Liverpool 3 Newcastle United 0
FA Cup final, Wembley Stadium, London, 4 May 1974
Bill Shankly. Unquestionably one of the greats, some would say the greatest. Either way, try to settle on a signature match – a single piece of action, some actual football – best to sum up the man’s career. It’s not quite as easy as you’d think. The 5-0 win over Arsenal in 1964 that brought Liverpool their first title of the modern era, perhaps? That’s more memorable for the Panorama presenter John Morgan swooning in front of the Kop as they belted out some Bert Bacharach or Ron Yeats embarking on a lap of honour waving a papier-mâché version of the championship trophy above his head. The 1965 FA Cup final? A dull match; the fact that Liverpool ended their 73-year wait for the game’s oldest prize proving more important than the actual manner of their doing it. (And in any case, Billy Bremner’s slow-motion precision volley was the highlight of the day.) That perfect training-ground free-kick routine against Internazionale in the European Cup semi? Emlyn Hughes’s screamer against Everton? Kevin Keegan’s diving header in the 1973 Uefa Cup final? Shanks himself skittering aroundan Amsterdam pitch in late ‘66, bollocking his own players for succumbing to Ajax, under cover of thick fog?
All majestic moments, with plenty of titles and cups to show for them too, and yet none quite nail the reason for his exalted position in football’s managerial canon. Because in fairness to Shankly, his act was primarily a mood piece. Despite his heartfelt belief that first was first and second was nothing, trophies are very much a secondary consideration when assessing the man’s importance in the grand scheme of things. He’s all about the pithy aphorisms, the messianic gestures, the corralling of a red army that would shame Chairman Mao, acts which burrowed down to Liverpool’s emotional core and gave the club its unique (sometimes mocked, but unique) heart-on-sleeve identity. Some people think football management is a matter of results; Shankly proved some things are much, much more important than that.
But a showman’s a showman’s a showman – ain’t that the truth? – and Bill Shankly had perfect showman’s timing. And there it is, at the very end of the man’s 15-year Anfield reign: the 1974 FA Cup final. Shankly’s pièce de résistance, arguably the most complete performance in Liverpool’s long history. A near-perfect realisation of the Boot Room’s possession-based pass-and-move doctrine, three wonder strikes plus one of the best disallowed goals of all time, in a show of such pomp and panache that Newcastle United – a club which had never lost a cup final – found themselves blown away. Bill the showman saved the best till last. Out at the very top. His signature indelibly scribbled with a flourish at the end.
Neither Liverpool nor Newcastle United started their campaigns for the 1974 FA Cup particularly well. Not well at all. In the third round, Joe Harvey’s Newcastle hosted Hendon Town, champions of the Isthmian League and a San Marino-style melange
of salesmen, accountants, draughtsmen and office clerks. Hendon came away from St James’ Park with a 1-1 draw, another humiliating experience for the Toon, who had famously been sent packing from the same competition two years earlier by non-league Hereford United, Ronnie Radford and all that.
On the same day, the self-same Hereford, newly promoted members of Division Three, came within five minutes of knocking out West Ham United on their own turf, while non-league Boston United held Derby County, champions two seasons previously, at the Baseball Ground. At Anfield, Bill Shankly, ever the romantic, hopelessly in thrall to the old-school unpredictability of the third round, leant back in his chair and cooed: “Hendon, Boston and Hereford, eh? Marvellous!” Someone then asked whether Doncaster Rovers should be added to his list. Doncaster, bottom of the entire Football League, had just earned a 2-2 draw at Anfield, home of the reigning league champions who were second in the First Division, unquestionably the biggest upset of the day. Unsurprisingly, Shanks demurred. “Naw, we gave them two goals,” he shot back, before delivering, with perfect comic timing, a cymbal-crash pay-off which distanced his response from accusations of sour grapes: “Gifts from the gods!”
