1st December 1959 – A date that will live long in the annals of Liverpool Football Club. It was on this date, 50 years ago this year, that the late great Bill Shankly became our manager, and began to turn a club struggling in the lower half of the then second division into the dynasty it is today. His list of honours at Anfield may not be as impressive as you may think, 3 league titles, 2 FA cups, 1 UEFA cup and 1 Charity Shield (2 were shared) in 14 ½ years in charge. But among the silverware his teams won, were Liverpool’s first FA Cup and first European trophies. But he is remembered for much more than his contribution to our trophy cabinet.
When he arrived in L4, Liverpool were in the bottom half of the second division. By the end of Shankly’s second full season in charge, Liverpool were promoted as champions. Two years later, they were league champions. The original “5 year plan” was a success and Shankly had built his first great side.
Shankly was a man living nearly two generations before his time. His training methods and ideas on team management were certainly advanced for the early 60s but he also had an understanding of the media that many of the current incumbents of the top jobs in football could learn from. Perhaps it is with hindsight only, but Shankly seemed to speak in sound bites and today’s media would have loved his instantly quotable speeches. The digital age is all the poorer for the absence of Shankly.
No manager in the current era, with the exception of perhaps Mourinho, speaks in quotations. The only other manager I would mention in the same breath as the great man is Ol’ Big ‘ead himself, Brian Clough. The game needs these characters but everyone is becoming too guarded when dealing with the media. Either that or they don’t possess the same intellect or charisma as Shankly to come up with immortal quotes.
To honour the 50th anniversary of Shankly’s appointment as Messiah, I have compiled a list of my top 5 quotes from Shanks:
1. “If you are first you are first. If you are second you are nothing.”
2. “If Everton were playing at the bottom of the garden, I’d pull the curtains.”
3. “There are two great teams in Liverpool. Liverpool and Liverpool reserves”
4. “Don’t worry Alan, at least you’ll be able to play close to a great team.” To Alan Ball when he signed for Everton
5. “Take that bandage off. And what do you mean about YOUR knee? It’s Liverpool’s knee!” To Tommy Smith, who had a bandage on his injured knee
Let us hope that the plans to commemorate Shankly’s 50th anniversary surpass the celebrations seen at Anfield on his 40th anniversary!
Shankly! Shankly! Shankly!