Liverpool history

Why Bill Shankly Was a True Man of the People

On an unremarkable day back in September 2016, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stood on the banks of the River Mersey, arms held above his head attempting to imitate the man he was about to draw upon, and quoted not Marx or Locke, but Shankly – A man of the people.

“Let’s do it in the spirit of Shankly, who said: ‘The socialism I believe in, is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards,” roared Corbyn to rapturous applause.

The decision to quote Shankly in Liverpool was hardly surprising, however, it showed that his words continue to resonate even today.

So, with this in mind, we thought we’d take a closer look at some of Shankly’s best quotes and his relationship with socialism.

A Man of the People

Described by his grandson Chris Carline as a “social whirlwind who loved being around people,” Shankly was known for his liberal views. “He made the people happy” says his statue, and that he did. In a city underfunded and undervalued, Shankly truly was a man of the people.

Ray Clemence remembered of times when Liverpool fans would be on on the same train as the team who were returning from away matches. Several of the fans had not bought tickets but, when the inspector came up the walkway, Shankly would put his hand in his pocket and pay for the fans’ tickets because he knew just how important they were to the club.

Stories of Shankly showing up at events and mingling with fans are legendary in a city, nonetheless, that makes legends out of mortals. That said, Shankly needed the fans as much as they needed him – and both were entwined and inextricably linked to politics.

There are so many examples of Shankly being kind and helpful. He would reply to letters from fans on a regular basis, give out tickets to matches – he was even seen carrying shopping for the elderly around West Derby. These genuine acts of kindness epitomise his belief in socialism.

A True Socialistman of the people

One moment that cements Shankly’s status as a man of the people is the 1971 FA Cup Final in which Liverpool lost 2-1 to Arsenal.

Liverpool returned home defeated, yet Shankly managed to hold over 100,000 fans in the palm of his hand on the steps of St. George’s Hall. On a sun-drenched afternoon in May, Shankly stood in front of the crowd with his arms wide and gave a speech of epic proportion:

“Since I came here to Liverpool, and to Anfield, I have drummed it into our players time and time again that they are privileged to play for you. And if they didn’t believe me, they believe me now.”

Here, Shankly makes important use of the words “you” and “our” in service of the socialist imagine he sought to represent. As a man of the people, Shankly had the power to summarise moments of mass elation and to entertain a crowd with his words.

Shankly himself once professed that he was a man of the people, exclaiming: “I’m a people’s man. Only the people matter,” in reply to the familiar chant: “Shankly is our king” – however, if there was one man never to be king, it was Shankly: a stark socialist.

Returning to that day in 2016 when Jeremy Corbyn gave his speech, a banner that adorns the Kop at most home matches can be seen in the crowd; it reads: “UNITY IS STRENGTH.”

This message shows that Shankly truly understood Liverpool and for that, he truly was, a man of the people.

The Shankly Hotel

man of the people

Rejoice in some of Shankly’s best ever speeches in the stunning Shankly Hotel. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the hotel while also making the most of the delicious Bastion Bar and Restaurant.

Plus, in the spirt of Liverpool’s iconic leader, Lawrence Kenwright who, like Shankly, is also a man of the people, is offering anyone who joins the labour party a complimentary three course dinner at The Shankly Hotel.

The opulent hotel is perfect for overnight stays or just watching the Liverpool match surrounded by precious memorabilia. Sound exciting? Get in touch with our friendly and helpful team today on 0151 236 0166 or email reservations@shankly.com

Keep up to date with everything going on at the hotel by following The Shankly Hotel Facebook Page as we gear up to star in our very own BBC documentary.