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.

Ian St. John would go on to spend a decade at Liverpool before transferring to Coventry City.

After his playing career he went on to manage his former club Motherwell as well as taking a stint at Portsmouth. He would then find success in punditry as a co-host of Saint and Greavsie, where they took a more lighthearted view on the world of sports.

Bill Shankly set the tone for the next few decades at Liverpool, but he wouldn’t have been promoted without the key signings of the likes of Roger Hunt and Ian St. John.

This March, fans of the beautiful game in Texas will get a truly rare treat. Ian St. John will be visiting Dallas, Austin, and Houston for several meet and greets. It’s an incredible opportunity to meet the legend in person.

Ian St. John will be in Houston on March 21st at the Black Labrador Pub 7:30-10:30 (contact Matt Abel for more info: Then he will be traveling to Dallas on March 23rd at Grailey’s 7:30-10:30 (contact Dallas AIB Chairman Scott Harlan for more info: From there he will be traveling to Austin on March 24 at Cuatros from 7:00 – 10:00 (contact Andrew Cotton for more information at:

6 thoughts on “How Bill Shankly and Ian St. John Built the Foundation For Liverpool’s Glory Years”

  1. In the modern era it is diffcult to do what Shankley did because the rules of engagement are different. Clubs can now buy their way to the top rather than take time to develop. The Manchester clubs, Chelsea, etc. will continue to stay at the top because they have the means to do so. Once in a while a cub might get into the top 4 but staying there long term is difficult. Also, EPL clubs are competing for players not only amongst themselves but also with other clubs worldwide.

    This is why today’s Liverpool will find it difficult to groom their youngsters to lead them to the top. Liverpool are living in the hope that these youngsters will come good whereas the top clubs will continue to buy the best proven talent. The FFP rule actually favour the top clubs because they have the means to make more money through playing in the CL and through sponsorship deals.

  2. Ian St. John is such a nice man. He’s got plenty of tales to tell as well so it will certainly be a brilliant meet & greet session. Had the good fortune to meet him a fair few times because he does a lot of work for LFC TV and their studio is based in the same building I live in.

    If Shanks could see what was happening to his beloved reds now, he’d be spinning in his grave that’s for sure.

  3. The foundation has been crumbling for years now. Jack and Jill went up the hill and Jack fell down and broke his crown and Liverpool is broken too!

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