Bill Shankly: Remembering the Legendary Manager on His Anfield Anniversary

- - Managers

December 14th 3D CalendarDecember 14th might not be a date that means much to most people, but for Liverpool fans it was the day that the history of their beloved football club was changed forever.

For it was December 14th, 1959 when Bill Shankly was appointed manager of Liverpool, at a time when they languished in the Second Division – or the Championship, as we know it today.

By the end of his reign, the Reds were winning the English top-flight and lifting trophies on the continent – a remarkable turnaround, and one that owed much to the coaching talent and man management of Shankly.

So here’s a timeline that reveals the incredible highs that Liverpool FC experienced with Shankly at the helm.

Back to Basics – 1959 to 1962

Blurred Grass Through Wire Fence

He couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.

On his first day in charge, Shankly met his new players at the Melwood training facility and was apoplectic at the state of the facilities – a draughty wooden changing facility, surrounded by weeds and overgrown grass, led down to a number of football pitches with crater-sized holes in them.

Allied to the disrepair at Anfield, where a water issue meant that the pitch wasn’t watered for the entirety of the 1958/59 season, Shankly must have been wondering why he’d left Huddersfield Town to join this rabble.

Matters were made worse when he actually saw his players in action – within months, Shankly had placed 24 of them on the transfer list, with most leaving the club immediately thereafter. The rebuild of Liverpool 2.0 was underway.

Ian St John and Ron Yeats were brought in to add quality at both ends of the pitch, while a new training regime was implemented that was designed to make the Liverpool players fitter, stronger and more technically proficient with the ball at their feet. The infamous ‘sweat box’, which saw them endure two minutes of pass and move without stopping, was at the heart of it.

And it worked. By 1962 they had finally been promoted back to the First Division after a pair of near misses in the preceding seasons. Stage one of Shankly’s masterplan was in place….

The Renaissance Period – 1962-64

‘If you are first you are first. If you are second you are nothing.’

When your manager lives by that credos, it’s very hard as a player not to give anything other than 100% – and with the players that Shankly had at his disposal after a season in the First Division, that commitment allied to quality was always likely to reap rewards.

Other famous quotes from Shankly revealed his ethos:

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

With that ethos drummed into them, the Liverpool players set to work – finishing a respectable eighth in their first season back in the top-flight. The likes of Ronnie Moran, Gerry Byrne, Roger Hunt and Peter Thompson were now in the Reds ranks, while Ian Callaghan and Tommy Smith were breaking through from the youth set-up.

Combined, they would power the club to the First Division title in 1963/64 – leading to the infamous scenes of them parading a papier-mache trophy to the fans with the real silverware locked away in a cabinet elsewhere.

The very next season, more milestones were achieved – Liverpool winning their first-ever FA Cup, while they played in an all-red kit against Anderlecht in the European Cup; the colour scheme that would remain for the next 60 years and counting.

Glory Home and Away – 1965-1973

Trophy Won Season
League Title 1965/66, 1972/73
UEFA Cup 1972/73
Charity Shield 1965/66, 1966/67,

The next eight years of Shankly’s tenure were a mix of ups and downs, although the ups – including two more First Division titles and a first-ever continental victory in the UEFA Cup – were euphoric.

The Reds regained the league title in 1965/66, reaching the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, but did precious little else in the sixties, although Shankly was carefully crafting the squad that would dominate football home and abroad in the 1970s.

Emlyn Hughes, Steve Heighway, Ray Clemence and even a young Kevin Keegan were amongst them, and this youthful side began knocking on the door in the early seventies, reaching continental semi-finals and the FA Cup final in 1971.

Liverpool missed out on the title by a single point in 1971/72, before they went one better in 1972/73 – winning the First Division for a third time under Shankly’s lead, with a stretch of 21 consecutive victories at Anfield; a then record, before Jurgen Klopp’s generation would break it in 2020.

That very same season delivered a fitting swansong to Shankly’s Liverpool career – the UEFA Cup, the club’s first silverware in continental competition. The 3-2 win would mark the first time that an English club had won the league title and a European trophy in a single season.

The End – 1974

It was somehow fitting that Shankly’s final game in charge of Liverpool would see him hoist one of the first trophies he had won with the club: the FA Cup.

That came in the early summer of 1974, at the end of a season in which the Reds were unable to add to their expanding trophy cabinet.

Shankly had reached the end of the road: 61 years old and after a decade at Anfield, he decided to walk away from the club at the end of the 1973/74 campaign – but not before laying the foundations for his successor, Bob Paisley, to take Liverpool FC to all new heights.

The famous Shankly Gates at Anfield, with the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ moniker, are a fitting testament to a man who brought the club back from the doldrums – no figure in Liverpool FC’s history has been as important.

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