Bill Shankly Legend Who Forget the Liverpool Way; New Book Captures Essence of True Great Who Shaped Anfield

Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England), September 26, 2006 | Go to article overview

Bill Shankly Legend Who Forget the Liverpool Way; New Book Captures Essence of True Great Who Shaped Anfield


WHEN many of today's football superstars take a glimpse into the life of Bill Shankly they should feel both inspired and embarrassed.

True legends aren't defined merely by their professional achievements, but the manner in which they carry the responsibilities of talent and acclaim.

Nowadays, fame is an excuse for aloofness.

Supporters desperate for a dialogue with their heroes have more hope of being granted an audience with the Pope.

Agreeing to sign an autograph for a fan who's waited an hour is considered an act of huge charity. Others can't even be bothered with this.

The end product is an industry where the modern greats can be admired, loved even, for their exploits on the field, but few can carry the same warmth into retirement.

Image shoved substance aside years ago, which is why we still look back in awe at men like Shankly, and allow romanticism to get the better of us, craving a return to the values which defined him.

Tributes to the architect of the modern Liverpool can easily drift into cliches.

Hearing the same old tales, usually embellished with an extra sprinkle of comedy and increasingly bad impressions, can unfairly numb us to their significance.

So it's refreshing the latest Shankly book, compiled by his granddaughter Karen Gill, goes beyond the story of one of the world's most celebrated football managers and focuses on the complexities of his personality.

What separated Shankly from the rest while he was Liverpool manager, and continues to do so on the 25th anniversary of his death, was his relationship with the people of Merseyside.

Possibly to his own detriment, he'd never ignore supporters seeking his attention. While fans felt they owed a debt to Shankly, he maintained throughout his life he owed it all to them.

Such humility was rare then, but on the point of extinction now.

When he wasn't signing players, scouting opponents or overseeing training, Shankly was usually at his typewriter, replying personally to the letters which swamped Melwood.

He'd even call some supporters at home to discuss the previous day's game, while the accounts of him providing tickets for fans are endless.

One of the most iconic images of all was caught on television, when a Liverpool scarf which had been thrown at Shankly during a lap of honour was flung to one side by a policeman.

Shankly pounced on the scarf and reprimanded with the copper by uttering the immortal words about how the garment 'represented someone's life'.

For all his triumphs in football, an incident as death approached sums up the sheer decency and humanity of the man.

On September 26, 1981, when admitted to Broadgreen Hospital following his heart attack, Shankly insisted on being nursed in an ordinary ward.

"That is where he wanted to be," a hospital spokesman told the ECHO, in one brief sentence confirming why Shankly was a true 'man of the people'.

Three days later, he was dead.

The legacy stretched way beyond football. Shankly wasn't just a former Liverpool manager. The man from Glenbuck sits as comfortably alongside John Lennon as an icon and spokesman for a generation of Merseysiders, while his place at the head of Anfield's top table with Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish is taken r granted. …

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