by Richard DJJ Bowdery.
Fifty five years ago Second Division Liverpool embarked on a rebuilding programme that was to result in unprecedented success.
The foundation they laid was sure and solid which, in no small part, was down to the cornerstone they laid on 1 December 1959.
For that was the day they appointed the charismatic Scot Bill Shankly as manager. And the former boss of Carlisle, Grimsby, Workington and Huddersfield Town proved to be the right choice to transform the Anfield club into one England’s greats.
Incredibly it wasn’t the first time he was interviewed by the Reds for their managerial post. He applied in 1951 for the role. Although he wasn’t appointed on that occasion, the impression he left was sufficient reason for the club to come calling eight years later. This time he was the only candidate they interviewed.
The club he inherited in ’59 was very much down at heel. So he set about making the changes necessary to turn their fortunes around, and – perhaps even more importantly – to overtake near neighbours Everton as the top team on Merseyside.
To help him achieve this he utilized an existing backroom staff comprising of Reuben Bennett, Joe Fagan and Bob Paisley. This small team would form the boot-room group which went on to achieve fame throughout the footballing world.
During nearly 15 years at the helm, Bill Shankly won:
• Second Division championship 1962
• First Division championship 1964, 1966, 1973
• FA Charity Shield 1964, 1965 (shared on both occasions), and 1966
• FA Cup 1965, 1974
• UEFA Cup 1973
Then came the shock which reverberated down the Mersey and throughout the footballing world: Bill Shankly announced his resignation.
He cited that at 60 he wanted to spend more time with his family. As the Kop went into mourning the boot-room came into its own with the elevation of Bob Paisley to First Team manager.
Paisley would build on Shankly’s tenure bringing even more success to the red half of Liverpool, including unprecedented glory in Europe.
The changes Shankly brought about at Liverpool and the success he attained made him a legend that time hasn’t diminished.
He will be remembered, like Busby and Ferguson at Manchester United, for rebuilding a winning side from the ashes of the previous one.
His quick wit and sparkling one-liners will also live long in the memory; such as his line: “There are only two sides in Liverpool: Liverpool and Liverpool reserves.” Toffee fans are probably sick to the back teeth of hearing that one!
Interviewers remember a man who was only marginally more understandable than future Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish.
But to truly remember the man is to simply look at his lasting legacy: Liverpool Football Club.