It was true that Doncaster’s goals had been parcelled up and wrapped with pretty bows by a generously slapdash Liverpool: Kevin Keegan had opened the scoring early, but Ray Clemence let a weak shot slip under his body, then Hughes failed to deal with a simple cross and within 19 minutes the hosts were losing. Doncaster held their 2-1 lead for the best part of 40 minutes until Keegan headed a second and would have won the tie had Peter Kitchen’s lob over a stranded Clemence on 90 minutes not cruelly hit the crossbar. Liverpool won a fuss-free replay 2-0. Meanwhile Newcastle also saw off their lower-league irritants second time around, beating Hendon 4-0.
There was more of the same in the fourth round, with Liverpool held to a goalless draw at Anfield by promotion-chasing Carlisle United of the Second Division, while Newcastle again drew at St James’ Park, this time against Scunthorpe United of the Fourth. (“After their initial draw with Hendon, Newcastle are showing the sort of erratic form that leads to Wembley,” quipped the Observer with some prescience.) Both of the big boys again made it through after replays, whereupon Liverpool marched on to the final via less traumatic encounters with Ipswich Town, Bristol City and, comprehensively after a semi-final replay, Leicester City.
Newcastle United being Newcastle United, the rest of their route to Wembley would be rather more scenic. Their quarter-final tie with second-division Nottingham Forest proved to be one of the most famous and infamous of all FA Cup encounters. The Toon were again making a meal of lower-league opposition at home, 2-1 down early in the second half, when Pat Howard battered Duncan McKenzie to the floor in the area. The referee Gordon Kew pointed to the spot, booked Howard, and then after a full and frank exchange of views, sent the player off. George Lyall smacked the penalty home. Newcastle were 3-1 down, with only 10 men on the pitch. The jig was surely up.
But play restarted and at this point ... well, the man from the Observer tells it best. “Suddenly a fat gentleman in civvies appeared in the Forest area, waving and shouting. His chubby strivings set off a riot. The crowd came on, the teams came off, the Force brought the dogs in. It was eight minutes before a version of football could resume.”
Chubby strivings! Five bobbies were required to pin the paunchy pugilist to the floor and perhaps inspired by the impressive (if misguided) levels of passion shown by this bare-chested warrior, Newcastle rallied spectacularly after the restart. Malcolm Macdonald was bundled over by the Forest keeper Jim Barron for a penalty of Newcastle’s own, which Terry McDermott dispatched. John Tudor’s diving header levelled the scores. And with 40 seconds left on the clock, Bobby Moncur latched onto a Macdonald knockdown to volley home a scarcely believable winner. Scarcely believable not least because, in the opinion of one Forest player, “It was yards offside, but with the crowd in that mood, the linesman dare not have put his flag up. He would have been lynched!”
Newcastle’s 4-3 win was soon declared void by the FA and the two teams ordered to replay at Goodison Park. Officials from both clubs seemed happy enough with the decision – Forest were back in the Cup, while Newcastle had been fearful of disqualification – although the Toon vice-captain Frank Clark bemoaned, “We produced one of the greatest recoveries in FA Cup history over that last half-hour, and it is surely cruel that we should not have the reward. No one was happier to resume the game than the Forest players. When play restarted they played their best football of the match for several minutes. Nobody who was there could dispute that. So how could they be judged to have been adversely affected by the hold-up? They just collapsed after their goalkeeper had given away the penalty kick which enabled us to make it 3-2.” Justice, in Clark’s eyes, would eventually be done: after a 0-0 draw, a second replay at Goodison was decided by a single Macdonald goal.
That quarter-final encounter was sandwiched between confident wins against two decent sides, West Bromwich Albion in the fifth round and Burnley in the semis. Given the absurd nature of their run to Wembley, it was hard to shake off the feeling that Newcastle’s name was on the Cup. It was the first time in 13 years that they’d got past the fourth round. They’d reached the semis, and subsequently the final, for the first time since their previous win in 1955. They’d never lost an FA Cup final in five visits to Wembley and – while things like this should never matter, they so often do – no side wearing stripes had lost an FA Cup final since the war. Not even Sunderland against Leeds United the year before. No wonder Macdonald was supremely confident in the run-up to the final: “I guarantee a goal at Wembley,” trumpeted the brazen striker, whom the Times described as “agreeably arrogant ... the Muhammad Ali of English football”.
