Ronnie Moran: ‘How could I forget Bill Shankly’s first Liverpool FC game? I played in it.’
TWO days a week you will find a man walking around the perimeter of the Melwood training pitches.
Recently, Fernando Torres pulled Sammy Lee to one side and asked: “Sammy, who is that old guy who walks by the walls?”
“Who is that?” exclaimed the Liverpool assistant manager. “Follow me. I’ll show you who that is.”
He took Torres inside, past the changing rooms to a corridor where pictures of former players adorn the walls.
With Billy Liddell behind him, Lee stopped and pointed to a print of Ronnie Moran in a white Liverpool shirt.
“That’s who he is,” he told Torres.
Now, when Moran crosses Torres’ path, the Liverpool striker shakes his hand and stops for a chat.
“Quite a few of the young lads will do that,” says Moran.
“Glen Johnson’s another one who went out of his way to speak to me when he arrived. I’m not sure how but he seemed to know all about me.”
And so he should.
Under the auspices of Bill Shankly, it’s men like Ronnie Moran who helped put Liverpool on the map.
By the time Shankly arrived in 1959, Moran had graduated from 15-year-old apprentice to club captain and was Liverpool’s first choice left-back.
The Reds were languishing in the old Second Division at the time.
Within three years Shankly had transformed Liverpool into champions of England, while laying the foundations for sustained success at home and abroad.
There was little evidence of this, recalls Moran, when he took charge of the team for the first time 50 years ago yesterday – 14 December 1959.
“How could I forget Bill’s first game? I played in it,” says Moran.
“It was Cardiff at home and we lost 4-0.
“Walking off at the end with Alan A’Court I remember saying to him ‘I wonder what will happen now. I bet we get kiboshed!’
“But Bill wasn’t like that. The only time I saw him get really angry was with one of the reporters who’d written something in the Echo that was incorrect.
“Shankly was in the bootroom this day and, as he saw the reporter pass, he didn’t half give him a rollicking.
“But he never did it in the dressing rooms. He wasn’t one of those tea-cups at the wall types.
“He’d have a cup in his hand but he’d be sipping hot water out of it. He’d take a sip then spit it out of the corner of his mouth.
“You could see he may be angry but he’d never go for a player in that way.”
Though injuries would eventually see Moran lose his place to Gerry Byrne, his enthusiasm and full-blooded commitment never waned.
His last game for Shankly and Liverpool was the 1965 European Cup semi-final against Inter Milan. It was another match he hasn’t forgotten in a hurry.
“I was coming up for 26-years-old when Bill came in.
“I played a lot of games for him, the last being the European Cup semi-final against Inter when we got cheated.
“I played in the first leg at home. We won 3-1. Then we got beat 3-0 away but two of the goals were blatant cheats.
“I’d been out of the side for a while because they kept on winning. Chris Lawler had come in at right-back and Gerry Byrne moved over to left-back.
“Many a time I’d go and knock on Bill’s door. He’d always be the same. ‘Come in son and sit down,’ he’d say.
“I’d tell him that I wasn’t there to complain about the team. How could I? They were always winning. ‘Keep going son, you’ll have another chance,’ he’d tell me. I eventually got back in for a few games but even when I was playing in the reserves I was enjoying it.”
It was then that Shankly called Moran into his office.
“I knew I’d done nothing wrong but I thought this was it and he’d be telling me I was finished.
“In those days you’d only get a contract every 12 months.
“This time Bill asked me if I’d like a job working with the kids. I said I’d think about it and come back to him the next day.
“I’d heard a few whispers that one or two clubs wanted me. Brighton was one but I was married and we didn’t want to move.”
Shankly spotted something in Moran to encourage the wily Scot to make him part of his backroom staff, starting him with the youth teams before moving up to the reserves and then later the first team under Bob Paisley.
Moran became a permanent fixture at the club, presiding over the famous bootroom throughout Liverpool’s glory years before retirement in 1998.
He worked with nine different managers at Liverpool, plus a stint as caretaker boss himself.
Aside from the eight Charity Shield wins he was involved in, his 49-year association with the club yielded 30 trophies, an incredible haul that included 13 league titles and four European Cups.
That’s something every current Liverpool player should be aware of and something, adds Moran, that may never have been possible had it not been for Shankly.
“Bill had seen me working with the younger lads. He always enjoyed a little game against the kids after training,” he added.
“There was no difference working for him as a player or as part of his backroom team. Everybody just got on with the job.
“There were never any fall-outs with the manager and the trainers. Bill wasn’t that kind of a bloke.
“Don’t get me wrong, he ran the show. We’d always have meetings, Bill, Bob, Joe (Fagan) and me. Shanks would always listen but always make the final decision too.
“You’d tell the truth about certain players and how they were doing in the team but the buck stopped with the manager.
“I’ve always said he put Liverpool where it is today. He revolutionised the club. Bill got the ball rolling.”
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