"Some people believe football is a
matter of life and death,
The man who resurrected Liverpool
William Shankly, born in 1913 in a coalmining village of Glenbuck, was the man tipped to take over the ruins of Liverpool. He was a man famed for interesting quotes. Upon arriving at Liverpool, he said "Liverpool FC were a footballing giant who had been dormant far too long". Over his next 14 years in charge, he would not only have awaken the giant but also bring a whole new lease of life to the city of Liverpool.
Shanks, as he was more fondly known, was appointed manager of the Reds on 1 December 1959 after months of hestitation. He took over on the condition that he and only he himself would be allowed to choose the team to play, a practice unheard of in Liverpool FC then. He allowed the board to choose the team on his first game in charge however. On 19 December 1959, his first game against Cardiff City, his team would be humiliated 4-0 at home. The next match in his sole charge, his boys would beat Charlton 3-0.
Shanks knew that there were lots to work on. Over the next 12 months, 24 of the players he inherited were sold off. Billy Liddell, the Anfield favourite finally hang up his boots soon after. Lidell, one of the finest wingers ever to play for Liverpool joined the club shortly before the war. A regular Scottish regular himself, he played 495 games and scored 216 goals for the club between 1946 and 1961.
Changes to playing tactics is inevitable. Shankly had been a fierce critic of training football players into "marathon runners". Over the years he implemented the famous style of play which makes Liverpool famous over the country and continent. Simply pass to a red shirt. Shankly's style of executing the pass accurately to a teammate will become and remain Liverpool's trademark till this very day.
Left - Gerry Byrne parading the FA Cup in Anfield.
Shankly's first plunge in the transfer market was for a young half back, Gordon Milne from Preston for a fee of £12,000. He trusted young Ian Callaghan from the youth team into first team football. Callaghan would go on to become Liverpool's longest serving player. 18 years he was to prove to be an indispensable part of many of the club's glories. Along with Milne, Ron Yeats and Ian St John came over to Anfield. These 4 players together with Roger Hunt would form the core of the 1961/62 Division 2 title-winning side. The boys were back to big time football and they are never relegated from then onwards.
The League Championship finally moved to Anfield in the 1963/64 season. The squad was significantly strengthened with inclusion of Tommy Lawrence, Tommy Smith and Willie Stevenson. It was yet another season when Hunt topped the Reds' goalscoring chart, this time with 31 goals. Tommy Lawrence would become one of Liverpool's best 'keepers in history, making the number one jersey almost his for 8 seasons. Tommy Smith would also command more than 600 games for the Reds in his 15 years in Liverpool.
Although Liverpool FC had won 6 championships by then, the FA Cup would still be a trophy that eluded the club for decades. That jinx would be broken in the 1964/65 season. Having finished a disastrous 7th in the league, the Shankly's boys knew they had to redeem themselves in the FA Cup Final against the mighty Leeds United. Only 5 minutes into the game, Gerry Byrne broke his collarbone during a collision. With no substitutes allowed, Byrne decided to carry on. It finished 0-0 at final time. During extra time Byrne would provide a goal for Hunt. Leeds equalised shortly before Ian St John's scored the header which secured the Cup for the Reds. Ron Yeats thus became the first Liverpool captain to lift the FA Cup. The team returned home with a warm reception of half a million people.
During the sixties, Liverpool would not only be famous for being the city where Beatles hail from but also where a great football side was revitalised. During this period, the Kop adopted "You'll Never Walk Alone" as its unofficial anthem of club since Liverpool favourites Gerry and the Pacemakers took the song to the top of the charts in the 1960's.
Liverpool's next success came straight away in the 1965/66 season. They won the the league championship at Chelsea. Their FA Cup run ended rather abruptly at the hands of Chelsea! Having won the FA Cup the previous season, the Reds competed in the European Cup Winners' Cup, which they went all the way to the Final. They were a step closer to a unique double. However their final opponent, Borussia Dortmund would deny the Reds of achieving that by winning the final 2-1 after extra time.
Left- Kevin Keegan. A delightful forward not only for Liverpool but for England as well. He was capped 63 times and scored 21 goals for England.
It would be long wait for success after the 1965/66 season. 7 years to be exact. Although the club only lifted another 2 trophies- the league championship and the UEFA Cup in the 1972/73 season, numerous superb players were playing in the side. Emlyn Hughes was one such player. The Reds snapped Kevin Keegan up for a fee of £ 35000 from Scunthorpe in the final weeks of the 1970/71 season, a few weeks before the FA Cup final against Arsenal. He would not be play for the Reds in the final. When Arsenal triumphed 2-1, Keegan managed to console his future team mates despite being heartbroken himself. Shankly took a look and thought, "Here's one character and he's not even playing." Keegan would become one of Liverpool's finest players, striking up a potent partnership with John Toshack. The duo played a big part of bringing the championship and UEFA Cup to Anfield in the 1972/73 season and the FA Cup in 1974.
On 12 July, 1974 Shankly called a press conference to announce the club's latest signing, Ray Kennedy from Arsenal. The real newsmaker of that conference however was not the new signing but rather the shock announcement of Shankly's retirement. Shankly was renown for being his practical jokes. But this was for real. Shankly had decided to step down graciously after the FA Cup win.
Over 14 years in charge, he would help the club win one Div 2 title, 3 league championships , two FA Cups and one Uefa cup. "Shanks" will always be remembered for being the man who revived Liverpool FC and introducing the attractive passing style of play that Liverpool is famous for.... and of course the man who made the people happy.