"Through the Darkness of Despair"
There was a smog so thick hanging over Anfield in 1959 that the roof of the famous Kop could hardly be seen, but in the back seat of a car in Manchester, a Ray of Hope was rising. Mr TV Williams had driven there to meet a certain Mr William Shankly. Bill had applied for the Liverpool job in the early 50’s but had failed to impress the board that he was the man for the job. Luckily for us Mr TV Williams had seen something that the others seem to have missed, “one of the biggest hearts in the game”.
In those days the team selected to play had to be approved in the boardroom before it was announced and once this hurdle had been removed Shankly signed on the dotted line. On arrival at Anfield he found a run down ground, where the wind rattled through the corrugated roof of all parts of the ground, but worse was to come. The biggest shock came when Bill inspected the training facilities at Melwood.
Nessie recalled Bill saying, 'Oh Nessie have I made a terrible mistake leaving Huddersfield?' He thought that coming to Liverpool was a big mistake because of the conditions at the training ground. The shack that was the changing rooms were worse than that on many parks for Sunday league teams and the pitches were full of bricks, stones and broken glass.
Shankly and Nessie getting married on 29th of June 1944.
(Photo courtesy of Karen Gill - Shankly's granddaughter)
Together with Paisley, Bennett, Fagan and the groundsman Eli Wass the five men set about their task. They walked abreast and by hand picked up every stone and foreign object from the playing surface. After walking up and down the pitch 12 times, Bill decided that that was enough for the first day's improvements, but would return again and again until it was like a bowling green. Shankly’s thoughts at the time must have been grave, how can anyone expect a club to improve if they couldn’t provide facilities to equal a Sunday league team? But this is what welcomed Bill on his arrival.
Bill had also joined a club, where the main star, the incomparable Billy Liddell, was only a part time player and coming to the end of his illustrious career. He would need to sign players and sign them quickly. He approached the board for money to buy a young Jackie Charlton, but was unsuccessful. He approached the board for money to buy the Scottish midfield dynamo Dave MacKay, but was unsuccessful. Shankly had been assured by the board that they were as ambitious as he was to improve the clubs standing, but this was not proving to be true.
Bill's first season came to an end with a spirited end of year rally seeing them finish third in Div 2 - not bad considering where they were when he took over in December. Shankly’s first full season saw them finish in exactly the same position, so near but yet so far. Coming third in the second division was a fate so cruel it often brought tears to the eyes of fans, who wondered how long “The Darkness of Despair” would last. Shankly was already showing signs of desperation, he needed a benefactor who would not run away from signing cheques, they didn’t need to fill them out, Bill could do that, all they had to do was SIGN THEM!
Fortunately for Bill, that time was not that far away. Eric Sawyer an accountant with Littlewoods Pools had been nominated by John Moores for a place on the board and if Eric had one skill that Liverpool needed, it was his ability to sign his name. The Liverpool boss could now spend the summer of 1961 looking for the ammunition that would fire Liverpool back to the top league, but he would still have to face the shareholders before the new season started, not something our Bill liked doing. The meeting started in the worst possible way. Bill had only been here for 18 months and a part of the shareholders were already after his head.
“Solly” the management critic of the day had accused Bill of telling his players to take the foot off the gas when we were a couple of goals to the good and accused players of not trying or not giving their best. Shanks was never a calm man when false criticism was despatched in his direction and so the volcano erupted. “That’s rubbish, I have never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life” screamed Shanks. “The tension is not from the last 18 months its from the last 7 YEARS”
Not satisfied by his answer another Lamb stood up for the slaughter, “I blame you for not bringing in the new players we need”. Before Shanks could erupt again TV Williams stood up and defended Bill by informing the sheep that LFC had indeed tried to sign several players, but they had chosen not to come to Liverpool, preferring the bright lights of London. The third Lamb stood up and retorted “Is Goodison in London, cos they don’t seem to struggle signing players”
Bills heart sank, what on earth had he let himself in for coming here. “Solly” the leader of the lambs was not content, he again took a snipe at Bill and TV. “The manager and board should have taken steps to prevent the players from stopping to play half way though a game, no employer just lets his workers knock off when they feel like it” This time it was TV’s time to erupt, “You’re talking nonsense and quite frankly how would you know” TV and Bill had been minutes away from a vote of no confidence.
