How Bill Shankly and Ian St. John Built the Foundation For Liverpool’s Glory Years

In 1954, something that no football supporter wants to happen to their club happened. Liverpool were relegated.

Many thought that Liverpool would bounce back quickly, but for eight long years they only managed to go as high as 3rd in the old second division. Despite his best efforts, manager Phil Taylor couldn’t get Liverpool back into the first division, and in December of 1959 Liverpool brought in Huddersfield Town manager Bill Shankly. It was in the second division where he created a base for future success for the Reds.

Shankly broke many records during his time as manager but his first was the record signing of Ian St. John for £37,500. At first, Shankly was told by the board of directors that they didn’t have the funds to afford him to which he responded “We can’t afford not to sign him”. “The Saint”, as he came to be know, made his debut against top flight rivals Everton, and even though they lost 4-3 he scored a hat-trick and became an instant Kop idol.

Within a year of his arrival, Liverpool had gained promotion to the top flight where he found the net 18 times as well as numerous assists to Roger Hunt.

Once in the top flight the outstanding partnership of Hunt and St. John continued to flourish. Helping Liverpool finish 8th in their first season back to the top flight, and eventually claiming the title in their second season back. In 1964 Shankly had his men playing some of the best football in Europe, where they dismantled Icelandic side Knattspyrnufelag Reykjavikur 11-1 on aggregate in their first two appearances in European competition. The same year Shankly switched out the standard red and white kit for all red. Ian St. John recalled the reason for the switch in his autobiography: “Shankly thought the colour scheme would carry psychological impact – red for danger, red for power. He came into the dressing room one day and threw a pair of red shorts to Ronnie Yeats. ‘Get into those shorts and let’s see how you look,’ he said. ‘Christ, Ronnie, you look awesome, terrifying. You look 7ft tall.'”

Aside from success in Europe, Shankly ended a 73 year FA Cup drought for the Merseysiders. The 1965 FA Cup final against Leeds United was filled with end-to-end action, but was scoreless during regulation time. Just three minutes after the start of extra time Roger Hunt scored the opening goal at Wembley. It took just seven short minutes for Leeds to equalize with a volley from Billy Bremmer. In the final throes of the game, Ian St. John connected with a Callaghan cross to score the game winner.

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