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The Quotations of Bill Shankly

John Simkin

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Thought it might be a good idea to start a thread on the quotations of Bill Shankly:

1. "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

2. "If Everton were playing at the bottom of the garden, I'd pull the curtains."

3. "The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they don't know the game."

4. "A lot of football success is in the mind. You must believe that you are the best and then make sure that you are. In my time at Liverpool we always said we had the best two teams in Merseyside, Liverpool and Liverpool reserves."

5. "Liverpool was made for me and I was made for Liverpool."

6. "Of course I didn't take my wife to see Rochdale as an anniversary present, it was her birthday. Would I have got married in the football season? Anyway, it was Rochdale reserves."

7. "If you are first you are first. If you are second you are nothing."

8. "With him in defence, we could play Arthur Askey in goal." (Bill Shankly talking about Ron Yeats)

9. "The difference between Everton and the Queen Mary is that Everton carry more passengers!"

10. "At a football club, there's a holy trinity - the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don't come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques". Bill Shankly on boardroom meetings

11. "I'm just one of the people who stands on the kop. They think the same as I do, and I think the same as they do. It's a kind of marriage of people who like each other."

12 "It was the most difficult thing in the world, when I went to tell the chairman. It was like walking to the electric chair. That's the way it felt." Bill Shankly on the leaving of Liverpool

13. "If you can't make decisions in life, you're a bloody menace. You'd be better becoming an MP!"

14. "My idea was to build Liverpool into a bastion of invincibility. Napoleon had that idea. He wanted to conquer the bloody world. I wanted Liverpool to be untouchable. My idea was to build Liverpool up and up until eventually everyone would have to submit and give in."

15. "I don't think I was in a bath until I was 15 years old. I used to use a tub to wash myself. But out of poverty with a lot of people living in the same house, you get humour."

16. "It's there to remind our lads who they're playing for, and to remind the opposition who they're playing against."

17. "I know this is a sad occasion but I think that Dixie would be amazed to know that even in death he could draw a bigger crowd than Everton can on a Saturday afternoon." (at Dixie Dean's funeral)

18. "The problem with you, son, is that all your brains are in your head." (to a Liverpool trainee)

19. "I was the best manager in Britain because I was never devious or cheated anyone. I'd break my wife's legs if I played against her, but I'd never cheat her."

20. "No one was asked to do more than anyone else...we were a team. We shared the ball, we shared the game, we shared the worries."

21. "Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple."

22. "You must believe you are the best and then make sure that you are. In my time at Anfield we always said we had the best two teams on Merseyside, Liverpool and Liverpool reserves."

23. During one match, Tommy Lawrence, the Liverpool goalkeeper, let the ball go through his legs. "Sorry, boss, I should have kept my legs together," said Lawrence. "No, Tommy, your mother should have kept her legs together!," replied Shankly.

24. "Son, you'll do well here as long as you remember two things. Don't over-eat and don't lose your accent." (to Ian St John on the day he signed him)

25. "He's worse than the rain in Manchester. At least God stops the rain in Manchester occasionally." (comment on Brian Clough)

26. "I've been a slave to football. It follows you home, it follows you everywhere, and eats into your family life. But every working man misses out on some things because of his job. "

27. "A football team is like a piano. You need eight men to carry it and three who can play the damn thing."

28. "The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That's how I see football, that's how I see life."

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I have done a page on Shankly as part of my football encyclopedia. It is amazing that Preston never signed him as manager. He did a fantastic job there as a player. Preston was full of Scotsmen. In the 1938-39 season, Preston provided virtually the whole of the Scotland team: Bill Shankly, George Mutch, Andrew Beattie, Tom Smith, Francis O'Donnell, Jimmy Dougal and Robert Beattie.


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I have done a page on Shankly as part of my football encyclopedia. It is amazing that Preston never signed him as manager. He did a fantastic job there as a player. Preston was full of Scotsmen. In the 1938-39 season, Preston provided virtually the whole of the Scotland team: Bill Shankly, George Mutch, Andrew Beattie, Tom Smith, Francis O'Donnell, Jimmy Dougal and Robert Beattie.


Truely a remarkable man.

I wonder how many premiership managers today could be meaningfully classified as socialist?

Shankly of course proved that the best way to be successful in a team game was to play in an unselfish and simple way. If one of his players had a weakness he placed others around who could compensate - everything was done for the good of the collective and all his players were inculcated with the same values.