One thing Bill was beginning to realise, if his latest signings of Yeats and St John did not pay immediate dividends, he was in trouble. Bill had every faith in the fans, but the board and shareholders were proving to be another matter. The signing of Yeats was going to prove invaluable, but to convince him to sign was going to prove difficult. Enter the Bill we all know and love.
Big Ron Yeats asked “whereabouts in England is Liverpool”.
Shanks: “We're in the First Division son”
Yeats: “I thought you were in the Second Division?”
Shanks: “When we sign you Son, we’ll be in the First Division next year”
Prophetic words indeed, no wonder players believed every word Shankly uttered.
Shankly signing his contract at Liverpool
Within months of Yeats' arrival, he was appointed club captain, Shanks’ Red Collosus was to lead his new look team out. Shanks commented “Christ son, you’re so big that when you lead the team out, you’ll frighten the opposition to death”. Shanks was telling everyone who would listen, that this team would win promotion.
Liverpool didn’t taste defeat that year until mid October and that was only a hiccup in a season that was to see a new Liverpool. Promotion was achieved on the 21st April, 1962 against Southampton in front of 40,000 ecstatic Liverpudlians, a surprisingly low gate cos that season had seen the crowds swell to over 50,000 earlier in the season. The team that played that day (3-2-5):
Moran Yeats Byrne
Callaghan - Hunt - Lewis - Melia - A’Court
Liverpool 2 - 0 Southampton - Lewis (2)
My Dad and many other Dads came home bladdered that night, I remember little of the night, but remember me Dad was so out of it, he couldn’t undo his own shoelaces. He fell asleep on the couch dreaming of what was to come. Shanks comment on the day, “I believe Liverpool are on the threshold of greater things”.
He also praised the efforts of his back room staff Reuben Bennett, Bob Paisley, Albert Shelley and Joe Fagan who were to form the basis of the coming “BOOT ROOM” philosophy. Not only had the players began to believe his every word, the fans were announcing the arrival of the new messiah, now all Shanks had to do was convince the board & shareholders.
The only comment I would like to make at this time, comparing those days with today, was that Bill had a line and a quick retort for every situation that could arise. He had a way about him that made everyone within ear shot beieve he had all the answers. We were not only going to be playing in the first division next season …… Bill had everyone believing we were gonna win it!
And as for the missing FA Cup that had never seen the inside of the Liverpool trophy cabinet, Bill was suggesting we better make room for it now. Pride, dignity and faith were becoming the new watch words around the hallowed halls of Anfield, and everyone believed!
Consolidation then Bill's first title
"Consolidation but tears in the street"
The start of the 62/63 season opened on the 1st August 1962, with Liverpool playing Everton in Condor Close, Garston L19. The line ups included:
Snot-Nosed Blues - Gary West, Paul Labone, Mark Vernon, Martin Morrisey and the tricky Ian Three-Dicks
The Tricky Reds - Ann Lawrence, Wooly Hunt, Elizabeth Yeats, Angela St John and my fave Lynn Milne.
We had won the toss and decided to kick down hill. For all the effort put in Liverpool found themselves 3-0 down after the first half. Ann Lawrence had proved a right disappointment in goal to be honest.
When the second half started things went from bad to worse and the final score was 7-0 to the Snot nosed blues. At a post match conference “little Wooly” had explained to the press that losing Elizabeth Yeats at half time (called in for her tea) was a critical turning point in the game. But he had drawn their attention to how proud he was of the effort and workrate of the reduced team (no subs allowed at this time). Meanwhile over at Anfield .....
The 1962/63 season had started badly for the Reds and Shanks put the defeats down to Liverpool showing too much respect for the so called “elite” of Division 1. Shanks was gonna have to start using a bit of psychology, for which he had become famous. The so called elite was about to be brought down to earth with a massive bump. Shankly explained that we should have no fear of teams such as The Drury Lane Fan Dancers, The Southern Softies, and The Playboys (Spurs, Arsenal & The Hammers respectively). It was at this time that Bill used another piece of genius.
