The Bill Shankly Story by Wooltonian

Shanks presented with a radio at the Vines pub in Lime Street. Photo courtesy of Karen Gill - Shankly's granddaughter

Dodgy Perms and Moustaches

Not content with resting on his laurels, Shanks was beginning to realise that the great players and sides he had created in the 60's were coming toward the end of their careers. He also realised that his out and out attacking philosophy had to be adjusted if he was to succeed in Europe. And so the rebuilding of a new side began.

Emlyn Hughes was signed from Blackpool, Crazy Horse's workrate on the pitch astounded the Kop, he could play for 90 minutes, cover every blade of grass and appeared to leave the pitch looking like he could play another game.

Kop: You've not seen nothin like the Mighty Emlyn

Kevin Keegan was just the same, everybody hated being paired with these two in training because their efforts at Melwood were as vivid as they were on matchdays. Kevin was a pocket dynamo, perhaps not a natural footballer, but he trained hard and deserved all the plaudits he gained.

Kop: Kevin Keegan walks on water, tra la la la la

Ray Clemence, like Keegan, had Also been signed for "pennies" from Scunthorpe and was to prove himself to be The Best in the World in my opinion and certainly the best since Elisha Scott.

Kop: Englands No. 1

Larry Lloyd might not have been as enormous as Yeats, but his heart and determination were equal. Toshack had to be the biggest striker I'd ever seen, he had to be 7' tall, not a genius on the deck, but unbeatable in the air and he was to form a partnership that even University scholars thought was telepathic in a test for TV. Years after their testing on ESP Toshack did admit that Keegan could read the cards through the camera lens, but it had everyone in the test absolutely amazed.

Also coming and going in this period was Alun Evans. No one in Anfield had ever heard of the lad before he signed, but what he was to do one night against Bayern Munich will go down in folklore. Playing basically against the German international team, he tore the defence apart and completed one of the finest hat-tricks I've ever seen. Peter Cormack was to be lumbered as my favorite player in the coming years, a very slight player, but as skillful as I'd seen at the time and was not fully replaced until we signed McDermott.

Alec Lindsay could peel an orange with that left foot of his and after spending some time in the reserves as leading goalscorer, Shanks made him into the finest Left Back still to this day. Steve Heighway (the Professor) had also joined us straight from university, not only could he play, but he had letters after his name. Steve Heighway "FMW" ('kin Magic Winger). Wooly has letters by the way, although not very well known Wooly is an MBE ( Mrs Brodrick's Eldest).

Together with some of the old school Lawler, Smith & Cally (yes Cally is still playing, he must be 70 at least now) we set out to Conquer Europe. Just for the record and those with a short memory, in 1971 when Keegan was sitting on a bin outside Anfield waiting for Shanks to sign him up, there was no perm in sight. Dodgy mullet maybe, but the forthcoming spate of Dodgy Perms and Moustaches had yet to arrive. I'll start this story with the FA Cup semi-final match against the Bluenoses in late March 1971.

Couldn't think of a better place to start  - we faced at the time, probably one of the finest midfields ever assembled. Kendal, Harvey and Ball were a sight to behold and in fairness I think they were favourites to take the tie. Morrisey the "turncoat" was still doing his bit for Everton and together with Ball, they conjured up the first goal. Leading 1-0 at half time, I'm convinced the bluenoses were already booking their tickets for Wembley (in hindsight, perhaps it would have been wise to let them face Charlie George), but that was not the Liverpool way. Second half goals from Evans and Hall confirmed that the RED half of the city would again be visiting what was to become "Anfield South".

I'm not going to say anything about the final other than, if I was on the pitch when Charlie lay on the floor he'd have got a right kicking!! I'm not a violent man, but he really did tempt fate with his celebration when Smithy was only yards away. On the return to Liverpool, the mood was down, but the hundreds of thousands to greet them when they entered Liverpool will go down as the finest greeting for any runners up. Shanks needed to inspire his beloved fans in their moment of darkness:

Shanks to the crowd: "Ladies and Gentlemen ...... Yesterday at Wembley we might have lost the Cup, but you the Liverpool people have won everything. You have won the admiration of the Policemen in London, and you have won the admiration of the public in London."