This is why Liverpool were the dominant force in English football for 30 years.

My favourite Shankly quote:

"The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That's how I see football, that's how I see life."

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Guest Gary Loughran

My favourite, and it may have been to Tommy Smith (not certain). Smith was a sub and Liverpool were 2-0 down at half time when Shankley laid into the team for their performance. He turned around to see Smith smirking and yelled " I dunno what you find so funny son, this team's s*&t and you can't get on it".

If it wasn't Smith it was definitely a noteworthy 'Pool legend.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Extract from the article:

Bill Shankly is probably still British football's most celebrated socialist. Wisecracking, dapper and a charismatic orator, Shankly was a hugely successful manager of Liverpool through the 60s and early 70s. What seems most remarkable about him now is his insistence on talking politics, even while talking football: "The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It's the way I see football, the way I see life."

Shankly traced his political beliefs to his upbringing in the Ayrshire mining village of Glenbuck. A childhood spent in areas dominated by heavy industry and trade union influence has been a common theme among football's senior socialists. Sir Alex Ferguson was a Govan shipyard shop steward before he became a player with Rangers. His backing for the Blair Labour leadership is well documented. At the last general election he posted a message on the government's website praising "two brilliant barnstorming speeches from Tony and Gordon". Ferguson, with his fine wines and his multi-million pound racehorse ownership disputes, has frequently been subjected to the familiar jibe of "champagne socialism". Football is fond of this kind of reasoning, based on the idea that those with socialist beliefs are expected to live exemplary altruistic lives, whereas rightwingers can pretty much do whatever they want. Nottingham Forest legend Brian Clough, a sponsor of the anti-Nazi League and a regular on picket lines during the miners' strike, had his own riposte. "For me, socialism comes from the heart. I don't see why certain sections of the community should have the franchise on champagne and big houses."

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  • 1 year later...

There was a great television programme about Bill Shankly last week. If you missed it here is a review by Martin Kelner in the Guardian:


I love football stories from the old days but normally you have to eat a seafood starter, chicken breast with duchesse potatoes and garden peas, and watch some comedian do his Geoffrey Boycott impression to enjoy them. Now, though, Sky Sports has had the smart idea of bringing the best of the after-dinner circuit into the comfort of our own living rooms in Time Of Our Lives, a six-part nostalgia-fest featuring legends of the game.

The term legend, of course, is a fairly flexible one in sports broadcasting, but The Shankly Years, the first in the series, boasted a font of great anecdotes about the eponymous genuine article.

Ian St John, Chris Lawler and Ron Yeats, who between them played 1,200 games for Bill Shankly's Liverpool in the 1960s and early 1970s, gathered in a studio under the tutelage of Jeff Stelling to share memories of the great man (Shanks, that is, not Stelling), only occasionally straying into Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen territory, mainly on the topic of the former Liverpool boss's cavalier attitude to health and safety.

Yeats told the story of the defender Gerry Byrne, who had to be careful not to take throw-ins after he appeared in the second half of a cup final with a broken collarbone (you tell the youngsters that these days, they'll crash their Ferraris), and all three guests agreed that Shankly's attitude to injuries was what you might call a touch old-school.

He feared any player carrying an injury might infect the others, so his solution was to banish him to the far corner of the training field adjacent, apparently, to a pigsty. If Shanks saw a player on the treatment table — even one of his trusted lieutenants — he would shun him.

This might explain why Lawler missed only three games in seven seasons. When Shankly once saw Lawler wearing a crepe bandage on the advice of a physiotherapist, the manager barked: "What's wrong with the malingerer?" The full-back was pretty sure he was not joking.

There was little more to the programme than the three former players sitting in armchairs telling their stories — no archive footage, no expert views and only a brief clip of Shankly himself — and yet the hour flew by for those of us not overly familiar with the material. If the current Liverpool manager, Rafael Benítez, may appear mildly paranoid of late, he has nothing on his illustrious predecessor, who believed all foreigners were "cheats and liars" according to St John.

When Liverpool played at Internazionale in the semi-final of the 1965 European Cup, said St John, they stayed by Lake Como. Shankly was so convinced the bells at the little church up the hill were being deliberately rung to keep his players awake that he walked to the church with his assistant Bob Paisley, and asked if the ringing could be stopped.