Newcastle’s return to the final for the first time since their Fifties heyday, soundtracked by the noises coming out of Macdonald’s fast mouth, might have ensured their tale was the more compelling. But Liverpool were favourites going into the match. They had become used to winning trophies again after six barren seasons, having landed a league and Uefa Cup double the year before. They were in the process of finishing second in the league this time round, tasting defeat only twice in the 27 games since Boxing Day. Newcastle, meanwhile, had won only three times since the turn of the year and had flirted with relegation.
But in truth neither team was in form. Since their triumphs in the semi-finals, Liverpool had won two of eight games, Newcastle just the one. Liverpool’s Achilles heel appeared to be a lack of firepower: they’d only scored 51 times in 41 league matches that season. Newcastle’s main problem was a leaky defence, which had only held out 15 times in 61 matches. A narrow win for Shankly’s side was the pick of most newspaper and television pundits. Of the nine experts asked in the Times, only the respected ITV presenter and commentator Brian Moore offered Newcastle any hope. He plumped for a 2-1 Newcastle win, “based on the belief that Liverpool will not be able to contain Macdonald’s burning ambition and blistering finish for a full afternoon.”
This wasn’t, however, the party line of Independent Television. The astrologer from the channel’s listings magazine, TV Times, offered the following analysis: “Jupiter is going into Pisces so I can assure you that Malcolm McDonald will be terribly depressed and will be overwhelmed afterwards with a desire to recount his troubles. Joe Harvey is in for emotional upsets, but Bill Shankly’s Jupiter aspects look marvellous and Keegan’s restless creative activity is just bursting to get loose.” Not a bad call at all, as things would turn out, although not quite as close as the one made by the Times writer Tom Freeman, who predicted a 2-0 Liverpool win. “The goals will be scored in the second half,” he predicted, in a piece so eerily prescient it should have been accompanied by a free flexidisc of jazz solos played on Theremin, “probably by Heighway and Keegan.”
ITV having had their say, a man from the BBC took centre stage just before kick off. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Bruce Forsyth will now lead you in the singing of the traditional Cup final hymn.” And with that, the star of Saturday night staple The Generation Game romped onto the pitch to a predictable cacophony of abuse from all four corners of the ground. Equally predictably, within 20 seconds, Brucie had the very same abusers eating from the palm of his hand. The band of the Royal Marines belted out the theme tune to The Generation Game, Brucie showed decent technique and touch for a big man to skelp a ball from distance into an empty net, and soon enough, after a chorus of “Nice One Brucie, Nice One Son,” both Newcastle and Liverpool fans were joining in with that call-and-response catchphrase. Nice to hear it, to hear it nice, especially as the opening couplet to “Abide With Me” shares a not dissimilar grammatical construction with Brucie’s calling card: Abide with me ... lord with me abide! (And tonight’s the night when the darkness deepens.)
The darkness would eventually envelop Newcastle all right, but not quite in the manner the received wisdom has it. The 1974 FA Cup final has gone down as a lop-sided rout – and the game did eventually end up like that – but the first half was closer than is now remembered. During a studio discussion before a rerun of the game on LFC TV, Alan Kennedy – who played for Newcastle that day as a wet-behind-the-ears 19-year-old left-back – said that his team had been “lucky to get nil” in the first half, though he also admitted he had never sat down to watch the game since, suggesting what subsequently occurred in the second period had warped and curdled a few memories.
While it’s true that Liverpool were the better side in the first half, just, they didn’t have it all their own way. They had the first big chance of the game: on seven minutes, Ian Callaghan swept a gorgeous Gerrardesque cross-field ball from right to left for the dependable and occasionally spectacular left-back Alec Lindsay, who crossed into the area where the presence of John Toshack and Keegan caused enough panic to require Kennedy to clear off his own line.
