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
"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."