He used to phone our main rivals manager Don Revie of Leeds to tell him how brilliant each and every one of his Reds side were, one by one and when Revie tried to get a word in like “Bremner” Bill cut him off before the second word saying “aye, not a bad player”. Revie must have got off the phone wondering how Leeds ever won a game with such a mediocre bunch of fairies. The psychology began to work, and the results began to improve.
Then came the game that all Reds had waited for since 1954 (The Derby) against Everton at Goodison. The blue noses were awarded a bent penalty in the first half which was converted by Vernon. But before half time a superb piece of individual brilliance by Lewis gave the “Tricky Reds” the equaliser that was justified. A total fluke by the turncoat Morrisey made the score 2-1 to them and the score remained that way until the 90th minute had come and gone. Time was up and the ref was about to blow, when Alan A’Court sent in one last cross. Up went West, up rose Labone (I ain't too sure why cos it was a low cross) but the cross was thumped home by Hunt. The “G” in GOAL started at 4.45, but it was 4.50 by the time the “L” got out. The crowd went wild, well at least the Red bit did.
The rest of the season quite frankly was a disappointment, but we did reach the semi final of the FA Cup, where we were beaten by our bogey team, Leicester, who were really all rubbish apart from an up and coming young goalkeeper called Banks (he might make it some day).
"EE-AYE-ADDIO we won the League"
The summer of 1963 saw big moves in the transfer market. Ian Three-Dicks had been transferred to Speke Road Gardens and Martin Morrisey had come down with rickets (a just illness for a turncoat). Elizabeth Yeats had also shown her true colours by crossing the park to become Elizabeth Treble-cock. Better news for the Tricky Reds though Elizabeth had been replaced by Neil Powney from Island Road for the princely sum of 1 Jubilee, an Arrow bar and a Match Programme (transfer record at the time) and had become Neil Lawler. Lynn Milne (still me fave) had had medical problems throughout the summer, don’t quote me, but I think she was growing a second bum on her chest. We won the toss for the second year running and decided to kick toward the Home Guard.
Neil Lawler proved to be the stuff that dreams are made of, he kicked Paul Labone early in the game and his Mum had took him off to avoid further injury (typical whinging blue nose). From that moment in the game everything went our way, Lawler scored the opener and Wooly Hunt had bagged a brace either side of half time to make it 3-0. But the best was yet to come, just before the full time whistle Lynn Milne (my fave remember) scored a screamer from all of three feet and the goal celebrations that followed made “muffin the mule” look tame. Little Wooly was filling his boots (a proper kiss, on the lips too) but the elations soon turned to anger when Lawler wanted to congratulate Milne. Little Wooly had to put his foot down, this wasn’t the way we celebrated. Lawler was transfer listed the following morning, never to be seen again. Meanwhile over at Anfield …….
Prior to the end of the 62/63 season Shanks had made two crucial signings. A Scot who was playing in a Digereedoo band in Kangaroo land (Willie Stevenson) and our first ever “Real Twisty-Turny” (Peter Thompson). The nickname “The Tricky Reds” was now here to stay. Shankly now had a team which could “Do the Business” and never one to be modest, he decided to announce the fact to all who would listen that “This would be our year” he told the press “I think we are equal or better than all the teams in Division 1 and if we continue to think that way, we will be the best”.
At Melwood Shanks had built the infamous “Sweat Box” where players would hone there fitness and strength and “No team would have the same endurance as this Liverpool side” and it proved to be true on many an occasion in the coming season. Now the bad bit, the season started atrociously and after three consecutive home defeats Shanks was in trouble. He had heard that there was a board meeting in progress, so he marched up the stairs, opened the doors, looked down the table where all the directors sat and announced ……
“I can assure you Gentlemen, that we will win a game at Anfield this season” he said before turning around and walking out of the room, closing the door behind him. Whatever the directors were going to speak about that day was now a total mystery to all present, they must have been totally gob smacked, cos the story told, is that they all got up and went their own way. The next game was a home game against Wolves midweek. Shanks got all his players together and after discussion, he realised the problem was the players nerves and anxiety about playing in front of the Kop.
