December 5, 1959
Sergeant-Major with the human touch
What is the background to the 46-year old fast-talking Scot – Bill Shankly – who will take over in the New Year the job of equipping Liverpool F.C. for a drive which, if his plans work out, will take the Anfield club into the First Division?
He has been described as a football fanatic, and ace believer in youth, an over-keen disciplinarian, and a personality better equipped to teach the game than to provide the finesse and diplomatic touch which a manager is expected to possess.
None of these tags is strictly accurate – they have gained popularity and credence by repetition.
Shankly, married with two school-aged daughters, is an out-an-out enthusiast for the game which has brought him a profitable living since he joined Preston North End from a Scottish junior side in the 1930s.
He will talk, argue and put forward theories about Soccer with anyone. He is not a fanatic, but an enthusiastic specialist, who expects similar devotion to the game from his club’s professionals.
From those players he demands fitness – and, training with them, he sees that it is achieved. The must be contentious on and off duty. In this respect he has had few, if any, troubles at Huddersfield.
“An ace believer in youth . . .” That indeed got around when Shankly transfer listed or gave ‘frees’ to 13 players, including several of considerable experience at the end of the 1956-57 season.”
The headway made by his young, inherited players such as Kevin McHale and Denis Law, who were not 17 on their Second Division debuts – and the fact that a couple of years ago Huddersfield’s first team average age was between 21 and 22 supported a theory that Shankly didn’t want “old heads” in his team.
But Bill McGarry, captain and left-half, will be 32 next birthday. And, in the last eighteen months, the Yorkshire club’s transfer deals (so limited by cash shortage) have included the signing of a 31 years-old utility forward (Derek Hawksworth from Sheffield United) and a goalkeeper with international caps who is in his middle twenties (Manchester United’s Ray Wood, who cost £1,500).
Shankly wanted the right blend. And if Huddersfield has had the £60,000 which it is reported will be at his disposal at Liverpool there was a good chance that he would have achieved it.
Instead he had to sell to keep going collecting approximately £30,000 from outgoing moves, and spending considerably less than a third of that figure on new players.
Discipline . . . if there are any “shirkers” at Anfield they had better watch out. Shankly can be the sergeant-major with the human touch. His attitude towards the players reminds one of the old Service line . . . “You play the game with me, and I’ll play it with you . . . or else.”
At Huddersfield a predominantly young staff has found it in their own interest to respond to their manager’s treatment – and they are the better for it. That is how a hard-tackling – but not rough – team has been organised.
His own enthusiasm for the abilities and promise of his ‘teen-aged proleges has sometime worked to is disadvantage. Wild claims about their prospects have sometimes been attributed to him, creating the impression that certain players have been “boosted” at the expense of others.
Although he has never admitted it, the probability is that the various Denis Law transfer episodes have convinced him that a mere cautious approach to such matters pays off.
Shankly’s fanstinted and merked praise of Law helped to build up the Scottish international’s reputation. Eventually the whole business got almost out of hand, with Bill Shankly deciding recently that to say now’t was the best policy.
Maybe he is not a diplomat. “I’m a football expert,” he is entitled to point out. But his office administration has been from a failure.
The club’s scouting system was overhauled, the result being that Huddersfield have a crop of highly likely youngsters to move into League football as the present side requires replacements.
Press-minded, he is never afraid to criticise a report, but having made it perfectly clear that he disagrees with the journalist concerned, does not renew the discussion afterwards. He leaves it at that.
He picks his own team – “I’ll be doing that at Liverpool, too,” he said after accepting the appointment.
And he “follows” his first team. He has watched every League and FA Cup-tie of Huddersfield’s since taking over the job in November, 1956, after being assistant to Andy Beattie for nearly a year.
His sharp wit personality and enthusiasm will be missed in Huddersfield Soccer circles. One of the facts which influenced his decision to move to Liverpool was the football fanaticism for which the city is nenowned.
Bill Shankly’s keenness extends beyond the realms of professionalism. His new neighbours should not be surprised if they find him playing football on Sunday afternoon with the youngsters of the district.
It was a routine engagement for him – and a batch of local teen-agers – in the field behind his Huddersfield home.
Yes, Liverpool are getting the man they want. A 100 per cent. club-man, and expert and an enthusiast rolled into one. In fact, a one-man combination which will not rest until Liverpool are in the First Division.
(Liverpool Echo and Evening Express: December 5, 1959)
This article was send to me by Billy Smith – the Blue Correspondent.