The man

Shankly with Nessie and their granddaughter, Karen - Photo courtesy of Karen Gill 

Shankly spent his time playing "fitba": "We played football in the playground, of course, and sometimes we got a game with another school, but we never had an organized school team. It was too small a school. If we played another school we managed to get some kind of strip together, but we played in our shoes." 

In all, Glenbuck produced a staggering 50 professional footballers in little under 50 years. To get a real understanding of this figure, it must be remembered the village population seldom exceeded 1000 at any one time, and was considerably below that for much of it.

Shankly felt always confident he would make it as a footballer: "I knew it would only be a matter of time before I became a professional player with one club or another. Even when I was in the pit I was only killing time - I had to make a living - until the time came when I would be playing football. It was all worked out in my mind. I knew I had something to offer and I have always been an optimist. If I'd had to wait for a few years, it is possible I might have lost my enthusiasm. But I was young and I felt that somewhere along the line I was being guided. I believed I had a destiny."

Life was hard for the mining families of Glenbuck, but it wasn't all bleak. One of the more pleasurable diversions for the Shankly family were the trips to the nearest cinema, in Muirkirk. As a boy, his father would often take the young Shankly, a mere 8 mile round trip on foot! The Hollywood stars of the day who impressed Bill the most were Jimmy Cagney, and Edward G Robinson. These were tough guys doing a tough job. Men's men who Shankly could identify with.

Years later, during his time at Anfield, he would amaze the playing staff with references to Cagney and to his new television hero, Eliott Ness from the T.V. series The Untouchables. 'You think you're a hard man?' he once asked Tommy Smith. 'Here, these guys were hard men', and he threw down photographs of Cagney and his mobsters. 'If they did something wrong they got shot!'

Liverpool would always travel by bus to away matches on the Friday night prior to the game. Shankly would ensure that wherever the match was, the bus would arrive in time for him to catch The Untouchables on the television before going to bed.

His familiar sharp suits, hand on hips strutting pose, and jaunty style, owed much to the Hollywood image. You could imagine him standing on the Kop roof like Jimmy Cagney on top of the gasometer in White Heat, 'look at me ma, top of the world!' Even the way he spoke, spitting out his words in a machine gun rhythm was pure Cagney.

His love of boxing would often surface too. At one team talk Shankly spent 15 minutes talking to his players about boxing before they went out onto the pitch. No mention of football at all. The boxing and the gangsters where all part of the tough guy image. He had boxed in his army days and had won a trophy at middleweight during a period where he was stationed in Manchester.



Shankly 'boxing' at Preston North End

Shankly's toughness went hand in hand with his fitness too. His fitness levels were extraordinary. He was wrongly cast aside years too early at Preston as the club sought to re-establish itself in the post war years. Fantastically fit, Shankly could have played well into his late thirties at the highest level.

The fitness was honed in Glenbuck. Working in the mines was bound to produce hard men, but to be athletically fit required a discipline separate to that. Shankly's father, John, had been a renowned runner and had provided fitness training for the men of Glenbuck. He was a man who looked after his body and took alcohol only sparingly. His input into the sporting prowess of the famous Cherrypickers' was widely recognised. It would have been surprising if Bill had not picked up the same good habits exhibited by his father. The long walk to the cinema to see his on screen heroes would have been no problem to him.

He worked hard in later years to keep his personal fitness level high, once comically remarking to Emlyn Hughes at Melwood, 'When I go son, I'm going to be the fittest man ever to die.'

Remember Glenbuck
The glen is silent now, no one would know
that here, where gorse and thistles grow,
a thousand people lived with pride
until the village died.

A store stood in that clump of birch
and there's the shadow of a church,
the school lies scattered on the ground,
it's now a rubble mound.

But see that patch of moorland fern,
down there where sheep graze by the burn,
beneath that wilderness concealed,
you'll find a football field.

Go down and walk upon that land
for that was once a hallowed stand,
out here they shaped the people's game,
a field of dreams, a place of fame.

They crawled in darkness underground
until they heard the whistle sound,
then left the danger and the dark
to run in sunlight on that park.

Their team was forged from guts and coal,
it captured Glenbuck's heart and soul,
now miners fought for village glory
to write the Cherrypickers' story.

They played with style, they beat the rest,
those Cherrypickers were the best,
wealthy clubs came for the men
who had the magic of the Glen.

But fate holds cards of joy and sorrow,
we live today, depart tomorrow.
She dealt her hand - the story ended,
and broken dreams cannot be mended.

The pit was closed, it didn't pay
and closure took all work away,
that one decision, it was said,
killed Glenbuck dead.

A ruined Glen, a flooded mine,
a boy who lost his chance to shine
but in his heart he vowed one day
to win the Cherrypickers' way.

His name was Shankly, he was the best,
his memory shines above the rest.
He won the heart of every fan,
he dignified the working man.

He came to Liverpool, he built a team,
he brought alive his Glenbuck dream,
and Anfield, his adopted home,
made sure he never walked alone.

Don Gillespie

Quotes from Shankly by Bill Shankly (1977)

Shanks quote

"Liverpool is not only a club. It's an institution. And my aim was to bring the people close to the club and the team and for them to accepted as a part of it. The effect was that wives brought their late husband's ashes to Anfield and scattered them on the pitch after saying a little prayer. That's how close the people have come to this club. When they wanted to scatter the ashes of their loved one, who wanted to be part of the club when they were dead, I said to them: 'In you come, you're welcome.' And they trooped in by the dozen.

One young boy got killed at his work and a bus load of 50 people came to Anfield one Sunday to scatter his ashes at the Kop end. It was very, very sad. Another family came with a man's ashes when the ground was frost-bound. So the groundsman had the difficult job of digging a hole in the pitch inside the Kop net. He dug it a foot down at the right-hand side of the post facing the Kop and casket containing the man's ashes were placed in it. So people not only support Liverpool when they're alive. They support them when they are dead. This is the true story of Liverpool. This is possibly why Liverpool are so great. There is no hypocrisy about it. It is sheer honesty.

Laughingly I have said, when a ball has been headed out of that particular corner of the net: 'That's the bloke in there again! He's having a blinder today.' But I wasn't trying to be funny really. I don't think we lost a goal at that end for years after the man's ashes were placed in there."

What Liverpool Football Club means to people by Shankly

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