A socialist. A revolutionary. A pioneer. A man who shaped the future of the club he loved and one that he poured his heart and soul into. Bill Shankly arrived at Liverpool FC in 1959 and set his sights on changing how the beautiful game was played. In no less than 15 seasons, Shanks took the reds from the second division back into the top flight and delivered the clubs first two FA Cups, three league titles and a UEFA Cup whilst setting up a future for the club that would go onto reap the rewards for many years to come.
Twenty one years ago today, a fitting tribute was unveiled outside the Kop in the form of a magnificent 8 foot high statue to honour Shanks.
Sculpted by local artist, Tom Murphy, the fitting tribute has become one of the most iconic statutes not just in the UK but the world over with supporters and tourists from far and wide having photos in front of or along side Shanks.
Unveiled on December 4 1997, Murphy spent months planning then producing the mammoth monument to the clubs greatest manager. In preparation, Murphy spoke with many ex players, family members, studied photos and video footage and even consulted Bill Shankly’s tailor. A meticulously produced tribute if ever there was one.
My most endearing memory of the statue came in late September 2010 during a fan protest organised by the Spirit of Shankly organisation at the stewardship of then club owners, Hicks & Gillette. The American cowboys rode into town, promised plenty (remember the spade in the ground within 60 days guarantee?) only to saddle the club with massive debts and an utterly shite manager in Roy Hodgson. Don’t even get me started on the players from this period.
It was a day Shanks would have been proud of. The club was in decline and something had to be done. Protesters meeting at the Shankly statue seemed appropriate. The match that day was dire. It took a late Steven Gerrard penalty to salvage a point in what would turn out to be a truly dire season. Having Shanks watch over the protesters that day felt empowering. Almost 30 years following his passing, he was still having a profound effect on the people of Liverpool and the supporters of the club.
The Shankly statue shall stand for many years to come and remind people of all ages and from all walks of life exactly what our club is about. And long may it continue to remain one of the most photographed statues in the world!
Happy 21st birthday to a grand statue.