LFC Managers - Shankly, Paisley and the glory years

LFC Managers - Shankly, Paisley and the glory years


Bill Shankly

Nationality : Scottish
Date Appointed : December 1959
Date Left : July 1974
Games Played : 753
Games Won : 393
Trophies Won : 10

By the time Phil Taylor resigned as Liverpool manager in November 1959, Liverpool had spent 5 years languishing in the Second Division. The club was in desperate need of a change of leadership and a change of fortunes. That change would arrive in the form of a Scotsman named Bill Shankly. At the time of his appointment few people had any idea of the impact Shankly would have on the history of the club, or that some 40 years after his departure he would still be classed as one of the greatest managers in the history of English football.

Upon his arrival at Liverpool Shankly set about re-building the Liverpool playing squad, which was overpaid and under qualified, releasing no less than 24 players during his first year in charge. The task ahead of Shankly was enormous. The playing squad was poor, the stadium decaying and the training facilities virtually non-existent. The only saving grace was the backroom staff, which contained Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Reuben Bennett, all of whom were experienced and resourceful. Under Shankly's stewardship these three would blossom, becoming the first members of the legendary "Boot room".

Shankly's first two seasons in charge saw a slow but sure improvement in the clubs performances and fortunes. Pleased with the improvements in the team, the Anfield faithful returned and crowds regularly began to top 40,000. During the 61/62 season Shankly lead Liverpool to the Second Division title, amassing a stunning 62 points (at that time a win was only awarded 2 points, not 3) and scoring 99 goals. Liverpool had returned to top flight football!

Shankly's new squad was built around two influential Scottish players that he had brought in, Ron Yeats and Ian St John. With these and other up and coming talents Shankly had a team capable of not only staying in the First Division, but challenging for the title.

At the time Everton were the most successful club not only on Merseyside, but in the country. Shankly made toppling Everton his first priority after returning to the First Division, and duly won the title from them in the 63-64 season. This was to be the beginning of a new rivalry between the two clubs, and between them both clubs did as much as the Beatles or Gerry and the Pacemakers to put Liverpool on the world map during the 1960's.

With the playing squad sorted out Shankly turned his attention to the training facilities at Melwood, which were in dire need of renovation. Under Shankly's supervision Melwood was transformed into a top class training facility. One of the most important revisions was the introduction of the 5-a-side pitches, allowing Shankly to teach his players the ethos of "pass and move, keep it simple". Shankly had learned this years before during his matches with the Glenbuck miners in his home town, and it was this simple ethos that formed the basis of his football thinking.

Shankly also introduced a new routine, whereby the players would meet and change at Anfield, before being bussed to Melwood for their daily training. After training they would all bus back to Anfield to shower and change. In this way Shankly could ensure all his players had warmed down properly, helping to protect them from injury. The system was a great success and during the 65/66 season Shankly lead Liverpool to the League title with just 14 players, two of which only featured in a handful of games.

The clubs first FA Cup triumph soon followed in 1965, followed by majestic European exploits across the continent as Liverpool established a passing style that became the envy of the watching world. Shankly had not only rescued the club from Second Division obscurity, he had propelled them to European superpower.

As the 60's came to an end, so did the Shankly's first great team. Out went the likes of Hunt, St John, Yeats and Lawrence, and in came Keegan, Heighway, Lloyd and Clemence. Shankly's second great team was formed and with it came further success. The club won its first European trophy, the UEFA Cup, in 1973 along with the clubs 8th League title. The following year the club won its second FA Cup, completely outplaying Newcastle in the final. Sadly it was to be Shankly's final title.

In July of 1974 Shankly shocked the footballing world by announcing his retirement from Liverpool Football Club. His announcement appalled Liverpool fans who could not understand why he wanted to leave at the peak of his powers. Despite attempts by the club, his friends and fans all over the world to convince him otherwise, Shankly left the club to spend more time with his wife and family.

Little did people realise that Shankly's departure would herald the arrival of his assistant and natural successor, Bob Paisley, who would end up leading Liverpool to even greater heights and successes.

The importance of Bill Shankly to Liverpool Football Club can never be overestimated. Although Paisley would ultimately win more trophies, without Shankly it is likely that Liverpool would have remained stuck in the Second Division for many more years, Paisley may never have become manager and the famous "Boot room" would not have been created.

Bill Shankly died unexpectedly from a heart attack in September 1981.


