Friday, September 29, 2006

Shankly - a legend remembered...

IT's 25 years to the day that former Liverpool legend and manager Bill Shankly died following a heart attack, seven years after quitting as Liverpool manager. Those who knew him closely say he was never the same man after he'd left the club.

At the time the then Prime minister, Harold Wilson said this "I was at Downing Street this morning when the news that the building society interest rates were to remain unchanged had been announced. That was the good news. Then came the bad - that Bill Shankly was to retire. There will be much weeping in the hills and dales of my constituency tonight - except among Everton fans."

For those who don't know much about Shankly, he was one of 10 children, the son of an Ayrshire coalminer. Shankly was a tough man as you'd expect given his upbringing, but his wit was the stuff of legend. He was great mates with another great Scottish manager, the famous Sir Matt Busby of Manchester United. IF Liverpool didn't have a midweek game and United were playing at Old Trafford Shankly would often be there to watch the match. Such was his affinity with Sir Matt.

But the rivalry between United and Liverpool was every bit as fierce back then as it is today.

During one pre-match team-talk ahead of a home game with United at Anfield Shankly went through each of the United team rubbishing their abilities starting from the back with the goalkeeper, at the time it was Alex Stepney, according to Shankly he was rubbish. Shankly then moved on to Tony Dunne, United's right-back - he also was rubbish. He went through the whole team until he got numbers 9, 10 and 11 and then he said. "That leaves Law, Best and Charlton and if you cannot mark three players then we may as well pack up!". This brought howls of laughter among the Liverpool dressing room and broke the tension, such was the genius and wit of Shankly.

I doubt there will be another Bill Shakly. RIP.

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