It's not documented what Shanks actually said that evening to all his players, but it must have been a “pearler” cos Liverpool went out and stuffed Wolves 6-0. Two weeks later we absolutely “Trounced” the blue noses 2-1 with a rare brace from Ian Callaghan, one of which was a screamer even Billy Liddell would have been proud of. (There got him in). Then followed 8 wins out of 9 games. Whatever did Bill say at that meeting?
It was the Christmas of 1963 where the Kop first started singing Beatles music. The atmosphere in the ground on Boxing Day needed to be seen to be believed, you could cut it with a knife, football grounds had never seen anything like it before or since (see the famous Panarama documentary for evidence). Christmas 1963 was a very special time for all who went to the “Hallowed Halls of Anfield” and two 6-1 results against Stoke and Sheffield proved to be excellent stocking fillers that year. Then came the time of year when all should show their FAITH.
Easter had arrived, on “Good Friday” 1964 when all “Good Catholics” were at mass, Sir Roger had bagged a hat-trick against The Drury Lane Fan Dancers. I always wondered how many “Good Catholics” took holy communion in North London that day? More that most would be my guess cos on the way home (Saturday) we popped into Leicester and put another three past them (two games in two days back then). Sunday as all “Good Catholics” will tell you is the Lords day, a day of rest, so Liverpool put their feet up.
When the Lord rose on the third day (Easter Monday) so did Ian St John with a brace and Alf Arrowsmith also chipped in and scored to put yet another three past The Drury Lane Fan Dancers, but this time at Anfield. 3 games in 4 days, 9 goals in 3 games. The Easter prayers had paid up trumps this year or did it have more to do with the new Messiah closer to home? Whatever it was, only days later we humped three past Man U, even with the talents of Best, Charlton & Law, but still the best was yet to come ……
On the 18th April 1964 Liverpool played the Southern Softies and walloped them 5-0 and the title was ours!!
The team: Lawrence, Byrne, Moran, Milne, Yeats, Stevenson, Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Arrowsmith & Thompson
While everyone was heaping praise on Shanks, he called them to a halt. “And these were the last words he said” to coin another phrase. “We are a working class team, playing for working class people, we have no room here for fancy footballers, just workers who have faith and will respond to the demands I lay down”.
Mighty powerful words Bill, you convinced me mate, I now, was prepared to believe every word that Bill said. The world was round like a football yer know. Not flat like all them past geniuses told us. The only pity that day was that we had to parade around the ground with a cardboard cut-out of the trophy. You see, the bitter blue noses across the park had refused to hand the trophy over. And you wonder why us oldies call them "bitter and twisted"?
FAITH & PRAYERS are the watchwords from this episode, how much faith have you got in our great team? And when was the last time you prayed for a victory?
|The Bill Shankly Story by Wooltonian
Shankly with his daughters, his wife Nessie and her dad. (Photo courtesy of Karen Gill - Shankly's granddaughter)
The pride and dignity
The agony and the ecstasy or The pride and dignity"
The start of the 1964 season, was a disaster. Little Wooly was in Alder Hey with Rheumatic Fever and Ian St John was also laid off in hospital. (The latter had apparently swallowed a stone from a date and needed an operation to remove it). Rheumatic Fever was a shocker, paralysed from the waist down and slipping in and out of consciousness was not the best way of spending a birthday and Christmas. I was in that bed for over 5 months and frankly cant remember much that was happening in the outside world, but worse news was yet to come.
When I was released from Hospital, I was confined to the house for another 4 months. The thought of not going to any games this season was so upsetting its hard to describe. Imagine just starting going to games only to be told you had to miss an entire season.
The team of Lawrence, Lawler, Byrne, Milne, Yeats, Stevenson, Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Smith and Thompson was the finest group of players ever assembled in my life so far and we were capable of winning everything. My personal favourite at this time was Willie Stevenson, he was pure class, he played the role that in later years Ray Kennedy made his own. But Stevenson's distribution of the ball was second to none. If you consider rolling Souness and Kennedy into one, you would have what Willie was.
This year we would be attacking on all fronts according to Mr Shankly, we were attempting to keep the title, win the FA Cup and the European Cup, a treble that had never been achieved by any club. Don't even consider the idea of a rotation system, in those days there was no such thing as subs let alone a squad of 40 players.
