Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shanks The Man

Part of the reason why me writes in a pseudo-Scots accent ala Irvine Welsh is as a tribute to this great man. All dem ye, didnae & cannaes isn't me thinking me is some fooking gwailo. Though Shanks had left by the time became a Kopite, listening to his interviews were nothing usch of awe inspiring (see above).

Gone but never forgotten.

From The Telegraph

Bill Shankly was speaking and Cally was spellbound by his master’s voice all over again.
Here was a newly unearthed old cassette recording of Shankly holding court in one of his last interviews, responding at 67 to a question about whether there were any mistakes he had regretted during his great career. “No,” he had scolded his questioner.

“I don’t call them mistakes, never mistakes! That’s too negative. I call them ‘happenings’. Aye, you have to learn from ‘happenings!’”

Callaghan could only look and smile at Ian St John, Chris Lawler and Ron Yeats. Ha! As if Shanks would ever have admitted to fallibility!

“Eerie. You could feel the same aura, how he compelled you to listen when he spoke,” reckoned Callaghan. “It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, like he was there in the room with us.”

But then maybe Shankly is still with us all. The spirit of the extraordinary people’s manager who took Liverpool FC from a nowhere club to global phenomenon largely through the sheer galvanising force of his personality and footballing passion seems to be more all-pervading by the year, reckons Callaghan.

“His values and what he stood for only seem to get more precious, more important to people here.”
Saturday’s Merseyside derby comes in the week of the 30th anniversary of his death and Karen Gill has, as ever, received hundreds of e-mails, texts and letters celebrating the memory of her granddad. From New Zealand to Mauritius and, yes, even back to Everton.

“I get more every year from all over the world,” she says, overwhelmed at how the cult just grows. “I don’t know why? Maybe, he symbolises good times, positive things about Liverpool. It’s a unique phenomenon.”
At her home in Greece, she reads from the tribute the Liverpool Echo offered on his death. “Shanks was not just a soccer genius, a charismatic, inspirational force.

"He won Cups and titles, yes, but he also won the hearts of men, women and children the world over. He walked with the high and the mighty but was never deluded by grandeur.

"His love was rooted deeply among the ordinary folk of Liverpool. He enriched the city immeasurably.”

A city, mind, not just a club. How astonishing, thinks Karen, that 30 years on, he still keeps enriching.

She was only 16 at the time and, to her, he was just the lovely, gruff, storytelling grandad who was so obsessed with the game that when the local kids came round with a football after Sunday dinner to ask if “Mr Shankly can come out to play”, even at 65 he just couldn’t say no. Of course, he had to be on the winning side, too!

On the day of his funeral, when she saw the unbelievable crowds lining the route from his home in Bellefield Avenue to the church, she began to truly comprehend what he meant to Liverpool.
“Including plenty who were wearing Evertonian blue,” she recalls.

Remember the fabled Shanklyism: “If Everton were playing at the bottom of my garden, I’d draw the curtains”?
Well, Karen relates how, actually, he had respect for the old enemy. When he took his dog for a walk, it was usually down to the nearby Everton training ground and he even got physio treatment there.

“Respect, but he still loved to beat them!” she smiles. And, of course, they made a perfect punchline for a bloke with the timing and delivery of a top stand-up comic.

Today, Karen is the chair of the Liverpool FC supporters commission, representing all fan bases and designed to give a direct line to the club’s new owners.

“In this day of corporatisation of football, at least there’s an indication from the club that they do care about supporters and I’d like to think that has stemmed from my granddad. For me, this feels like a chance to do something in his footsteps. It makes me proud.”

Next Friday, extracts from that cassette tape of him being interviewed by former headmaster Frank McFarlane, the recording which has transfixed Callaghan and co at rehearsal, will be interspersed with the four players giving their memories in a special “Bill Shankly Anniversary Show” at Southport Theatre.

The show is written by John Keith, who had the privilege of hearing Shankly’s wit and wisdom at Anfield on a daily basis as the Daily Express’s Merseyside man.

For five years now, it has played to full houses from Norway to Ireland and Keith notes: “We do get a lot of Evertonians coming too. They say ‘we hate Liverpool, but we love Bill Shankly!’ You see, he transcended the game.”

It is as the inscription on the base of the statue of the scarf-wearing Shanks, which guards Anfield with bronze arms outstretched like some angel of the north, puts it with perfect simplicity: “He made the people happy”.
And, to this day, the very thought of him still does too.

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