When the Monsignor told him they had rung like that for centuries, Shankly asked if Paisley could muffle them. "He wanted Bob to climb up into the tower and bandage the bells," chuckled St John. Shankly was also deeply suspicious of coaching manuals, said St John ­— "He said if you need to read a book to know about football, you shouldn't be in the game" — and yet, according to the former Liverpool forward, he introduced the flat back four to British football.

To say Shankly was singleminded is rather like saying Oscar Wilde was a little flamboyant. He would turn up at the training ground for five-a-side games (Shankly, that is, not Oscar Wilde) even after his retirement in 1974, when Paisley took over. Eventually he had to be asked to stay away to avoid confusing the players as to who was the boss.

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  • 3 months later...

‘The Shankly psychology’

Kevin Keegan:

I’m playing in my first season for Liverpool FC against West Ham at Anfied.

Shank’s comes over to me and says:-

A Son I’ve just seen that Bobby Moore getting off the West Ham bus. What a wreck, He’s limping and He’s got bags under his eyes. He must have been in one of those London clubs all night Son!

So instead of playing England’s Captain & World Cup winner, I’m playing an aging playboy with a limp. Anyway we win 3-1 and I manage to score although Bobby play’s to his usual high standard.

After the match Shank’s comes and sits next to me in the dressing room and says

A Son that Bobby Moore is some player isn’t He. Son you’ll never play against a better footballer than him!

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  • 1 year later...

I have been sent this account by George Scott, who played under Bill Shankly at Liverpool. I think it gives a good insight into his character.

In January 1960 at the age of 15 I travelled to Liverpool from Aberdeen to sign for Bill Shankly as one of his first young players.

I remember getting off of the train at Lime Street Station and being met by Joe Fagan who was then the youth team coach. We got in a taxi and drove up the famous Scotland Road where Joe told me there was a pub on every corner and not to visit any of them ever.

We soon arrived at 258 Anfield Road where I was to share lodgings with two other apprentices, Bobby Graham and Gordon Wallace, both of whom later went on to play in the first team.

My first wage as an apprentice professional was £7.50 per week of which I gave £3.50 to my landlady for my lodgings and sent £2.00 per week home to my Mum in an envelope to help the family out. I was left with £1.50 per week which was enough in those days for a young man to have a great time for a week in Liverpool, including being able to watch the Beatles start their career playing live in the Cavern in Mathew Street.

In May 1961 outside the secretary’s office I found a complete record of the week’s wages to be paid in to Barclays Bank in Walton Vale for every player and member of staff at Anfield. Unbelievably the total wage bill for every player and all of the coaching and managerial staff in the Liverpool Football Club was five hundred and thirteen pounds, thirteen shillings, and two pence old money.

As Apprentice professionals, after cleaning the first team’s boots, painting the stands and clearing the rubbish from the Kop we used to play 5-a-sides in the car park behind the main stand every Monday morning. The opposition in these games was usually Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Ronnie Moran and Reuben Bennett. Our side was Bobby Graham, Gordon Wallace, Tommy Smith, Chris Lawler, and me. We never ever won those games because Shanks and company would have played until dark to make sure they got the result.

It was from one of these games that the famous true story has been passed down to generations of Liverpool fans.

We were playing the usual hard fought match and Chris Lawler was injured and watching from the sidelines. As we only had four men to their five, Shankly tried a long range effort to the unguarded goal which went over the shoe that we had layed down as a goalpost. He immediately shouted “Goal we have won, time up, get showered boys”.

Led by Tommy Smith we all hotly disputed the goal. Shankly saw that Chris Lawler was watching from the sidelines and shouted to him. ”You are in the perfect position son was that a goal?” Chris was a very quiet boy of few words and replied with one word “No” Shankly shouted at him in all seriousness” Son we have waited a year for you to speak and your first word is a lie”.


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This is the next section of George Scott's story of Bill Shankly:

One of my first memories of Bill Shankly was in January 1960 when we were standing in the centre circle on the pitch while he was showing my father and me around a rather dilapidated Anfield. Liverpool at the time was in the second division and he had just taken over as Manager. He said that I should look around and be grateful that I had signed for the club at this time because this place was going to become a “Bastion of Invincibility and the most famous football club in the world”

My father worked at the time as a gardener for the Aberdeen City Council and during the conversation Bill asked him the question “Who are you with Mr Scott”? My Dad replied “I work for the City Mr Shankly” whereupon Bill responded by saying in his best James Cagney voice “What league do they play in?

