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Then and Now: All thanks to Shanks 1960 to 1970 by George Scott

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All thanks to Shanks 1960 to 1970

In January 1960 at the age of 15 I travelled to Liverpool from Aberdeen to sign for Bill Shankly as one of his first young players.

I remember getting off of the train at Lime Street Station and being met by Joe Fagan who was then the youth team coach. We got in a taxi and drove up the famous Scotland Road where Joe told me there was a pub on every corner and not to visit any of them ever.

We soon arrived at 258 Anfield Road where I was to share lodgings with two other apprentices, Bobby Graham and Gordon Wallace, both of whom later went on to play in the first team.

My first wage as an apprentice professional was £7.50 per week of which I gave £3.50 to my landlady for my lodgings and sent £2.00 per week home to my Mum in an envelope to help the family out. I was left with £1.50 per week which was enough in those days for a young man to have a great time for a week in Liverpool, including being able to watch the Beatles start their career playing live in the Cavern in Mathew Street.

In May 1961 outside the secretary’s office I found a complete record of the week’s wages to be paid in to Barclays Bank in Walton Vale for every player and member of staff at Anfield. Unbelievably the total wage bill for every player and all of the coaching and managerial staff in the Liverpool Football Club was five hundred and thirteen pounds, thirteen shillings, and two pence old money.

As Apprentice professionals, after cleaning the first team’s boots, painting the stands and clearing the rubbish from the Kop we used to play 5-a-sides in the car park behind the main stand every Monday morning. The opposition in these games was usually Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Ronnie Moran and Reuben Bennett. Our side was Bobby Graham, Gordon Wallace, Tommy Smith, Chris Lawler, and me. We never ever won those games because Shanks and company would have played until dark to make sure they got the result.

One of my first memories of Bill Shankly was in January 1960 when we were standing in the centre circle on the pitch while he was showing my father and me around a rather dilapidated Anfield. Liverpool at the time was in the second division and he had just taken over as Manager. He said that I should look around and be grateful that I had signed for the club at this time because this place was going to become a “Bastion of Invincibility and the most famous football club in the world”

My father worked at the time as a gardener for the Aberdeen City Council and during the conversation Bill asked him the question “Who are you with Mr Scott”? My Dad replied “I work for the City Mr Shankly” whereupon Bill responded by saying in his best James Cagney voice “What league do they play in?

After a two year apprenticeship, I signed full time professional forms on my 17th birthday on October 25th 1961 and went on to make 138 appearances in the reserve team at Anfield scoring 34 goals.

Although I moved in to the first team squad, I never made my first team debut, as they only used 13 players in total that year, and the substitute rule only became effective in 1966, after I had left the club.

It was so different then from the Liverpool of the modern era. When reporters asked Bill Shankly what the team was, he used to reply “Same as last season”

During my time at Liverpool as a young player, I saw at first hand the fantastic charisma and motivational powers of Bill Shankly, and I was a witness to the authenticity of many of the stories of this amazing man that have found their way in to the folk lore of British football. I was there when he ordered the building of the famous shooting boards and sweat boxes at the Melwood training ground, where the training and coaching methods instilled by Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley were ultimately copied all over the world.

In the 1964/65 season I ended the season at Liverpool as easily the leading goal scorer in the second team at Anfield, and the first team beat Leeds United to win the FA Cup at Wembley. This was the first time that Liverpool had ever won the Cup, and it was a fabulous occasion, and the greatest day in the clubs history at that time. I remember walking up the Wembley pitch with Bill Shankly Bob Paisley and Peter Thompson an hour and a half before the game. Bill looked at the masses of Liverpool fans behind the goal and said to Bob Paisley. “Bob we can’t lose for these fans, it is not an option” The hairs still stand up on the back of my neck today when I think about it.

I remember Ian St John’s great headed winning goal in extra time, and the winner’s reception at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. On the train journey home we drank champagne from the FA Cup, and once we passed Crewe you could not see the buildings for flags and bunting. When we arrived at Lime Street station there must have been over 500,000 people in the streets as we made our way to the town hall for the official reception.

