Birthdate: 2 September 1913
Birthplace: Glenbuck, Scotland
Other clubs as manager: Carlisle United, Grimsby Town, Workington, Huddersfield Town
Arrived from: Huddersfield Town
Signed for LFC: 1 December 1959
First game in charge: 19.12.1959
Contract Expiry: 12.07.1974
LFC league games as manager: 609
Total LFC games as manager: 783
Honours: League Championship 1963/64, 1965/66, 1972/73; Second Division 1961/62; FA Cup 1965, 1974; UEFA Cup 1973; Manager of the Year 1973
"The change that came over the place was incredible. Where there had been the nice approach of Phil Taylor, now there was this bristling, rasping fellow like James Cagney, who was setting out to conquer the world. Everything changed. Suddenly everyone was walking about with a new sense of purpose." - Roger Hunt.
Shankly was a tremendous competitor as a player making his name at second division Preston North End after arriving from Carlisle United, one division below, in 1933 at twenty years of age. "Carlisle was only a stepping stone. I knew I was going further than that," Shankly remembered. "At the end of the season I was paid £4 10s a week, which was good, because the top rate in English football then was £8. I was much better off than the coalminer for doing something in the fresh air that I would have done for nothing." He eventually made his full debut for them on 9 December 1933 against Hull City and quickly established himself as a regular and a crowd favourite owing to his whole-hearted attitude and commitment to the side. At the end of the season Preston had gained promotion to First Division. The newcomer clearly impressed Preston North End's correspondent, Walter Pilkington: "One of this season's discoveries, Bill Shankly, played with rare tenacity and uncommonly good ideas for a lad of twenty. He is full of good football and possessed with unlimited energy; he should go far." In an otherwise disappointing season, in 1936/37, Preston had the satisfaction of reaching the FA Cup final. At Wembley they came up against a strong Sunderland team who ran out 3-1 winners. The following year, Shankly scored his first League goal for Preston in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool at Anfield on 2 February 1938. North End were again to reach the Cup Final that season and this time they ran out 1-0 winners against Huddersfield. It was the pinnacle of Shankly's playing career as the great man himself remembers: "It was warm and the Preston players posed for photographers. Tommy Smith, the captain, was carried shoulder high and we all had our hands on the Cup. The sweat poured off us, even though we had short-sleeved jerseys, having learned from the year before. I've still got that silk jersey, made in Preston." Huddersfield's centre-half, Alf Young, brought down George Mutch inside the penalty area and Mutch scored from the resulting penalty that won Preston the cup. Shankly's tongue-in-cheek humour after the match probably didn't make Young feel any better: "I was standing next to Alf Young afterwards. Tears were running down his cheeks. I said to him, 'Ay, and that's no' the first one you've given away!'''
Preston North End legend Tom Finney was Shankly's teammate: "Shanks first set foot in Deepdale in 1933 and within months, at just 19, he was in the first team. As you may imagine, he wasn't a guy to give up his shirt without a fight and he followed his debut by playing 85 games in a row. A much better all-round player than some might have you believe, Shanks worked tirelessly to improve. After morning training he was always asking if anyone fancied going back for an extra session or a game of head tennis in the afternoon." When Shankly was at the peak of his powers seven years of his career were lost to World War I. Shankly, who was in the RAF, starred for Norwich, Luton, Arsenal and Partick Thistle in the war as well as playing a single game for Liverpool in a 4-1 win over Everton at Anfield. When full League football resumed for the 1946/47 season Preston still held his registration, and it was at Deepdale where he resumed his full professional career after hostilities had ceased. Shankly was now viewed as being part of a pre-war generation. Many clubs were throwing in youngsters in an attempt to make a fresh post-war start. Shankly, still a hugely accomplished player, soon found himself on the fringe of things and would often find himself helping to bring on the kids in the reserves. In 1949, Shankly was Preston's captain as the side struggled in the First Division and was eventually relegated in the spring. Before the end of the campaign, Shankly's old club, Carlisle United offered him the chance to become their manager and he took it. When Tommy Docherty took Shankly's place in the Preston team, Shanks told him, 'Congratulations. You are now the greatest right-half in the world. Just put the number 4 shirt on and let it run round, it knows where to go.'
Shankly could look back on a successful playing career. "As a player I specialized in tackling, which is an art, and I was never sent off the field or had my name in a referee's book. The art of tackling, as with many things, is in the timing - the contact, winning the ball, upsetting the opposition, maybe even hurting them. You're in, you're out, you've won it and you've hurt him and left him lying there, but it's not a foul because you have timed everything right. I played it hard, but fair. No cheating. I'd have broken somebody's leg maybe, with a hard tackle, with a bit of spirit, but that's a different story from cheating."
