Bill Shankly

Introduction

Bill Shankly was born on September 2nd 1913. During his long managerial career, he became one of the most famous and successful managers in British history during his time at Liverpool.

Playing days at Preston North End

In his early years growing up in the Scottish mining village of Glenbuck, Shankly had always been interested in playing football. He and his four brothers all played for the Glenbuck Cherrypickers, before starting his professional playing career at Carlisle United in 1932.

Shankly made a handful of appearances before being scouted for Preston North End, where he made his name on the national stage. He went on to play in two FA Cup finals against Sunderland and Huddersfield during his time at Preston, and also achieved promotion to Division One in 1934. Shankly had been impressive in a Preston shirt for many years, and made his debut for Scotland against England in 1938. Many feel that he would have gone on to appear many more times for his country had World War Two not cut his international career short in 1939.

Shankly continued to play for Preston when football resumed in 1946. However, by this time he was 33, with his best playing days long behind him. After a long and successful playing career, he hung up his boots in March 1949.

Early managerial years

Eagar to get into management as soon as possible, Shankly was appointed as the new manager at Carlisle United in the same month that he retired as a player. Due to a confrontation with the club’s board, he lasted a mere two years at Carlisle. Shankly had been keen to build a team capable of winning league titles, but Carlisle’s directors were not prepared to give him the financial backing.

Shankly immediately had an interview at Liverpool, but they chose not to give him the job at that point. This led the Scot to Blundell Park, where he took charge of Grimsby Town in 1951. Shankly ensured that Grimsby finished the 1951/52 season as Division Three North Runners-up in his first season in charge. After guiding the team to fifth place the following season, he left to become the next manager at Workington.

After a little over a season spent at Workington, he left to take up the vacant managerial position at Huddersfield Town in 1956. Shankly soon found himself at war with the Huddersfield board over the wages of a young Denis Law. The board denied Shankly’s request to offer Law an improved contract, due to the fact that he already had a significant amount of time left to run on his current deal. Law was eventually sold to Manchester City, and Shankly left the club in 1959.

New manager at Liverpool

Shankly was then given the job to manage Liverpool in December 1959. He immediately guided the team to successive third place finishes in his first two seasons at Anfield. He set about revolutionising the club, by introducing new training methods and monitoring players’ diets. Liverpool won the Division Two title in 1962, during a season in which the team scored 99 league goals. Ian Callaghan, Roger Hunt, and Ron Yeats were all pivotal to Liverpool’s success during this time.

After an eighth place finish in 1963, Shankly guided the club to the Division One Championship in the 1963/64 campaign. In five years Bill Shankly had transformed Liverpool from a struggling Second Division team, to English League Champions. Liverpool reached the FA Cup Final the following season, where they beat Leeds United 2-1 at Wembley. The team were also beaten European Champions’ Cup Semi-finalists after losing 4-3 on aggregate to Internazionale in the same season.

By 1966, Shankly had successfully moulded a team capable of consistently challenging for major honours, further strengthened by the arrival of fellow Scot Ian St John. Liverpool’s domestic dominance continued under Shankly, as the team were again crowned Division One Champions in the 1965/66 season. Another thrilling European campaign saw Liverpool finish as beaten finalists, losing 2-1 to Borrusia Dortmund in the 1966 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final.

Success in the UEFA Cup

Shankly signed Kevin Keegan and Ray Clemence as he looked to improve his ageing squad. The team reached the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Semi-final, before being beaten 1-0 on aggregate by Leeds United. The same season also saw Liverpool reach the FA Cup Final. After a run which saw the team beat Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, Liverpool lost 2-1 to Arsenal in the final.

The famous Bill Shankly side of the 1960’s had faded, but with signings including Steve Heighway and Larry Lloyd, Shankly was building a side looking to surpass the achievements of his previous squad. Success was soon back at Anfield, as Liverpool were again crowned Division One Champions in 1973. The season also saw the team gain their first European silverware under Shankly. Liverpool beat Borrusia Monchengladbach 3-2 on aggregate, to win the UEFA Cup for the first time.

The following season was to be Shankly’s last at Anfield. Liverpool went on to win the FA Cup after beating Newcastle United 3-0 in the final, and finish the season as Division One Runners-up. Shankly retired in July 1974, at the age of 60.

Retirement

The news of Bill Shankly’s retirement from the game shocked many people. One factory’s workers even threatened to go on strike until he was re-installed as Liverpool’s manager. But his mind was made up, and he took his place on the terraces with the supporters.

Despite leaving Liverpool, Shankly continued to travel to Melwood to watch the Liverpool players train. He was awarded an OBE in November 1974 to mark his achievements in the game. Shankly suffered a heart attack on September 26th 1981, which was not thought to be life threatening. However, his condition deteriorated, and he died in Broadgreen Hospital on September 29th 1981. Following his cremation, his ashes were later buried at Anfield Crematorium.

Bill Shankly was later inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002, and is still remembered by Liverpool fans as one of the greatest managers in the club’s history.

Honours

Playing

  • Football League Division Two Runner-up (with Preston North End): 1934
  • FA Cup finalist (with Preston North End): 1937
  • FA Cup Winner (with Preston North End): 1938
  • Wartime Cup Winner (with Preston North End): 1941

Managerial

  • Football League Division One Champion (with Liverpool): 1964, 1966, 1973
  • Football League Division One Runner-up (with Liverpool): 1969, 1974
  • Football League Division Two Champion (with Liverpool): 1962
  • FA Cup Winner (with Liverpool): 1965, 1974
  • FA Cup finalist (with Liverpool): 1971
  • Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Semi-finalist (with Liverpool): 1971
  • European Champions’ Cup Semi-finalist (with Liverpool): 1965
  • European Cup Winners’ Cup finalist (with Liverpool): 1966
  • UEFA Cup Winner (with Liverpool): 1973