Bob Paisley

Nationality : English
Date Appointed : July 1974
Date Left : May 1983
Games Played : 490
Games Won : 275
Trophies Won : 19

For many people, the burden of following in Bill Shankly's footsteps would have proven too much, but not for Bob Paisley.  Indeed, during his 9 year reign Paisley would go on to surpass the achievements of his mentor, leading Liverpool through a period of success the likes of which had never been seen before or since.

With hindsight it is easy to suggest that Bob Paisley was born for football management.  In fact, the man himself was a reluctant genius, far more comfortable in the background that on centre stage.  Indeed it was only after some gentle persuasion that he agreed to take on the Liverpool manager’s job.

By the time he was appointed manager Paisley had been at Liverpool for over 30 years.  Signed as a youngster on 8th May 1939 for a signing on fee of £10 and wages of £5 a week, Paisley would have to wait until the 46/47 season to make his debut.  He won the first of his 10 Championship medals that year, playing alongside the like of Billy Liddell and Albert Stubbins.  Paisley came close to leaving the club in 1950 after he was dropped from the FA Cup final team, but thankfully he decided to stay at the club, eventually becoming captain, before hanging up his boots after relegation in 1954.

After retiring from the playing squad Paisley became reserve team trainer.  He would also use his time to become a renowned, self-taught physiotherapist, a skill that would later serve him well under Shankly, who placed an emphasis on the player’s health and wellbeing.

When Shankly arrived at the club Paisley was already on the coaching staff.  The pair would go on to form one of the most successful, if unusual, partnerships in football.  Shankly was the public face of the club, confident and extrovert, while Paisley would hang in the background, and let others do the talking.

By the time Shankly announced his retirement Paisley had held just about every position within the coaching staff, and was the clubs first choice to take over as manager.  Reluctant at first, Paisley was eventually persuaded to take the job, describing the challenge as "being given the Queen Elizabeth to steer in a force 10 gale."  Paisley need not have worried however.  His years working alongside Shankly had served him well, as would his early education, where he had learnt "that if you speak softly people will try to listen to what you're saying, but if you shout they're liable to walk away and not take it in."

Paisley's first season in charge saw the team finish second in the League.  Indeed it was to be the only season during his reign that the club did not win anything.  In his second season he would lead Liverpool to a magnificent double, lifting the League and UEFA Cup.  It was a sign of things to come.

The following year Liverpool again won the League, and despite losing the FA Cup final to arch rivals Man Utd, the season would go down in history, as the club won its first European Cup, beating Borussia Moenchengladbach 3-1 in Rome in May 1977.  The victory earned Paisley his first entry into the record books.  Not only was it Liverpool's first European Cup, but Paisley was the first English born manager to win the competition.  Paisley would later be awarded the OBE for his achievements that night, but it was his quote about "The Pope and I are two of the few sober people in Rome tonight!" that would live long in Liverpool folklore.

The victory in Rome was a bittersweet moment for Liverpool fans, as the match marked the end of Kevin Keegan's career with the club.  Faced with losing one of his most gifted players, Paisley revealed his command of football tactics was matched by his ability to spot footballing talent, as he signed Kenny Dalglish as Keegan's replacement.  Dalglish would go on to become arguably the clubs greatest player, and a future manager.

Despite his successes Paisley refused to rest on his laurels, continually strengthening the Liverpool squad with a host of talented players such as Phil Neal, Terry McDermott, Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness, Ian Rush, Mark Lawrenson and Bruce Grobbelaar to name but a few.

By the end of his managerial career Paisley had amassed a staggering 19 trophies in 9 seasons, including 3 European Cups, 6 Championships and a hat-trick of League Cup successes.  The only trophy that alluded him was the FA Cup.  His team also set records for most points in a season, most goals scored, least goals conceded and fewest games lost in a championship winning season.  Paisley's brilliance will likely never be beaten, his place at the summit of football management assured.

In 1983 Paisley announced his retirement from management, passing over the reins to his assistant Joe Fagan.  He was duly elected to the board of Directors and was an advisor to Kenny Dalglish during his player / manager role, before tragically being struck down with Alzheimer's disease.

Bob Paisley died in February 1996.  At his funeral the Canon John Roberts described him as "an ordinary man of extraordinary brilliance".  More fitting a tribute there could not be.


