Stephen Derek Heighway (born 25 November 1947) is a former footballer who was part of the hugely successful Liverpool team of the 1970s.
Life and playing career:
Born in Dublin, some of Steve’s early education took place in Sheffield where he attended Ecclesall Junior School (until 1959) followed by High Storrs School, and latterly Moseley Hall Grammar School for Boys in Cheadle, Stockport.
Heighway’s early promise as a winger was not spotted by professional clubs as he reached his adolescence and therefore, as a bright lad, he concentrated on his studies and played in the non-league game while completing a degree in economics at the University of Warwick (where he started in 1966).
In 1970, Heighway was studying for his final exams and playing for Skelmersdale United when he was spotted by Liverpool’s scouting system. With manager Bill Shankly keen to rebuild his ageing, underachieving team of the 1960s completely, Heighway was signed up swiftly in the May of ’70. It was due to Heighway’s academic achievements that he got his nickname ‘Big Bamber’, team-mate and fellow academic Brian Hall was dubbed ‘Little Bamber’ both after the television programme University Challenge host Bamber Gascoigne.
A strong and pacey left winger with two good feet, Heighway settled into top flight football with some ease after making his debut on 22 September 1970 in a League Cup 2nd round replay at Anfield, Mansfield Town were the visitors and almost caused an upset with the Reds scraping through in the end by 3 goals to 2, Alun Evans scored the winner in extra time. Steve opened his goalscoring account in the 51st minute of a 2-0 home league win over Burnley on the 21 October ’70.
A month later he scored against fierce Merseyside rivals Everton in a hard-fought 3-2 win, this after the Reds had found themselves 2-0 down not long into the second half. He stayed in the side for the rest of the season as Liverpool’s new charges finished the League campaign strongly and also defeated Everton in the semi-finals of the FA Cup to reach the final at Wembley.
Their opponents were Arsenal, who were after a coveted “double” having won the League championship. Heighway played confidently in a match which was goalless after 90 minutes and therefore needed a period of extra-time.
Just two minutes into the added half-hour, Heighway received the ball wide on his left flank from substitute Peter Thompson (ironically, the man whose place Heighway had ultimately taken) and started a run towards the Arsenal penalty area, with Gunners full back Pat Rice tracking his run but unwilling to put in a tackle.
With a swift turn outside Heighway gained a yard on Rice and hit a low drive into the net past Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson who had committed the cardinal goalkeeping sin of coming out too far from his near post to anticipate a cross, thereby leaving a gap. Heighway exploited this gap and Liverpool were ahead. It was notable that despite the joy of the moment, Heighway could barely move to celebrate due to the extreme heat and fatigue and just decided to raise his arms in triumph from a standing position while his team-mates came to congratulate him.
Sadly for Heighway and Liverpool, their opponents scored two goals in response and won the “double”. However, the goal scored by Heighway has (to Wilson’s embarrassment) become one of the most shown goals to young goalkeepers as an example of what can go wrong if the keeper’s positioning is not correct.
Heighway settled into the Liverpool team for the next decade, winning the first of four League titles in 1973, along with the UEFA Cup. He returned to Wembley for another FA Cup final a year later as Liverpool faced Newcastle United.
This time Liverpool were not troubled. Heighway scored again with 16 minutes of the game remaining to make it 2-0, latching on to a flick from John Toshack after a long clearance from goalkeeper Ray Clemence to slot a right footed shot into the far corner. The game ended 3-0.
By now, Heighway was a regular for the Republic of Ireland making his debut on the 23 September 1970 against Poland. He remained so for the whole of the 1970s, winning a total of 34 caps. Steve never managed to score for the Republic. However, he did have a goal disallowed in a qualifier for the 1978 World Cup against Bulgaria in Sofia. If the goal had stood it would have meant Ireland and not France quailifying for Argentina. On the domestic front, he attained another League and UEFA Cup double with Liverpool in 1976 and then formed part of the side which came so close to the glorious “treble” of League, FA Cup and European Cup.
Liverpool won the League by a single point and again defeated rivals Everton in the semi-final to reach the FA Cup final, this time to face bitter rivals Manchester United at Wembley. With a European Cup final due in Rome four days later, Heighway and his team-mates had a great chance to make footballing history.
It never happened. Liverpool lost 2-1 at Wembley and the “treble” dream was dead. However, they went on to beat Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1 to win their first European Cup, with Heighway setting up both of Liverpool’s outfield goals for Terry McDermott, a defence splitting pass, and Tommy Smith, a corner. The third was a penalty from Phil Neal.
In 1978 Heighway was on the bench as Liverpool retained the European Cup with a 1-0 victory over FC Bruges at Wembley, coming on as a substitute for Jimmy Case. The following year he was again in the side frequently as Liverpool won yet another League title, but from 1980 onwards his opportunities in the side diminished.
Heighway stayed for two more seasons, appearing only occasionally in the team and missing out on two more League title medals, another European Cup triumph and a first League Cup medal, which was successfully defended a year later. He left Anfield in 1982 after 444 matches and 76 goals.
He decided to ply his trade in the U.S. with Minnesota Kicks for the 1981 season. He played 30 games, scored 4 goals and assisted on 8 others. He then joined the coaching staff of Umbro, which led to a position at the Clearwater Chargers Youth Soccer Club where he pioneered the role of Director of Coaching in the United States. Steve continued his successes with the Chargers and in 1989 was asked to rejoin Liverpool to run their youth academy, bringing promising youngsters up through the system until they were ready for the professional game. Among Heighway’s successes are Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Dominic Matteo, David Thompson and Michael Owen.
On 4 September 2006, a poll on Liverpoolfc.tv (Liverpool’s official web site) named Heighway 23rd out of 100 Players Who Shook The Kop.
Heighway officially announced his retirement from Liverpool on 26 April 2007, immediately after the side he managed won the FA Youth Cup for the second year running: he commented: “I don’t know what the future holds just yet, we’ll have to wait and see”.