A striking feature of the 1960s and 1970s in football was the leading role played by three strong, inspirational and shrewd club managers – all by coincidence (or was it?) born into and hardened by a background in the mining communities of Scotland: Matt Busby, Jock Stein and Bill Shankly. Shankly was appointed as Liverpool’s new manager in 1959. A club deep in the second division was transformed into a major football power enjoying unprecedented success at home and abroad in the 1960s and 1970s. ‘Shanks’ was revered by the supporters on the Kop.
Shankly’s enthusiasm and drive, and humour, were infectious. A new confidence swept through the club. Liverpool won the second division championship in 1962 and promptly became a force in the top division. Under Shankly’s 15-year reign, Liverpool won the league title three times, the FA Cup twice and the UEFA Cup twice. The people of Liverpool, and the world of football generally, were shocked by Shankly’s sudden decision to resign, aged 61, in 1974. He died of a heart attack in 1981 at age 68.
At Anfield, at the Kop end of the ground, stands a larger-than-life statue of a larger-than-life character. Commissioned by the club and crafted by Liverpool-born sculptor Tom Murphy, the statue captures Shankly with arms outstretched in post-match celebration. A Liverpool scarf is around his neck, sharing the team’s triumph with the supporters, his people.
Fittingly, the four-sided plinth to the statue at Anfield was fashioned from Scottish granite to recall Shankly’s days working at the Glenbuck pit in Ayreshire as a surface coal grader (and a memorial to its most famous sporting son is also at Glenbuck). He never forgot those roots. The inscription on the plinth simply says: “Shankly – He Made The People Happy”.