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When Bill Shankly PLAYED for Liverpool in a Merseyside derby!

We all know Bill Shankly the legendary Liverpool manager, but what about Shankly the Liverpool player at Anfield? For one game, a Merseyside derby, he was just that.

The year was 1942, a year dominated by the Second World War that had reached its halfway stage, not that anyone was to know that at the time.

The Football League that had traditionally operated from season to season was on hold and in its place a wartime structure that continued until the start of the 1946/47 campaign.

Players throughout the leagues were drafted into the armed services but those left behind competed in local divisions, providing a sense of normality that will have been savoured.

Shankly himself was a player who saw his career at Preston largely put on hold after joining the Royal Air Force nine months after the war began in 1939, serving for seven years.

His passion for football was never far out of reach and chances to play were readily seized as he moved around the country with every different posting.

Preston games were still a place to see Shankly ply his trade but as a wartime player he could be invited to feature as a guest player for any number of clubs, meaning teams changed significantly from week to week.

Liverpool manager Bill Shankly shows off his ball skills at Anfield (PA / Alamy Media)

In 1942, George Kay was in the manager’s seat for Liverpool, who competed in the Football League Northern Section alongside Everton, who they faced five times in 1942/43.

It was in the fifth and final Merseyside derby that Shankly donned, what the official programme on the day listed, a ‘Red jersey and white knickers’ at Anfield.

One of eight wartime guest players featured for Kay in the May Merseyside derby that was both a Football League match and the Liverpool Senior Cup final, Shankly started at halfback.

“I played for Liverpool against Everton during the war in the Liverpool Senior Cup, as a guest from Preston,” Shankly later reflected.

“All the players were in the passageway including Billy Liddell and myself. But George Kay, the Liverpool manager, didn’t speak. He just went round touching people on the shoulder.

“If he touched you then you were playing.”

And so Shankly was in.

Billy Liddell

Liverpool only had three club-signed players in the team, Billy Liddell, Harry Kaye and Cyril Done, highlighting just how hard the club were hit in personnel.

As was customary in the 1940s, they used a variation of the 2–3–5 formation that was originally known as the ‘pyramid’, with Shankly linking up alongside Arthur Woodruff (guest player from Burnley) and Kaye as halfbacks.

Heading into the game, Liverpool had won three and drawn one of their earlier season meetings with Everton, but they left their greatest winning margin for last, in front of an Anfield crowd of 13,761.


Liverpool 4-1 Everton

North Region War League
May 30, 1942, Anfield

Goals: Wharton 8′, Done 23′, ?’, Carey 39′; Latwon 41′

Liverpool: Hobson; Guttridge, Owen; Shankly, Woodruff, Kaye; Liddell, McLaren, Done, Carey, Wharton


Jackie Wharton got the scoring underway in the eighth minute in a game the Liverpool Daily Post described as “so packed was the game with thrilling incidents that it savoured more of the opening than the closing of the season.”

Cyril Done and Johnny Carey (guest from Man United) both then found the net in an emphatic 3-1 first-half performance from Liverpool, with Tommy Lawton pegging one back for the Blues.

There is not a lot of recorded information from the match but Done struck again, at an unknown time in the game, to wrap up a 4-1 win and leave Shankly with a 100 percent record as a Liverpool player.

Liverpool manager Bill Shankly holds aloft the League Championship trophy at Anfield today, and the joy on the face of the young supporter says it all. Liverpool just clinched the title by drawing 0-0 with Leicester. 1973 (PA Images)

Shankly then continued to serve in the RAF, even winning an armed forces middleweight boxing title in that time, before returning to Preston and later retiring from playing in 1949.

A shift into coaching then saw him carve out his legend, serving Carlisle, Grimsby, Workington and Huddersfield before landing at Anfield in 1959, this time as the manager.

Seventeen years after wearing the red and white kit, Shankly was now the man in charge, taking over from Phil Taylor and setting the course for Liverpool to dominate English and European football.

In 15 years and 783 games in charge, the Scot transformed the club and led Liverpool to ten honours, leaving behind a legacy that will reverberate for generations.

A one-time Liverpool player and a legendary manager.

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