Nessie was like a mum to us

When Nessie Shankly, Bill's widow, passed away on 2nd of August 2002, Tommy Smith remembered her fondly.

SHE was, without doubt, the power behind a great throne.

Nessie Shankly stood firmly behind the Boss. She helped him to become the greatest football manager the game has ever seen.

Nessie was an extremely quiet woman - but very strong in spirit. I never saw her lose her temper or heard her raise her voice. People forget she was a player's wife first and then a manager's wife. Both roles are not easy with husbands away working a lot. It can be a very lonely life. The Boss moved around the country a lot during both careers, which meant Nessie was constantly on the move too. But she went wherever the Boss went and never complained.

Nessie was happy bringing up the couple's two daughters. She was a real home maker and was contented looking after the girls and later the grandchildren. Nessie was not the sort of woman who craved the limelight or walked around with airs and graces. She wasn't dazzled by the social side of the job.

I remember when I came to Liverpool, aged just 15. When we first met her we called her Mrs Shankly out of respect for the boss's wife. But she waved her hand and said: "Please call me Nessie." She made us feel right at home.

I was one of 10 ground staff lads at the club. One of our duties was to go around to the boss's house and do the garden and paint the window frames and gutters. We'd turn up with all our gear and Nessie would greet us with a cup of tea and something to eat. She was like a mother to us. The lads and I would spend the day doing all sorts of odd jobs. Nessie was always very appreciative and never complained. There's no doubt about it she had to put up with a lot, living with the boss. He was so outgoing and on the go all the time.

She had to be patient. They met during the war when she was in the women's RAF and married in Glasgow, close to the Scottish base where they were stationed. Bill (left) famously took Nessie to a Preston reserve match on their wedding day. Not many brides would be happy with that. But Nessie understood how important football was to her husband.

Eventually the boss retired in 1974. He knew Nessie and the family had put up with a lot over the years and was determined to spend time with them. Nessie and the Boss were a devoted couple and were very close. After all the years moving about the country they made Liverpool their home and were very happy here. Obviously she was devastated when he passed away. But it gave her a tremendous amount of comfort knowing the people of Liverpool remembered her husband with such love.

Nessie Shankly was a lovely, gentle woman with a warm smile.

And I - like all the players of my generation at Liverpool will remember her with great fondness, warmth and affection.

Copyright - Liverpool Echo (Tommy Smith was talking to ECHO reporter Petra Mann)

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