Bill Shankly is arguably the most famous figure in Liverpool Football Club's illustrious history. A charismatic man who realised his dream of turning us into English football's most dominant force, the Scot's spirit has quite rightly been immortalised in the very foundations of our club.
His name is synonymous with the very meaning of the 'Liverpool way' and it is his legacy that has seen us go on and conquer Europe on no fewer than five occasions, while monopolising the domestic game for over two decades.
And yet, such glory was way beyond even the most optimistic Kopites' dreams when Shanks was appointed Liverpool's ninth manager on December 1, 1959.
As the final whistle blew on his first match in charge 18 days later the prospect of Shankly's Liverpool side, languishing in 10th place in Division Two, going on to one day boast a record of three First Division titles, one Division Two title, two FA Cups and One UEFA Cup must have seemed little more than a pipedream.
A 4-0 hammering at home to Cardiff City left a man who was already notorious for his outspoken comments and memorable quotes searching for the words to explain what he had just witnessed and what he must do to rectify the current state of affairs.
But mighty oaks from little acorns grow...
Shanks knew the side needed an injection of spirit, determination and desire to match his own and he would go on to mould a team to mirror the very same winning mentality and hunger for silverware he had had from an early age.
Born into a family of 10 in the Ayrshire mining village of Glenbuck, where conditions were harsh, Shankly had found solace in his ultimate passion and would inevitably go on to realise his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
For him football in Glenbuck was the elixir of life, a blessed relief from the toil of the mineshaft.
It set him on a path that would see him take leave from the town of his roots and in 1932 he signed forms with Carlisle United. Within a year, he had moved onwards and upwards to Deepdale, home of Preston North End as he carved out a distinguished playing career at wing-half that brought seven caps for Scotland.
Unfortunately the prime of his playing life would be disrupted by war in 1939 and when the 1946-47 season kick-started organised professional football again in England, Shankly was 33.
It was time to decide what he would do with the rest of his life and it was no surprise that his addiction to the beautiful game would see him set his sights - in true Shankly style - on becoming the greatest football manager of all time.
He had already grown accustomed to what seemed like an obligatory boardroom battle as his 10-year managerial career prior to taking over in the Anfield hot-seat saw him earn his spurs with the likes of Carlisle United, Grimsby, Workington and finally Huddersfield Town. His time with the Terriers also saw him grant a debut to an up and coming 16-year-old by the name of Denis Law.
At each club he grew frustrated by the board's inability to match his own ambition and it was this single-minded approach and a lack of financial backing that saw him walk out on both Carlisle United, the club who had given him his chance as a young player, and Grimsby. This devotion to winning led T V Williams to take a keen interest in the man who had at that point been more recognised for his quick wit and acid tongue than for his success on the pitch.
Shankly's ambition had been obvious when he interviewed for the Reds job in 1951 and although Liverpool felt he was not the right man at the time, he had made enough of an impression to ensure that when the job came up again, he would be the only candidate.
And so to his first few months in charge of Liverpool, a time from which it is hard to understate the ordinariness of our position. Languishing in the old second division, with a crumbling stadium, poor training facilities and a large unwieldy playing staff, the challenge facing Shankly was enormous.
But typically, it was one he would relish, and after realising the need to dramatically transform the club from head-to-toe he dispensed with the services of 24 members of the playing staff.
However, it wasn't just the presence of Shanks that would help sow the seeds for a future of glory. He had the good fortune to inherit an experienced and resourceful backroom staff in the shape of Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, and Reuben Bennett - a group that would form the famous bootroom. With this in his armoury, slowly but surely, Shankly's Liverpool began to move forward.
The Anfield crowd sensed the change. Gates regularly topped 40,000 and promotion to the first division was imminent.
The initial stage of Shankly's rebuilding programme had taken shape, thanks in large part, to the signing of two key players in Ron Yeats and Ian St John.
Both were Scottish warriors, men who embodied the type of spirit and desire that would become symbolic of Liverpool under Shankly and the example by which all future recruits would be measured. The foundations were now in place and the Reds romped away with the Second Division title in 1961-62, finishing eight points clear of their nearest rivals and amassing an impressive 62 point.
All this was accomplished in the days when two points were awarded for a win and perhaps more significantly, they would achieve it all with real attacking verve - scoring 99 goals in the process.
Having realised his initial target of leading Liverpool back into the topflight, Shankly set about addressing an issue much closer to home - Everton.
The Blues were firmly established as the number one side in the city of Liverpool at the time and the Scottish messiah was not content to let the Toffees sustain the bragging rights for much longer.
Most sides would be content with consolidation in their first season back in the topflight - but not Liverpool.
The word was an unknown quantity in the Bill Shankly dictionary and by the end of the campaign he had led the Reds to the title - savouring the moment as reigning champions Everton were forced to hand over the trophy.
It set the tone for the rest of Shankly's reign and led to him famously claim: "There are only two sides in Liverpool. Liverpool and Liverpool reserves."
