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Ian St John - Raging Bull

Shankly clearly admired his St John as a player and their bond was deeper than between most players and their manager.

Shanks was a great manager. It wasn't a fear of him, more of a respect. With the boss you had to be disciplined because he was constrict in lot of ways. He never drank, never smoked, fitness was his thing. That's what he preached all the time. If you stepped out of line you got your fingers rapped if you ever thought you could be having a drink or a night out when you shouldn't be. That was the setting down all the laws of Liverpool. We trained hard and we trained his way which was a different way from anybody else. We trained with the ball. All the other managers in the game were running around the pitch. Ours was all football - football.. It was great and really enjoyable training.

He was strict, but he was also a funny man. He had a great sense of humour, liked to laugh and a joke. The dressing room was a happy dressing room. From half past two until ten minutes before we went out it was always jokes and laughs. We had people coming into the dressing room. Pals that were local. Comedians like Jimmy Tarbuck. Bob Paisley had a little jockey fellow who was a horse trainer and he'd come out and give us tips. The dressing room was always fun until ten minutes before. Then... clear the place! Then he reminded people of what they're doing.

Shanks loved footballers. The more talented they were, no matter what team they played for, the more he respected them. He was like a fan of the great teams and the great players. He would stand and talk to them and they would stand and talk to him. Liverpool were the most outgoing team because of the boss. Everybody was welcome. Bob, who took over after Shanks, had been brought up like that under Shanks for 15 years. Bob was as nice a man you could ever meet. The most unassuming guy you'd ever met in your life. He would let things in place. Bob said on: 'Come and have a drink when you're in town.' I used to go up on a weekend. I was working TV on the Saturday but on Sunday I'd go up and have a drink with them in the boot room and talk football with Bob, Joe and Ronnie Moran.

Liverpool celebrating their FA Cup win in 1965 - Photo courtesy of Joseph Neary

Liverpool were promoted to 1st division in St John's and Yeats' first season at Liverpool. Two years later Liverpool were League champions. Shankly had promised the club's financial director, Eric Sawyer, that with St John and Yeats in the team Liverpool would win the FA Cup for the first time in the club's history and that came true in 1965 when St John memorably scored Liverpool's winning goal.

Liverpool won the League again in 1966, but St John missed out on a European trophy in 1966 when Liverpool lost 1-2 to Dortmund in the European Cup Winners' Cup final. The fact that the game was at Hampden in Glasgow added insult to injury. I told St John of Willie Stevenson's quote "I was so disappointed that in the shower room I picked up my medal and hurled it through the window. It must have fallen somewhere in the car park below." St John quick as a flash remarked: "He spent years looking for that medal."

"The treatment of players in the treatment room was just a joke.
The magic sponge and a bit of fiery Jack."

Football in those days was quite different to today's game..

We were drinking pints after games. We had steak before the game. I've always had the belief that you can eat whatever whether it's bacon or eggs and sausage on a Saturday morning and go out and play your game which is a brilliant game if you're a good player. It didn't kill Kenny Dalglish to eat these Scottish pies, meat pies. They're great. It's absolute nonsense, but it keeps people in jobs, nutritionists.

Shankly didn't trust foreigners. Thought they were all cheats. He had come from the background of fighting in the wars. Europe was all new to us. After we'd played a game or two - at half-time we'd go into the dressing room. At home you would always have a big jug of tea. That's what we did in those days. Bob wouldn't let you drink it, it could be poisoned.

Ian St John misses the honesty in football as it was played in his day

Today the pretend they fall over. Shanks used to say: 'It's a man's game. Give a knock, take them out and don't let them see they've hurt you.' If you got a whack of somebody you couldn't go and limp about. You had to pretend you never gotten it. There were no substitutes. If you had a bad ankle, bad knee, bad anything you played on. 

Now you're getting brought up with the players falling over and pretending they're hurt, looking for fouls. We were honest. We kicked people and they kicked you. But you would never pretend that anybody would kicked you. You never said 'Send him off, referee.' Shankly hated cheats and liars. It's the one thing that really annoys me about today's football. The modern game has good things about it. I like some skillful players who have come from around the world. Marvellous players. I wish they were all like little Zola. He was terrific. He was the littlest guy and if you whacked him he'd get knocked over, get up and play on. I used to look at him and say: 'Son, you are really a British player.'

Steven Gerrard would get into any team. He is fantastic. Carragher epitomizes the Liverpool of the past. "Never say die, get stuck in and play until the final whistle" which we were always told to do. Those two are fantastic for me. You got to have a standard you play to.