Our form in the league from memory was up and down and the title would not be staying at Anfield this season, but the AGONY and the ECSTASY of what was to come would prove enough for any fan. We had drawn Cologne in the EC and after a 0-0 away leg and a 0-0 home leg, the tie would have to be decided after a third game. Liverpool were playing two games every week at this time due to League, FA Cup and EC commitments and so the boys headed off to Rotterdam.
After a 2-2 draw every fan felt sick, these were the days when the result now depended on the toss of a coin, no penalty shoot-outs in those days. Ron Yeats was stood on the halfway line with his hands on his hips. The opposing captain faced Yeats. Before the ref had a chance to ask either what they preferred, Yeats Said I'll have tails ref. The ref nodded and said tails for Liverpool, heads for Cologne and up went the coin ..............
Hearts stopped all around the ground and as the coin fell to the ground, the ref and captains stood staring at each other in amazement. The bloody coin had only stuck on its side, Yeats was pointing to the ground and saying it looks tails from my side, but that was not good enough. Hearts were now pumping at approx 150 per minute, the adrenaline was pumping the heart to bursting point as the coin was flipped into the air for a second time. Yeats jumped in the air, the sighs around the ground were as load as the singing had been earlier.
As Yeats left the pitch Shankly walked over to Yeats and said: "Well done big man, what dya pick"?
Yeats said "Tails boss"
Shanks said "Good lad, I'd have picked that meself"
Yeats waiting for some form of congratulations was to be disappointed, Shankly just walked away telling everyone who would listen that He too would have picked tails. Only three days later Liverpool had to meet Chelsea (sitting at the top of the League) in the semi-final of the FA Cup, people gave Liverpool little chance after their midweek effort against Cologne, the general feeling was that we would be shattered. But Shankly's men were made of stronger stuff. We were the strongest team in football and playing twice a week was no problem.
Liverpool held Chelsea in the first half and could have scored, but when the half time whistle went the score was 0-0. My old fellah recalled that when walking off the pitch Liverpool indeed looked shattered and he turned to me Uncle Gerry and said, this is gonna be hard for us in the second half. But Liverpool in the second half stepped up a gear and a goal from Thompson and a pen from Stevenson gave us the win we wanted. We were on our way to Wembley, could this be our year to win the FA Cup for the first time in our history?
Leeds had won the other semi-final and the Cup Final ticket fever started that day. Everyone wanted tickets, but as usual the numbers allocated to teams playing would be pitiful. Every club in England would be allocated tickets, but the fans of both Leeds and Liverpool were gonna be disappointed. 15,000 tickets only had been allocated to each team and the remaining 70,000 would be dispersed around other clubs. THIS WAS A DISGRACE THEN, AND IS NO BETTER TODAY. The split should always be 45% to each team with 10% only going to dignitries, if not 50/50 and stuff the knobs (anyway, enough politics).
Photo courtesy of Joseph Neary
There has been enough written about the 1965 cup final, without me adding to it, but I would like to say that in a very mediocre game Willie Stevenson shone like a lighthouse in the fog. The celebrations that followed the final were like Ecstasy on Speed (before they were drugs). Not only had we won the cup but when the fans came home, the Liverbirds were still on top of the Liver Buildings, for all the bluenoses had told us different. The celebrations in the street were the biggest I've ever seen, but far from being content, the fans left with the thought that the EC was next.
We believed in Shanks when he told us that we were invincible and were going to conquer Europe. Only three days after an exhausting FA Cup we were to play the formidable Inter Milan. The spirit shown by Byrne after playing 110 mins with a broken collar bone in the Cup Final was unequalled at the time, but together with an injury to Milne the absence of such a pair for such a big game as this was a bitter blow. The Inter Milan manager Helenio Herrera was 'as happy as Larry' that the two would be missing and the fact that Liverpool's strength had been weakened by extra time on the notorious strength sapping turf at Wembley also gave him a boost.
In truth even our fans gave us little hope of beating such a great side as Inter, so soon after Wembley, but we did have our secret weapon. Shanks once again had a thought! To work the crowd up before the game he would send out Byrne and Milne with the FA Cup. The noise at the ground that night was absolutely deafening. Not only did we hold our own, we took them apart.
