Wednesday, December 13 – 1989
The carpet is red. The ceiling is red. The chairs for visitors are red and all these things instinctively draw your eye like a kaleidoscope rationed into one deliberate colour. It’s easy to miss the framed drawing nestling between small, twin wall-lights which cast such soft shadows; a montage of three faces, one player and two trophies.
No captions are necessary. Bill Shankly, the top face, gazes with disconcerting intensity; Bob Paisley, to the left, remains a benevolent pairlarch; Joe Fagan, to the right, is locked into a craggy, earthy smile. The trophies are for the League and Cup.
Threaded through all this, Kenny Dalglish rises in a red shirt, his whole face wreathed in ecstasy at the goal he’s just scored.
The drawing is symbolic as well as graphic.
It was here that Shankly first came 30 years ago to establish the dynasty; it is here that Dalglish comes daily to continue it
He moves urgently through the electronic plate-glass doors which fold away before him on his way to the inner sanctum.
His eyes are so alive that they see everyone he passes as clearly as he once saw defenders. Like a military commandor, he can penetrate you with a glance.
John Barnes is making polite, everyday conversation with the girl behind the reception desk, Peter Beardslet comes by changed for training, an imp of a man ready to exchange banter in guttural Geordie with anyone he passes.
Bob Paisley, small, be almed, comes by and collects his mail from the girl. He seems more timid than she, and she asks how he is with unconcealed affection. He won the European Cup – and signed Dalglish.
There are many secrets to Anfield and they all begun where logic demands they begin – at the very entrance. The moment you step on to the red carpet and see that everyone else is … smiling.
“We have a family atmosphere with players that most other clubs don’t have.”
It’s a bit like being an orphan and then you join a good family,” Ron Yeats pauses.
“You see, everyone is nice, from the receptionist to the ladies who do the meals to the people at the top.
“We have a players’ lounge where everyone eats and you can take a kid who’s been signed yesterday and he could be sitting next to John Barnes.
“You don’t get that with every club, sometimes you get segregation.
“I go to a lot of clubs. I know that for a fact. Here you join the family, you are coming into a fold.”
Yeats signed by Shankly in June 1961, is chief-scout, a man of considerable presence and, as he puts is delightfully “indoctrinated.”
He doesn’t mean that in the unfortunate sense – he means he thinks the way Liverpool think.
His office, down the passage into the inner sanctum – turn left for the dressing rooms and the staccato ‘This is Anfield’ above the tunnel to remind visiting players of the facts of life – it’s a quiet place.
There is a montage on the wall facing his desk – the field of wreaths strewn so deeply towards the Kop end following Hillsborough and superimposed above them, the face you know so well gazing with disconcerting intensity.
No caption is necessary.
The past is always looking you straight in the eye and it is wedded to the present, to the future.
Emlyn Hughes does not – even seven years after Shanjly’s death – speak of him in the past tense. “He is the greatest man I have ever known.”
Yeats, once the rock at the heart of Liverpool’s defence says: “A lot of people come up to me and say: ‘How the hell do Liverpool keep going?’
“I started with Shankly. He was a man who laid down the rules and regulations people still abide by today.
“One of the biggest things was that the big things look after themselves. If you look after the details.
“If we were staying in a hotel he’d make sure we had rooms away from the road, he checked what we were eating, whether we were eating properly, if you had enough sleep.
“Kenny still does it and that’s one of the similarities. As a player he took in what the treatment was – and by treatment I mean from the staff, where they went, what they did. And of course he’s put some of himself into it was well and the combination is a recipe for success.
“Shankly was a winner. He instilled that in his players and if Liverpool lost it was like putting a knife into his ribs, you know.
“In that sense Kenney is a bad loser, too.”
On Yeat’s desk are a heap of folders. If you want to know about attention to detail “I have carte blanche as chief scout, from international level to non-League.
“We start at the beginning of the season by doing general reports on other teams and during the season we cover over 700 games.
“Say we get a tip about a player at Torquay. I’ll send our representative in that area and if he comes back with a good report I’ll send somebody else.
“After two or three reports I’ll go. In the end I will have six reports by different people.
“Everybody sees a player differently and anyway on the day I o the player might be brilliant, on the day someone else goes not so good.
“So we have six reports and they are very, very detailed. And then of course it is up to Kenny.”
Yeats ruminates in his gentle Scottish accent, “It’s all down to players,” and, interestingly enough, the scouting system is “the same for a Peter Beardsley as a kid from Torquay.”
Which brings us back to detail, and where it all began – Shankly.
“He’d come around to your house to make sure you were all right, make sure your family was all right.
“In Europe we started to take our own chef because Europe was new then and we had some unfortunate experiences with the food.
“Bill Shankly was one of those people who, if you want to see him with a problem, you didn’t have the problem the next day.”
Curious. People say that about Paisley, who was next, and Fagan who was after that, and today Dalglish.
(Daily Express, 13-12-1989)