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."
Debut: Dec 31st 1932 v Rochdale (2-2)
Throughout the next couple of years, whereas you state that Bill visited Bellefield, which is at the other end of Sandforth Close, he was a very, very frequent visitor to our school. He was given permission by the headmaster to use the school's facilities, which were at the time light years ahead of any other school in the city, and we became almost blase about seeing Bill as we went to the gym, the baths, the weights room or elsewhere. One day during a spring half-term holiday along with the rest of the school cross-country squad I turned up at the school at around 9.30, to find a game of football going on in the playground. Some local boys were playing there along with a couple of my teammates. Obviously I joined in and only then noticed a short haired older man, not resembling any of the teachers. When the ball went into play it was obvious that Shanks was playing too. I had died and was playing in heaven, and to make things better Bill was on my side. He spoke, you listened. He coached and you did as he said. And it worked, too. I have never played as well, and even when it was my turn to go in goal I performed out of my skin. A cross came over and I reached as high as I could and somehow managed to trap the ball against the 'bar', which was the underside of pillared shed some six foot or so off the ground. One of the other side charged into me. Not prepared to let down my side, most of all Shanks, I struggle to stop the ball from falling over the line. From nowhere Shanks arrived and saved the day. Pushing the boy away he took the ball out of my hands and congratulated me on a good save. He spotted the ball and took the free kick he had awarded himself. As the play developed up the yard he turned back to me and asked if I was OK. I stammered that I was and took a hefty pat of encouragement on my shoulders.
Bill said, "You're doing well, son", smiled and looked at me playing football in my athletics kit. He cocked his head to the side and told me "Aye, you've got footballer's legs." The ultimate hero had just paid me the ultimate compliment a 14 year old could receive. I was in ecstacy (as I am now writing this and remembering how good I felt for months afterwards).