Shankly spirit reignites magic of Liverpool

The cover of the book that is making waves among Malaysian Liverpool fans.

Enthusiasm undiminished, football fans dance like frenzied marionettes on the stands. The 22 players between the lines and the generals in the technical areas rely on the transformative power of their supporters to up their game.

These fans are as real as a heart attack. So real that celebrated Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly famously said: “At corners, the Kop would frighten the ball”.

Bob Holmes’ “Shanks, Yanks and Jurgen”, has engaging stories of adoring Malaysian disciples of Liverpool. Fans for whom “The Reds” are a totality of life.

The author, an FMT sports columnist, tackles the irresistible passion of Malaysian fans and shows how interwoven Liverpool is into the fabric of their everyday life.

A few interviewed in the book give their personal testimony of just that. Like Kuala Lumpur lawyer Isa Aziz and his three other die-hard Liverpool fans who, after an epic trek, took in the glory of a wonderful night in Istanbul on May 25, 2005.

It was both about the Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan and as Bob wrote, “the tale of how four fans decided to go to the final, the hardships and anxieties they endured beforehand and the agony and ecstasy of the match itself.”

Bob Holmes in a light moment with fans at a book promotional drive.

The wrap by Isa after moving into a dream world neatly relates their experience, “Even if we never watch another football game, we’d die happy. This was 120 minutes, six goals, penalties and we won the Cup.”

It was Liverpool’s first major success story of the millennium, but that the club ended a 30-year wait for the English League title on June 25 should now make this book an even more compelling read.

The exploits of Bill Shankly, Jurgen Klopp, players and Liverpool owners, Fenway Sports Group, an American sports company, embody some of the finest qualities the game has seen and spawn inspiration.

The book’s title refers to Shankly and Klopp, two managers who took the club from mediocrity to European glory, as well as two sets of American owners, “both good and bad”.

The first 12 chapters are dedicated to Scotsman Shankly who managed Liverpool for 15 years from late 1959 to 1974.

Shankly built an aura of invincibility with Liverpool, saying, “I want to build a team that’s invincible, so that they have to send a team from bloody Mars to beat us.”

The players and fans all bought into this while other succeeding managers, such as Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez failed to capture this.

Then, the German Klopp came along in 2015 following his successful stint with Borussia Dortmund and magically rekindled the spirit of Shankly.

English football specialist, John Dykes, who wrote the foreword for the book said, “Bob recognises this and expertly weaves the Great Shankly into his insightful study of Liverpool FC’s journey from those Cavern Club days to Klopp’s heavy metal era”.

Both Shankly and Klopp shared a few things in common. Both came from big families, hailed from industrial cities, and bought players astutely.

Members of Harapanku (My Hope Anfield), with Bob Holmes (centre) have made two trips to the Liverpool FC stadium this season and are targeting at least one journey a month next season.

They never held back legging the figurative extra mile, just as they wanted their players to leg the literal extra mile.

They cared about the aesthetic their teams created, and they cared deeply about the fans who they believed helped determine a result and pushed the team on.

The men cooked up a storm on the touchline and used the power of the crowd against opponents.

Bob’s use of Shankly’s quotes in the book are rousing such as this outrageous quip, “At a football club, there’s a holy trinity – the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don’t come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques”.

In Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, probably the most passionate of all the diasporas, this book should be a must read.

Any Liverpool devotee would want to get an absorbing insight into the minds of the men behind the club’s rise, slip and rise again.

Winning the EPL should boost the hunger for the history of Liverpool FC and their potential to rock the football world to its foundations.

Just to clarify: Even as a Spurs fan, I see Liverpool as a powerful commodity to re-energise English and world football.

And one of my favourite quotes is Shankly’s, “I had no education, so I had to use my brains.”

See if you agree with me through the beauty of Bob’s writing which isn’t its complexity, but its simplicity.

Contact Bob at [email protected] to get a copy of the 223-page book priced at RM35.