Quotes from former players and colleagues:

"I go by records and Bob Paisley is the No.1 manager ever." - Alan Hansen

"When you talk of great managers there's one man at the top of the list and that's Bob Paisley." - Graeme Souness

"There was only one Bob Paisley and he was the greatest of them all.  He went through the card in football. He played for Liverpool, he treated the player, the coached them, he managed them and then he became a director....He could tell if someone was injured and what the problem was just by watching them walk a few paces.  He was never boastful but had great football knowledge.  I owe Bob more than I owe anybody else in the game.  There will never be another like him." - Kenny Dalglish


Joe Fagan

Nationality : English
Date Appointed : May 1983
Date Left : May 1985
Games Played : 122
Games Won : 65
Trophies Won : 3

Joe Fagan holds one accolade that even the great Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley cannot lay claim to - he was the first Liverpool manager to achieve a treble of major honours.  In fact he was the first British manager to achieve the feat.

Fagan had come up through the ranks at Liverpool and after the resignation of Shankly and the appointment of Paisley, was asked to become Paisley's assistant manager.  Whilst in the role he became known as a quiet and effective worker within the "Boot room".

On Paisleys retirement, Fagan was promoted to the post of manager.  Whilst many assumed that the years of experience and knowledge accumulated working with Shankly and Paisley would be enough to see him through, it reality Fagan would need to use his own initiative, and quickly, if Liverpool were to continue winning.  He could not simply take on Paisley's team and hope that it continued to win.

After assessing his squad at the start of the 83/84 season Fagan realised new blood was needed to replace the outgoing captain Graeme Souness, and the ever dependable Sammy Lee, who was now a shadow of his former self.  Their replacements, Kevin MacDonald and Jim Beglin, would go on to become Liverpool stalwarts, but it was Fagan's capture of young Danish playmaker Jan Molby, that would confirm Fagan's skill in the transfer market.  Molby would go on to become a Kop hero, showing a grace and quality rarely seen on a football field at the time.

Although confident in his team’s abilities, Fagan surely could not have expected the impact that his team would make in his first season in charge.  By the end of the 83/84 season Fagan's Liverpool had won the League Championship, the League Cup and the European Cup.  They were also beaten finalists in the World Club Championship.  Never in the history of the game had one team so completely dominated.  In fact the feat has only been repeated twice since, once by Man Utd and again by Liverpool under Gerard Houllier (although Houllier's side won three cup competitions and not the League).

Perhaps Fagan himself said it best when asked about his team that year - "They were so efficient, it was chilling!"  And they were.  Every part of the team worked in perfect harmony, effortlessly sweeping aside all before them.

The following season Liverpool looked odds on to retain the European Cup, reaching the final where they would play Juventus.  Sadly for both Fagan, the club and football in general, fate would intervene.  The final was played at the outdated and inadequate Heysel Stadium in Brussels.  After appalling crowd trouble a section of wall collapsed, killing 39 Juventus fans.  The incident would scare both clubs forever, but for Fagan, the incident was too much to bear.

Deeply upset by the events at Heysel, Fagan immediately retired, disappearing from public life as much as possible.

Joe Fagan retained as low a profile as possible after leaving the club, and eventually died in July 2001, at the age of 80, after a long illness.

Fagan's contribution to the club can never be under-estimated.  His all-conquering team of 83/84 would surely have gone on to win more trophies had the events at Heysel not played out.  As it is, we must be thankful for that one magical season, where Liverpool surely were the best in the world.


Kenny Dalglish

Nationality : Scottish
Date Appointed : May 1985
Date Left : February 1991
Games Played : 297
Games Won : 180
Trophies Won : 9

There can only ever be one King of the Kop and that man has to be Kenny Dalglish.  Both as a player and as a manager Dalglish showed his brilliance time and again, leading Liverpool to title after title in both capacities.

When Dalglish was signed in 1977 to replace the departing Kevin Keegan, many fans wondered whether he would be able to live up to the expectations of replacing such a key figure.  As it turned out, Dalglish would take Liverpool to a whole other level.  He scored within 7 minutes of his debut, the first of 172 gaols for the club, each one a classic in one way or another.

Following the Heysel tragedy and the resignation of Joe Fagan, Dalglish was a popular, if somewhat surprising choice as player / coach?  Again some fans had reservations, not about Dalglish's ability as manager, but that his work in the dugout would prevent him from using his skills on the playing field.  In reality the fans need not have worried, as Dalglish effortlessly combined his skill on the pitch with his new found skills as manager.

Nowhere was this more evident than during the run-in to the momentous 85/86 campaign that would see Dalglish lead his Liverpool team to a wonderful League and FA Cup double.  Fittingly Dalglish (the player) scored the goal that secured Liverpool the League title.

Over the next five years Dalglish would lead Liverpool through one of its most glorious era's winning a total of 3 League titles and 2 FA Cups.