But Newcastle came just as close in the opening exchanges, not once but twice. A couple of minutes after Kennedy’s clearance, Terry Hibbitt reached the by-line down the Newcastle left and lifted a cross over Clemence’s head. Only a last-ditch eyebrow from Hughes stopped Tudor following the ball in. On 18 minutes, Macdonald flicked on a long pass from his captain Bobby Moncur, instigating a rare old stramash in the Liverpool box as Hughes and Tommy Smith both miskicked, the ball sitting up, inviting either Tudor or Jim Smith to lash home from six yards. Fortunately for Liverpool, the Newcastle pair took clean fresh-air swipes as well and Clemence flopped over the loose ball.
Liverpool were dominating possession but doing very little with it. On 20 minutes, Heighway skinned Clark – already a winner at Wembley having lifted the FA Amateur Cup with Crook Town in 1962 – down the left. His cross from the by-line was a fraction behind Toshack, who arced his back in a futile attempt to connect with his head. Tommy Smith, bombing in from the other wing, met the cross but shanked woefully wide. Keegan had a snapshot from a tight angle just after the half hour, but it was easily gathered by Willie McFaul.
Newcastle, on the other hand, were threatening to unlock Liverpool. McDermott – like Kennedy, destined to become a Liverpool legend but playing for Newcastle that day – was the best player on the park in the first half, a bundle of creative energy in the centre and on both flanks, invariably at the heart of the action. He and Smith combined crisply down the right but the final ball let them down. Hibbitt drew Liverpool’s defence out with a meander down the inside-left channel, then flicked the ball inside to release Macdonald on goal. The flag went up for offside, but it was clear from the checked lines on the turf that Hughes was playing him on.
Liverpool could count themselves fortunate, with the possible exception of Brian Hall who took a full-force Kennedy clearance straight in his startled boat. Joe Fagan came on to cool Hall’s fevered brow, dabbing him with the magic sponge. An incongruous sight to the modern eye, a future European Cup-winning manager rushing on in tracksuit and trainers, wielding a bucket and flannels various. But it’s nothing Bob Paisley hadn’t done years before, once famously carrying Hughes off the pitch on his shoulders. Managerial geniuses mucking in at the coal face is a big part of the Boot Room’s retro charm.
Liverpool woke up with 10 minutes of the half to go, and did enough during the final stretch of the opening period to claim the upper hand. Moncur was forced to intercept a clever Toshack header across the face of the Newcastle goal with Keegan lurking. An adroit Keegan chest-down on the edge of the box set up Toshack for a low drive that was deflected wide. Keegan, beginning to impose himself in a relentless, busy and skilful style which had more than a little of the Luis Suárezes about it, buzzed down the inside-right and slipped a ball forward for Hall who flashed it straight through Newcastle’s six-yard box. Finally Heighway tore off down the left and fizzed one in from the other side, forcing Howard to hack off the line.
On the bench, Shankly and Paisley sat together, kitted out in that early Seventies mix of the garish and grim. Paisley to the left, in a brown suit, impassive. Shanks in a dark brown mac and purple shirt, calm and unreadable. Immediately to Shankly’s right – immediately to Shankly’s right, the Wembley bench in those days one big love-in – the Newcastle manager Joe Harvey, sporting grey suit and kipper tie, nervously chugging on a cheroot. The juxtaposition of the managerial moods was a sign of Liverpool’s increasing confidence in their game plan. Newcastle had easily matched Liverpool in terms of chances for 30-odd minutes, but Shankly’s side had always enjoyed the lion’s share of possession; towards the end of the half, it was beginning to reap a dividend.
This was one of the first signs that painful lessons had been learned from Liverpool’s comprehensive defeat at the hands of Crvena Zvezda of Belgrade in that season’s European Cup. Shankly had at the time publicly dismissed Zvezda’s patient possession-based style, arguing that English crowds wanted to see something a bit more up-tempo. But behind the curtain, he and Paisley were drumming a new metronomic mantra into the Liverpool team, one that would serve them astonishingly well for the next 15 years.