Shankly was never short of confidence in his own ability. Referring in his autobiography to his first managerial appointment at Carlisle United in March 1949, he said “I had the knowledge. I had been with people who knew how to train teams and I had my own conception of human beings and psychology.” His methods were certainly different from some of his contemporaries. Shankly was prepared to do any job however menial and instead of writing notes in the programme for the supporters to read, he preferred to use the tannoy to speak to them shortly before the start of each home fixture. "The supporters loved it," Shankly claimed. Carlisle were a struggling Third Division North side who found it hard to attract southern-based players because of their geographic remoteness. Shankly immediately turned this disadvantage on its head and turned Brunton Park into something of a fortress. He would tell his players how tired the opposition must be at having to travel up to such a remote corner of the country. Carlisle was good for Bill Shankly and he for them as when he took over the club had won 14 games in the season,finishing fifteenth, but when he left it boasted 25 wins and third place. After a squabble with the club who had reneged on a bonus promise should the team finish in the top three, Shankly resigned. Grimsby Town had been relegated in 1951 and would be playing in Third Division North just as Carlisle but he wanted the job as "Carlisle did not have the money to make progress and because I thought there was more potential at Grimsby." Five months earlier Shankly had applied for a post in the First Division. George Kay had to resign from Liverpool due to health reasons and as Shankly recalled in his autobiography: "I got a telephone call from Liverpool and was asked if I’d like to be interviewed for the manager’s job.” Shankly wanted to put his own stamp on his team, but back in those days the members of the board had a big say in team matters. "The big snag had cropped up when the Liverpool board had said the manager could put down his team for matches and the directors would scrutinize it and alter it if they wanted to," Shankly explained. "So I just said, ‘If I don’t pick the team, what am I manager of?”
The Blundell Park outfit had been in the First Division in 1948 and was in free fall. The morale of the players and supporters of Grimsby was low. However, the players who had been at the club when Grimsby were in the top flight were still there, there being little point in players swapping and changing clubs in those days due to the maximum wage. Shankly was quickly able to use the raw material at his disposal to weld the players into a good side. In 1951/52, Grimsby just missed promotion, despite picking up an incredible 36 points out a possible 40 in the last 20 matches. The 1952/53 season started with much optimism around the club but the players still felt the disappointment of the previous season. The team too, was an ageing one, and struggled after a bright start and the season fizzled out. Shankly was given no money to buy new players and was reluctant to blood some promising reserves because of the loyalty he felt to these older stalwarts, a fault that was to surface at Liverpool years later. Disillusioned by events, he quit in January 1954, citing a lack of ambition by the club as his main reason.
"Workington threw out a challenge to me. They were struggling at the bottom of the Third Division North and were threatened with extinction. There was only one man they thought could save them and that was me, so they offered me a bonus if I saved them." Shankly was only a few days without a job after leaving Grimsby but had undoubtedly taken a step down the football ladder by taking over as manager at Workington. The fact that he had walked out on two clubs, without actually winning anything tangible, meant that he was still to make an impression in the boardrooms of the wealthy senior clubs. Ever the optimist and, of course with a unabating self-confidence Shankly set about reviving the club. Workington had only been a League side for two years and forced to to apply for re-election at the end of both seasons. At the end of the 1953/54 season, Shankly had lifted them to twentieth position, six points clear of re-election. Workington were transformed, playing a delightful brand of football. Season 1954/55 saw them finish a creditable eighth in Third Division North. Shankly had recharged the batteries that had run so low after his experiences at Grimsby and he was looking to step up the managerial ladder again. The realisation, also, that Workington's ambitions were restrained by a chronic financial straitjacket meant there was no real future for him at the club. When he heard his old colleague from his Preston days, Andy Beattie was in trouble at first division Huddersfield, he was only too glad to tend his resignation at Workington on 15 November 1955 to go and help him out.
Shankly became assistant manager and coached the reserves at Huddersfield but on 5 November 1956, after the club had been relegated to the Second Division, Beattie left and Shankly took over as manager. On Christmas Eve 1956, Shankly gave a full first-team debut to one of the rising stars of the club, 16-year-old Denis Law. Shankly was unable to take Huddersfield back into the top division but was making a mark for himself as a manager. However, he was again frustrated at the lack of finance available to strengthen the team at a club that probably didn’t match his own ambition. He went to Scotland to watch a non-competitive match and came back enthusing about two players he had watched closely. Those players were Ron Yeats and Ian St John. As Shankly pointed out: “Yeats and St. John were the players Huddersfield needed, but they couldn’t afford to buy them."