Inter players were looking at each other in disbelief. They had been told Liverpool would be tired, but after Hunt had scored in 4 minutes and they had levelled the score, Liverpool had moved up another gear and goals from Callaghan and St John had made it 3-1. Not content with 3-1 Liverpool continued to attack, pushed to new levels by the KOP screaming "ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK", we should have scored more on the night, but a 3-1 lead to take to the second leg was surely good enough, wasn't it? Eight days later, we entered the San Siro.
The noise at Anfield the week before had been deafening, but what greeted the fans and the players in Milan was unreal. It looked like the terraces were on fire, nearly all the fans had flares, the ones that didn't have flares fired rockets at the pitch and players. The inferno that the players saw must have given them their nearest picture of what Hell was actually like. All that was missing was the Devil himself ..........
Enter ORTIZ DE MENDIBIL (think of 15 foul words before continuing, and I mean as foul as you can).
No, there not strong enough, think of words that would "shock a docker".
The game kicked off ...... in the opening 5 minutes, Inter were awarded about 10 free kicks, every time a tackle went in, the whistle went. Tackles that were timed to perfection and as clean as a whistle, brought a whistle and then, Inter were awarded an indirect free kick just outside the box. Every Liverpool player picked up his opposite number, it had to be a cross cos it was indirect.
Corso ran up and fired it straight into the net. MENDIBALLS response? "Goal" (or "Gol" if you speak Spanish). Yeats and Smith ran to MENDIBOLOX the ref, only to be waived away. The score was now 3-2 on aggregate. Things couldn't get any worse, could they?
Two minutes later, Lawrence caught the ball and was running to the edge of the box to kick the ball out. Piero came from behind Tommy and kicked the ball out of his hands and put the ball in the net. MENDIBUSSTARD's 's response? "Goal". Fans in the ground and at home watching on TV were astonished and the torrents of abuse were nearly as bad as what Smith, Yeats & Lawrence must have said, but the goal stood. The score was now 3-3 on aggregate.
Liverpool knew that they were on a hiding to nothing, no matter what they did. Liverpool spent the next 35 mins trying to get back in the game and showed a determination that had to be admired, but again every tackle brought a foul and every foul brought Inter a free kick. Without exaggerating, 35 tackles brought 34 free kicks to Inter. But at half time we went in all square 3-3 on aggregate.
The second half could not be any worse, could it? After 62 minutes we got our answer. Facchetti scored, in fairness it was a great goal and Lawrence didn't have a hope in hell of stopping it and if he did save it the ref would probably have given hand ball!!!! The European dream of every scouser was in tatters.
Shanks made comments about the game, as did every player, but the "Bastard from Barcelona" had stitched us up good and proper. I have really tried not to use foul language here and apologies for any ***'s that appear, but this event in our history was enough to make the Pope swear and he probably did. Many a good Catholic would have to go to confession that Sunday.
There is a story that Smithy actually kicked the ref in the shins when walking off the pitch after the game, and it says a lot that the ref just ignored it and said nothing. Ortiz De Mendibil's infamy will live long in the memory of any Red over the age of 40 and if you doubt it, ask a member of your family who is old enough to remember.
The Spaniard Jose María Ortiz de Mendebil, whose face Shankly said he will never forget, was a highly respected referee who refereed for many years after slaughtering Liverpool at San Siro.
And so the season finished, we kept our Pride and Dignity in the aftermath, and that would give us hope for next year's onslaught on three fronts. In 1965/66 the Agony and the Ecstasy would continue for the Reds. The league title would come home which included a 5-0 romp over the bluenoses. Disappointment in the FA Cup saw us go out, but we'd won that once anyway. The new challenge was the ECWC, surely this would be the year when we would conquer Europe? After thumping Juve, Liege and Honved in the early rounds, we had been drawn against Celtic in the semi-final, The Battle of Britain was to take place mid April 1966.
The first leg was edged by Celtic 1-0, but Liverpool reversed the result at Anfield to win the tie 2-1 on aggregate. For all the moans from the Celts I can assure you Bobby Lennox was offside and chants around the ground of "Easy Easy Easy" were fully justified. And for every Celt that sung "Celtic" there was two score scousers responding "Rangers" a trait that continued for years after, but the Kop for once split and shouted their religious allegiance at each other.
