Shankly's most important game

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)

Holdcroft
Gallimore
A. Beattie
Shankly
Smith
Batey
Watmough
Mutch
Maxwell
R. Beattie
H. O'Donnell

Huddersfield Town: 0

Hesford
Craig
Mountford
Willingham
Young
Boot
Hulme
Isaac
McFadyen
Barclay
Beasley

Shanks quote

"Tommy Lawrence was frightened to death of Shanks. He was just a young boy. He had been there since he was 16-year-old. He got his chance in ’61. I’ll always remember we were playing Arsenal for the first time in 8 years because Liverpool had been in the 2nd division. We were winning 1-0 with 10 minutes to go and I thought, 'what a good win this will be at Arsenal.' I can’t remember the Arsenal’s striker name that hit the ball from 25 yards. I am not joking, but he stubbed his toe first and then hit the ball. It trickled by me and I went 'it’s yours, Tommy.' Tommy was on the line and opened his legs and the bloody ball went right through him. I couldn’t believe it. They put the pressure on us for the last five minutes, but we held out.

I am thinking to myself all this time, 'when we get into that dressing room I am going to get into the bath before Shanks come in the door.' Little did I know that the ten players I was playing with thought the same thing. When the final whistle went... if we had sprinted that much during the game we would have won it easily. Everybody was trying to hurry into the dressing room but it wasn’t quick enough. The door opened and in came Shanks. His face was blue and I am thinking, 'here it goes.' He went, 'where is he?' I didn’t realise, but big Tommy Lawrence was behind me. I was three inches bigger than him and didn’t know where he was. His finger went up and he said, 'I am here, boss.' 'Where?' 'I am here, boss.' He said, 'before you say anything, boss, I want to apologize to you and the lads. I should have never opened my legs to that ball.' Shankly went, 'it’s not your fault. It’s your fucking mother who should have never opened her legs.'"

RON YEATS

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