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.
"The decades have drifted past, yet still I recall those Sunday afternoons when Nessie Shankly's kindly voice would come crackling down the line. "I'm sorry, Bill's not here," she would say. "He's over the park, playing football with the kids. When will he be back, you say? When he wins, of course." And you could hear the chuckle as she put down the telephone. Half-an-hour later the man himself would come on, a touch breathless, to tell of his part in the nine-goal thriller and of how he had laid on the winner, with the park-keeper tapping his watch and the mothers calling them in for their tea. And then Bill Shankly would talk football. And I, the rawest of rookies, would listen, scribble and revel in the tutorial.
The results of the scribblings would appear in a weekly magazine. A senior colleague, a trusted friend of Shankly, had approached him to write a column. Bill mulled it over for a moment and then, suddenly, he beamed. 'I'll do it, on one condition,' he said. 'I don't want any payment.' We waited for an explanation. 'I had to pay a lot of tax last year,' he said. 'Next year, when I see the tax man, he'll say: 'You reckon you've declared everything, Mr Shankly, but you haven't told us what you earned from this football column. So I reckon we've got you.' And I'll say: 'I never took a bloody penny for it, so who's got who, son? Eh?' And he cackled triumphantly, as we attempted to interpret the economics of his prank."
PATRICK COLLINS - Daily Mail reporter