"If my father was my guiding light in life, Bill Shankly was my football mentor. Has there been anyone with a greater love for the game? If there has, I have yet to meet him. He was an established player when I first encountered him during my days as a junior. He invariably popped along to our matches. Bill would stop off anywhere a game of football was being played and, even at that early stage of his career, you knew he would go into coaching and management and make a damn good job of it." - Sir Stanley Matthews.
When Bill Shankly arrived at Anfield in 1959, Liverpool were in Second Division and going nowhere. The training ground, Melwood was a shambles, Anfield not a pretty sight and Liverpool overburdened with average players, but with quality players in the reserves. Shankly was immediately at home here as he sensed in the huge crowds a kinship with the supporters from the word go. They were his kind of people. With the backing of Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan and the enthusiasm of the fans behind him he set about rebuilding the team. "But after only one match I knew that the team as a whole was not good enough. I made up my mind that we needed strengthening through the middle, a goalkeeper and a centre-half who between them could stop goals, and somebody up front to create goals and score them." Liverpool conceded seven goals without a reply in Shankly's first two games in charge. Shankly wasn't disheartened after the first one, quite the opposite. "I told them that this defeat was the best possible thing which could have happened, because in my experience, more is earned from defeats than victories." Soon enough Liverpool were a changed side. "They think more, thump less. Chase more, chance less," the Liverpool Echo reported, beating teams with "almost condescending arrogance.” As well improving the club's training conditions Shankly cleared the squad of any dead wood, "Within a month I had put down twenty four names of players I thought should go and they went inside a year." Shankly tried to convince the directors at the club that Liverpool should spare no expense in strengthening the team. "I used to fight and argue and fight and argue and fight and argue until I thought: 'Is it worthwhile, all this fighting and arguing?' It is bad enough fighting against the opposition to win points, but the internal fights to make people realize what we were working for took me close to leaving many times." Former Chief executive, Peter Robinson certainly remembers one of those occasions when Sunderland approached Shankly in the late 60's. "It was at a time when Bill wasn't having the best of relationships with the Liverpool board and when the Roker job came up he received an approach about it. He asked me if he decided to go would I go with him. I said I'd think about it. However, this settled down between Bill and the board and nothing else materialised. It's an interesting exercise, though, to wonder what would have happened to the two clubs if Bill had taken it further." Finally 18 months after Shankly took over at Liverpool in came Yeats and St John, the two players he had wanted at Huddersfield. Shankly was quite confident that they would prove key signings. "St John and Yeats were both twenty-three, and I said to Mr Sawyer (Liverpool's financial director), 'You sack me if they can't play. I'm telling you now, I'll stake my life on it.'"
"In pre-season you got in an at Anfield and you then put a pair of trainers on," Tommy Lawrence said, recollecting life at Liverpool pre-Shankly. "They weren’t like trainers like you have today for running on the roads. They were pumps. You need to run from Anfield to Melwood. Around Melwood three or four times and then run all the way back. Roger Hunt and I used to travel with the train from Warrington and after about three days, we couldn’t even go down the steps, the backs of our calves were just gone. As soon as Shanks came he just changed it. ‘You play on grass and you will train on grass.’ And that was it. Then we actually saw a bag of balls. We had never seen a bag of balls." Ronnie Moran was an experienced campaigner but was very impressed by the new boss. "I learned more in the first three months than I'd done in the seven years that I'd been a pro. I wish I'd been five years younger."
