Saturday, April 18 – 1964
Liverpool, with considerable Mersey sound, whooped their way into the Football League championship on Saturday. But so far as Bill Shankly, football manager extraordinary, is concerned, that was last Saturday.
He received the honour with gratitude and with pride. But to him, looking back is a waste of time, and like a good Scot he hates to waste anything.
I asked him what he was planning for the big celebration. Back came the answer, crisp as Highland mountain air, Scottish as the kilt: –
“Celebrations? Maybe, but no time to think about that now. We still have three League matches to play.”
So I suggested he might find time to relax when the team go on their American tour. The rifle-crack reply: –
“Footballers never relax. My name is on the list to tour, but there is an important summer tournament up in Scotland. If I think I will be of greater benefit to the club by missing the tour. I shall stay right here.”
I asked manager Shankly the secret of his training plan. The answer was like a barrack-square word of command.
“Secret? There is no secret. We train to play football. Some people train for the marathon, some for a mile.
“Our business is football so we train to play hard, fast and accurately and carry our practice plans to the field.”
Shankly permitted himself one not of pride with: –
“I have no company orders or plan of discipline for my players when they leave the ground.
“We have sensible talks, but there is no dictation. When I see the stamina and fitness of the players on the field I know the advice has been taken.”
He served his apprenticeship as manager through tough, exacting jobs like Carlisle, Grimsby, Workington, and Huddersfield.
Then came Liverpool, and it was here he has impressed himself as an admirable manager, a football chief in the mould of the great managers of Soccer.
In the heart of Shankly are the qualities of loyalty, pride, courage and an iron discipline.
His creed is that of the late Herbert Chapman, architect of Arsenal’s greatness. It was the spirit which surged through Wolverhampton’s Mayor Frank Buckley, a football faith inherited by Stanley Cullis.
It is the unflinching code of Bill Nicholson, who put the name of Tottenham Hotspur among the immortals of football as the first manager to couple the League Championship and Cup double since the gaslight days of the last century, the first manager to steer a British club to a major European title.
And it is Alan Brown’s belief in football and in himself that has restored Sunderland to their rightful heritage as a First Division team.
Behind their devotion to the game, behind the unrelenting demands, these men have a compassion and understanding of players. They appreciate they are not automatons to be wound up all week and then sent clock-working into action.
Perhaps Bill Shankly sums up the success stories for all these memorable managers.
“Players and manager must be bound together in their love of the game, pride in their club and mutual respect for each other.”
(Copyright: Daily Express, 20-04-1964, by Desmond Hackett)