Shankly often found himself pensive when presented with hot wing flavor options. via i25.photobucket.com
Champions of the First Division. Champions of England. Shankly's Champions. And for all of this, the take away is that it simply is never enough.
We pick up right where the last chapter takes off as the '63-'64 Reds enjoy their summer lap of honor. For the players, instant fame and accolades; the top of the mountain had now been claimed and the Liverpudlian flag flew high and bright. For Shankly, though, there was a nervous energy. A nagging fear that wouldn't relent. Ironic, that, for a man so relentless himself.
And in this short chapter, we are confronted with this duality: that as the players enjoy the spoils of their work, the leader is anxiously worried about the effect of this success. Namely, the dulling of passion and grit necessary to climb that mountain again. The slaying of the requisite humility by its Mr. Hyde - arrogance - desired from pliable and willing charges. The replacing of the anxious edge in the chase with the bluntness of satisfaction. All of these things played on the Gaffer's mind as the summer drew to a close.
Before getting to the real work of the new year, however, there was a short jaunt across the pond which included a trip to Chicago's Soldier Field. I did not know that football clubs made such trips stateside (the recent trips by the likes of LFC, MUFC, Real Madrid and Barcelona had always carried a sense of trendiness to them) and the dramatization of this one allowed for a lighthearted expansion of Shank's personality.
First, we are treated to the revelation that Shankly is a fan of boxing. Also, we are treated to his complete disagreement over the need for this trip via a passage that highlights his fear of flying. Lastly, in perhaps the best of the bunch, we are given a rather wry look at his stubbornness when Paisley tries to inform Shankly of the current time and Shankly retorts that "no American is going to tell me what time it is." All of these pieces further burnish the image of a firm, hardworking, and singularly focused man.
Which is why the start of the season pains him so: anything less than perfection is not good enough. Culminating in a 4-nil defeat at the hands of Everton (at Anfield, no less), we are treated to the first proper lashing given to the players by Shankly. Challenging the hearts of the men in Red, Shankly ends the chapter disgusted at the display on the pitch and gutted at the table that lists the Champions of England in 17th place.
One step forward. Two steps back.
- Those scenes with Paisley in Chicago were the best, yeah? I totally read those scenes like a screwball comedy. Honestly, if there were to be a film adaptation, they'd better get a hilarious Paisley to support the edgy, straight-man in Shanks. I feel like there's room for a mini-buddy flick there!
- Even the best leaders will suffer droughts in getting the best out of those they command. Interesting, then, that we get to this point so early. Maybe this was the "step backward" that Mike alluded to a few editions back?
- Whose motivated you best? Any favorite coaches or teachers? What about styles of motivation (i.e.: would Shankly have motivated you into being better)?