Ian St John (born 7 June 1938, Motherwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland) is a former Scottish footballer, who played for Scotland 21 times. He later became a manager and pundit. In 2008 he was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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 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, which included the flying, whiplash header that he hammered past Leeds United's Gary Sprake to win the FA Cup in 1965, for the first time in the club's history.
Another League championship followed in the 1965–66 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.
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.
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.
St John was sold to Coventry City on 25 August 1971 after playing 424 games and scoring 118 goals for Liverpool. He played for Coventry for just that season, before moving on to Tranmere Rovers for the 1972–73 season, after which he retired.
After playing career
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). As Motherwell manager, St John sold goalkeeper Keith MacRae and gave a debut to young forward Willie Pettigrew. Motherwell finished ninth in the 1973–74 season, his only term in charge.
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 poll, 100 Players Who Shook The Kop.
In June 2014 he announced that he had undergone surgery for bladder cancer in April of that year, removing his bladder and prostate gland.
- Football League First Division (2): 1963–64, 1965–66
- Football League Second Division (1): 1961–62
- FA Cup (1): 1964–65
- FA Charity Shield (3): 1964, 1965, 1966
- Signed for Granada Television in 1978
- Presenter of World of Sport for ITV in 1979
- Joined forces with Jimmy Greaves for the Saint and Greavsie football preview show 1984
- Appeared with Jimmy Greaves in "Saint and Greavsie's Trivia Challenge" computer game. Developed by Core Design, published by Grandslam Entertainment
- Hosted Sport In Question for Central Independent Television, part networked by ITV for several series in the mid-1990s.
- Pundit for 6 World Cups and 5 European Championships for ITV
- Co-presenter of The Saint and Beekie with Graham Beecroft on Talksport radio in the early 2000s.
- Writer of a column for the Sunday Post called 'Saint on Sunday'
- Contributes to Radio City 96.7 sport