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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 05:21 GMT 06:21 UK
Remembering Bill Shankly

By Simon Austin

The legend on Bill Shankly's statue at Anfield reads "He made the people happy."

This simple epitaph explains why so many people will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Scotsman's death this weekend.

BILL SHANKLY OBE (1913-1981)
Born: Glenbuck, East Ayrshire
Liverpool manager: December 1959 to July 1974
Honours: First Division champions 1964, 1966, 1973; FA Cup winners 1965, 1974; Uefa Cup winners 1973
On Friday, his beloved Liverpool are holding a tribute evening at Anfield, on Saturday a play about his life will be performed at Bootle Town Hall, and a book about his life, written by his granddaughter, has just been published.

It is not difficult to understand why the former Liverpool manager is held in such high regard by the club's fans.

When he took over at Anfield in December 1959, Liverpool were languishing in the Second Division.

Shankly turned them into the pre-eminent force in English football. Under the Scot Liverpool won the Second Division in 1962 before going on to claim the Championship in 1964, 1966 and 1973, and the FA Cup in 1965 and 1974.

His successor, Bob Paisley, built on these foundations to win an unprecedented six league titles and three European Cups in nine seasons.

Shankly's triumphs were built on hard work, an eye for a player and, above all, his remarkable strength of personality and man-management skills.

Ron Yeats, who captained Liverpool from 1961 to 1971, says he became aware of Shankly's brilliant psychological skills after just one day at the club.

In my time at Anfield we always said we had the best two teams on Merseyside - Liverpool and Liverpool reserves

If you are first you are first, if you are second you are nothing

At a football club, there's a holy trinity - the players, the manager and the supporters

I would like to be remembered as a man who built up a family of people who could hold their heads up high and say 'We are Liverpool'

"I took a bath after my first training session at Melwood, and when I came out, there must have been 20 reporters there," he told BBC Sport.

"Shanks was stood in front of them and pointed at me, saying, 'Look at the size of him, he's a colossus'. I had nothing on and thought 'what's he talking about?'

"But that was Shanks. He used to tell everyone I was seven foot tall. I'd say 'but boss, I'm only 6ft 3', and he'd reply 'that's near enough 7ft for me'.

"He'd make you feel like a colossus and a great player and you'd go out on the pitch and perform like one."

Shankly, one of 10 children of an Ayrshire coalminer, was a fitness fanatic who believed in the virtues of determination and hard work.

Yeats said: "We were a very fit side and used to score a lot of goals in the final five minutes of matches. Everybody in the team knew their jobs."

Yet Shankly's appeal extends beyond fans of Liverpool to supporters of other clubs and even non-football supporters.

John Keith, who has written the Bill Shankly Tribute Story, which will be performed at Bootle Town Hall on Saturday evening, says: "I still think Bob Paisley was the greatest manager English football has seen, but Shanks transcended football.

"He was an outrageously extrovert character who touched people in the street."

Shankly realised that fans were intrinsic to the success of any club and spoke of a "holy trinity" of manager, players and supporters.

Keith, who first met Shankly when he was a national newspaper reporter in the 1960s, says: "Shanks recognised the fans as the most important element in football.

Ron Yeats and Ian St John show off the FA Cup on the train from Euston to Liverpool
Ron Yeats and Ian St John show off the 1965 FA Cup from their train
"I remember being in Brugge with him in 1976 for the second leg of the Uefa Cup final, a couple of years after he'd stepped down as Liverpool boss.

"A fan came over and said he didn't have a ticket, so Shanks went and bought him one."

It seems a million miles away from the modern Premiership, whose millionaire managers and players seem so detached from supporters.

Yeats says Shankly allowed fans into Melwood to watch training and, once there, they would share a story and joke with the manager.

Shankly was also well aware of the power football had to galvanise an entire city. After his retirement he said: "I was only in the game for the love of football - and I wanted to bring back happiness to the people of Liverpool."

The club's success during the 1960s, 70s and 80s undoubtedly gave Liverpool a sense of pride and identity.

When news of Shankly's resignation first emerged in 1974, distraught fans jammed the club's switchboard and local factory workers threatened to go on strike unless their hero returned.

Shankly's wit and humour also captivated football fans throughout the country, and there are several websites devoted to his quotations.

At the funeral of Everton legend Dixie Dean, he said: "I know this is a sad occasion, but I think Dixie would be amazed to know that even in death he could draw a bigger crowd than Everton can on a Saturday afternoon".

Tommy Smith, Bill Shankly and Emlyn Hughes
Tommy Smith, Bill Shankly and Emlyn Hughes with the 1975 Charity Shield
Once rival manager Tommy Docherty told him about one of his best players. "100,000 wouldn't buy him", he told Shankly, to which the Liverpool manager replied, "Yeah, I'm one of the 100,000".

Shankly resigned as Liverpool manager in July 1974 to spend more time with his wife and daughter, and Yeats says he was never the same man again.

He said: "I couldn't believe it when I heard the news. I don't think Bill gave the job up, I think the directors gave him up.

"He used to go down to Melwood to watch the lads train after that and you could tell he desperately wanted to get involved. Football had been his life and suddenly it had been taken away."

Shankly died from a heart attack just seven years after leaving his beloved Liverpool, at the age of 68.

Yet he is a figure who still looms large at Liverpool Football Club and over the whole of English football.


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