June 1951 - 2nd January 1954
When Shankly arrived at Grimsby, the club was in free fall having dropped from Division 1 to regional football in Division 3 in quick time, the morale of the players and supporters was low. However, the players who had been at the club when Grimsby were in the top flight were still there, there being little point in players swapping and changing clubs in those days due to the maximum wage. Shankly was quickly able to use the raw material at his disposal to weld the players into a good side.
He quickly became a cult figure at Blundell Park, the team regularly drawing crowds in excess of 20,000. When Shankly turned out for the reserve team, it too would draw huge crowds, 5,000 not being unusual for Shanks who was still more than a decent player himself. In 1951-52, Grimsby just missed promotion, despite picking up an incredible 36 points out a possible 40 in the last 20 matches.
The 1952-53 season started with much optimism around the club but the players still felt the disappointment of the previous season. The team too, was an ageing one, and struggled after a bright start and the season fizzled out. Shankly was given no money to buy new players and was reluctant to blood some promising reserves because of the loyalty he felt to these older stalwarts (a fault that was to surface at Liverpool years later). Disillusioned by events, he quit in January 1954, citing a lack of ambition by the board as his main reason.
Shanks with his Grimsby team in 1953
Remarkably, in his autobiography he was to claim: "That Grimsby team was pound for pound, and class for class, the best football team I have seen in England since the war. In the league they were in they played football nobody else could play. Everything was measured, planned and perfected and you could not wish to see more entertaining football."
League Matches: 118
1951/52: 2nd in Division 3 North
1952/53: 5th in Division 3 North
1953/54: Resigned on 2nd January 1954
As a 8/9 year old my dad would take me to work sometimes, and we would go in the Eaton Rd cafe for breakfast. Shanks, who had retired by then, would be sitting in there and would come right over and keep us there for ages, him talking, us listening. About 4 years later my dad jumped out his van in Old Swan. He said it was lashing down, and who ran up to him and made him take the umbrella cos of the rain but Bill."You have not been in the cafe for ages" he said, again my dad protested about the umbrella, but Shanks gestured for him to shut up and said "Son, you work too hard and I can go home now and dry off, you still have to work all afternoon. Besides, a few years ago you told me the only mistake I have ever made since coming to Liverpool was resigning. So you just resign yourself to the fact that I'm right again and get under the fucking thing." He then spent another 20 mins getting wet while talking football. My dad said he could see people looking at him thinking why he did not offer Shanks his brolley. At the end of the conversation my dad handed Bill his brolley back and an old lady, walking past at the time told my dad he should be ashamed of himself. Mr Shankly walked away laughing his head off.
I now live in Australia, and the footy team I play for has a trainer/coach who has been at the club for years. He is a mad red, 65 years old and everyone knows him by one name only. SHANKS. This is a legend that will never die. You have a great site. Keep up the good work.