July 13, 1974
Bill Shankly – like the Beatles – didn’t invent Liverpool. But between them they did something rather more important. The city had a great past – its people had guts and character. What the city lacked was a definable relationship with a new, dazzling, snazzy King’s Road type of Britain which seemingly had left Liverpool far behind in its wake.
Bill Shankly, in the steps of John, Paul, Ringo and George took Liverpool and gave it back its pride. The Beatles did it not only by becoming quite simply the greatest entertainers the British Isles have ever offered the world, but by always remaining true to their roots. Bill Shankly, a lowland Scot, did it by quarrying deep into the natural Liverpudlian sense of community and producing a football team which has had few equals in the history of the game.
In the shanty towns of South America and in the backstreets of Omsk, Umsk and Minsk, Liverpool suddenly became a name to conjure with again. Liverpudlians no longer had to apologise about the Mersey Tunnel or the Liver Building. The team was great so Liverpool was great and Liverpudlians (even those who never went within a hundred miles of the Kop) had the right to feel great as well.
How is it that this dour Scot from a poor family of ten, with nothing going for him, has been able to capture the heart of Liverpool, a city that prides itself on breeding its own brand of humour and character?
The answer lies entirely in Shankly’s unique personality. More than any other man he has the ability to identify himself totally with a cause. Add to this Shankly’s dogged determination to succeed and you have a basis for the adoration with which he is regarded by the fans.
As the good results began to roll in, so Liverpool, as big-hearted and generous a city as any, responded to the man who was able to channel its football fanaticism through himself. The fans always believed he could do anything for them, yet he achieved his heroism in an off-stage roll.
As a player he was good, but not great. As a manager he has been a phenomenon.
The sayings of Bill Shankly are legion, and are second only to those of Mao Tsetung. And far more amusing. “The finest two teams in Britain are Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves,” he once said.
His slightly dotty dedication to the cause of Merseyside showed up on a tour of the United States with the Liverpool team. Throughout the entire tour Shankly refused to alter his watch. He said: “Liverpool time’s good enough for me.”
His mock arrogance is legendary too. When he was presented with a Manager of the Year Award at a big dinner he said: “Thank you. I deserved it.”
Another time reading the lesson at a church service he began: ‘ “And Jesus said” – and I must say I agree with him…’
It was Shankly who made the Kop the mystical entity it is today. So deep is the devotion that some of the Kop faithful give instructions that on their death the funeral cortege is to be driven round Anfield, and their ashes are to be scattered on the steps of the Kop. The fans responded to his successes by making him “King Shankly.”
Hours after a match crowds would wait outside the official entrance chanting “Shanklee, Shanklee” if they knew Shankly was still inside. After all this, the reaction in the city yesterday was no surprise. To an outsider the atmosphere was weird, one of total gloom.
Supporters in tears jammed the Liverpool club’s switchboard hoping it was all a hoax. A Kirkby factory threatened to go on strike if Shanks really quit. And bus drivers and conductors held up services to discuss the sad tidings with their passengers.
Yesterday, the final measure of his endearing arrogance and absolute sureness came when they asked him if he had thoughts of anyone to replace him. He said: “I can’t think of anyone who is better than Bill Shankly.”
(Source: Daily Mail: July 13, 1974)