Carlisle United

1932 - 1933

Young Shankly at Cronberry was attracting interest from the Football League. Two scouts, Peter Carruthers of Carlisle and Bobby Crawford of Preston, followed his progress. Bill's uncle, Billy Blyth, was a director at Carlisle United and this family connection undoubtedly helped Bill make the decision to go to Brunton Park. Preston were a division higher and Bill thought it best to make a start in professional football a rung lower down the ladder in Third Division North, earning £4 per week.

By the time Christmas 1932 had come round, Shankly was already forcing his way into the Carlisle first team. His displays as a hard running, gritty right-half, brought him much praise and credit and he was earmarked as a key young player capable of taking Carlisle on to greater things.

So dedicated to the game was Shankly, that during the summer of 1933, after completing his first season as a pro, he returned to Glenbuck where he continued to do his own training. Being an early exponent of the long throw-in he would practice by throwing balls over a row of houses and getting the small boys of the village to fetch them back for him.

Carlisle were struggling at the time and following Shankly's impressive debut season Preston came in for him again. Whilst in Glenbuck he received a telegram from Carlisle, which read, "Report to discuss transfer to Preston North End." After initially rejecting Preston's advances, Bill signed for Preston in a railway carriage just outside Haltwhistle.

"Carlisle was only a stepping stone. I knew I was going further than that. At the end of the season I was paid four pounds ten shillings a week, which was good, because the top rate in English football then was eight pounds. I was much better off than the coalminer for doing something in the fresh air that I would have done for nothing."

Playing statistics:
Debut: Dec 31st 1932 v Rochdale (2-2)
Games: 16
Goals: 0

Shanks quote

"Known to the lads as Bald Eagle, Jimmy always looked older than he was. He had this ritual of coming in for a rub-down every day, whether he was injured or not. Shanks, of course, would always be keeping any eye on Jimmy to see if he was actually carrying an injury. I was on the groundstaff at the time and in on the Sunday, as usual, to help brush the dressing-rooms and terraces as well as generally tidying things up at Anfield with the other younger lads. This day, Shanks came out, wearing a beaming smile. 'Boys, put your brushes down and come in here. I want you to see the latest in football technology. The next thing, Jimmy is sitting on a table alongside this machine and Bob is fitting the electrodes to his legs. The logic was simple. The machine sent out an electric impulse. This worked the muscle which in turn helped the flow of blood. Jimmy turned it on to number one. No effect. He turned the dial two more notches. Nothing. He got to five and was still telling the boss that he couldn't feel anything. 'Bob', said Shanks, beginning to get annoyed, 'perhaps these bloody Germans aren't as inventive as I thought. Either that or Jimmy is immune to pain.' Melia pressed on... six, seven, eight. 'Still nothing, boss.' Suddenly the dial was all the way to ten and Jimmy was just sitting there, shaking his head, 'No, nothing.' Shanks was furious, 'German crap', he was screaming. 'They haven't got a clue. You can send this back to Munich and tell them they can stick it up their backsides. Two thousand pounds? Get your sponge out, Bob. You might need it.'

We began to back towards the door, when Shanks suddenly said, 'Christ, Bob, you haven't even turned it on!' He flicked the switch and poor Jimmy, still on a maximum setting of ten, nearly hit the ceiling. Sparks were coming out of his ears. His hair would have stood on end if he'd had any. We all ran out, exploding with laughter. As we headed down the corridor, Shanks was right behind us and shouting, 'That'll teach the Bald Eagle to come in for a treatment on a Sunday.'"

TOMMY SMITH - Liverpool 1962-1978 (on the unfortunate guinea pig, Jimmy Melia)

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