22nd March 1949 - June 1951
It was with a certain initial reluctance that Bill Shankly moved into football management for he was still convinced he had much to offer as a player. However, Preston still held his registration and refused to release it, thus preventing him from playing anywhere else. 35-year-old, qualified as a masseur, he took the Carlisle job in 1949 and went into his first managerial appointment determined to become the greatest football manager of all time.
Carlisle were a struggling Third Division North side who found it hard to attract southern based players because of their geographic remoteness. Shankly immediately turned this disadvantage on it's head and turned Brunton Park into something of a fortress. He would tell his players how tired the opposition must be at having to travel up to such a remote corner of the country. He made a quick impression on the local population too, urging them to come and support the team and help them to carry the hopes of the region to the rest of the country.
Shankly established his relationship with the fans in his own unique way: "I used to on the Tannoy at a quarter to three to speak to the people every other week before the game. Instead of putting something in the programme, I spoke to them, explaining if we'd changed the team, how it had played in the last game. Everything. The supporters loved it, they lapped it up."
Shankly at the end of his Preston North End career in 1948
one year before he took his first managerial job at Carlisle.
He dragged the club into a more professional outlook, providing a new strip for the first team, and got the board to purchase a large house which was converted into flats for new players coming into the club. In his first full season, 1949-50, Carlisle finished 9th, but had won over the people of the town with their brand of football. Season ticket sales for the start of the 1950-51 season were at an all time high.
That season saw Carlisle buzz to the excitement of a visit from Arsenal in an FA Cup replay after they had secured an amazing 0-0 draw at Highbury. A final league placing of 3rd wasn't quite good enough for promotion and after a squabble with the board, who had reneged on a bonus promise should the team finish in the top three, Shankly resigned and took up an offer from Grimsby Town.
League Matches: 95
1948/49: 15th in Division 3 North
1949/50: 9th in Division 3 North
1950/51: 3rd in Division 3 North
"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."