The Reds were content with their yo-yo status – flittering between the First and Second Division with no real sense of purpose.
Shankly soon imprinted his personality on the club, intertwining his pride, discipline and work ethic into the very foundations at Anfield.
When the East Ayrshire-born manager decided to retire in 1974, he left Liverpool’s trophy cabinet full, winning three league titles, two FA Cups and the Uefa Cup in a 15-year spell.
But perhaps the biggest impact Shankly had at Liverpool was transforming the club’s mentality – his successor Bob Paisley inherited a squad that believed it was the best in the country, and went on to fulfil its promise.
“A lot of football success is in the mind,” said Shankly. “You must believe you are the best and then make sure that you are.”
It’s an attitude which still reverberates around Anfield, especially since the return of Kenny Dalglish – Liverpool, by their supporters at least, are still considered one of England’s best clubs despite their recent failings.
Dalglish arrived on Merseyside too late to play under Shankly, but flourished under Paisley, and became one of Liverpool’s greatest players.
After seasons of turmoil under the American ownership of George Gillett and Tom Hicks, their exit in 2010, coupled with Dalglish’s appointment initiated a fresh wave of optimism.
The Glasgow-born manager was, after all, connected to Liverpool’s decorated past, and had guided the club to three league titles and domestic cup glories in a six-year management spell at the end of
He was the connection between the club’s successful past and their bright new future.
Dalglish has already masterminded the Reds’ return to Wembley with victory against Cardiff City in the Carling Cup final, securing the club’s first silverware since 2006.
But this cup success has only served to heighten expectations and supporters’ hunger for more trophies, and hasten their desire to see Liverpool return to the pinnacle of British football.
Shankly and Paisley forged reputations as shrewd movers in the transfer market – the former signed Kevin Keegan from Scunthorpe United for £35,000, and Paisley brought the highly-rated Ian Rush to
Liverpool for £300,000 – both strikers became engrained in Anfield folklore.
Of course, the Premier League’s giant transfer fees have made it much more difficult for managers to spot bargains – huge fees are now the norm.
But Dalglish’s lavish purchases since returning to the Liverpool have largely failed – Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, and Jordan Henderson have struggled to make an impact despite commanding a combined £82m in fees.
Luis Suárez has perhaps been the only success story, but the Uruguayan’s controversial ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra and questionable on-field theatrics have taking the gleam off his largely positive impact.
Dalglish must accept culpability when it comes to his failures in the transfer market.
But another hindrance to Liverpool’s progression is the lack of patience and understanding for the work which needs to be completed – it will take time to rebuild the club to its former glory.
Rafael Benítez came close to claiming the Holy Grail in 2009 but the Reds’ nemesis Sir Alex Ferguson guided United to their 18th Premier League title – drawing level with Liverpool’s record haul – and causing further agitation on the red half of Merseyside.
In 2010, Liverpool were in disarray with the off-field dramatics in the courtroom leading to the demise of Hicks and Gillett.
John Henry’s takeover, and subsequent appointment of Dalglish, has brought renewed vigour to the club – but patience is required, and time is needed to build a new legacy – and it won’t be an easy road to success.
Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 fresh from an impressive spell as Aberdeen manager but endured a turbulent start to life at Old Trafford.
It took Britain’s most successful coach seven years to find a winning solution in the league, with United’s FA Cup win in 1989, and League Cup success in 1992 buying Ferguson time.
Liverpool’s Carling Cup triumph and their run in the FA Cup should provide impetus and belief for Dalglish’s long-term project at Anfield. Patience is the key.
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