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THE TALLEST RED!

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It seems befitting that on the day the season’s first Merseyside Derby is to take place, something truly seismic happened 62 years ago. For it was on December 1, 1959 that Liverpool appointed the legendary Bill Shankly as their manager. Of course, back then he was not the footballing icon he was going to be soon, but the vibes felt right straight from the off.

 

The Red were in the doldrums of the Second Division for the last five years with Melwood needing desperate repairs. On the other hand, Shankly was a former Scottish international and FA Cup winner who had spent the last 10 years as manager of Carlisle United and Huddersfield Town among others.

 

 

He would immediately go on to revolutionize the inner workings of Liverpool in the quest to make them a proper First Division club by stating, “My idea was to build Liverpool into a bastion of invincibility.”

 

BOOT ROOM REPRESENT

One of the most enduring legacies of Shankly, alongside his famed coaching team of Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Reuben Bennett. It was a small storage room beneath the old main stand of Anfield, where the tacticians would get together every Sunday to discuss strategy, planning, and how to best set the team up before matches.

Bill Shankly with the team
Bill Shankly takes charge of a training session in the Boot Room, 1972. Image credits: liverpoolecho.co.uk

 

The room became a folklore legend, where the people behind Liverpool’s rise would congregate and establish a culture of mutual trust and bond. The Boot Room would become an indelible part of the Scouser fabric over the next 40 years, but it was one of its earliest decisions that still pervades to this day. Shankly decided to change the team’s playing kit to all-red, including shorts and socks and after its debut mentioned, “Christ, the players looked like giants.”

Liverpool squad
The first team Liverpool lined out in all-red. Image credits: liverpoolfc.com

 

Shankly’s single-minded dedication to the Liverpool cause was also evident in how he introduced better and scientific training and fitness regimes for players as opposed to just running on roads, in what would come to be known as the “Liverpool Way.” He was hellbent on reversing the club’s fortunes by knowing exactly what was from the on-field personnel and how he wanted them to play.

 

To that end, he was not shy of letting go of players, including 24 within one year of joining. Players such as Ian St Juste, Ron Yeats, Peter Thompson, along with overseeing the development of Jimmy Melia and Roger Hunt. Liverpool finished third in Shankly’s first two seasons before winning the Second Division 1961-62 season.

 

TAKING THEIR PLACE AMONGST THE ELITE

Liverpool finished eighth in their first season back, before inculcating even more players from their youth system. The league title came in 1964 before the club’s first ever FA Cup the following year, against Leeds United. Before the final, it was the manager himself who chose “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as the anthem for the fans.

 

Shankly had always the utmost admiration and respect for the supporters, with whom he had several special moments. It was under him that the Reds made their bow in European competitions, and though they would struggle initially, Liverpool would make it to the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1966. That was the same season when Liverpool won their second League Championship.

Bill Shankly with trophies
Bill Shankly with the trophies in 1966. Image credits: thesun.co.uk

 

Shankly never messed around too much with the personnel, but there is a case to be made that maybe they should have brought in players with a bit more regularity. Liverpool would not win silverware again until 1972, though Anfield became a terrifying proposition for any team to come visit. Shankly was behind installing the “THIS IS ANFIELD” in the players’ tunnel which has remained an iconic fixture ever since.

 

He regarded the club’s fans as the best in the world, and his supreme orating ability enabled to forge even deeper ties, no matter wins or losses.

 

THE FINAL YEARS

One of Shankly’s major moves was an off-field appointment in 1967. Geoff Twentyman was hired as chief scout, a player who had played under the manager at Carlisle and also with Liverpool. Shankly had immense faith in his former protege who was tasked with finding skillful young talents who would be developed into world-beaters at Liverpool.

 

After a bruising defeat to Watford in the 1970 FA Cup, the manager realized it was time for change finally. New players like Ray Clemence, Brian Hall, John Toshack among others joined the present-day youngsters of Emlyn Hughes, Tommy Smith and Ian Callagher.

 

This second-coming of the Reds would go on to dominate England and Europe in the 1970s and early 1980s under Shankly and then his successors. Liverpool would win the league title once again in 1973, behind the mastery of another brilliant signing in Kevin Keegan. That year also saw the Reds taste European success for the first time, as they won the UEFA Cup by defeating Borussia Monchengladbach.

 

Liverpool became the first English side to do the ‘double’ and Shankly’s reign would end with winning his beloved FA Cup once again in 1974.

 

UNRIVALLED LEGACY

Though Paisley, who succeeded Shankly, enjoyed more trophies as manager, there is no doubt as to who laid the foundations. Shankly brought in a cultural revolution by changing the way the club went about its work. Not only winning on the pitch, but what defined him as an icon was he was so vested in every little aspect of Liverpool.

 

From boosting the morale of new players to playing psychological mind games on oppositions, Shankly always seemed to bring out the best from his side. Yes, there were some lean years but that was only to be expected as he always had one eye on the future.

 

With 407 wins from 783 matches, he is the leader in both those categories. Shankly remains Liverpool’s favourite son and he deserves every bit of it.

 

Feature image courtesy: Liverpool FC website.

Ratul Ghosh
His name means Red and a fan of devilish food, which equals to his favourite team being Manchester United. Can be found sleeping or in front of the TV otherwise. Hates waking up early but loves staying up late for football.

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