After a two year apprenticeship, I signed full time professional forms on my 17th birthday on October 25th 1961. I made my reserve team debut along with Tommy Smith, Chris Lawler, Bobby Graham and Gordon Wallace as part of a very young Liverpool reserve team in the semi-final of the Lancashire Senior Cup against Manchester United reserves at Old Trafford in 1962 playing against some great old united players such as Albert Quixall, David Herd, Jimmy Nicholson, David Gaskell, Barry Fry, and Noel Cantwell.

During the next three years 1963, 1964, and 1965 I went on to make 138 appearances in the reserve team at Anfield scoring 34 goals.

In 1964/65 I was easily the top scorer in the Liverpool reserve team, and although I moved in to the first team squad, I never made my first team debut, as they only used 13 players in total that year, and the substitute rule only became effective in 1966/67, after I had left the club.

It was so different then from the Liverpool of the modern era. When reporters asked Bill Shankly what the team was, he used to reply “Same as last season”

During my time at Liverpool as a young player, I saw at first hand the fantastic charisma and motivational powers of Bill Shankly, and I was a witness to the authenticity of many of the stories of this amazing man that have found their way in to the folk lore of British football.

I was there when he ordered the building of the famous shooting boards and sweat boxes at the Melwood training ground, where the training and coaching methods instilled by Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley were ultimately copied all over the world.

There were three full sized pitches at Melwood but the main pitch in front of the dressing rooms at Melwood was his pride and joy, and over one weekend he had the turf re-laid to ensure it was as good as Wembley Stadium.

When we arrived at Melwood for training on the Monday morning Shankly had jokingly put a notice on the notice board which said “In future only players with a minimum of 5 caps are allowed on the big pitch.” By order of the Manager.

In the 1964-65 season first team beat Leeds United to win the FA Cup at Wembley. This was the first time that Liverpool had ever won the Cup, and it was a fabulous occasion, and the greatest day in the clubs history at that time.

I remember walking up the Wembley pitch with Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Peter Thompson an hour and a half before the game. Bill looked at the masses of Liverpool fans behind the goal and said to Bob Paisley. “Bob we can’t lose for these fans, it is not an option” The hairs still stand up on the back of my neck today when I think about it.

I remember Ian St John’s great headed winning goal in extra time, and the winner’s reception at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

On the train journey home we drank champagne from the FA Cup, and once we passed Crewe you could not see the buildings for flags and bunting.

When we arrived at Lime Street station there must have been over 500,000 people in the streets as we made our way to the town hall for the official reception.

I stood behind Shankly on the town hall balcony as he made his speech to the thousands of supporters congested in to Water Street below, and it was absolutely electrifying. At the time I was in digs with the great Liverpool winger Peter Thompson and when we eventually got home to our digs that evening I found a letter from the club waiting for me from Mr Shankly. I opened it thinking that I had been permanently promoted to the first team squad and that 1966 would be my big breakthrough year.

I was brought right back to reality when I saw that the letter stated that at a board meeting of the Directors of Liverpool FC it had been decided to place me on the transfer list.

On the Monday morning I went in to see the great man as I was very upset. He then proceeded to make the most wonderful sacking any manager has ever implemented.

He said to me “George son there are five good reasons why you should leave Anfield now.” I was puzzled and asked what they were. “Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Smith, and Thompson” he replied “The first team forward line, they are all internationals”.

I was in tears by now, and it was then that he showed his motivational powers, humanity and greatness when he said the words I will never forget. “George son always remember that at this moment in history you are the twelfth best player in the world” When I asked what he meant by this outrageous statement he replied “The first team here at Anfield son is the greatest team in the world and you are the leading goalscorer in the reserves. I have sold you to Aberdeen go back home and prove me right”

As I was leaving his office very upset, he made his final comment. ”Son remember this, you were one of the first players to come here and sign for me so I want you to think of yourself like the foundation stone of the Liverpool Cathedral. “Nobody ever sees it but it has to be there otherwise the cathedral does not get built.”

He also gave me a written reference that day which is still my proudest possession and which says the following.

"Dear People, George Scott played for my football club for five years from 1960 to 1965 and during that time he caused no trouble to anybody. I would stake my life on his character. Bill Shankly".

You can read what happened to George Scott here:


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