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Shankly - The Spirit of everything Red

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bill_shanklyIf Dalglish is the King of the Kop, then Bill Shankly was most certainly its Emperor. Though he may no longer be alive, his ideas and principles still linger on in the hearts and minds of all Liverpool fans.

Bill Shankly was born on 2nd September, 1913 in the mining village of Glenbuck, Scotland. He had a tough upbringing and was, for all purposes, quite poor. For him and his four brothers, football was a way to get away from it all. Being a good player, Bill went on to have a pretty successful football career.

His senior career started in the year 1932, when he was signed by Carlisle United from Scottish Junior Football side Cronberry Eglington. A year and 16 appearances later, he was signed by Preston North End for a modest sum of £500. He would go on to make 296 appearances for the Lilywhites scoring 13 goals in the process.

The advent of World War II saw a steep decline in the number of organised professional football matches. Though Shankly would play wartime matches for a number of sides including Liverpool, Arsenal and Bolton, his prime was lost in the long battle between the World's superpowers. By the time the war was over, Shankly was at 33 and in the twilight of his career. He would go on to play for Preston once more before hanging up his boots in the 1949.

No sooner had he retired, Carlisle United hired him as their manager. As fate would have it, this was the same club where a young Bill had started kicking the ball professionally. Shankly's great ability to make teams gel shone through that season as he took the Cumbrians to title contention. The bubble burst next season though and Shankly resigned from the club, citing the inability of the heirarchy to support his team financially.

The year 1951 would see him make a comeback to the management scene with Grimsby Town. Ironically enough, he had been rejected in an interview by Liverpool. In his first year with the Mariners, he helped the team to regain their lost confidence. A reinvigorated side, Grimsby came very close to promotion, but despite their best efforts, failed to achieve it. At the start of the second season, the Grimsby side began to show signs of ageing. But Shankly failed to promote some promising youngsters because of a sense of loyalty that he felt towards the old stalwarts. His insistence on sticking to the same team resulted in a woeful season for Grimsby and the Scot resigned eventually. Shankly then went on to manage Workington for a year before spending a relatively unsuccessful 3 years at Huddersfield.

At about the same time, the once mighty Liverpool had declined into a mediocre team barely surviving in the Second Division. The Reds' Chairman at that time was a certain T.V Williams, who incidentally was the same person who rejected Shankly back in 1951. Despite the failed interview, Bill had managed to leave an impression on Williams, who appointed the Scot eventually in 1959, after an embarrassing loss to non-league side Worcester City in the FA cup.

Shankly had been given the task of stemming Liverpool's decline, but the Scot achieved something far beyond that. His love affair with Liverpool would forever immortalize Bill in the Red-half of Merseyside and the strong foundations that he laid down would take the club to the dizzying heights, that were hitherto never seen or heard in England.

Shankly came into Liverpool with a view of turning it into a club that played for its fans. His ideology was centered around a tenet that the players should strive to perform tirelessly in each and every match so as to entertain the fans and live up to their expectations.

Within a year, Shankly along with legendary ex-Liverpool players like Joe Fagan, Reuben Bennett and Bob Paisley had managed to instill a cheerful togetherness in the squad. He also brought about a new scientific approach to the game, introducing training plans for fitness and skill development. He even started a diet assessment plan to keep the players at the top of their game.

At the turn of the decade, with his exceptional people skills and a never-say-die attitude, the Scot had turned Liverpool from a dying giant to a well oiled machine that was beginning to gather pace. His project burgeoned ahead with the coming in of new players like Ron Yeats, Ian St. John and Gordon Milne and in the year 1962 he led the Reds back in to the First Division.

In their first season back in the First Division, the Reds managed a commendable 8th position. The signing of Peter Thompson in the subsequent season gave Liverpool further impetus as they clinched their 6th First Devision title in the year 1963-64. In the course of the decade, Liverpool would cement their status as a football powerhouse and would go on to win another First Division title, an FA cup title and three FA Charity Shields.

The 1970s would see Shankly breathe new life into his ageing side by bringing the likes of Kevin Keegan, John Toshack and Ray Clemence. The new young team would be Shankly's second great side as the Reds went on to clinch another League title, an FA cup, a UEFA Cup and a Charity Shield in the next four years before Shankly's surprise retirement in the year 1974.

Shankly was replaced by Bob Paisley, but the team would continue to evoke the spirit instilled by the Scot. He once famously stated, “My idea was to build Liverpool into a bastion of invincibility. Napoleon had that idea. He wanted to conquer the bloody world. I wanted Liverpool to be untouchable. My idea was to build Liverpool up and up until eventually everyone would have to submit and give in." The foundations that he built at the start of the decade saw to it that his words would come to fruition. The Reds would go on to win 10 First Division titles and 3 European Cups in the next 15 years and would achieve a legendary status throughout the footballing world.

Even though Shankly will forever be remembered for resurrecting Liverpool, his greatest achievement was the relationship he had with the fans. His sense of personal responsibility towards each and every fan was reciprocated generously. Many great managers have come and gone, but none like Shankly, who loved to see his most important patrons – the fans, smile.

File Photograph Copyright: Jay Clark