ESPN FC: New-look Liverpool
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has declared Bill Shankly as an inspiration driving him on to bring the glory days back to Anfield.
Shankly would have been 100 years old this coming Monday, and Liverpool will pay tribute ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match against Manchester United with a minute’s applause, while fans on The Kop will hold aloft cards to display a mosaic in his honour.
The Scot was responsible for transforming the club from Second Division also-rans to a major European force during his time as manager between 1959 and 1974.
The Shankly Gates, at the Anfield Road End of the club’s stadium, stand in his honour, and a 7ft bronze statue was unveiled behind The Kop in 1997.
Rodgers says that a major factor in his decision to take the Liverpool job last year was the challenge of trying to restore Liverpool to the levels they first reached under Shankly, who died aged 68 in 1981.
“The legacy that Bill Shankly left behind at Liverpool is something that’s with us to this day,” Rodgers said.
“Liverpool’s worldwide reputation, the things that the club are renowned for, is something that was really started by him.
“A remarkable man came in and picked the club up from its knees, when it was in the Second Division. He stayed for 15 years, was successful, played with style and charisma that we’re trying to get back to. It’s what many of the old Kopites here have been used to.
“His legend lives on here and will do for time.
“It’s one of the reasons I came here. I came here because of the history of this club. It’s what draws you here. And then there’s the challenge of the future, to try to get back to those heady days.”
Rodgers goes into Sunday’s game against United without last season’s 30-goal top scorer Luis Suarez, who has three more games to serve on a 10-match suspension imposed in April for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
Suarez was briefly forced to train alone during pre-season amid concerns over his attitude as he agitated for a move away from Anfield.
Those issues have since been resolved, with the striker returning to training with the first team – and he is working hard, according to Rodgers.
The manager said: “What I will say is that he’s been working very hard in training and played a game behind closed doors.
“But the focus is on getting him back to match fitness by the time he’s available.”