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
On 12 July 1974 I was at school in Sandfield Park, right next to Bill and Nessie Shankly's house. When the rumour spread that Our Messiah had retired incredulity, denial, fear, and a whole host of other emotions ran unchecked through the classrooms. At the end of the day, a day of media frenzy, a group left St Edward's College, walked through the Park and climbed over the wall at the end of Sandforth Close and walked on up to Bill's purple front door. Wearing blazers to match, and summoning every ounce of courage, the bravest of our group knocked at the door.
Nessie answered and was asked "Is Bill there, please?" by the 12 year-olds assembled. The great man came out.
"Have you retired, Bill?"
"Aye, son. I have."
"Aah, eh, Bill."
"Aah don't. Please, Bill."
"Aah, I'm sorry son."
And the moment ended with Bill signing his autograph on all manner of paper, though not our exercise books or we would all have been in trouble with masters at our rugby playing school who simply wouldn't have understood the significance."