Shankly felt Liverpool were ready for promotion with key players in place in defence and attack. "The coaching and training staffs, with the players, had spent a lot of time on tactical plans to suit the type of players we had, and this, together with the great physical fitness of the lads, added up to a feeling of optimism tinged with caution," Shankly reflected in the Liverpool Echo in he summer of 1962. "I know everybody was looking forward to the start of the big effort which we had determined to make to win the prize which had been lost to us so often by such narrow margins. My study of the fixture list gave me the impression that the early matches were difficult ones. Always at the beginning of a season there is a bit of a nervous tension before a game and probably because of the knowledge of what a good start might mean, coupled with the fact that we had two new signings in a reconstituted team, which wanted to show itself off as a promotion probability." If Liverpool were nervous it didn't show as they had opened up a seven-point lead in October. Shankly was happy with the solidity of his defence and the attacking prowess of his forwards: "Kevin Lewis likely to strike at any time. Alan A'Court working like a beaver and the inside men, Hunt and Melia, linking with St John as though they had played together for years." Liverpool had been put through their paces by coaches Reuben Bennett and Joe Fagan and the players' stamina was vital. After Liverpool had destroyed Swansea 5-0 on 25 November with a hat-trick from Hunt and a brace from Melia, Shankly remembered a Swansea officials' words to him after the game. "'I was really glad when the game was over; even in the closing stages your players were like vultures seeking for prey.'" Liverpool lost two games on the trot over Christmas with their lead down to just two points. Shankly had a simple explanation for Liverpool's apparent loss of form. "Both these games were played on grounds which resembled skating rinks and training on skates was possibly the only item of preparation for the season for which we had not undertaken. I have long held the opinion that no game of any importance should be played on grounds in such a state. All sanity is against it."
The Reds were soon back in the swing of things and ensured their long-awaited place in the First Division with five rounds to go with a 2-0 win over Southampton. Shankly was amazed by the fans' reaction post-game: "The crowd waited with commendable patience whilst the players cooled off and changed into their ordinary clothes, but the moment Ronnie Yeats showed himself a tidal wave of humanity swept across the field and engulfed poor Yeats. Behind Yeats came Ian St John and part of the flood detached itself and completely submerged him. Other players, who were following had the good sense to take refuge in the tunnel, but it was far too late for for Yeats and St John to do anything except be carried by their respective tides. This was the proudest moment of my footballing life, and I was delighted that I had had something to do with the return of Liverpool to First Division football." Yeats told LFChistory.net that the 1961/62 season was the most vital one in his and arguably Shankly's career. "The most successful thing we did and I’ll say this always, was winning the Second Division. Without that nothing else would have happened, because we couldn’t progress without winning it. It was the best season I remember at Liverpool Football Club. We won it quite easily. He was building a team. When I first came to the club in '61 we had one international who was then Ian St John. Three years later we had 14 internationals. That’s the progress we were making."
"When we won promotion to the First Division I went to a shareholders' meeting and they were so thrilled about it that they presented us with cigarette boxes. I told them, 'We got promotion, but you don't think that is satisfactory, do you?' Next time we come back here for presents we will have won the Big League, the First Division.' They looked at me the way the officer in the RAF had done when I told him I wanted to leave to play for Scotland against England, as if to say, 'We've got a right one here.'" A season of consolidation followed in which Liverpool finished eighth, the only problem being Everton finishing as champions. As would happen again twenty years down the line, Liverpool and Everton were about to carve up the domestic honours between them in the next five or six seasons, but as the 1963/64 season started, it was Everton who were top dogs on Merseyside, a fact that rankled with Shankly. The Scotsman had the nucleus of side who had gained promotion two seasons previously but with the important addition of left-winger Peter Thompson. After a less than stellar beginning of the season Liverpool finally reached the top spot on 23 November 1963 following a win over Manchester United, their eighth in the last nine League games. "In 1963/64 I made good my promise to the shareholders to return with the League Championship," Shankly said. "At Easter I said, 'Right, boys, we've jogged along nicely. Let's go out and get it going. Never mind anything that happens, off you go!' We won seven games on the trot, running through teams and tearing them to pieces, and we rounded things off by drubbing Arsenal 5-0 at Anfield." Captain Ron Yeats recollects Shankly's satisfaction at having won the League. "I remember he said to Tommy Lawrence, after we had just won the League but still had a few games to play out the season, 'Tom, wouldn't it be great if we could put a deck chair in the middle of the goal, you sitting in it, cigar in your mouth, and when the ball comes, you get out of your deck chair and catch it and say 'It's a lovely day to play football, isn't it?'"
Celebration time in 1964
The following season Liverpool finished a disappointing seventh in the League with 13 less points than the previous season. Liverpool's participation in the European Cup took a lot of energy from them, only denied at the semi-final stage due to a dishonest referee in Milan. Liverpool were also doing brilliantly in the FA Cup, reaching their third final in the club's history. Liverpool had lost both their FA Cup finals to date in 1914 and 1950, but Shankly finally managed to bring the Cup home after St John headed in the winner. "It was a wet day, raining and splashing, and my shoes and pants were covered in white from the chalk off the pitch as I walked up to the end of the ground where our supporters were massed," Shankly remembered. "We had beaten Leeds United and our players had the arena, but I took off my coat and went to the supporters because they had got the Cup for the first time. Grown men were crying and it was the greatest feeling any human being could have to see what we had done. There have been many proud moments. Wonderful, fantastic moments. But that was the greatest day."
