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.
"Shanks had a knack of making his players feel special. One night before a particularly big match he phoned my wife and told her to lock me away on my own all night. He said that sex was out of the question because he wanted his most vital player at his peak the next day. I felt ten feet tall, until I found the next day that Shanks had also rung up Ian St John’s and Roger Hunt’s wives and told them exactly the same thing!"