After dinner speakers have for years immortalised the many stories of the things Bill Shankly did and said, and in many cases time has lent enchantment to the legend of the man and the other pioneers of the Liverpool Boot Room staff of the early 60’s such as Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Reuben Bennett, Roy Evans and Ronnie Moran.
Here are some of the lesser known stories, many of which I can personally bear witness to from my time at Anfield between 1960 and 1965.
One of my first memories of Bill Shankly was in January 1960 when we were standing in the centre circle on the pitch while he was showing my father and me around a rather dilapidated Anfield. Liverpool at the time was in the second division and he had just taken over as Manager. He said that I should look around and be grateful that I had signed for the club at this time because this place was going to become a 'Bastion of Invincibility and the most famous football club in the world.'
My father worked at the time as a gardener for the Aberdeen City Council and during the conversation Bill asked him the question 'Who are you with Mr Scott?' My Dad replied 'I work for the City Mr Shankly' whereupon Bill responded by saying in his best James Cagney voice 'What league do they play in?'
During my time at Liverpool as a young player, I saw at first hand the fantastic charisma and motivational powers of Bill Shankly, and I was a witness to the authenticity of many of the stories of this amazing man that have found their way in to the folk lore of British football. I was there when he ordered the building of the famous shooting boards and sweat boxes at the Melwood training ground, where the training and coaching methods instilled by Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley were ultimately copied all over the world.
There were three full sized pitches at Melwood but the main pitch in front of the dressing rooms at Melwood was his pride and joy, and over one weekend he had the turf re-laid to ensure it was as good as Wembley Stadium. When we arrived at Melwood for training on the Monday morning Shankly had jokingly put a notice on the notice board which said:
In future only players with a minimum of 5 caps are allowed on the big pitch. By order of the Manager
Bill would often stand in the player’s entrance at Anfield welcoming young players in the opposition team when they stepped off their team coach. He would say 'I am Bill Shankly and I am the manager here, welcome to Anfield, you will enjoy it and you won’t forget it.' 'Have you played here before son?' 'No, Mr Shankly' they would reply. 'Would you like some advice, son?' 'Yes, Mr Shankly' back came the reply. 'I will give you three pieces of advice. Don’t let the crowd frighten you to death, don’t take the corners at the Kop end, and make sure the toilet roll holders are full in the dressing room.'
In the players entrance, on wet nights with heavy rain, he would say to small players when they entered the stadium 'Alright son, the heavy muddy conditions will suit the big lads tonight, but don’t let it worry you.'
To the big lads he would say the opposite 'Small tricky players will have you in difficulty on the slippery surface tonight but don’t let it worry you.'
I even saw him once winding the opposition up by handing out a few toilet rolls as they made their way to the dressing room. 'You will need these tonight boys.'
Shankly at Melwood preaching to George Scott and the lads on 24th July 1963. From left to right: Ian St John, Gordon Milne, Bobby Thomson, George Scott, Alfie Arrowsmith, Ronnie Yeats, Tommy Lawrence, Jim Furnell, F. Molyneaux, Alex Totton, Alan A'Court and Brian Halliday.
In an A team local derby match I was playing in against Everton at Melwood in 1962, two bad goalkeeping errors were made by our six foot four inch tall Scottish trialist goalkeeper called Monty MClaren when he failed to hold two easy crosses and the resultant goals put us behind at half time. Monty’s head was in his hands at half time in the dressing room when Shanks went over to him and said the immortal words: 'Monty, son you are six foot six tall, you are strong with plenty of fitness, intelligence, strength, good character and judgement.' Monty was feeling a lot better now although a bit surprised to hear those words of praise from the great man, when he was hit by the punchline. 'Son you have everything it takes to make a bloody great policeman and catch lots of crooks, but you will never be a goalkeeper until you can catch a football.'
Before the 1965 Cup Final against the great Leeds United side of the 60s Bill had heard that the press were building up the hard reputation of some of the great Leeds players such as Norman Hunter, Paul Reaney and Billy Bremner. After one of the training sessions that week during the team talk he said. 'I believe some people think you are playing against some hard men on Saturday.' Shankly loved boxing and he produced a copy of The Ring boxing magazine holding up pictures of previous world heavyweight boxing champions Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, and Joe Louis. 'They think Leeds have some hard men in their team, forget it, these are hard men don’t worry about Leeds, you could be playing against these boys.'
In 1963 Liverpool were playing Cologne in the European Cup at Anfield and there was a blizzard blowing outside. Before the game The Cologne team all appeared in the player’s area below the main stand wearing tights. At the time this had never been seen in England before. Shankly walked in to our dressing room having witnessed this before the team came out. 'We are playing a bunch of tarts boys, they are wearing stockings, get the short sleeved shirts out Bob.'
I was in digs for three years with the famous Liverpool and England international winger Peter Thompson and Peter encouraged me to go in to see Shanks to ask for a wage increase as I had ended the season as leading scorer in the reserves. I came out of his office with a £5.00 suit voucher for John Collier the tailor on London Road.
As Apprentice professionals, after cleaning the first team’s boots, painting the stands and clearing the rubbish from the Kop we used to play 5-a-sides in the car park behind the main stand every Monday morning. The opposition in these games was usually Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Ronnie Moran and Reuben Bennett. Our side was Bobby Graham, Gordon Wallace, Tommy Smith, Chris Lawler, and me. We never ever won those games because Shanks and company would have played until dark to make sure they got the result.