The final showdown was to be held at Hamden Park in Glasgow and all the Celts got there own back in a big way. Support the British team? You've gotta be joking, all the Celts present actually supported Dortmund, hence my allegiance to Rangers ever since. Dortmund were a crap outfit, but for some reason beyond my mental ability, they actually beat us. They played with 11 men behind the ball all game and on the two break aways they did get they scored both times. Once again the European Dream was in tatters.
Shanks was beginning to realise, that a different tactic would be required to win a Euro trophy, our policy of all out attack, would have to be modified for european opposition in the future. And so two more years had passed, the Ecstasy was having won the title (again a new league record) and the FA Cup had sat proudly in the hallowed halls of Anfield.
But the Agony of the next six years would bring nothing home. Many have chosen to forget this period of Shankly's reign, others who were not born avoid reading about this era, but its Agonies like these that make the Ecstasies reach climatic levels. The Master Builder was going to have to build a 'new team' for a 'new era'.
He also realised that his out and out attacking philosophy had to be adjusted if he was to succeed in Europe. And so the rebuilding of a new side began.
Emlyn Hughes was signed from Blackpool, Crazy Horse's workrate on the pitch astounded the Kop, he could play for 90 minutes, cover every blade of grass and appeared to leave the pitch looking like he could play another game.
Kop: You've not seen nothin like the Mighty Emlyn
Kevin Keegan was just the same, everybody hated being paired with these two in training because their efforts at Melwood were as vivid as they were on matchdays. Kevin was a pocket dynamo, perhaps not a natural footballer, but he trained hard and deserved all the plaudits he gained.
Kop: Kevin Keegan walks on water, tra la la la la
Ray Clemence, like Keegan, had Also been signed for "pennies" from Scunthorpe and was to prove himself to be The Best in the World in my opinion and certainly the best since Elisha Scott.
Kop: Englands No. 1
Larry Lloyd might not have been as enormous as Yeats, but his heart and determination were equal. Toshack had to be the biggest striker I'd ever seen, he had to be 7' tall, not a genius on the deck, but unbeatable in the air and he was to form a partnership that even University scholars thought was telepathic in a test for TV. Years after their testing on ESP Toshack did admit that Keegan could read the cards through the camera lens, but it had everyone in the test absolutely amazed.
Also coming and going in this period was Alun Evans. No one in Anfield had ever heard of the lad before he signed, but what he was to do one night against Bayern Munich will go down in folklore. Playing basically against the German international team, he tore the defence apart and completed one of the finest hat-tricks I've ever seen. Peter Cormack was to be lumbered as my favorite player in the coming years, a very slight player, but as skillful as I'd seen at the time and was not fully replaced until we signed McDermott.
Alec Lindsay could peel an orange with that left foot of his and after spending some time in the reserves as leading goalscorer, Shanks made him into the finest Left Back still to this day. Steve Heighway (the Professor) had also joined us straight from university, not only could he play, but he had letters after his name. Steve Heighway "FMW" ('kin Magic Winger). Wooly has letters by the way, although not very well known Wooly is an MBE ( Mrs Brodrick's Eldest).
Together with some of the old school Lawler, Smith & Cally (yes Cally is still playing, he must be 70 at least now) we set out to Conquer Europe. Just for the record and those with a short memory, in 1971 when Keegan was sitting on a bin outside Anfield waiting for Shanks to sign him up, there was no perm in sight. Dodgy mullet maybe, but the forthcoming spate of Dodgy Perms and Moustaches had yet to arrive. I'll start this story with the FA Cup semi-final match against the Bluenoses in late March 1971.
Couldn't think of a better place to start - we faced at the time, probably one of the finest midfields ever assembled. Kendal, Harvey and Ball were a sight to behold and in fairness I think they were favourites to take the tie. Morrisey the "turncoat" was still doing his bit for Everton and together with Ball, they conjured up the first goal. Leading 1-0 at half time, I'm convinced the bluenoses were already booking their tickets for Wembley (in hindsight, perhaps it would have been wise to let them face Charlie George), but that was not the Liverpool way. Second half goals from Evans and Hall confirmed that the RED half of the city would again be visiting what was to become "Anfield South".
