IN the summer of 1962, following Liverpool’s promotion back to the top flight, legendary manager Bill Shankly agreed to write a weekly column for the ECHO entitled ‘The Hard Road Back’. After more than half a century they have been published by Trinity Mirror Sport Media in a new book ‘Shankly: The Lost Diary’. In the second part of our excerpts, Shankly reflects on the Reds’ Second Division championship campaign and how they rallied after seeing their unbeaten start to the season ended by a 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in October.
AFTER the sun had shone brightly on the Liverpool club for 11 matches, quite suddenly black clouds loomed on the horizon and it looked as though a storm might burst upon us,” wrote Shankly in the 11th instalment of his 14 weekly columns first published in the ECHO on July 21 1962.
“In a game which never reached any great heights, we lost 2-0, the only scorer being the unfortunate (Dick) White with two own goals, although in fairness to young (Alf) Arrowsmith (who gave everything he had for all of the game), it must be recorded that in this, his first senior match, he scored twice.
“One of these was clearly offside, but for some mysterious reason the referee declined to allow the other.
“Well there it was; we had lost our first match, which at first seemed to everybody like an acute blow. However, once we had left the ground, we had the matter in its true perspective, which was that we had a wonderful start to the season and lost only when fielding a much weakened side. Nobody could grumble and I am sure nobody did.
“Middlesbrough had the privilege of being our first conquerors. At the same time, the win had relieved the tension under which the team had been labouring, a tension which had built up progressively as the season advanced.
“Now this was gone and our task was to get back into our normal stride and not allow this minor setback to affect our confidence.
“My feeling was that if ever a team deserved success, then that team was Liverpool. This was the text of my sermons to the boys during the start of the next week and by the time Saturday arrived, one had the feeling that the loss of two points had been forgotten.
“With the return of (Ian) St John after his international duty and (Ron) Yeats once more fit again, we were at full strength for the visit of Walsall to Anfield.
“Walsall was one of the newly promoted sides from the Third Division. They appeared to be a team with fluctuating form, but on the whole, I did not think we should have much difficulty winning on our own ground.”
Ron Yeats’ own goal enabled Walsall to take a shock lead at Anfield but the Reds hit back in style with Roger Hunt claiming a hat-trick in a crushing 6-1 victory.
“When the boys really turned on the heat, the pace proved too much for them,” Shankly continued. “The team played straight-forward, aggressive football with no frills, which would have beaten teams with a far greater reputation than that possessed by the visitors.”
Shankly felt the following 2-2 midweek draw at Goodison in the Floodlit Challenge Cup contributed to the Reds suffering a 2-0 league defeat at Derby County.
He wrote: “This brought us to the friendly match against our old friends and foes from across the park. Did I say ‘friendly?’ Is it possible to have such a match between these two sides?
“Anyway, for want of a better phrase, it passed as a friendly and was played before a crowd of 60,000 at Goodison under lights. Where else in Britain could there be such an atmosphere, Celtic and Rangers apart, and where else would a crowd turn out for a friendly?
“Everyone who witnessed this game must have been satisfied with the fare served and the result was a good one with honour satisfied for both sides. On the Saturday following this midweek ‘derby’, we were due to visit Derby County, a game which we considered would be one of our toughest matches.
“We were not disappointed. We lost 2-0, but even though defeated, the team played well, although one had the feeling that their efforts against Everton had taken a bit of the edge off them.”
Shankly’s side responded with a 3-3 draw at home to title rivals Leyton Orient and were then 3-1 winners at Preston where teenager Ian Callaghan was handed his debut.
“A match against any Lancashire club is almost a local derby and naturally there was this added incentive to win – apart form my personal anxiety to do well against my old club at Deepdale,” he wrote.
“This game saw the first change in our line- up (apart from those brought about by injury or international calls) since the opening day of the season.
“Young Ian Callaghan had, from the start of the season, been putting up consistently sterling performances in the Central League side, so much so that he forced his way into the first team on the right wing instead of Kevin Lewis.
“We travelled to Preston with the biggest crowd of supporters that had attended any away game up to that point and when we eventually arrived at Deepdale, I felt certain that there were more Liverpool than Preston supporters.
“This kind of following is of the greatest value to the team and we must have pleased those who made the journey by our form.
“I felt that 19-year-old Callaghan fully justified his place, as apart from marking his debut with a goal, his play throughout was of a high order.
“I had considered that Preston, a team just relegated from the First Division, would be a stiff hurdle to negotiate and we were therefore extremely pleased to leave with both points in the bag.
“Leaving Preston was not an easy task because it seemed that every Liverpool supporter had travelled to Preston in his own car and the number of vehicles created a traffic jam worse than the one which was to occur later in the season when we were travelling to Preston to play them in the Cup.
“I mention this incident because it crossed my mind at the time that if we succeed in our efforts to get back into the First Division, then we could expect to spend a large amount of our travelling time next season in traffic jams because of the number of Lancashire teams in the First Division.
“This, however, was something which we were prepared to accept; indeed, the thought of all these added supporters was an inspiration to us.”
‘Shankly: The Lost Diary’ is out now RRP £9.99. To buy it for the special price of £7.99 order online at: www.merseyshop.com or call 0845 143 0001.