Aaannnndd we’re here: the point where the first few chapters were pointing to – the chasm between the Shanks’ ambition and the board’s willingness to fund/believe in it. What a set of scenes laid out in this chapter as well!
But let’s start with a little bit of insight into how I typically prep for writing these pieces. Generally, I’ll fire up my iPad and highlight passages/make notes (seriously, the iPad’s reading tool is so nifty in this regard) that allow me to key in on potential talking points and get a grasp on the narrative. Also, it helps me to come up with potential titles that I think are clever (and probably aren’t but I’m in charge of these posts so lalalalalalaicanthearyou!). That’s important because I’m pretty sure I haven’t gone through as many potential titles in the other chapters as I have here, which speaks to both the dense nature of the interactions and – if these quotes are generally attributable to Shankly – the absolute gift of phrase that Shanks had.
That force of personality is often brought up early in any discussion of Shankly and has been referred to throughout the chapters thus far. However, the economical prose by way of juxtaposing the confidence/arrogance in the opening training scene (alternative title KLAXON (ATK): "On the Grass. And With a Ball."), the determination in the boardroom (ATK: TITLE WITHELD CAUSE THIS ONE WILL BE DISCUSSED LATER) and the exasperation in the quiet moment with Matt Busby all served to highlight the "fight" that any manager has to go through – but that Shanks was uniquely prepared to undertake.
Building a football club, from scratch, is a difficult task. Shanks came in with a clear vision of the big picture (thus far expressed: revamp the training style, facilities and squad) that lacked nothing when it came to ambition. The twinning of the narratives between what lay before Shankly when he took over and what lays before Brendan Rodgers/FSG now is difficult to overlook.
I’m going to sound like a Rodgers sycophant (and, I apologize but I truly am coming to admire the man), but so much of what I read reminded me of that. Specifically, the showdown with the board where Shankly lays out his challenge to the board with the board standing firm on their assessment that no further funds would be released until more progress is shown. We’ve gone round for round in the TLO threads over how FSG have handled the financial outlay/backing of the squad and it’s clear that two camps have begun to emerge: some that would like to see FSG back the squad more financially (or…you know…at least with competence in the market) and those that are more accepting of FSG’s seemingly cautious approach to managing the finance with an eye to the future (I’m generally in this camp). I get the sense that conversations like the one in this chapter happen all across the Prem and I suddenly was confronted with the difficulty that managers find: the oppositional objectives of sound financial stewardship and the desire to make any and all changes necessary to ensure sporting excellence. The board has a responsibility to uphold the bottom line so as to ensure the future and stability of the club (Hello, H&G!). The gaffer has a responsibility to make the product on the pitch worth viewing so that the "people who have come…[were] right to pay to see [them] play."
I have no doubt that Rodgers ambition, vision and preparation are up to the task of rebuilding LFC into the greatest squad on this earth. I also have no doubt that FSG only want to build LFC into a stable and self-sustaining brand. The ambition and limitations with this vision are extremely difficult, especially by today’s standards. But looking at what has been accomplished in these past 13 months, I have never been more sure that we have indeed come to a place where our hopes and expectations are being met with general consistency by the product on the pitch.
It is a great help that we have someone like Rodgers at the helm and people like FSG in the boardroom. But it’s an even greater relief to read that there was once a great project like this undertaken at LFC…and that we came out on top. That’s great business.
- I didn’t know that Busby and Shankly were so close! How awesome was THAT last scene, eh? Chills for me.
- So, this David Peace is no slouch. After getting past the circuitous writing (and knowing, now, it’s a stylistic choice), I am enjoying the way these scenes play out before me.
- Who knew that Brian Clough was that good?! I didn’t! I mean, I loved the Damned, UTD (the movie, anyway) but I had no idea that he was that prolific a striker. Haven’t done the research to see if Shankly had indeed made it known he’d wanted to bring Clough on board, but I think it’s kind of neat how these people of footballing lore (to me, at least) continue to overlap. Busby, Shankly, Clough. Wow.
- That other alternative title I teased at the top? "Luis Alberto Is The New Sammy Reid." Discuss (and ignore my tears).