I'm not going to say anything about the final other than, if I was on the pitch when Charlie lay on the floor he'd have got a right kicking!! I'm not a violent man, but he really did tempt fate with his celebration when Smithy was only yards away. On the return to Liverpool, the mood was down, but the hundreds of thousands to greet them when they entered Liverpool will go down as the finest greeting for any runners up. Shanks needed to inspire his beloved fans in their moment of darkness:
Shanks to the crowd: "Ladies and Gentlemen ...... Yesterday at Wembley we might have lost the Cup, but you the Liverpool people have won everything. You have won the admiration of the Policemen in London, and you have won the admiration of the public in London."
The speech didn't stop there. This would be the occasion of one of Shanks' most famous quotes. On the open top bus trip to Lime Street, Shanks had turned to another of his university educated players, Brian Hall.
"Son", he said "You know about these things, who's that Chairman with the red book, lots of sayings? The chinaman, what's his name?"
Brian Hall: "Do you mean Chairman Mao?"
Shanks: "Aye, that's him son, Chairman Mao, that's him"
Hall thought this unusual but all was about to be revealed. Upto half a million fans had gathered outside St. George's Hall waiting for Shanks and the players to appear on the balcony. Shanks held wide his arms and silence descended on the reds down below as he delivered one of the greatest lines:
"...it's questionable if chairman Mao of China could have arranged such a show of strength as you have shown yesterday and today."
And so the "Chairman Mao" speech was entered the "Halls of Oratory Genius".
He stood facing the crowd with both arms open, the crowd went WILD. If this man could be this positive in defeat, you had to believe in him. AND WE DID !!
The arrival of Kevin Keegan at the beginning of 1971/72 was the missing link, he trained like a loony, he played like a loony and everyone around him was to become infected by his desire for success. The season started well enough, but drawing Bayern Munich in the second round of the ECWC did us no favours and we went out 3-1 on aggregate. The League run in of 13 wins in 16 games saw us lose narrowly to Derby, but our defence was becoming really tight and only 30 goals were put past us all season.
The Attack, attack, attack policy was being tweaked into Defend in numbers, break forward in numbers and the signs that this would pay big dividends were on the horizon. 1972/73 saw Shanks's new side pick up the League (again), the Uefa Cup and in hindsight I can't help but feel if the FA Cup had also been won, that this would have been the perfect time for Shanks to bow out. At the top where he belonged.
Shanks had brought a team from "Down among the Dead Men" to being the best in Britain and possibly Europe. Shanks entered the 1973/74 campaign with high hopes in all competitions (nothing new there then!) but early exit in Europe to Red Star and up and down performances in the league were gonna be big disappointments to him and all the fans. But the team and Shanks dug deep and made every effort to finish the season with something.
The FA Cup run was our only hope, and defeating our 'bogey' team Leicester in the semi's once again seen us qualify for the Final. Shanks once again took up the fans plight on tickets. It was and is still a disgrace how tickets are allocated in Cup Finals and Shanks and all the players made extra efforts in trying to get additional tickets. The press was full of "Big Gob MacDonald" and what they were going to do to us in the final and it wasn't only Smithy who wanted to knock what few teeth he had down his throat. And there was very little sign of him wanting to be interviewed after we had shoved THREE right up 'em at Wembley. I was one of the many mulleted 17 year old fans around Wembley that day. You might have seen me, I had had it dyed "Post Box RED" and had the signs of growth on me upper lip, but I was also soon to become one of the 18 yr old muppets with a DODGY PERM and adult MOUSTACHE.
Once more Liverpool fans thronged to greet the team home at St George's Hall - this time in victory.
The Shankly Years were soon to come to a close (in little over 8 weeks the great man would resign) but we were now the envy of the world. Little did we know that this was only the foundation of greater things to come.
What we were looking for now was a 'Master Builder' to build an EMPIRE on the solid foundations that Shanks had left. How could we suspect that he was right under our nose? No not the dodgy moustache but the little general from off Hunts Cross Avenue, who was to be seen often walking around in a dirty mac, shopping in Tesco Woolton Village. Bob Paisley.
Many thanks to my Dad who has helped me on more than one occasion. Let's just hope that in years to come, one of you younger readers will be able to do a job like this for the future manager who brings back the glory years.