Roberts’ Shankly book is required reading for Rafa

What would Bill Shankly have made of Liverpool’s exit from the Champions League?

The re-issue of the biography of the man who built the Anfield empire could provide a few ideas as to the answer. Next week is the 50th anniversary of Shankly’s appointment as Liverpool manager, and to mark the occasion, Shankly: My Story, ghostwritten in 1976 by John Roberts, The Independent‘s long-time sportwriter, has been updated and republished.

Given the behind-the-scenes intrigues at Liverpool lately, some may find it ironic that the Liverpool FC shop is stocking the book this time around. Back in the 1970s, the official club shop refused to sell it because of Shankly’s trenchant criticism of the manner he was treated when he retired from the manager’s job.

At the time, Shankly said, “It was the most difficult thing in the world, when I went to tell the chairman. It was like walking to the electric chair.”

Shankly, alongside contemporaries Jock Stein and Brian Clough, remains one of the all-time greats of football management, widely admired by fans of all clubs, perhaps with the exception of Everton. It was one of Shankly’s memorable one-liners: “When I’ve got nothing better to do, I look down the league table to see how Everton are getting along.”

Shankly’s authorised autobiography was a best-seller in the 1970s. SJA member Roberts was trusted enough by Shankly for him to tell him his life story – the tale of his rise from a poor Scottish mining village to international fame as creator of the most successful side of the era.

Shankly: “Me having no education. I had to use my brains”

This book provides in-depth analysis in the inimitable Shankly style of the players he nurtured – from Ian St John to Emlyn Hughes and Kevin Keegan – and revealing descriptions of the methods that made Liverpool uniquely feared and respected.

“Above all, I would like to be remembered as a man who was selfless, who strove and worried so that others could share the glory, and who built up a family of people who could hold their heads up high and say, ‘We’re Liverpool’,” Shankly said.

The book offers a real insight into Shankly’s feelings about the club that he felt had turned its back on him, and explores the astonishing relationship he had with the supporters they called “Shankly’s Red Army”.

Shankly also said, “If you are first you are first. If you are second you are nothing”. The book might be regarded as required reading for Rafa Benitez.

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