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Celebrating Bill Shankly’s Preston Connections

As we count down to the opening of the luxurious Shankly Hotel in Preston, lets take a look back at some of the reasons why the city was such a perfect fit for Bill Shankly. From his time as a player for Preston North End, to the way he has been remembered in the city, Bill Shankly’s Preston connections are all fascinating!

Take a look at some of our favourites…

Bill Shankly signed for Preston North End in the summer of 1933.

After having previously played for Carlisle United and broken into the first team mid-season with his impressive and enthusiastic play, Shankly was a brilliant up and coming player. He signed to the club for £500, receiving £10 as a signing fee.

He made his full debut on 9th December against Hull City.

Shankly began his career at Preston in the reserves, like he had at Carlisle United. Preston were in Division Two, which meant he was now playing football at a much higher level.  On his debut, he quickly established himself as a regular and a crowd favourite, owing to his utter commitment to the team. At the end of the season, Preston were promoted to Division One and Shankly, at just 19 years old, had become a cornerstone of the side.

Shankly scores his first league goal for Preston.

Shankly scored his first league goal for Preston North End in a 2-2 draw against, of all teams, Liverpool at Anfield on 2nd February 1938. Later he said it was one of his proudest moments.

The pinnacle of Shankly’s playing career was when Preston won the FA Cup in 1938.

After having lost the FA Cup final to a strong Sunderland team in 1937, Preston reached the final for a second time in 1938. This time their opponents were Huddersfield, who failed to score against them. The match ended 1-0 to Preston, making them one of the best teams in the country, having finished third in the league.

Shankly himself remembered the feeling after the game: “Tommy Smith, the captain, was carried shoulder high and we all had our hands on the Cup. The sweat poured off us, even though we had short-sleeved jerseys, having learned from the year before. I’ve still got that silk jersey, made in Preston.”

Shankly Preston connections

Shankly stayed at Preston North End for 17 seasons.

Arguably one of the best of Shankly’s Preston connections, he was a very loyal PNE player. During his time at Preston, he won an FA Cup winner’s medal, in 1938, was capped by Scotland and was a member of the double-winning wartime side. His teammate Tom Finney described him as a “much better all-round player than some might have you believe, Shanks worked tirelessly to improve. After morning training he was always asking if anyone fancied going back for an extra session or a game of head tennis in the afternoon.”

Sadly, he lost over 7 years of his playing career due to the war.

When war broke out in 1939, he was 26 years old, and the time lost until 1945 spanned his peak years as a player. Shankly was in the RAF, but played in numerous wartime league, cup and exhibition matches for Norwich, Luton, Arsenal and Partick Thistle, as well as a single game for Liverpool on 30th May 1942 in a 4-1 win over Everton at Anfield. When full league football resumed for the 1946-47 season, he was already being considered as too old.

By 1949, Shankly was Preston North End’s club captain.

But the team were struggling in Division One and Shankly was increasingly becoming distracted by the prospect of management. In 1949, his old team Carlisle offered Shankly the chance to become their manager and he took it.

Shankly retires and becomes a manager.

By 1949, Shankly had lost his place in the first team, being over 30 years old. He was a qualified masseur and had decided he wanted to try and become a footballing coach. When he left Preston, some resented his departure as he was such an integral part of the team, however they understood he could bring a lot to a club as a manager.

To honour his dedication to the club, Preston built the Bill Shankly Kop in 1998.

During the mid-1990s, Preston North End started to completely rebuild Deepdale, converting it into a modern all-seater stadium. When the former Spion Kop end was replaced by a new stand in 1998, it was named the Bill Shankly Kop and was designed with different coloured seats to depict an image of Shankly’s head and shoulders.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of Bill Shankly’s Preston connections. To keep updated on the progress of the new Shankly Preston hotel follow our Facebook page.

The brand new Shankly Hotel in Preston will be a tribute to the playing career of one of football’s icons, featuring luxurious accommodation, a bar and restaurant and a museum including some never-seen-before memorabilia. 

Looking for more Shankly facts? Check out some of the most incredible Shankly quotes.