The speech didn't stop there. This would be the occasion of one of Shanks' most famous quotes. On the open top bus trip to Lime Street, Shanks had turned to another of his university educated players, Brian Hall.

"Son", he said "You know about these things, who's that Chairman with the red book, lots of sayings? The chinaman, what's his name?"

Brian Hall: "Do you mean Chairman Mao?"

Shanks: "Aye, that's him son, Chairman Mao, that's him"

Hall thought this unusual but all was about to be revealed. Upto half a million fans had gathered outside St. George's Hall waiting for Shanks and the players to appear on the balcony. Shanks held wide his arms and silence descended on the reds down below as he delivered one of the greatest lines:

"...it's questionable if chairman Mao of China could have arranged such a show of strength as you have shown yesterday and today."

And so the "Chairman Mao" speech was entered the "Halls of Oratory Genius".

He stood facing the crowd with both arms open, the crowd went WILD. If this man could be this positive in defeat, you had to believe in him. AND WE DID !!

The arrival of Kevin Keegan at the beginning of 1971/72 was the missing link, he trained like a loony, he played like a loony and everyone around him was to become infected by his desire for success. The season started well enough, but drawing Bayern Munich in the second round of the ECWC did us no favours and we went out 3-1 on aggregate. The League run in of 13 wins in 16 games saw us lose narrowly to Derby, but our defence was becoming really tight and only 30 goals were put past us all season.

The Attack, attack, attack policy was being tweaked into Defend in numbers, break forward in numbers and the signs that this would pay big dividends were on the horizon. 1972/73 saw Shanks's new side pick up the League (again), the Uefa Cup and in hindsight I can't help but feel if the FA Cup had also been won, that this would have been the perfect time for Shanks to bow out. At the top where he belonged.

Shanks had brought a team from "Down among the Dead Men" to being the best in Britain and possibly Europe. Shanks entered the 1973/74 campaign with high hopes in all competitions (nothing new there then!) but early exit in Europe to Red Star and up and down performances in the league were gonna be big disappointments to him and all the fans. But the team and Shanks dug deep and made every effort to finish the season with something.

The FA Cup run was our only hope, and defeating our 'bogey' team Leicester in the semi's once again seen us qualify for the Final. Shanks once again took up the fans plight on tickets. It was and is still a disgrace how tickets are allocated in Cup Finals and Shanks and all the players made extra efforts in trying to get additional tickets. The press was full of "Big Gob MacDonald" and what they were going to do to us in the final and it wasn't only Smithy who wanted to knock what few teeth he had down his throat. And there was very little sign of him wanting to be interviewed after we had shoved THREE right up 'em at Wembley. I was one of the many mulleted 17 year old fans around Wembley that day. You might have seen me, I had had it dyed "Post Box RED" and had the signs of growth on me upper lip, but I was also soon to become one of the 18 yr old muppets with a DODGY PERM and adult MOUSTACHE.

Once more Liverpool fans thronged to greet the team home at St George's Hall - this time in victory.

The Shankly Years were soon to come to a close (in little over 8 weeks the great man would resign) but we were now the envy of the world. Little did we know that this was only the foundation of greater things to come.

What we were looking for now was a 'Master Builder' to build an EMPIRE on the solid foundations that Shanks had left. How could we suspect that he was right under our nose? No not the dodgy moustache but the little general from off Hunts Cross Avenue, who was to be seen often walking around in a dirty mac, shopping in Tesco Woolton Village. Bob Paisley.

Many thanks to my Dad who has helped me on more than one occasion. Let's just hope that in years to come, one of you younger readers will be able to do a job like this for the future manager who brings back the glory years.

© Wooltonian

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Shanks quote

"I don't think there has ever been any character in sport with so many stories told about him like Bill Shankly. And the amazing thing about it is a lot of people don't believe that they're true, but nearly every story people tell about him is true. This is the man."

COLIN WOOD - Daily Mail reporter when Shanks was manager

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