Thursday, August 13 – 1964
Bill Shankly, the dynamo behind League champions Liverpool, thumped the desk in his office under the main stand at Anfield and said: “The European Cup? It’s a war!”
The craggy, gravel-voiced Scot, whose 100 per cent. enthusiasm has lifted Liverpool from being just another Second Division club to England’s representatives in Europe inside four years, went on:
“These foreign clubs stop at nothing to win. It’s all politics with them, and sometimes even ‘secret service.’ They don’t care about the game.
“They’d play eleven full backs if they thought they could win.”
This does not mean that Liverpool won’t mind losing when they play Reykjavik in Iceland on Monday in the first leg of their tie for a place in the last sixteen – as Shankly quickly pointed out.
“We have a chance of three titles this year,” he said. “The League, the FA Cup and the European Cup.
“Of all of them, I’d pick the European Cup as the one I’d like to win most of all.
“And with Ian St. John back at centre forward in two weeks’ time, we’ll fear nobody in the world.”
Shankly admitted that he hardly knew Liverpool the city. “My life revolves between my home and the ground. I spend nearly all my time in these two places. It’s the only way I know.”
He pointed to the famous Kop. “What we do here is for them,” he said. “They are the greatest.”
The Kop is the end where, it is said, thousands of fans “suck” the goals in (only for Liverpool, of course).
“A player who needs inspiring is not a player,” said Shankly.
“But with them behind you, you are doubly inspired.
“They know the game, too. If there’s a great player on the park, they roar with delight every time he touches the ball – no matter whose side he’s on.”
One of those greats is Peter Thompson, 24, who came to Liverpool a year ago as another promising player. Under Shankly he has rapidly matured to become an England star.
“I don’t think I’d have achieved this much if I hadn’t come to Liverpool,” Peter told us.
“The boss gave me confidence. Before a game he’ll make you feel that no one on earth can beat you.”
Skipper Ron Yeats – “the greatest centre half in the country,” says Shankly – has a personal reason for doing well in Europe.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” said the giant Scot, “that a good showing will finally get me my first Scottish ‘cap.’”
Yeats’ job is to keep the team steady in time of crisis.
“I’m that kind of player,” he said. “I always play steady and the boys usually follow. Of course if there’s any shouting to be done, I do it. But I leave the boss to tell them how to play.” It seems to work!
The easy draw against Reykjavik is in contrast to neighbours Everton’s luck last year. They went out in their first try to the eventual champions, Inter Milan.
“This way we can ease into the competition,” said another international star, Roger Hunt, who scored 32 goals last season, “We’ll get the feel of the two leg matches.”
Tomorrow Liverpool face West Ham in the Charity Shield. It will be the mixture as before. Liverpool’s style may not match the brilliance of the Spurs in their “Double” year – but it’s certainly effective.
“I tell my players not to dribble in midfield,” says Shankly.
“They pass from man to man until they strike and then they do it with deadly effiency.”
(Copyright: Daily Mirror, 14-08-1964)