St John socializing with former Liverpool players Joe Hewitt and Albert Stubbins at the 1964 Championship celebratory dinner

St John got upset with Shanks when he was dropped for a game vs Newcastle on 11th October 1969 when his Liverpool career was drawing to a close

He let me down and he did it with other players as well. He had a little flaw in his make-up that he couldn't face up to the hard decision that a player was coming to the end of his career. This was the first time on my life as a professional that I'd never played in the team. So it's hard to take. I walked into the dressing room and my boots are under a 12. I said to Shanks: 'We were up there Friday night, Saturday morning. You could have pulled me over.' I wanted him to track me down before the game at Newcastle and say. 'We've had a great time. Ten years, but you're in your 30's now. Your knees are not getting any better.' I had a dodgy knee. I would have understood that and said: 'Fine, boss.'

I was sub for the first time and Bob said: 'Get warmed up. You better get on here.' We were losing the game. I said: 'No, I'm not getting warmed up. If he comes and tells me to warm to warm up I'll warm up', because Shankly was up in the stand. He never came down and we lost. He did it to Tommy Smith when he left him out. Tommy stormed out of the dressing room in London and took the train home. I went to see Shankly and had a disagreement with him. Bob pulled me up at training and said: 'You got to have helpers or hinderers.' He had been left out of the cup final having played in the semi-final and scored a goal. 'We've all had in our careers when it comes to the end of our careers.' I said: 'Ok, Bob.' Shanks never said anything. We just had stony silence after we had that row.

I played a few games in the reserves with Joe Fagan. Shanks put me on the bench vs. Swansea in the 1st round of the cup in January. We were struggling at Anfield and he brought me on and I scored a goal. That week Shanks said to me: 'How would you like going to South-Africa?' I thought that is as far away from Liverpool he can get me. I was still quite a favourite with the crowd and it wasn't he had bought another player for a lot of money and you'll think, 'Well, that was a great buy and he's going to have to make changes.' He was bringing kids through.

I had a great year at Hellenic and loved it. Champions of South Africa and everything. It was great. When I got back to this country I went to Coventry. Only after a short time we started talking again because we'd had as good as a relationship you can get with your manager. When Shankly packed it in and was retired I used to see him quite a bit. We got back on track again. I was one of the pallbearers when he died.

St John signing for Liverpool with chairman TV. Williams and Shankly

LFChistory.net asked an avid Liverpool fan, Alan Hindley, who has seen Liverpool's greatest players up close, what made The Saint so special

At that time most people saw Sir Roger Hunt as their idol but the Saint just seemed to have more to his game. One hundred and eighteen goals is not a bad return for someone who later became more of a midfielder. When I got older I realised that a player I have admired for years was the same height as I am. He was outjumping defenders of six foot plus to head some great goals. I have always admired a player who can score with a header and there was none better than the Saint. In 1964, as a present I was given a dog. He was a handsome Alsatian (which we now have to call a German Shepherd). He could only be called one name - "Saint".

When Ian St John retired from playing in 1973 he went into management at his former club, Motherwell, and was four years in charge. He was tempted to go south of the border to manage and Shanks offered him the chance he had been looking for.

Shanks could sell you everything. He got me a job that was the worst job in football. I didn't know that. He convinced me to go to Portsmouth when I was at Motherwell. I had just missed out on Leeds when Don Revie had left to go to the Emirates. I was getting the job supposedly. Jock Stein had set it up. I had a meeting and everything and then Brian Clough got it right out of the blue. In the 44 days he was there making a pig's ear of Leeds Shanks said: 'Ok, son, aye. Go to Portsmouth.' The chairman spoke to me. I would have money to spend on players, a new ground they were still waiting for. I thought, 'Maybe at Pompey I've got a chance there.' Not a penny. Nothing. I had the worst group of players you have ever seen in your life. 

We couldn't let go of St John without him telling one of his favourite stories about Shanks

Shankly signed a boy called Jack Whitham. He was always getting injured. Training for Jack was like jogging in between injuries. He was driving Shanks mad because he hated people who were like that. Finally he said one day to Jack in training, 'You, go up to the corner (where the pigsty was) and train up there. I don't want you to contaminate the rest of the team.' Poor Jack was jogging up there in the pigsty with the smell of the pigs and all that.

Fans always compare Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley - is there really any way to compare the two? Shankly put in the foundations that the club is built on and Paisley among others profited from. 

It's a no-brainer because Shanks took over the team in the 2nd division and had to build a club. After 15 years he had built a team that was revered around the country and around the world. Paisley took over a team that was already in place. He was a great judge of a player and we won the European cups. But there were two different jobs that were done there. If Shankly had taken over from Bob's position after we had won the championship, cups and had been in Europe for all those years who's to say he wouldn't have won 3-4, or half a dozen European cups.

I very rarely write a prologue or an epilogue to my interviews, but with St John I make an exception. He must be one of the most entertaining people I have ever had the pleasure of interviewing. He tells his stories with great enthusiasm and clearly enjoyed telling them as much as I enjoyed listening to them.

Interview by Arnie - Copyright - LFChistory.net

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