22nd March 1949 - June 1951
It was with a certain initial reluctance that Bill Shankly moved into football management for he was still convinced he had much to offer as a player. However, Preston still held his registration and refused to release it, thus preventing him from playing anywhere else. 35-year-old, qualified as a masseur, he took the Carlisle job in 1949 and went into his first managerial appointment determined to become the greatest football manager of all time.
Carlisle were a struggling Third Division North side who found it hard to attract southern based players because of their geographic remoteness. Shankly immediately turned this disadvantage on it's head and turned Brunton Park into something of a fortress. He would tell his players how tired the opposition must be at having to travel up to such a remote corner of the country. He made a quick impression on the local population too, urging them to come and support the team and help them to carry the hopes of the region to the rest of the country.
Shankly established his relationship with the fans in his own unique way: "I used to on the Tannoy at a quarter to three to speak to the people every other week before the game. Instead of putting something in the programme, I spoke to them, explaining if we'd changed the team, how it had played in the last game. Everything. The supporters loved it, they lapped it up."
Shankly at the end of his Preston North End career in 1948
one year before he took his first managerial job at Carlisle.
He dragged the club into a more professional outlook, providing a new strip for the first team, and got the board to purchase a large house which was converted into flats for new players coming into the club. In his first full season, 1949-50, Carlisle finished 9th, but had won over the people of the town with their brand of football. Season ticket sales for the start of the 1950-51 season were at an all time high.
That season saw Carlisle buzz to the excitement of a visit from Arsenal in an FA Cup replay after they had secured an amazing 0-0 draw at Highbury. A final league placing of 3rd wasn't quite good enough for promotion and after a squabble with the board, who had reneged on a bonus promise should the team finish in the top three, Shankly resigned and took up an offer from Grimsby Town.
League Matches: 95
1948/49: 15th in Division 3 North
1949/50: 9th in Division 3 North
1950/51: 3rd in Division 3 North
"When I took a physiotherapy course before I became a manager, I learned some valuable things. Notably about the heart, the intake of food for an athlete and particularly the timing of meals before a match. I put this into use. When I came to Liverpool, I stopped the system of players having a big meal on the night before a game. I adopted the pattern of taking them away on Friday night, timing the journey to reach the hotel about 10 pm, where the players had tea, toast and honey and then straight to bed.
On the day of the match, three hours before the kick-off, they could have a steak or chicken or poached eggs. They did not have a cooked breakfast as well. It was simple diet and and the word "simple" came into most of my football thinking in training and playing as well. I ate the same sort of food all my life and I've always been a fitness fanatic. The food players had before a match is to preserve their strength, not build it up. Players find what suits them best by trial and error. If their demand fell within the limits I laid down, that was all right. I also expected them to eat properly when they were not at the club, not to eat stupid things when they were out of control. Most of them did that but I invariably knew when any of them had stepped off the rails in any way. In any case, it usually told on their performance."
Shankly's recipe for success seemed simple on the surface, but was anything but!