Appeared On?

Thompson has featured on many TV programmes since he became a professional footballer. He has appeared on the hit BBC sports-themed panel show A Question of Sport twice (to date), World Football Focus, FC Football, The Debate, and more.

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He also played a version of himself in the 2020 series Pundits. This followed Thompson ("Tommo"), Matt Le Tissier, Alan Curbishley, and Charlie Nicholas as they broadcasted from home during lockdown.

Who is Phil Thompson Married To?

Margaret Thompson & Phil Thompson married in Knowsley in 1981. The former footballer keeps his personal life private, and Margaret appears to avoid being seen in the media.

What Are Phil Thompson's Hobbies?

Thompson has kept much of his personal life and interests private, though he has discussed his love of tennis. He started taking an interest in the sport because of his two younger sons. Thompson has said that his boys "played tennis on a regular basis and [they] went round the north-west, sometimes up into Scotland."

Thompson with his five sons. Image credit: Phil Thompson/Twitter.
Thompson with his five sons. Image credit: Phil Thompson/Twitter.

Thompson's Work with the University of Liverpool

The University of Liverpool appointed Thompson as a Visiting Fellow in 2005, based on his work with the university's Football Industries MBA. This caters to students from all over the world.

Thompson is active on the social media network Twitter, and has more than 267,000 followers. He regularly shares his views on football, related issues, and other types of media on his Twitter account.

Don't kick off yet...

If you're a fan of Phil Thompson, whether you used to watch him play or you tuned in to Soccer Saturday every week for his expert insights, you can book a unique video message from the man himself at Thrillz right now. Request a shout-out for a fellow fan, treat yourself, or mark a special occasion with a personalised message from Phil Thompson today!

Kyle McManus
Kyle McManusCopywriter
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