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Thursday, November 12, 1998 Published at 17:46 GMT

Last of the Shankly-lads

Bill Shankly: "Some say football is a matter of life and death ... it's more than that"

Roy Evans' resignation as Liverpool manager is perhaps more poignant, if you consider the football lineage to which he belongs.

As the last of the so-called backroom-boys, Evans' career began under the legendary Bill Shankly.

Despite an undistinguished career on the pitch (Shankly advised him to hang up his boots after only a handful of games) Evans became a boot-room apprentice, learning his trade under some of the most memorable managers to grace the English game.

The boot-room to board-room spirit at Anfield undoubtedly engendered a special atmosphere and created England's most successful club.

With 18 league championships and four European Cups, Liverpool have more silverware in their trophy cabinet than any other British team.

But Evans' resignation has brought an end to a long and glorious history.

Since 1959 Liverpool has looked after its own - shunning more high profile managers, in favour of those who remain loyal to the Anfield cause.

Shankly - or Shanks as he is more affectionately remembered - Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish, Ronnie Moran, Graeme Souness and Roy Evans - all were loyal servants of the club.

And all belong to a heritage and tradition that now rests - for the first time in 39 years - with an outsider, a Frenchman, Gerard Houillier.

The legend begins

Shankly - the first and perhaps most famous of them all - began life in Liverpool in 1959.

[ image: The legendary Shanks]
The legendary Shanks
Renown for his speeches and quotes, it was him who coined the now infamous phrase: "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I'm very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

And for Shanks it certainly was.

Losing his first game in charge to Cardiff City 4-0 at home, Shankly built a style of play that governs Liverpool even now.

His style of executing the pass accurately to a team-mate made Liverpool one of the most exciting teams in the country and his motto was simple: if in doubt pass to a red shirt.

Under Shankly, the Reds were promoted to the First Division and went on to capture the League title three times. It was a far cry from the dismal days of the early 50's when the club had been relegated, falling to their lowest ever position of 11th in Division Two.

But more glory was to follow.

Uncle Bob

When Shankly retired - true to the Anfield way - it was his right-hand man, Bob Paisley who stepped into the managerial role.

His first season was a disaster by his standards. The club finished second in the league behind Derby and crashed out early in the League Cup, FA Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup.

[ image: Bob Paisley: Presided over Liverpool's greatest era]
Bob Paisley: Presided over Liverpool's greatest era
But, like his predecessor, he was determined to win something and trophies soon began to fall.

Between 1974 and 1983, Paisley's team topped Division One six times, won the League Cup three times, secured the Charity Shield six times as well as the UEFA Cup and European Super Cup.

His was the dream-team of English football. With Kevin Keegan followed by Kenny Dalglish, as well as two other Scotsmen - Alan Hansen and Graeme Souness - they were virtually unbeatable and played as such.

"If you're in the penalty area and don't know what to do with the ball," Paisley once said, "put it in the net and we'll disacuss the options later."

His team undoubtedly took his words to heart.

Fagan and Daglish

Joe Fagan, another long servant of the club succeeded Paisley.

In his first two seasons at the club he achieved what no other English manager (both then and now) had done before - three major trophies in one season.

[ image: Joe Fagan: Continued the lineage]
Joe Fagan: Continued the lineage
Namely the League Cup, European Cup and League Championship - their third in a row.

Fagan was followed in the hot-seat by Dalglish - already a Liverpool legend.

In 1986 player-manager King Kenny scored the goal at Chelsea which clinshed the championship and the league and Cup double for the first time.

After five years in charge Dalglish captured three League Championships, three FA Cups and was voted manager of the year three times in 1986, 1988 and 1990.

Despite this he quit the club in 1991 citing "stress" as the reason.

End of an era

After two miserable seasons in charge, Graham Souness - whose expensive signings had failed to settle or had been plagued by injury - left the club, with Evans promoted to manager.

[ image: Roy Evans: Last in a long line]
Roy Evans: Last in a long line
After the slow-burning of Dalglish's last months and the chaos of the Souness era, Evans' appointment - a return to the practice of promoting from within - was seen as the best way forward for stability and success.

But despite lifting the League Cup in his first full season, he failed to reach the heights expected by the Anfield faithful.

Coming fourth in his first season in charge Evans' reign seemed plagued to end, not in complete failure, but mediocrity.

Finishing third behind Arsenal and Manchester United in 1997/8 and crashing out early in the UEFA Cup, Houillier's arrival in July 1998 was generally regarded as the beginning of the end for the man, described by chairman David Moores as "the last of the Shankly lads".

Prophetic thoughts indeed.

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