Bill Shankly transformed Liverpool Football Club upon his arrival in 1959, but he was not just loved for the work he did on the pitch but the man he was off it too, as a brilliant letter shows.
Shankly took up the reigns at Anfield in 1959 when Liverpool was languishing in the Second Division, but he soon turned it around and forged an unbreakable bond with the fans.
“The word ‘fantastic’ has been used many times, so I would have to invent another word to fully describe the Anfield spectators. It is more than fanaticism, it’s a religion,” Shankly said of the supporters.
He understood them and, in turn, they understood him, creating a timeless connection that transcended football during his tenure and long after he was manager at Anfield.
He was a man of the people and it is perfectly portrayed in a letter he penned to a 13-year-old Red, Chris Rafferty, whom he met when standing on the Kop.
As documented by the Shankly Hotel, the letter is the perfect example of how much Shankly cared for those who supported the club and just what they meant to him.
The letter said:
Received your letter, thanks very much indeed. I really enjoyed your remarks about your loyalty to see me, and of course your mates.
I can assure you that what you say to me means more than all the money in the world. I knew before I came to Liverpool that deep down there were thousands of people like yourself who were dying to have a football team. So I worked hard to give you that.
I can assure you it was no easy task. However, it worked in the end, and you have a team and a ground, and I am proud of all of you.
Give my regards to your Dad, he must be a busy man Chris, as football takes up all your life.
Remember me to the boys on the ‘Kop’. I will come in again to see all of you.
Shankly wrote the letter in 1976, two years after his shock departure from Anfield’s top job after 15 incredible years that saw Liverpool return to where they belonged.
Liverpool were so incredibly lucky to have Bill Shankly.