It’s Bill Shankly’s birthday today and Kopites are congregating in establishments, social gatherings and the internet to discuss the impact of the man who is wholly acknowledged to have had the greatest influence on Liverpool Football Club, inspiring the team to become the footballing giant that it is today.
Shankly breezed into Anfield with his magic broom. A fiercely single minded man, he addressed the press upon arrival: "I am very pleased to and proud to have been chosen as manager of Liverpool FC, a club of such potential.
"It is my opinion that Liverpool have a crowd of followers which rank with the greatest in the game. They deserve success and I hope, in my own small way, I am able to do something towards to help them achieve it.
"I make no promises except that from the moment I take over I shall put everything into the job I so willingly undertake."
Hailing from Glenbuck, an Ayrshire coalmining village in the east of Muirkirk, Shankly was born into a family of ten. Times were hard. He received no formal education, and spent two years of his youth earning a meagre wage down the coal pits.
His hard upbringing shaped his philosophy and it was no great secret that he was greatly influenced by Robert Burns, the eminent Scottish Poet.
With his deep thinking not shackled by the formalities of a University education, Shankly provided intelligent opinion and an alternative viewpoint to almost everything. His utterances struck a chord and were lapped upon by the public.
In 1932 Shankly joined Carlisle, leaving to join Preston North End a year later. His bright thinking of the game was noted by greats such as Sir Tom Finney.
Shankly enjoyed 16 years at the Lillywhites and made 337 appearances. The Second World War affected his career like a lot of fellow professionals.
In 1956 he became manager of Huddersfield and soon after gave a young Scot called Denis Law his debut. Frustrated by a lack of ambition Shankly left the Terriers and joined Liverpool after accepting an offer from Tom Williams, the Liverpool chairman, and Harry Latham, a director. "How would you like to manage the best club in the country?" asked Williams. "Why?" Shankly replied, sharp as ever. "Is Matt Busby packing it in?"
Within a few days, Shankly was introduced as Liverpool’s new figurehead.
He told his previous charges: “I'm going to a place where they live, eat sleep and drink football. And that's my place.”
Promotion followed as Shankly formed a bedrock by introducing astute coaches, Bob Paisley, Reuben Bennett and Joe Fagan to the now heralded bootroom.
To compliment the team Shankly spotted and signed young talent like Tommy Smith, Brian Hall, Emlyn Hughes, John Toshack, Kevin Keegan and Ray Clemence amongst others. The players went on to form the bedrock of Liverpool’s conquering of planet football during the 70’s and 80’s.
In 1981, aged 68, Bill Shankly suffered a heart attack. Three days later, on 29 September, he experienced another heart attack that proved to be fatal.
Bill Shankly was not just a football manager. He was a charismatic statesman, a friend, father figure and a maverick showman all rolled in to one. He addressed fans as his “extended family.”
Shankly’s words were poetic and hung on by friend and foe alike, and the respect he commanded was undisputable.
Liverpool was a team in the doldrums, content with a position amongst the elite of the old Second Division. Shankly changed all that, kick starting a revolution that began with winning the Second Division, three Division One titles, two FA Cups and a UEFA Cup.
The Liverpool team he commanded were not just footballers, they were soldiers in battle, led by the greatest of commanders. Shankly was a feted revolutionary and it is not surprising that he is revered as a cult figure to this day.
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