1st December 1959
December 1, 1959 is a date that will forever be etched in the annals of Anfield history. For it was on this day that Liverpool Football Club announced Huddersfield Town boss Bill Shankly would be their new manager in succession to Phil Taylor.
Since suffering relegation in 1954 the Reds had tried in vain to secure their return to the top-flight. Successive near misses had taken their toll on Taylor and on November 17 he resigned.
No-one knew at the time but the Reds were about to enter their most exciting era. Second Division mediocrity was to soon be a thing of the past as Shanks set about transforming the club's fortunes and supporting Liverpool would never be the same again.
Bill Shankly (LFC manager 1959-74): "In 1951 Liverpool sent for me and offered me the job as manager but the only snag was that the manager didn't pick the team so I went and got the train at Exchange Station and went home. Nine years later they came back and offered me the job on my terms. I was the first manager to pick the team at Liverpool."
Ronnie Moran (LFC player 1952-69): "He came in December 1959 and I was in the team then. We've had good managers since Bill but he was the one that resurrected the club."
John Keith (Local journalist & author): "He'd not managed any big club's before. The biggest club he'd managed was, I suppose, Huddersfield, the one he'd came from to Liverpool. I don't think anyone appreciated what Bill was like and I think the fans were wondering, 'What have we got here, who is this we have signed'? But, of course, it didn't take them very long to realise that this was the messiah. The man Liverpool wanted. They were made for each other."
Bill Shankly (speaking at the time of his appointment): "I am very pleased and proud to have been chosen as manager of Liverpool FC, a club of such great potential. This appointment is a challenge to me. It is my opinion that Liverpool have a crowd of followers which rank with the greatest in the game. They deserve success and I hope, in my small way, to be able to do something towards helping them achieve it. When the challenge was made to me I simply could not refuse to accept it."
Roger Hunt (LFC player 1959-69): "When Bill Shankly came he changed a lot of the training methods we had and brought a lot of new ideas into the club. Also, he got the club to spend money on transfers, which they were a bit reluctant to do beforehand. We got new training kit and altogether he brought a new way of thinking to the club. He was like a breath of fresh air."
Ronnie Moran: "He loved the support here. He'd been with these lower division clubs previously but here we were averaging crowds of over 45,000 in the Second Division and he revelled in it. He knew that with the support Liverpool had it was a club waiting to take off. All's he needed to do was give them a winning team to support."
John Keith: "He had played at Anfield before and knew what the fans were like. He compared them to the fans in Glasgow who he liked very much, 'They'd give you their last penny,' he would say. So he had a kinship with the fans right away. This great rapport was two-fold and he became like the Pied Piper. Right through his life he attracted people and the people loved Bill Shankly. As the legend on his statue says – 'He made the people happy.'"
Shanks breezed through the gates of a then decrepit old stadium and immediately set about the task of revolutionising the training schedule, modernising the facilities and radically shaking up the playing staff.
Stephen Done (LFC museum curator): "While he could see there was potential in the club, what we have to try and remember is that back in 1959 this club was in a bad state. Perhaps no worse than many Championship clubs of today but compared to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton, who were very wealthy at that time, Liverpool Football Club was in a bit of a mess and quite frankly wasn't going anywhere fast. It had plenty of money but wasn't spending it."
Bill Shankly: "I don't know if you ever saw Anfield when I first came but it was the biggest toilet in Liverpool! We had to bring the water in from Oakfield Road and it cost £3,000. There was no water to flush the toilets."
Stephen Done: "Melwood, by all accounts, was an old wooden shed and the grass was worse than on a park for Sunday football. It was shambolic. In fact they hardly ever used to do any training there. They just used to go on road runs. Training on tarmac was, of course, not ideal seeing as you actually play the game on grass. How that method worked no-one is quite sure! They'd also run up and down sand dunes and stuff like that. Basically the ground was shabby, the training was shabby and the directors picked the team, which was typical of the time. But Shankly wasn't having any of this."
Ronnie Moran: "He got rid of a lot of players early on and then he brought players in who were like-minded in their thinking about the game. If he didn't get what he wanted off them then they too would be away. He'd either leave them out of the team or get rid of them to other clubs."
Dave Hickson (LFC player 1959-61): "Bill had his own way of doing things. He had a great love of the game and nobody was unbeatable with him. Everyone has heard the stories before about how he would rubbish the great players like Bobby Charlton and Billy Wright in order to give his team confidence. All the things you've heard about the psychology of Bill Shankly are true. It was wonderful."
Ronnie Moran: "He introduced a lot on small-sided games into our training, which was great because before that we'd always done a lot of running. And he'd watch players closely because his train of thought was if players do not work hard in training then they won't work hard on matchdays. We didn't win all the time initially but we didn't lose as many as we had been."
Stephen Done: "The one thing he didn't change however was the backroom staff. He recognised that there was already coaching staff at the club of great note and of course the bootroom was born by retaining these guys."
Ronnie Moran: "Bill was an honest type of bloke and he probably knew Bob, Joe and Rueben from his earlier days in the game. He'd have known what characters they were and as it turned out they had great success together."
Shankly's officially took charge of his first Liverpool game on December 19th. Unfortunately, he could only sit and watch as the Reds crashed to a 4-0 home defeat against Cardiff City. Another loss at Charlton followed a week later but on December 28th he recorded his first win – 2-0 in the Anfield return against the Addicks – and a new era was up and running.
Peter Hooton (LFC fan & former lead singer of The Farm): "If we'd have had a less charismatic manager things might not have developed as they have done for this club. Shankly once famously said that he wanted to build this club into an institution, a bastion of invincibility where opposing teams would come and think, 'Oh no, we're playing Liverpool.'"
Bill Shankly: "My idea was to build Liverpool into a bastion of invincibility. Napoleon had that idea and he conquered the bloody world! And that's what I wanted; for Liverpool to be untouchable. My idea was to build Liverpool up and up and up until eventually everyone would have to submit and give in."
Stephen Done: "No-one must ever forget that he absolutely revolutionised Liverpool Football Club. And he set up a system that lasted right through to the days when Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and then Kenny Dalglish took over. Right up until say the beginning of the Nineties, what Shankly started continued."
Peter Hooton: "Since the Sixties, Liverpool's record is second to none, in Europe as well. And there is an actual feeling that there is an institution here. And even though we've had tragedies, tragedies we've all cried over, there was always that feeling that this is a special club. Not many clubs have got that and obviously we have to thank Bill Shankly for that. Everything stems from the day he came to Anfield in December 1959.