In season 65/66 Liverpool won the title again, easing up at the end, while neighbours Everton took the FA Cup. Liverpool lost the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup at Hampden Park to Borussia Dortmund. The great sixties side had gained promotion from Second Division, won the League twice, the FA Cup once, and progressed in Europe. It was a transitional time for the club. After that second title in 1966 the club didn't win the League again in that decade, but would not finish lower than fifth. for the rest of the decade. Shankly's mistake was to let the side rumble on without any major rebuilding too long. "We were all at the same age when we started so around ‘67 we were all around 30," Yeats explained to LFChistory.net. "He started to change the side, changing tactics, changing players, it took maybe three years to come together. When you say we weren’t successful, we were still a top team, maybe always second or third, getting to the semi-final." Shankly had been taken aback by the deteriority of his key players having expected them to last as he did in the game. "I had told them, 'If you are a good athlete, your best seasons will be between twenty-eight and thirty-three. I had my best seasons during that period of my life. Maybe the success they had shortened their careers. They had won the League, the FA Cup and the League again, and they had been in Europe so often. Perhaps they were no longer hungry enough."
The conclusion of Eric Todd's Guardian interview with Shankly in December 1968: "Before I left him, Shankly summoned the manager of a hotel and gave him his instructions. 'There'll be 17 in the party,' he said. 'So, that'll be 17 fillet steaks and I'll let you know how we want them done when we arrive - with chips. For afterwards, there'll be 17 fresh fruit salads and fresh cream. Right? Then for breakfast, eh ...' A players' man indeed."
Not all of Bill Shankly’s signings turned out to be as successful as he would have liked. Alun Evans and Tony Hateley had short Anfield careers but Emlyn Hughes was someone who didn’t fall into that category. Shankly tried to sign him after watching him play in his very first professional match but had to be patient before he finally got his man. One cold afternoon in February 1970 Liverpool were dumped out of the FA Cup at second division Watford. “After Watford I knew I had to do my job and change the team," recalled Shankly. “It had to be done and if I didn’t do it I was shirking my obligations." Most of the old guard were phased out and in their place came the likes of Ray Clemence, Larry Lloyd, John Toshack, Steve Heighway and Brian Hall, not to mention the inspirational signing of Kevin Keegan from Scunthorpe United. These newcomers plus the younger players from the 60’s like Tommy Smith, Chris Lawler, Ian Callaghan and Emlyn Hughes who had survived the post-Watford cull would be the nucleus for his next great team who went on to win the UEFA Cup and the League in 1973 and the FA Cup in 1974. Newcastle's humiliation in the cup final turned out to be Shankly's swansong. He was 60-years-old and remembered sitting down in the dressing room at Wembley feeling "tired from all the years. I knew I was going to finish."
John Toshack learnt a lot from Shankly to progress in his own managerial career. "Bill Shankly used to say: 'A football team is like a piano. You need eight men to carry it and three who can play the damn thing.'"
It is terribly sad that after so much success, things became difficult between himself and the club he had served so well for nearly 15 years. Maybe there was fault on both sides? It was a difficult situation. “I still wanted to help Liverpool, because the club had become my life. But I wasn’t given the chance”, recalled Shankly. It looks as if the club wanted a clean break, that it felt things could become too complicated if Bill was still around. He continued to go to Melwood for a while but got the impression it would be better if he stopped going. He said he would have been honoured if he had been invited to become a Director of the club, which he surely deserved because of what he had achieved as a manager, but the offer never came. Bill Shankly seemed indestructible but he suffered a heart attack in the autumn of 1981 and died shortly afterwards on 29 September. His legacy can be seen at Anfield today, but not just in the gates that bear his name or the statue at the back of the Kop. Shankly was the catalyst that Liverpool Football club needed. Other men carried on the job that he started but he was the father of the modern-day Liverpool and did as much as anyone and more than most to turn them into one of the great powers of first English and then European football. The debt the club owes him can never be repaid.
The man who knew Shankly the best was his right-hand man, Bob Paisley. "One man transformed Liverpool from a run-of-the-mill Second Division team into the greatest team in the world. That man, of course, was Bill Shankly. His philosophy was simple; If you are going to to play football, you play to win. While he was the making of Liverpool, there is no doubt that Anfield was the making of Bill Shankly. His character, his own enthusiasm, his will to win were so infectious."