It was from one of these games that the famous true story has been passed down to generations of Liverpool fans.
We were playing the usual hard fought match and Chris Lawler was injured and watching from the sidelines. As we only had four men to their five, Shankly tried a long range effort to the unguarded goal which went over the shoe that we had layed down as a goalpost. He immediately shouted 'Goal we have won, time up, get showered boys'.
Led by Tommy Smith we all hotly disputed the goal. Shankly saw that Chris Lawler was watching from the sidelines and shouted to him. 'You are in the perfect position son was that a goal?' Chris was a very quiet boy of few words and replied with one word 'No' Shankly shouted at him in all seriousness 'Son we have waited a year for you to speak and your first word is a lie.'
Click the headline above and read our exclusive interview with George Scott.
(Interview originally in 2000, updated in February 2009)
Towards the end of the 1964 season Tommy Lawrence and Jim Furnell the two senior goalkeepers got injured and one of the reporters asked Bill if he felt that the loss of both keepers would affect the team’s chances of winning the league championship. Bill replied: 'We could play Arthur Askey in goal and still win the league.'
As a young player Tommy Docherty asked Bill for some advice when making his debut for Preston North End and taking over Bill's number 4 shirt. Bill said in his best Scottish James Cagney delivery 'Just put the shirt on Tommy it knows where to run.'
Tommy Docherty also once said to Bill that if the Scottish International team had five Tommy Docherty’s and five Bill Shankly’s and a goalkeeper they would be unbeatable and win the World Cup. Shanks replied 'We would not have needed a goalkeeper, Tommy.'
In the 1964/65 season I ended the season at Liverpool as easily the leading goalscorer in the second team at Anfield, and the first team beat Leeds United to win the FA Cup at Wembley.
This was the first time that Liverpool had ever won the Cup, and it was a fabulous occasion, and the greatest day in the clubs history at that time.
I remember walking up the Wembley pitch with Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Peter Thompson an hour and a half before the game. Bill looked at the masses of Liverpool fans behind the goal and said to Bob Paisley. 'Bob we can’t lose for these fans, it is not an option' The hairs still stand up on the back of my neck today when I think about it.
Bill Shankly was a major influence on my life and I am sure the lives of countless other players and supporters of The Liverpool Football Club. He will never be forgotten, his passion and enthusiasm lit up the game, and the standards he set have inspired me over the last 46 years since I first met him, and I am grateful that I crossed his path.
Istanbul May 2005
Having left Liverpool in May 1965, here I was forty five years on from the day my Dad and I stood with Bill Shankly in the centre circle at Anfield. The date was the 25th May 2005 and my oldest son and myself, were sat in the grandstand in the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul exhausted by the events that had unfolded below us.
As we soaked up the joy of a fifth Liverpool European Cup triumph, in quiet reflection my thoughts again wondered back to the beginning of the Liverpool success story on that winter day 45 years ago in January 1960 when my father, who sadly passed away in 1991 and I had listened on the Anfield pitch to the great Bill Shankly’s words. 'You are lucky to be here son, because this stadium will be a bastion of invincibility, and this club will be the most famous club in the world.' On that unbelievable evening in Istanbul, 25th May 2005, who would have doubted the accuracy of that prediction?
The last two verses of Don Gillespie’s great poem "Remember Glenbuck" sum Bill Shankly up perfectly
HIS NAME WAS SHANKLY HE WAS THE BEST
HIS MEMORY OUTSHINES ALL THE REST
HE WON THE HEART OF EVERY FAN
HE DIGNIFIED THE WORKING MAN
HE CAME TO LIVERPOOL, HE BUILT A TEAM
HE BROUGHT ALIVE HIS GLENBUCK DREAM
AND ANFIELD HIS ADOPTED HOME
MADE SURE HE WOULD NEVER WALK ALONE
The Club that has won more English and European trophies combined than any other is now owned by two American Multi Millionaires, but the ghosts of the past seem to hang above Anfield as if pleading for the club that they graced with such honour to rise to the pinnacle of English football once again with stylish attacking play that has brought such success over the years.
The challenges and opportunities faced today by Rafa Benitez and the American owners are no different to those faced by Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish, but the joy that the winning of the English Premier League by England’s most successful club ever, would bring to those wonderful Liverpool supporters, cannot be underestimated. It has been missing from the Anfield trophy room for far too long.
Copyright - Shankly.com
"I got in first to the referee and said: 'I'll have tails.' Lucky for me the referee said ok. Liverpool tails, Cologne heads. Up it went and Christ didn't it stick in a divot. I said to the referee: 'Ref, you're going to have to retoss the coin.' And he went: 'You're right, Mr. Yeats.' I thought the German captain was going to hit him. He was going berserk because it was falling over on the heads. He picked it up, up it went again, came down tails. We were coming off and who is standing there but Bill Shankly. I was first off the pitch and he went: 'Well done, big man. I am proud of you. What did you pick?' I said: 'I picked tails, boss.' I was waiting for the adulation but he just went: 'I would have picked tails myself' and just walked away.
It happened twice. I guessed right, the second time I guessed wrong [in the 1st round vs. Atletico Bilbao 1968]. When I told him I had chosen tails, he said 'Christ, you should have said heads!' It’s the kind of man he was. 'I don’t know why you picked that!'"
RON YEATS - Liverpool faced Cologne in the European Cup quarter final. After a third draw, a coin-toss was to decide their fate.