Liverpool FC History: How Bill Shankly Led Liverpool to Greatness

Liverpool FC weren’t always in the top half of the footballing league tables, before Bill Shankly took over as manager, the club were struggling. When Shankly arrived at Anfield on Monday 14th December 1959, Liverpool had been in the Second Division for five years and had been beaten by non-league Worcester City in the 1958 – 59 FA Cup.

However, their success all came down to a pivotal year when Bill Shankly led Liverpool to promotion from Division Two, showcasing both Shankly’s shrewd ability in the transfer market and his outstanding management skills.

We take a look back at some fascinating Liverpool FC history and discover how Shankly built the club into the force we know it as today.

Building a New Team

Shankly training

When Shankly arrived at Anfield, the team and ground was in disrepair. There was no means of watering the pitch, the training ground at Melwood was a shambles and the Liverpool squad consisted largely of average players, with a few promising reserves.

Shankly quickly decided that he needed to strengthen the team through the middle, they needed a strong goalkeeper, a centre half who could stop goals and somebody up front who could create and score goals.

Shankly highlighted a list of 24 players that he wanted to replace, all were placed on the transfer list and had left the club within a year. One of the men on the list was legendary Billy Liddell, a player that was so loved that for a short time Liverpool were referred to as ‘Liddellpool’.

Liddell had played for the club for 22 years and remains the oldest goalscorer in the Reds’ history. Although the decision may not have seemed too hard to make, as Liddell was now an aged player, it was still difficult to replace a man of that stature within the club. But, Shankly knew the squad needed a change and he needed to build a whole new team of his own.

Gaining Financial Support

Bill Shankly was aware that Liverpool FC were struggling for money. They hadn’t won a trophy for 13 years and had spent six years in Division Two, meaning that the Board of Directors were reluctant to invest any money in them.

However, with the help of Eric Sawyer, Shankly was able to secure the signatures of the two players at the top of his transfer wish list, Ian St John and Ron Yeats. These two players, as well as goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence, were described as the backbone of the new team.

St John was a hugely important influence at Liverpool and played for the team for 10 years. Similarly, Yeats proved to be a great signing for Shankly and went on to captain Liverpool, lifting seven trophies during his career with them. Both players instantly went down in Liverpool FC history.

Unrivalled Managerial Ability

iconic photos of Bill Shankly

When Shankly first came to Liverpool, he had orchestrated a lot of departures from the team. However, those that showed real talent and success stayed at Liverpool, which showed Shankly’s real skill as a manager.

Liverpool FC’s key striker, Roger Hunt, was a driving force in the club’s improved performance. He scored 41 goals in 41 league appearances in the 61/62 season and Shankly used Hunt extensively in the two previous seasons, too, showing the strength in his judgement.

It was clear that Shankly was not just selling players to make a profit for a whole new squad, he was remoulding the one he had and making them into a Division One side.

And that is exactly what he did, in the 61/62 season Shankly lifted Liverpool out of Division Two forever. Shankly had built a squad that the fans had no fear would lose, they won their first six games and won the league title in April with five games to spare.

Liverpool FC Become Champions

Bill Shankly

When Liverpool made the leap from Division Two to Division One, it was a hugely significant event in Liverpool FC history. It kick started the golden age for football on Merseyside, the promotion saw Liverpool gain access to a better level of football and much more prestigious trophies were now up for grabs.

After their second season in Division One, Shankly won the league title with Liverpool FC and the following year they won the FA Cup for the very first time.

In his autobiography, Shankly recounted that among his many achievements, winning the 1965 FA Cup was his “greatest day”.

By the end of Bill Shankly’s management career at the club, Liverpool FC had become a First Division club that had won two FA Cups (1965 and 1974), the UEFA Cup (1973) and the FA Charity Shield in 1964, 1965 and 1966.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our look back some Liverpool FC history and how the legendary Bill Shankly developed LFC into the amazing football team they are today. If you’d like to delve into his fascinating life more, visit the Shankly Hotel and check out the never-seen-before memorabilia in the Bastion Bar and Restaurant. Or, why not try a Shankly Tour Experience and see the Liverpool Shanks loved.

We hope to see you soon!

About katie

Katie is a journalism and English graduate who loves writing about anything from Liverpool's best music and culture, to the top places to grab a bite to eat.