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
"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)