July 14, 2013
Two years before the Titanic’s first, fatal voyage, 11 months before World War 1 started, the life of a manager who is still cherished and celebrated began.
Because, almost four decades since his retirement and over three since his death, the fascination with Bill Shankly is as great as ever. He remains an icon and an inspiration.
“It is amazing how interested younger fans of Liverpool are in him,” said Chris Lawler, a stalwart of Shankly’s sides. “One hundred years on, he is still revered,” added Ian St John, a prolific striker in the 1960s.
A Preston North End player for 16 years, Liverpool’s manager for 15, two clubs he served with such distinction yesterday marked the forthcoming centenary of his birth in the only fashion Shankly would have wanted. They played football.
“You have never met anybody with more drive and enthusiasm about football,” added St John. “His special ingredient was his love of the game. Other managers may have hobbies – they might play golf – but his hobby was football.”
And at Deepdale, where the seats in the Bill Shankly Stand form a mosaic of his face, Liverpool took on Preston. At Anfield, where the Shankly Gates are a sign of his enduring importance, the late, great Scot remains worshiped.
“He transformed Liverpool,” St John added. “When he came to the club (in 1959) it was shambles.”
Shankly was revolutionary, changing training – which previously consisted of running up and down terraces – to involve the ball, introducing a flat back four and turning a team who had been in the doldrums in the second division into three-time champions and double FA Cup winners.
Nevertheless, St John said: “He never had the success he warranted. For him to have the European Cup in his CV was awful. He deserved that.”
Nearly half a century on, the feeling that Inter Milan bribed the referee in the 1965 semi-final still rankles.
Shankly was denied. Liverpool were not. His impact was greatest after his exit. “He did leave a legacy,” Lawler added.
Between them, Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan won seven league titles and four European Cups in the decade after Shankly’s shock retirement in 1974. “All the success that came after the boss finished was down to him,” St John said. “Bob and Joe just carried on. It was his template. Bob Said: ‘Bill built the house and I just put the roof on it,” Bob couldn’t have put the roof on if it was dilapidated.”
The founder of a dynasty was a fount of wisecracks, one-liners and witticisms. “If you compare greats, Alex Ferguson goes down as the greatest of all in terms of achievement but Alex didn’t have what Shankly had, with his humour,” St John added. “Shanks could see the funny side of things.”
He could also see the people’s perspective. “He spoke to fans everywhere: in the hotel, in the street,” St John explained. “He would talk about their club, he knew everything. People from other clubs loved Bill Shankly. He epitomised what a manager should be.”
Above all, however, he was idolised around Anfield. Lawler illustrated why. “He thought the fans were very important,” he explained. “For the big games, we would be asking for tickets as players and he would give them to the fans instead.”
It is the Liverpool faithful, one of Shankly’s successors said, who still keep his memory alive. “You really understand the impact that he made at the club when you come in and speak to the many thousands of supporters,” said Brendan Rodgers.
“He was an inspirational man who really set the ball rolling here. I’ve listened to his tapes and all of the audio.”
He is hearing the great man’s voice in the hope of his magic rubs off. The reality, however, is that there was only one Bill Shankly.
(Source: Sunday Express: July 14, 2013)