Carlisle United

1932 - 1933

Young Shankly at Cronberry was attracting interest from the Football League. Two scouts, Peter Carruthers of Carlisle and Bobby Crawford of Preston, followed his progress. Bill's uncle, Billy Blyth, was a director at Carlisle United and this family connection undoubtedly helped Bill make the decision to go to Brunton Park. Preston were a division higher and Bill thought it best to make a start in professional football a rung lower down the ladder in Third Division North, earning £4 per week.

By the time Christmas 1932 had come round, Shankly was already forcing his way into the Carlisle first team. His displays as a hard running, gritty right-half, brought him much praise and credit and he was earmarked as a key young player capable of taking Carlisle on to greater things.

So dedicated to the game was Shankly, that during the summer of 1933, after completing his first season as a pro, he returned to Glenbuck where he continued to do his own training. Being an early exponent of the long throw-in he would practice by throwing balls over a row of houses and getting the small boys of the village to fetch them back for him.

Carlisle were struggling at the time and following Shankly's impressive debut season Preston came in for him again. Whilst in Glenbuck he received a telegram from Carlisle, which read, "Report to discuss transfer to Preston North End." After initially rejecting Preston's advances, Bill signed for Preston in a railway carriage just outside Haltwhistle.

"Carlisle was only a stepping stone. I knew I was going further than that. At the end of the season I was paid four pounds ten shillings a week, which was good, because the top rate in English football then was eight pounds. I was much better off than the coalminer for doing something in the fresh air that I would have done for nothing."

Playing statistics:
Debut: Dec 31st 1932 v Rochdale (2-2)
Games: 16
Goals: 0

Shanks quote

"In 1967, we arrived at Anfield to play Liverpool and as I glanced out of the window of the coach I saw Bill Shankly standing at the main entrance. I was the first player to alight from the coach and when I reached the entrance Bill shook my hand warmly. 'Good to see you again, George,' he said. 'You're looking well, son.' This was unusual for him, and knowing Shanks to be a wily old fox, I decided to hang around to try to find out what he was up to. As each of the United players entered Anfield, Shanks shook his hand, welcomed him and told him how good he looked. Eventually, Bobby Charlton, a born worrier, came up to Shanks. 'Bobby, son. Good to see you,' Shanks said, shaking his hand. 'But by God, if ever there was a man who looked ill, it's you, Bobby!' Bobby's face went as colourless as an icicle. 'Ill? I look ill?' he repeated, running the fingers of his right hand over his forehead and down his right cheek. He was visibly shaken. 'Aye, Bobby, son. You look like you're sickening for something. If I were you I'd see a doctor as soon as you set foot back in Manchester.' Shanks patted Bobby on the back and took off down the corridor, leaving him trembling in the foyer.

In the dressing room, Bobby was conspicuous by his absence and, ominously, there was a delay in announcing the team. We sat around kicking our heels, no one daring to get changed in case Matt Busby had a tactical plan which meant leaving one of us out. The thought of getting changed only to be told to put your clothes back on because you're not in the team is a player's nightmare. Eventually Matt Busby entered the dressing room with Jimmy Murphy and told us they had reshuffled the team which had beaten West Ham the previous week. Bobby Charlton was unavailable. He'd suddenly been taken ill."

GEORGE BEST

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