Posted: 8/10/2013


     Of all the legendary British coaches of the past half century, William 'Bill' Shankly is probably the most folksy. When he arrived at Anfield in 1959 it was a dump, as was the training ground at Melwood. and they were in the Second Division. When he decided to retire at the comparatively 'young' age of 60 he had changed the club out of all recognition.

    When you look back to the history of this great club and its many European Cups and Champions League trophies its difficult to realise that Bill was not in charge for any of them, but he had laid the foundation....and what a foundation. Born in a small Scottish mining village, one of 5 boys, all became pros, and five sisters, he played 12 times as a right half for Scotland, and most of his playing career at Preston North End.

     David Peace's 720 page book may not be for everyone unless you are a Reds fan. No photos and a repetitive writing style covering most of his matches in charge, its like a rat tat tat tat, rat tat tat tat...the sound of an old steam train on those short rails with the gaps in between. Last week I was at a standing room only crowd at Waterstones, Leeds, where he took the floor with Anthony Clavane, whose latest award winning book 'Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here' is now in paperback, for a book reading and discussion.

    His RED OR DEAD book is in two halves, 45 chapters in each. The 15 years until he handed over the reins in 1974 and the second half when he was retired and divorced from the club. Instead of having his loyal backroom staff dismissed by a new manager from outside bringing in his own men, Bob Paisley took over. Bill continued to turn up at Melwood and interfered, and was asked to stay away.

     His managerial career started at Carlisle and then Grimsby and Workington before a successful spell at Huddersfield Town. He thought that they lacked ambition and moved across the Pennines to Liverpool in December 1959 for a 500 a year increase, from 2,000.00 A YEAR at Town.

     Liverpool had been relegated from the First Division 5 years earlier and in that last seson at the top I had paid 9d (4 pence today's money) to go and watch their great winger Billy Liddell, play away at Blackpool. Shankly quickly established a fine working relationship with his staff including Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Reuben Bennett, and bought a semi-detached house overlooking the Everton training ground at Bellefield in West Derby, with his wife Nessie and two daughters.

     His fitness regime, 5 a side games and a 'sweat box' game, plus cooling down and after practice baths paid dividends. He and his staff worked through the summer holidays and he went around the country recruiting players after releasing two dozen the first season. Ron Yeats and Ian St. John came over the border. Tommy Lawrence came though the youth system along with Jimmy Melia, Ronnie Moran , Alan A'Court, Gerry Byrne and Roger Hunt.

     It took 6 years but they won the F.A. Cup for the first time in 1965 and they started competing in Europe and adopted an all red kit. Players were then earning 35.00 a week, about the same as a young school teacher, with 50,000 plus in the Anfield 'classroom', rather than 30 pupils. He added key players such as Willie Stevenson, Peter Thompson, Emlyn Hughhes, Alun Evans, Ray Clemence, John Toshack, Steve Heighway and Kevin Keegan. When he did take a vacation it was always to The Norbreck Hydro at Blackpool, where I used to cycle 5 miles to, and watch post Munich Manchester United train before big matches.

     The last time I saw him was after he had won the F.A. Cup in 1974 and announced his retirement, he sat on the bench at The F.A Charity Shield v League Champions Leeds United at Wembley. Charity indeed ! Billy Bremer and Kevin Keegan got into a scrap, both were sent off and both took their jerseys off and flung them to the pitch. It finished 1-1 and 'Pool won on pk's 6-5.

    Home crowds, including The Kop were passionate, but on the road could be a problem. I was at the 1976 UEFA CUP Final 2nd leg when drunken Reds fans, who had spent their money on booze, caused havoc on the North Sea ferry, boarded the Ostend-Bruges train without paying and at the stadium tried to climb over the turnstiles en mass after attempting to rob fans of their tickets. Shankly had been invited, but was given a ticket on a fans plane and a hotel room away from the team hotel.

   Bob Paisley went on to win 20 trophies in 9 years including 6 League Championships, 3 League Cups, 6 Charity Shields, 3 European Cups, 1 UEFA CUP and one UEFA Super Cup.

   Bill Shankly died on September 29th 1981 and his ashes were scattered on the Kop end of the Anfield pitch.

     The 15 foot caste iron  Shankly Gates were opened in 1982 inscribed You'll Never Walk Alone and in 1997 a seven foot bronze staue of Shankly was erected in front of the stadium. 1n 1998 at Preston North End's Deepdale the new all seater Kop had an image of Shankly's head and shoulders built into the coloured seats. This year he was honoured by the Post Office with special postage stamp.

     " Some people believe that football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude-it is much, much, more important than that."