It's the Autumn of 1959. Liverpool Football Club; A sleeping giant are languishing in the second tier of English Football going nowhere fast and in dire need of a kick up the backside. Only Arsenal (7) Aston Villa (6) and Sunderland (6) had more league titles, with Manchester United and Everton level on five titles a piece. The previous 12 years had been spent in title wilderness having gone through 3 managers in the process.
It would be pure speculation to suggest the expectation of success was what it is today but regardless Liverpool were not a small club, they were one of the most attractive names in English football. This fact appears to have been lost or at least overlooked given the dynasty the man who took charge in the winter of 1959 subsequently built during his tenure. Despite the name and historic prestige associated with the club it was in a bad state, but in reality probably no different to a lot of clubs around the time.
Then Chairman Tom Williams found his man at Huddersfield Town. Shankly's managerial record up to this time was by no means exceptional but he had carved a reputation of doing a solid job on limited funds and had a knack for developing young players, most notably the Scotland International Dennis Law. This was no massive statement of ambition from the club's directors, it simply made economic sense, however the 46 year old Scot was single-minded and stubborn, he had loftier much ideas as to what he wanted to achieve with the club. However Shankly's vision may not have been realised and Liverpool may not have been the club they are today had he not had the co-operation of financial director Eric Sawyer.
It's evident that Shankly had a burning desire to manage the best club in England and it's only providence intervention which ensured that club became Liverpool Football Club. I have no doubt whatsoever that whichever club could afford to capitulate to Shankly's relentless ambition first would have been where we are today.
Bill Shankly started a revolution at Liverpool. Completely overhauling the squad, the facilities and the entire attitude and expectation at the club and I see so many parallels as to where the club was in 1959 and where we were when Rafael Benitez took over in 2004. A club which albeit had not sunk as low as being relegated but had gone two years more without a league title. Facilities which although able to compete technologically with the greatest clubs in the world hadn't managed to produce any first rate first team talent for 6 years and was publicly in disarray. A frugal board of directors badly lacking any real ambition and making footballing decisions. For Shankly it was selling a talented player under his nose, a player that went on to win the league with Everton. For Rafa not being given his first choice targets, players whose values have sky-rocketed since and been sold to massive clubs for twice the price.
I'm hoping (perhaps naively) that Christian Purslow can have the same influence on the board as Eric Sawyer as no manager can be expected to achieve greatness on a shoestring, not even Bill Shankly. The title of this thread is down to a conversation I had with my Uncle the other day and on how we both see a lot of Shanks and Paisley in Rafael Benitez both in the methods, the situations as well as the characters of the great men. The single-mindedness and unerring vision of Bill Shankly coupled with humility and dignity most associated with Paisley, along with his own innate Rafaness
It's ridiculous to suggest that Benitez could achieve half of what these two men have achieved, especially in today's climate where everyone appears to have bigger pockets than us, but I'm ridiculous and I honestly believe given ample backing, not necessarily even parity with our rivals, just enough to get the first choice targets he identifies then he could go on to build the bastion of invincibility that we've long since been pining for.
Just as whoever Shankly managed would become the greatest club in World, It's my assertion that whichever club matches Rafa's ambition will become the greatest club in the world.