The title was just reward for years of hard work behind the scenes, where Shanks introduced the five-a-side games that so defined his football thinking at a completely revamped Melwood.
Pass and move, keep it simple, a creed taken from the daily matches played by the miners of Glenbuck all those years ago.
His success was built upon a new routine whereby the players would meet and change for training at Anfield and then board the team bus for the short trip to Melwood. After the session they would all bus back to Anfield together and perhaps get a bite to eat.
This way Shankly ensured all his players had warmed down correctly and he would keep his players free from injury. It was also a routine that instilled a tremendous team spirit. In the 1965-66 season Liverpool finished as champions using just 14 players and two of those only played a handful of games.
The first FA Cup win in 1965 was followed by some magical European exploits across the continent as the Reds established a passing style that became the envy of the watching world. Amidst all this, stood Shankly, a man who had found his spiritual home. He was perfectly in tune with the Kopites, knowing and understanding how they felt about football and the pride a successful team gave them.
His love affair with the Liverpool people is best summed up by the great man himself when he declared: "I'm just one of the people on the Kop..."
While all good things must come to an end, the decline of the great 60s team was not the end for Shankly, who set about constructing his second great Liverpool side.
Out went Hunt, St John, Yeats and Lawrence, and in came Keegan, Heighway, Lloyd and Clemence.
Success followed success as the football world was given a taste of Liverpool as a relentless winning machine.
The first European trophy arrived in 1973, in the form of the UEFA cup, a much heralded success that was won in tandem with the club's eighth league title. In 1974 the FA Cup returned to Anfield after a breathtaking Wembley performance against a hapless Newcastle United.
Shankly had reached for the stars and made his dreams a reality. He was at the pinnacle of his profession - a man exuding charisma and a manager who was deservedly worshipped by his loyal followers in the stand.
And so the events that transpired on a warm July day back in 1974 would rock not just the very foundations of the club but the entire football world.
The great Bill Shankly, a name interwoven into the very fabric of our club, had tendered his shock resignation, citing the reason that, at the age of 60, he wanted to spend more time with his wife Ness and their family.
The fact he left the club on a high and in such capable hands speaks volumes for the man.
But how do you follow Bill Shankly?
The answer would be found within the mythical walls of his famous Bootroom, with the modest figure of Bob Paisley providing an almost seamless transition from coach to boss. There is no doubt that Paisley's era as manager would prove more fruitful than Shankly's in terms of trophies won.
Some may also suggest that much of what Shankly achieved would not have been possible without Bob Paisley's calm influence and knowledge of the game.
But it is equally likely that without the driving force and sheer charisma of Shankly, Liverpool's spell in the doldrums in the 1950s would have reached long into the 60s.
And perhaps Bob Paisley would never have become manager at all. The fact the club contrived to bring them together at all in those dark post war days, is something the fans will be forever grateful for.
Shanks may have left the club all those years ago, but his spirit will always live on, and when he died unexpectedly in September 1981 after suffering a heart attack, his loss was greatly mourned by both Liverpool and the football family.
In fact his good friend Sir Matt Busby was so upset when he heard the news that he couldn't even answer the telephone that morning.
In the years following his resignation, to the disbelief of the fans, relations between him and the club he so loved had become somewhat strained. But there was no such problem on the terraces. In the first game at Anfield following his funeral, a huge banner was unfurled on the Kop which read 'Shankly Lives Forever'.
Indeed, his spirit is just as strong at Anfield to this day, where a statue to the great man stands before his beloved Kop and the Shankly Gates bear the immortal words "You'll never walk alone".
Certainly Shankly never walked alone and he is revered by all Liverpool supporters.
This was no better demonstrated than on December 18, 1999 when the 40th anniversary of Shankly's arrival at Anfield was celebrated in a manner that took the breath away.
Nearly the whole of the 1965 and 1974 FA Cup winning teams came together to view the exhibition commemorating Shankly and then paraded onto the pitch, where they stood in silence as two bagpipers played "Amazing Grace."
12,000 voices on the Kop gently sang the word 'Shankly' to the tune as they held up a mosaic bearing his face and the Saltire. The version of "You'll Never Walk Alone" that followed rivaled any previously heard before.
His legend will shine bright long into the new Millennium and the Reds will always be grateful to a man who altered our destiny forever.
|Birthplace: Glenbuck, Scotland|
|Other clubs as manager: Carlisle, Grimsby, Workington, Huddersfield|
|Arrived from: Huddersfield|
|Signed for LFC: 01.12.1959|
|First game in charge: 19.12.1959|
|Contract expiry: 12.07.1974|
|LFC league games as manager: 609|
|Total LFC games as manager: 783|
|Honours: First Division champions 1964, 1966, 1973|
|Second Division champions 1962|
|F.A. cup winners 1965, 1974|
|UEFA cup winners 1973|