The village team was Glenbuck Cherrypickers who had rooted itself firmly in the fabric of Scottish football history, but by the time Bill was old enough and good enough to force his way into the team, the recession of the 1930s was taking hold and many of the men of the village were leaving to find work. The Cherrypickers folded, without Bill ever having played a first team game for them, and instead, he signed for another local team, Cronberry Eglinton as a right-half.
Cronberry Eglinton were founder members of the Ayrshire Junior Football Association in 1889. District Leagues were set up in the first decade of the 20th century with Cronberry in the Cumnock & District League and mentioned by one source as "the top side at that time", dominating up until the first world war.
Though no definitive records of this time exist, legend has it that Cronberry were unbeaten at home for ten years between 1904-14, partly due to home fans letting the opposing keeper know what his fate would be if he didn't let in a few goals!
They won the Mauchline Cup in 1918, closed down for a season then joined the Cumnock & Mauchline league in 1919, then the re-formed Cumnock & District after that. They won the Ayrshire Cup for the only time in their history in 1930, having actually lost the final, but through a successful protest that their opponents had given a false name for one of their players.
18-year-old Bill Shankly's performances in the 1931-32 season were so impressive, he took the eye of several of the many scouts who regularly combed the area for football talent.
After half a season he was on his way.
Sadly, a lot of junior and senior teams were to go under in the 1930s as the pits closed and the global pre-war recession hit Scotland hard. Teams like the Glenbuck Cherrypickers and Cronberry Eglinton simply ceased to exist after the resumption of organised football at the end of the war.
I know Ali got "Personality of the Century", but Shanks will always be number one in my book. My father was converted to the red faith (from Glasgow Rangers) in the mid 1960's by the power of this man. Can I share a story with you. My late Grandfather was a Liverpool fan all his life. Upon his retirement from the Docks in the late 1960's, he received his season ticket. He was shocked to find that the club had moved from his regular seat to one where he wasn't near the people he'd sat with for years, and where he'd get wet when it rained. My uncle took him to Anfield to try and get his old seat back. He explained he had just retired after working down the docks as man and boy. The people in the ticket office were completely unsympathetic, telling him that his seat was no longer available.
On leaving the office, he noticed Shanks walking in. "Bill, Bill" shouted by Grandfather, and the Great Man came over. My Grandfather explained the situation about his retirement, his time down the docks (working every night during the blitz) and a lifetime as a Liverpool fan. Shanks told him not to worry, to hang on and he'd sort it out. Five minutes later Shanks reappeared with the season ticket for my Grandfather's seat, and said ‚If you have any bother ever again, ask for me.‘ The man will always be number one in my book.