King George shakes the hand of royalty.
Winning the FA Cup in 1938 was undoubtedly the highlight of Shankly's playing career.
"When the whistle blows at Wembley and you've played in a final and you've won, that's the greatest thrill of your life. No doubt about that. I thanked God for that. That feeling is unbelievable." - Shankly
In the late '30s, Preston North End were emerging as one of the best teams in the land. They had been to the F.A. Cup Final in 1937 and lost to a very good Sunderland side, and at the end of season 37-38, they were pipped for the title by Arsenal. However, in May 1938, they found themselves back at Wembley and up for another shot at winning the F.A. Cup. In contrast, their opponents at Wembley, Huddersfield, were struggling, and had finished the season in 19th place in Division 1.
The match, the first cup final to be broadcast live on television in it's entirety (there were an estimated 10,000 viewers watching on television), was a disappointment. After 90 minutes the game was goalless. Extra time was then played (another first for a Wembley cup final) and the tireless efforts of Shankly made Preston the likelier side to break the deadlock.
In the last minute of extra time, Shankly put George Mutch through on goal and the Huddersfield centre back and skipper Alf Young, who had been having an inspired afternoon, pulled Mutch down just inside the box. The referee gave a penalty, although for years afterwards the debate rumbled on about whether the incident had taken place inside or outside the box.
Surprisingly, the normally ice cool penalty taker Shankly refused to take the spot kick, leaving the responsibility to the still shaken George Mutch, who picked himself up, dusted himself down and smashed the kick home off the underside of the crossbar.
"I played in three Cup finals - 1937, 1938 and 1941.
There was only one good player on the field. That was me!"
Preston North End: 1
Mutch (120 pen)
Huddersfield Town: 0
Alan Ball was Everton's idol at the time while his father, Alan Ball Snr, was the manager of Preston. Alan Snr asked Shankly if he wanted to accompany him to a midweek game against Wrexham. Shanks agreed, but said he would follow Alan in his own car in case he wanted to drive home before the end of the game. Shankly was uncertain of the directions to Wrexham, so Ball Snr agreed that Shanks would drive behind him. When he turned up at Shankly's house, Bill was pleased to see Alan Jnr. in the car with his father as he admired him as a player. When the two cars reached the Mersey tunnel, Shankly was struggling to keep up and ground to halt halfway through the tunnel. Shankly was renowned for his lack of driving skills and was rather accident prone. Shanks couldn't restart the engine. Ball Snr. was naturally concerned, 'I'll tell you what, Bill. I've got a rope in the boot. I'll attach it to your car and tow you to the tunnel exit. We'll then call a mechanic to sort out the problem. Shankly paused for a few seconds, thinking over Ball Snr's suggestion and then exclaimed: 'I don't think that's a good idea, son. Can you imagine the headlines in tomorra's Echo?' "SHANKLY DRAGGED OUT OF THE MERSEY TUNNEL BY THE BALLS."