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

"Shankly loved cards, having played back home in Ayrshire with the miners, and when he was a player at Preston and Carlisle. He also played with us. I recall a long card game on a trip to Newcastle. Shankly was involved in the school and so was Bobby Graham, a nervous man who must have been relieved to know that his presence, on this occasion at least, was absolutely official. It was a tough school, with Yeats, Tommy Smith and Tommy Lawrence also participating, and it was fascinating to watch Shanks play. He squeezed the cards in the way that the miners did. He just took a quick glance and then clenched them in his hand so that it was impossible to see what he had, even when you were standing behind him.

On this occasion Graham cleaned up at three-card brag when his three threes beat Shankly’s three queens. Much to the manager’s embarrassment, he had run out of money. 'See me back at Anfield,' he said to Bobby as he got up from the school. On the next Monday, Bobby wasn’t sure about claiming his winnings. Naturally, we all argued that he deserved his money and urged him to march into Shankly’s office to ask him for it. We went with him. 'Boss, I’ve come for the grabs . . .' Bobby began. 'Oh aye, son,' said Shanks, handing him the winnings. As Bobby was leaving his office, Shankly added: 'Bobby, son, stay away from the cards. No good can come from them.'"

IAN ST JOHN

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