On this day: Bill Shankly steps down as Liverpool manager

Sports Mole looks back at Bill Shankly's time as Liverpool manager on the day that he retired in 1974.

"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude; I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

Although Bill Shankly might well have had at least some part of his tongue in his cheek when he uttered his most famous words, it was his sheer dedication to the sport and Liverpool Football Club that has seen him go down in history as one of the most successful - and charismatic - managers in British football.

Liverpool's newly-retired manager Bill Shankly acknowleges the fans ovation as he makes a circuit of the pitch at Wembley Stadium on August 10, 1974© PA Photos

However, despite blurring the line between sport and life on record, Shankly realised that football had taken a lot out of him. Indeed, his decision to leave his post on June 12, 1974 was based on the fact that he felt that he needed a rest.

And who could have blamed him? The life's work he had put into Liverpool came at the start of what was, and still could be for some time, the most successful period in the club's history and began the club's dominance of England and Europe.

When Shankly took over the reins at Anfield in 1959, the club were in the second tier of English football and had been languishing there for the latter part of the decade following a string of unsuccessful managerial appointments. Don Welsh had become the first Reds boss sacked following relegation in 1954 and Phil Taylor was unable to win promotion. So Shankly was given his chance.

Liverpool FC manager Bill shankly leading his men on to the field at Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup Final against Arsenal on May 8, 1971© PA Photos

Not only did he return Liverpool to the first division but he also quickly turned them into challengers and laid the foundation for what was to become a period of dominance in the game for the Reds.

The Merseysiders went up as second division winners in 1962 and, after one year of consolidation, Shankly added the top-flight crown to begin his spell of success in charge. As well as restoring the club to where it belonged, he oversaw the transformation of the Melwood training ground and introduced the simple passing game that would become so effective.

It was the work that he achieved behind the scenes that would really show Shankly's ability as a manager and in those areas his legacy would live on long after his resignation. The improvements in training and team spirit helped develop a winning attitude at Anfield with the FA Cup arriving in 1964 and another league title the following season.

Liverpool manager Bill Shankly with Kevin Keegan on May 24, 2971© PA Photos

The successful team of the 1960s could not go on forever. With an ageing squad, Shankly had to oversee a transformation following the 1966 league win and finally struck his winning formula with the likes of Kevin Keegan and Ray Clemence under his command.

A memorable league and UEFA Cup double arrived in the 1972-73 season with a final FA Cup coming in 1974 before his retirement that summer. He could look back and reflect on nearly 15 years at the helm during which the club tasted success amid two periods of transformation.

He would go on to say: "In my time at Anfield we always said we had the best two teams on Merseyside - Liverpool and Liverpool reserves."

The statue of former Liverpool manager Bill Shankley outside Anfield stadium taken May 26, 2005© PA Photos

His retirement meant that he would not be in charge during Liverpool's most successful spell in history, which immediately followed his time. However, in Bob Paisley, Shankly had an assistant with his ideas ingrained ready to fire Liverpool to the heights of the European Cup - three times.

Shankly passed away in 1981 from a heart attack and his ashes were scattered on the pitch in front of the Kop. As well as in the history books, Shankly's legacy lives on through the statue erected in 1997 outside Anfield.

Brendan Rodgers
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