6th January 1954 - 15th November 1955
"Workington threw out a challenge to me. They were struggling at the bottom of the Third Division North and were threatened with extinction. There was only one man they thought could save them and that was me, so they offered me a bonus if I saved them."
Shankly had undoubtedly taken a step down the football ladder on leaving Grimsby for Workington. The fact that he had walked out on two clubs, without actually winning anything tangible, meant that he was still to make an impression in the boardrooms of the wealthy senior clubs. Still, being the man he was, he attacked the Workington job with all the enthusiasm and relish he always showed at whatever he did.
Billy Watson groundsman and Shankly remember the Workington days
(uploaded by BULLFROGBUZZ)
The biggest problem Bill had on arrival at Borough Park was the fact that the town's rugby league team shared the playing surface with the football team. The pitch, owned by the football club, was leased out to the rugby side and provided vital income for the club. There was, however, a conflict of interests over the standard and condition of the grass, Shanks preferring a shorter cut and wider pitch boundary to that favoured by Gus Risman's rugby players.
Workington had only been a league side for two years and had had to apply for re-election at the end of both seasons. At the end of the 53-54 season, Shankly had lifted them to 20th position, 6 points clear of re-election. Gates had risen from 6,000 to 8,000. Playing a delightful brand of football, Workington were transformed.
Season 1953-54 saw them finish a creditable 8th in the old Third Division North. A wee cup run which saw them beat a strong Orient side against the odds also lifted morale at the club. By now, Shankly had recharged the batteries that had run so low after his experiences at Grimsby and he was looking to step up the managerial ladder again. The realisation, also, that Workington's ambitions were restrained by a chronic financial straitjacket meant there was no real future for him at the club. When he heard his old colleague from his Preston days, Andy Beattie was in trouble at Huddersfield, he was only too glad to tend his resignation at Workington to go and help him out.
League Matches: 85
1953/54: 18th in Divison 3 North
1954/55: 8th in Division 3 North
1955/56: resigned on 15th November 1955
"Shankly loved cards, having played back home in Ayrshire with the miners, and when he was a player at Preston and Carlisle. He also played with us. I recall a long card game on a trip to Newcastle. Shankly was involved in the school and so was Bobby Graham, a nervous man who must have been relieved to know that his presence, on this occasion at least, was absolutely official. It was a tough school, with Yeats, Tommy Smith and Tommy Lawrence also participating, and it was fascinating to watch Shanks play. He squeezed the cards in the way that the miners did. He just took a quick glance and then clenched them in his hand so that it was impossible to see what he had, even when you were standing behind him.
On this occasion Graham cleaned up at three-card brag when his three threes beat Shankly’s three queens. Much to the manager’s embarrassment, he had run out of money. 'See me back at Anfield,' he said to Bobby as he got up from the school. On the next Monday, Bobby wasn’t sure about claiming his winnings. Naturally, we all argued that he deserved his money and urged him to march into Shankly’s office to ask him for it. We went with him. 'Boss, I’ve come for the grabs . . .' Bobby began. 'Oh aye, son,' said Shanks, handing him the winnings. As Bobby was leaving his office, Shankly added: 'Bobby, son, stay away from the cards. No good can come from them.'"
IAN ST JOHN