Bill Shankly's secrets revealed as long-forgotten newspaper column is given a new lease of life
Until Brian Clough came along, no football manager was quoted as widely as Bill Shankly, who was the undisputed king of the one-liner during his 15 years as Liverpool boss.
But although Shankly's mots justes became legend, it was rare for him to share more than a snapshot of his innermost thoughts with journalists. He would seldom consent to a lengthy interview. Ultimately, he looked back over his career in an excellent autobiography penned skilfully and sensitively by the journalist John Roberts, but there is not much else in the archives that explains in detail how he went about turning Liverpool from a team down on its luck in the Second Division to the one that in his time alone won three First Division titles, two FA Cups and enjoyed its first taste of glory in Europe.
In consequence, a book to be published in March will be of particular interest.
Shankly: The Lost Diary (Trinity Mirror Sports Media) reproduces for the first time in more than 50 years a series of columns that Shankly agreed to write for the Liverpool Echo newspaper in the summer of 1962, three years into he reign, after he had achieved the first part of his attempt to revive the Merseyside club by winning promotion as Second Division champions.
They were rediscovered by Chris McLoughlin, editor of The Kop magazine, while he was researching an article to mark the 50th anniversary of Liverpool’s promotion.
“Aside from his autobiography, there isn’t a publication out there in which Shankly, speaking in the first person, gives such a detailed account of how he set about restoring the glory days at Anfield," McLoughlin told James Pearce, a reporter on today's Echo.
“What makes this all the more exciting is that every word in this book was written before those glory days returned. This isn’t Shanks reflecting on the job he did after guiding Liverpool to league championships, FA Cups and UEFA Cup. This is Shankly talking in 1962 about a job he felt he was only just starting.”
The Echo reproduced an extract from the first of 14 columns that appeared under Shankly's name, in which he reveals both his unease about press coverage of his team and explains, with rather charming humility, that he felt the need to do something to "maintain interest" in the club. Shankly wrote:
“When I was approached by the Liverpool ECHO to write a series of articles on events at Anfield since my arrival here about two-and-a-half years ago, I finally decided to undertake the commission solely to endeavour to maintain interest in football in Liverpool and district during the close season.
“I do not always agree with football reports in this paper and in the normal course of events, have no way of replying to such articles, but as I am now contributing, I feel very strongly that I must take this opportunity of emphasising this fact.
“It is not that I resent criticism of my team – indeed I am probably its sternest critic – but I feel criticism can sometimes be too strong. A case in point is the report of the recent match against Everton where the comments make me wonder if the reporter and I were watching the same game.
“In the course of the series, I shall touch on major and minor events inside the club, the problems of team selection, the little dramas which have been played prior to matches in relation to injured players and how decisions were made regarding a player’s fitness.
“My idea in this matter is to not only enlighten supporters of Liverpool football, but also to help bring those supporters closer together – if that is possible.”
Shankly: The Lost Diary is published by Trinity Mirror Sports Media on March 25.
Shankly: My Story - The Autobiography, originally published in 1976, after he had retired, and at first banned from sale in the Liverpool club shop because of critical comments Shankly made, was reissued by Trinity Mirror Sport Media in 2009 in hardback and is now available in paperback too.
Follow the links for more details and to buy direct from Amazon.
The books are also available from Waterstones and WH Smith.