Despite his great success as manager, the stress of running a club like Liverpool began to take its toll on Dalglish, who sadly resigned in February 1991.

If his legendary skills as a player had not already earned him the right to be King of the Kop, his equally successful reign as manager surely has.

At the present time (2009) there are strong rumours that Dalglish is being lined up for a return to the club in an advisory role to current manager Rafa Benitez.  Althouth nothing has been officially announced, it is understood that Benitez would like to bring Dalglish in to work alongside the Academy, and as an Ambassador for the club.


Ronnie Moran

Nationality : English
Date Appointed : February 1991
Date Left : April 1991
Games Played : 10
Games Won : 4
Trophies Won : 0

Ronnie Moran has the honour of being the longest serving Liverpool employee, having joined the club as an apprentice before signing a professional contract in January 1952.  By the time he retired from the club in 1999, he had completed nearly 50 years loyal service, and occupied virtually every position available within the club, from player to manager.

Moran also has the honour of having worked with nine different managers during his career, including legends such as Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish.  Indeed, it was the legendary Bill Shankly who invited Moran to join his coaching staff after his playing days came to an end in 1968.

Working his way up the coaching ladder Moran had stints as Youth Team Coach, Reserve Team Coach, First Team Coach, Assistant Manager and in 1991, took control of the club as 'Caretaker Manager' after the resignation of Kenny Dalglish.  Moran remained in charge for 10 games, winning 4, before handing over control of the club to new manager Graeme Souness.


Graham Souness

Nationality : Scottish
Date Appointed : April 1991
Date Left : January 1994
Games Played : 157
Games Won : 65
Trophies Won : 1

Graeme Souness was already a fan favourite at Liverpool after six successful seasons as a player, in which he was at the heart of the clubs triumphs.  Known for his immense strength and skilful subtlety, Souness was also regarded as someone with an explosive temper, something Bob Paisley had worked with him on controlling.

After finishing his Liverpool playing career Souness moved to Italy in 1984, but he soon returned home to his native Scotland when the chance to manage Glasgow Rangers presented itself.  Appointed player / coach he guided Rangers to the Scottish Championship.

After the shock resignation of Kenny Dalglish in February 1991 Graeme Souness seemed the perfect choice to lead Liverpool to further glory, and he duly set about the task of building a new Liverpool team in April 1991.

Sadly for Souness and the club his era as manager has been remembered more for mistakes in the transfer market and ill-judged media representation, rather than any successes on the pitch.

Upon reflection it should be noted that Souness did deliver some success on the pitch, as the FA Cup success in 1992 confirms.  It should also be remembered that just days before the FA Cup triumph he was in hospital having lifesaving heart surgery.

Unfortunately for Souness the victory was marred by a piece of poorly time publicity in the Sun newspaper.  The newspaper ran pictures of Souness and his future bride in the Wednesday edition of the paper.  Sadly that Wednesday happened to be the anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy.  Many Liverpool fans still hated the Sun newspaper for the way they reported the tragedy and their unfounded attacks on Liverpool fans behaviour during and after the event.

The pictures of Souness in the paper angered many fans who assumed Souness had worked with the paper to create the story.  In actual fact Souness was lying on an operating table at the time.  Also, the story should have aired a day earlier, but because the FA Cup final went to penalties the editing deadline was missed, pushing the story back 24 hours.

In an interview with the BBC in 1999 Souness admitted to making mistakes concerning the story and the choice of newspaper, suggesting he should have resigned in the wake of the incident.  Had he offered his resignation at the time, it is unlikely the club would have stopped him.

Following the FA Cup triumph in 1992 performances on the pitch also deteriorated.  Faced with what he described as an alarming change of mood in the changing room amongst the Liverpool players, many of whom no longer seemed interested in giving their all for the club, Souness opted to sell many of the first team squad, hoping to remove the trouble makers and replace them with players hungry for success.  Unfortunately for Souness many of his new signings were not of the standard expected by Liverpool or the fans.

With many fans still against him and his players failing to live up to expectations, the pressure on Souness mounted, eventually bringing about his resignation in January 1994.

With hindsight it has become clear that in many respects Graeme Souness was a victim of circumstance.  Yes his failings in the transfer market are clear for all to see, but the incident with the Sun newspaper was not all his own making, nor was he wholly responsible for the changing attitude amongst the players.  As a player Souness was an awesome captain who gave his all for the club.  Hopefully in time Liverpool fans will accept his short comings as a manager and thank him for the FA Cup success that he brought.

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