I stood behind Shankly on the town hall balcony as he made his speech to the thousands of supporters congested in to Water Street below, and it was absolutely electrifying. At the time I was in digs with the great Liverpool winger Peter Thompson and when we eventually got home to our digs that evening I found a letter from the club waiting for me from Mr Shankly. I opened it thinking that I had been permanently promoted to the first team squad and that 1966 would be my big breakthrough year. I was brought right back to reality when I saw that the letter stated that at a board meeting of the Directors of Liverpool FC it had been decided to place me on the transfer list.

On the Monday morning I went in to see the great man as I was very upset. He then proceeded to make the most wonderful sacking any manager has ever implemented.

He said to me “George son there are five good reasons why you should leave Anfield now.” I was puzzled and asked what they were. “Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Smith, and Thompson” he replied “The first team forward line, they are all internationals”.

I was in tears by now, and it was then that he showed his motivational powers, humanity and greatness when he said the words I will never forget. “George son always remember that at this moment in history you are the twelfth best player in the world” When I asked what he meant by this outrageous statement he replied “The first team here at Anfield son is the greatest team in the world and you are the leading goal scorer in the reserves. I have sold you to Aberdeen go back home and prove me right”

As I was leaving his office very upset, he made his final comment. ”Son remember this, you were one of the first players to come here and sign for me so I want you to think of yourself like the foundation stone of the Liverpool Cathedral. “Nobody ever sees it but it has to be there otherwise the cathedral does not get built”

He also gave me a written reference that day which is still my proudest possession and which says the following.

"Dear People

George Scott played for my football club for five years from 1960 to 1965 and during that time he caused no trouble to anybody.

I would stake my life on his character.


Bill Shankly"

(Signed in red ink)

The old Olivetti typewriter he used to type the reference is still on display in the Liverpool FC museum today.

I had never earned more than £45.00 per week at Anfield despite having been on the verge of the first team but I received a signing on fee of £1,000 on returning to Aberdeen in 1965 at a time when a new Mini cost £534 (I know that because I bought one for cash and drove it out of the showroom).

Aberdeen were my home town club that I had supported since childhood, and I scored on my debut and got rave reviews when we beat Glasgow Rangers 2.0 in front of 28,000 fans. There were nine full Scottish internationals in the Rangers team that day including the Rangers and Scotland captain John Greig. I remember putting the ball through Greig’s legs and hearing his Glaswegian accent following me and requesting in very basic terms the name of the hospital I would prefer to wake up in if I ever did it again.

I thought I was really on the way to justifying Bill Shankly’s faith in my ability and at last making the breakthrough to the big time. Unfortunately the difference between success and failure in football can sometimes be wafer thin, and after just half a dozen games in the first team at Aberdeen I suffered a serious cruciate ligament injury and was released at the end of the season in May 1966. After starting the season with such high hopes I was out of work at the age of 21 having left school at fifteen years of age, with nothing to fall back on and having no qualifications other than football.

After being released by Aberdeen at the end of that 1965 season I returned to Liverpool to live with my girlfriend’s family and spent many weeks training on my own to regain my fitness. I got a job for a few months in Crawford’s, a biscuit factory, throwing ropes round pallets of biscuits and loading them on to wagons. The factory workers were brilliant, wanting to hear stories about the great Bill Shankly. Then in June 1966, I received a call from a representative of the South African Premier League club Port Elizabeth City FC, telling me I had been recommended to them by Bill Shankly.

Thanks again to the great man’s recommendation another £1,000 signing on fee came my way and my wife Carole and I got married on July 30th 1966 (the same day that England won the World Cup) and flew to South Africa on 8th August 1966 to join Port Elizabeth FC. When my wife and I arrived in Port Elizabeth just after England had won the 1966 World Cup, South Africa was in the grip of the Apartheid regime, and Nelson Mandela had just begun his “Long road to Freedom, by being incarcerated in Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town. Today Nelson Mandela has completed that long walk to freedom and South Africa has been transformed into the rainbow nation that will host the 2010 World Cup.

