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"Legend who built a Legend" How BIll Shankly created a Liverpool Dynasty


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The miners' son from Glenbuck became a football icon, not only in the eyes of Liverpool supporters, but even for Evertonians. Shankly understood the psyche of the Liverpool people, and it was a match made in heaven.


'Slowly at first, and then with gathering pace, Shankly and his backroom team turned Liverpool around' Bill Shankly became the manager of Liverpool in December 1959. He is remembered by Liverpool fans as one of our greatest-ever managers, along with Bob Paisley.


In 1959, Liverpool were at the bottom of the old Second Division, with a crumbling stadium, poor training facilities and a large but poor-quality squad. The quality of the backroom staff was undeniable, though with Paisley and Joe Fagan in tow. The Liverpool Bootroom, one of the famous institutions in the football world, was born.


The training ground at Melwood was in a terrible state, overgrown and with only one mains water tap. Shankly turned this into a positive, by getting the players to arrive instead at Anfield, and then bus them over to Melwood, developing team camaraderie.


At Melwood, Shankly introduced fitness training including diet assessment, and skills training including using an artificial goal painted on a wall, split into eight sections which he would demand the players use to improve accuracy. For playing practice, Shankly introduced five-a-side games that so defined his football thinking - pass and move, keep it simple. After training, the team would all bus back to Anfield together to shower, change and eat a communal meal. This way Shankly ensured all his players had warmed down correctly and he would keep his players free from injury.


Slowly at first, and then with a gathering pace, Shankly and his backroom team turned Liverpool around. The Liverpool crowd sensed a wave of change on Merseyside. At the time, Liverpool were Merseyside's poor second team. Everton had supremacy on Merseyside. With new signings Ron Yeats and Ian St. John, Liverpool gained promotion back to the top flight in 1962. That was the first target for Shankly; the next was far greater.


Liverpool hadn't won the League title for almost 15 years. With local players like Ian Callaghan and Tommy Smith added to the team, Liverpool won their sixth league title in their second season after promotion. It was a vindication of the ethics Shankly had built around the club. Success continued at Anfield for almost four decades since his arrival to the last League title in 1990. In his reign as manager of Liverpool, Shankly had an impressive honours list:


1962 - Second Division champions

1964 - First Division champions

1965 - FA Cup Winners, European Champions' Cup semi-finalists.

1966 - First Division champions, European Cup Winners Cup beaten finalists.

1969 - First Division runners-up.

1971 - FA Cup beaten finalists, Inter-Cities Fairs Cup semi-finalists.

1973 - First Division champions, UEFA Cup winners.

1974 - FA Cup winners, First Division runners-up.


His record match-by-match was an incredible testament to his footballing philosophy: Played 753, won 393, lost 175, drew 185 with a winning percentage of 52.19%.


His relationship with the fans is well known. Due to his working-class background, Shankly had a strong feeling for how the fans followed the team and wanted them to perform. He felt he was letting the fans down when the team didn't do well.


One of the most iconic images of him was caught on television, when a Liverpool scarf which had been thrown at Shankly during a lap of honour was flung to one side by a policeman, in April 1973, when he and the team were showing off the League Championship trophy to the Kop. Shankly pounced on the scarf and reprimanded the copper, uttering the immortal words "Don't do that. This might be someone's life".


When he resigned in July 1974, he made one statement that typified the humbleness of the legendary status he commanded: "I was only in the game for the love of football - and I wanted to bring back happiness to the people of Liverpool." He said that going to tell the chairman of his decision was like facing the electric chair.


When news of Shankly's resignation first emerged, distraught fans jammed the club's switchboard and at least one local factory's workers threatened to go on strike unless their hero returned.


Shankly was awarded the OBE in November 1974. He even went regularly to Melwood to watch the team train. He continued to live in the terraced house that he and his wife had bought when they moved to Liverpool, and he was a regular sight around the city, happy and willing to talk to anyone about football.


The fact he should have been given a knighthood along with legends like Paisley, Jock Stein, Brian Clough and Fagan is a disgrace.


On the morning of 26 September, 1981, Shankly was admitted to Broadgreen Hospital after a heart attack. While in hospital he insisted on being nursed in an ordinary ward, not a private one. There was no suggestion that his life was in danger. The switchboard was jammed with concerned fans and prayers were said for him in the Sunday morning and evening services at both of the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals. However, late on 28 September Shankly unexpectedly took a turn for the worst and died, aged 68, at 1.20am on 29 September 1981. He was cremated, and his ashes buried at the Anfield Crematorium on 2 October.


Sir Matt Busby, a Legend in his own right also, was so upset when he heard the news of Shankly's death that he refused to take any telephone calls from people asking him for a reaction. Some years before his death, Shankly had paid tribute to Busby, saying that he was "greatest football manager ever".


On the first game at Anfield following his funeral, a banner was unfurled on the Kop which read "Shankly Lives Forever". Bill Shankly was made an inaugural inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002, in recognition of his impact on the English game as a manager.


Recently, a Liverpool Supporters Union was set up in the name of the man, Sons of Shankly. Formed to maintain the philosophy he instilled in Liverpool FC, which is still burning bright among the supporters today.


Bill Shankly, may you never walk alone, R.I.P.







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