In 1959 Bill Shankly took on a task of behemoth proportions. One which was completed expediently and achieved so much more than simply seeing Liverpool Football Club returned to the top of the football pyramid. While many would see Livepool’s 6th title win in the 1963/64 season as a crowning achievement in itself, it was only the start. Shankly was laying the foundations for decades to come. Foundations which would be built upon by subsequent managers. Turning the club, as well as Anfield, into a fortress – a bastion of invincibility.
As a manager Shankly didn’t win as many top tier titles as either Paisley or Dalglish, but his impact on the club is undeniable. Indeed it is possible that Paisley or Dalglish would not have won as many titles without the preparation before them, certainly Liverpool FC wouldn’t. It is more than winning though. Culturally Liverpool Football Club would be very different without the work of Shankly, from which much of modern Liverpool FC is still based. Despite the best efforts of the previous owners.
The previous owners cannot though be blamed for the club’s relative demise following the departure of Kenny Dalglish in 1991. That blame has to lay with a run of subsequent managers who failed to meet the expectations built into the club’s culture. Realistically the club ‘fell’ under Souness and ever since has always been in a position of trying to regain the glory days. As managers have come and gone, with varying degrees of success, the once proud fortress has seen it’s walls weakened.
Given our defences were weakening through the lack of a league title or consistent success, there could not have been a worse time for the arrival of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. The pair of Americans oversaw a period at the club which initially had them reinforcing the fragile structure, while starting to do untold damage to the foundations. They were in many ways the epitome of cowboy builders. What followed was a club on the brink of administration and dealing with a cultural shift which threatened to destabilise the club for the long term.
All of this culminated with the club in disarray and teetering above the relegation zone during the first half of this season, albeit some of which was under new ownership. If the walls of the fortress were weakened before, they were crumbling now. Meanwhile the foundations, so well laid by Shankly in the 60’s, were starting to look in danger of caving in on themselves.
Things have improved since the end of 2010 but that does not mean we are anywhere near where we should be. We are Liverpool Football Club. We demanded more from our owners and when they threatened the culture of our club we took action. We expect so much from our club because we give so much. There is a man who understands this, a man for who the ethos of Shankly runs through his very being. He knows what is expected and, more importantly, I believe he knows how to get us there. In fact he is probably the only person who can not only make us competitive again, but also repair those foundations. Maybe even making them stronger than they have ever been.
I have stood corrected. I shared concerns about how long Dalglish had been out of the game. Concerns which certainly appear unfounded now. I also accept that as the figurehead of the club it is about more than tactics and game play. It’s about having that club’s culture sewn through your very being, knowing what’s expected and of taking on the demanding responsibility when you are manager of Liverpool Football Club. Roy Hodgson never got it, others before him struggled with it – but Dalglish knows it. He knows it inside out.
There are plenty of managers out there who can build a squad, make us competitive and win silverware. There is only one though who can repair the foundations at the core of the club. That man was the last successful custodian of the bastion of invincibility. He understood it then, he understands it now.
Fenway Sports Group should allow, they must allow, Kenny Dalglish the chance to fix the problems of the past and prepare us for the next 30 years. Not only on the field but also off it, where previous incumbents have hacked away at exactly what we are. He understood what Shankly had passed down from manager to manager. He was possibly the last one to fully understand it – making him the only man qualified and able to put things back just the way Shankly would have demanded.
“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’” Bill Shankly