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Bill Shankly's Carlisle (Published in Macclesfield Town's Official Matchday Programme)


Bill Shankly will forever be synonymous being the legendary manager of Liverpool. However, he was at one point a novice wanting to learn his trade in the managerial game. In the same way that Gerard is at Rangers, Lampard at Derby and Henry at Monaco, Shankly was not as high profile as a player so his first managerial experience came with Third Division North outfit Carlisle United.

Shankly felt his playing career was still going strong at Preston North End and despite being 35-years-old, he was still fit enough to continue playing - yet wasn't being allowed the opportunity at Deepdale. They refused to sell him and he felt forced to exit the playing game. Therefore, in 1949 his playing and being a qualified masseur was enough for him to be given the Carlisle United job.

Shankly soon found that geographical issues would be a major issue for him. Being based so close to the Scottish border meant that many were not attracted by the prospect of a move so far north. In true Shankly style, he turned the negative into a positive. He proceeded in attempting to turn Brunton Park into a fortress, citing to his players and supporters the lengths other teams would have to travel to face them. Winning the supporters over was equally as important to Shankly and he helped to improve the relationship between the town and the club in general.

One way in which he managed to do so was by using the tannoy at the stadium before the games to speak to the fans. He recalled his exploits some years later -

"I used to go on the tannoy at a quarter to three to speak to the people every other week before the game. Instead of putting something in the programme, I spoke to them. explaining if we'd changed the team, how they had played in the last game. Everything. The supporters loved it, they lapped it up". Much like his early days at Liverpool, he set himself on winning over the board and encouraging them to spend more money and provided a new kit for the club

The Cumbrians were being taken with more respect and Shankly lifted them to a ninth place finish with record season ticket sales in his first full season (1949-50). Carlisle's style of play was also helping to excite the supporters who were flocking in to see Shankly's side. The following season saw a continuation of the excitement of the season that preceded. The strong league form was furthered as Carlisle narrowly missed out on promotion after finishing in third.

There was also a successful cup run which saw Arsenal visit Brunton Park after Shankly's side had secured a memorable 0-0 draw at Highbury. Despite another successful season and with his side seemingly on the brink of promotion, Shankly departed the club after the board did not honour their promise of a bonus for a top-three finish.

After ninety-five games with Carlisle, Shankly departed for Grimsby Town - he was always destined for managerial greatness and ten years after joining Carlisle, it was Second Division Liverpool who were fortunate enough to secure his services.

Had the Carlisle board not backed down on their promises then who knows how far The Cumbrians would have gone under Shankly and where the club may be today?



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