The last of Bill Shankly's original Bootroom Boys
A ROOM in Ronnie Moran's comfortable Crosby bungalow offers a collection of reminders from a 49-year Liverpool career that saw him progress from teenage apprentice to assistant manager.
Adorning the walls are a variety of pictures, from famous league championship and European Cup wins, to a snapshot of Moran shaking hands with Prince Charles.
He uses it as a television room, somewhere to watch the football when his wife of 52 years, Joyce, needs a well-earned break from the second love of his life.
The room doubles up as a spare bedroom where the grandchildren sleep when they stay over. The kids refer to it simply as 'The Boot Room’.
It is an apt title for a place where Moran spends much of his time.
“That's the grandchildren,” he says proudly, pointing to a photograph on a small table beneath a print of another triumphant night at Anfield. “The eldest one, she's got a daughter too, our great- grandaughter. She's three now, a real handful.”
At 75, Moran is the last surviving member of Liverpool's original Boot Room Boys.
Asked by Bill Shankly to take charge of the youth team when his playing days at Anfield were up, Moran was a permanent fixture in the room beneath the Main Stand.
It is the stuff of legend in football circles, an idea says Moran, that was conceived by Shankly and embraced by his trusted lieutenants, Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan.
“Initially Joe and Bob had all their kit in a room that was right down towards the Anfield Road end.
“They started that off as the first Boot Room I suppose. It wasn't an official boot room but that's where the idea came from. It was full of old kit and you had to knock at the door to get in there. It wasn't a big room but you'd sometimes get about 20 to 30 people in there.
“It was a place where people could go and have a good natter. I was in there a lot from when I hung up my boots and started working with the kids.
“Fellas like Reuben Bennett and Tom Saunders would come in occasionally but the original Boot Room was mainly the three of us; Joe, Bob and myself, plus whoever would come in after games.”
After Shankly through to Roy Evans it was pretty much a pre-requisite for the Liverpool manager to have learned his trade under the traditions of the Boot Room. It was perceived as the nerve centre of the club where the so-called Liverpool Way was formulated by those privy to the mysterious goings on that took place within its four walls.
Moran remembers it as a much simpler place, however.
Although Shankly was instrumental in its foundation, the myth of him holding court in the Boot Room, hatching plans for domestic and European domination is quickly dispelled.
“It always gets mentioned with Shanks in mind,” says Moran. “He brought the Boot Room to the club but he didn't actually come in too often after games.
“Even during the week, he'd take people into his office while a few of us would be in the Boot Room.
“Shanks would come in now and again but never after games. Myself, Joe and Bob would always be in there though, even during the week after training. You'd have your lunch and do a bit of work, sorting the kits or whatever. Then we'd sit down and have a natter.”
The Boot Room also became the venue for a post-match drink, a kind of unofficial hospitality lounge, only much smaller. It was a gesture that soon caught on in the game.
“No matter how a match went or what the result, we'd always invite visiting staff to come and have drink in the Boot Room before they left.
“They'd always come down. I remember Cloughie (Brian) being in there a couple of times.
“We used to have all the kit bags in there. They were big straw things back then. Cloughie came in and sat on one of them just listening to what was going on, taking it all in.
“It was like a ritual after each game. Once Joe and Bob started it up, it began happening at most clubs. They may not have had a Boot Room as such but there'd always be somewhere to go after the game. Soon enough, wherever we went people would be asking us in for a drink before we travelled.”
When Anfield was redeveloped in the early ‘90s, the famous Boot Room made way for a new press room to cater for increased media demands.
To many it was a travesty.
What isn't widely known though is that a new Boot Room was created just a few feet across the corridor.
Under the auspices of current assistant manager, Sammy Lee, the spirit lives on. What's more, you're still likely to find Moran in there.
“Since he came back a few years ago Sammy has asked me to look after the Boot Room when I'm at Anfield for a match,” smiles Moran.
“It's great Sammy has kept it going. You need a pass now to get anywhere but Sammy has sorted me out with one.
“You'll still get managers and staff coming in there before and after games. I caught up with Fergie (Alex Ferguson) and Bobby Charlton in there.”
“As they approached the Boot Room I started joking about, bowing to them and saying 'Good afternoon Sirs.' They were having none of it. We had a cup of tea and a good catch up, talking football and what not.”
Just like the old days, he might say.
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