At Port Elizabeth we won the 1967 South African Premier League title, and Bill wrote to me in South Africa a number of times. One of his letters that I still have today, sent me the best wishes of everyone at Anfield and ended with the words “By the way we are still winning the five a side games in the car park, how could we lose with five referees in our team”

In 1968 I received a visit in Port Elizabeth from the then Chairman of Liverpool FC Mr Sydney Reakes who conveyed the best wishes of Bill Shankly and all of the staff at Liverpool FC to me and he told me that if I returned to the UK he was confident that Bill would fix me up with a club in England. Remembering the words of Mr Reakes that Bill would help me on my return I nervously went to Anfield in October 1968 to try to see him.

I saw Roger Hunt in the car park as I approached the player’s entrance and Roger said Bill was in his office and would be delighted to see me. You just couldn’t do this today.

When I entered the Anfield Stadium and made my way down to Bill’s office I heard his unmistakable Jimmy Cagney staccato voice chatting to a reporter but as soon as Bill saw me the reporter was immediately dismissed and Bill invited me in to his office. The conversation went like this. “Mr Reakes tells me your team have won the championship and you have set South Africa alight scoring goals for fun, so what are your plans George?” I said that I was married and that I had a young son who was barely four months old and I wanted to return to play in the UK.

“Where do you want to play son”? Said Bill. I replied “How about Arsenal boss” Bill replied “I tell you what son, how about Tranmere Rovers” He then picked up the phone and phoned David Russell who was then the manager of Tranmere Rovers and he said in his inimitable Shankly way.

“I have a boy here just come back from South Africa where he was the leading scorer in their Premier League and he was the best player ever to play for my reserve team”

Within five minutes, and on Shankly’s word the Tranmere Rovers Manager at the time David Russell, had committed himself to giving me a month’s trial at Tranmere Rovers on 1st team wages. When I went over that afternoon to Prenton Park Mr Russell said to me “I hope you can play son.” Without having seen me play and purely on Shankly’s word he put me in the first team in Alan King’s testimonial game at Prenton Park against Derby County who were the English League Champions of the day managed by Brian Clough and containing names like Archie Gemmell, Peter Shilton, Kevin Hector, Alan Hinton, Alan Durban John O’Hare and Dave Mackay. I played regularly in the Tranmere Rovers first team over the next two seasons but more importantly I was able to settle back into the UK with my wife and begin to build a future successful family and business life back on Merseyside.

All thanks to Bill Shankly.

Postscript Istanbul May 2005

Having left Liverpool in May 1965, here I was in Istanbul forty five years on from the day my Dad and I stood with Bill Shankly in the centre circle at Anfield.

The date was the 25th May 2005 and my oldest son and myself, were sat in the grandstand in the Ataturk Stadium exhausted by the events that had unfolded below us.

As we soaked up the joy of a fifth Liverpool European Cup triumph, in quiet reflection my thoughts again wondered back to the beginning of the Liverpool success story on that winter day 45 years ago in January 1960 when my father, who sadly passed away in 1991 and I had listened on the Anfield pitch to the great Bill Shankly’s words.” You are lucky to be here son, because this stadium will be a bastion of invincibility, and this club will be the most famous club in the world” On that unbelievable evening in Istanbul, 25th May 2005, who would have doubted the accuracy of that prediction?

Bill Shankly was a major influence on my life and I am sure the lives of countless other players and supporters of The Liverpool Football Club.

He will never be forgotten, his passion and enthusiasm lit up the game, and the standards he set have inspired me over the last 46 years since I first met him, and I am grateful that I crossed his path.

Postscript Athens 2007

It is now June 2007 and we savoured further fantastic European nights at the famous Anfield arena beating PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and Chelsea over two legs to continue our progress to a return match with the equally great AC Milan in Athens.

Although we so unluckily lost the in the final so much has been achieved at Anfield since the day in late 1959 when the great Bill Shankly arrived in Liverpool and lit up the red half of Merseyside with his passion, vision and leadership.

Liverpool Football Club is now owned by two American Multi Millionaires. My grandchildren will watch the future unfold in the new stadium that will rise in Stanley Park over the next few years.

I hope that those to whom the baton has now passed will create the foundations of even greater success in the future. The challenges and opportunities faced today by Rafa Benitez and the new board of Directors are different from those faced by Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley but the joy that the winning the English Premier League by England’s most successful club ever, would bring to future generations of Liverpool supporters, cannot be underestimated.

George Scott
June 2007

© George Scott 2007

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