The first green shoots had emerged towards the end of that first half; the second period would witness their full blossoming. Within 40 seconds of the restart, Hughes, Keegan, Toshack and the wily Peter Cormack triangulated on the edge of the Newcastle box; Keegan eventually slammed a no-backlift snapshot inches wide of the left-hand post. It was a statement of intent. Another 90 seconds had elapsed when Moncur clumsily clipped Toshack’s ankles on the edge of the box. A penalty? Probably just outside the box, but the referee gave nothing at all. (And the identity of that ref? One Gordon Kew, the unfortunate whistler who found himself caught in the eye of the storm at St James’ during that preposterous quarter-final between Newcastle and Forest. Poor Kew may, for a split second, in his mind’s eye, have seen our old friend the Chubby Striver hoving into view from left-field, belly out and arms windmilling. You could hardly blame the put-upon official for erring on the side of caution.)
After six minutes of the second half came the greatest FA Cup final goal that never was. Lindsay robbed Smith down the left, played a storming one-two with Keegan, and from a tight angle skelped a full-cream rising shot past McFaul and into the roof of the net. He scampered off to celebrate only to have his gallop sickeningly halted by a linesman’s flag. Offside by a hair’s breadth, which would have been fair enough, except the one-two had actually rebounded off Kennedy and not Keegan, playing Lindsay on.
Three more minutes and there was Toshack threading a low shot just wide right of goal, only for Keegan’s pullback from the by-line on the right to have been judged out of play. Another minute and Keegan released Toshack into the box with a clever scooped pass down the middle. The big Welsh striker tucked the chance away, but was flagged for offside. Newcastle’s back line was battered out of shape to such an extent that the decision was at the very least questionable.
“Ee-ay-addio, we’re going to win the Cup,” trilled the travelling Kop, a throwback to the more innocent terrace sounds of the Sixties. There was a sense that something simply had to happen soon. Newcastle’s body language began to betray their concerns: Smith shook his head, Macdonald frowned, Clark stood with his arms stretched out, pleading to nobody in particular. The BBC commentator David Coleman, with exquisite timing, announced that “Shanks’s army, this Liverpool side, are swarming forward now.” A split-second later, Smith, out on the right, lofted a cross into the centre towards Hall, who ducked under it. The ball made its way to Keegan, who tickled the ball before caressing a shot into the top right. Coleman had just displayed immaculate judgement by calling Liverpool’s supremacy; now it was time to showcase a little lyricism. “Goals pay the rent, Keegan does his share!” A line for the ages and just the right side of gibberish; eccentric, whimsical, witty. David Coleman versus modern commentators? One-nil.
On the bench, Shankly chipped in with one of the images that’s been replayed a million times, that left-to-right-and-back-again hand shuffle which, it’s often claimed, meant nothing, even if the meaning could hardly be clearer: pass and move. Shankly kept shuffling; Liverpool kept passing and moving. Newcastle had no answer. Hughes – who in the build-up to the game played it for laughs by boasting of his “100%” shots-to-goal ratio for the season, two taken, two scored – buggered up his perfect stat by whistling a superlative rising shot from the left of the D towards the top right, the ball drifting inches over the bar. Clark was penalised for obstruction on Heighway and emitted one of the great sporting whines – “Aaaaaaaawwwwwwwfuckinell!” – as incredulity gave way to impotent frustration. On Shankly’s left shoulder, poor Joe Harvey had started chain smoking, each and every drag set to ‘Industrial Hoover’.
The Kop, out on manoeuvres and in full voice, belted out “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. The Leazes End, also displaced for the day, did their bit with the “Blaydon Races”, admirably so given what was unfolding in front of them. It was an astonishing atmosphere; Bruce Forsyth one hell of a warm-up man. Keegan had a shot blocked from the edge of the box. Kennedy was fortunate to get away with handling the ball on his own penalty spot as Keegan tried to flick it round him on the turn, another moment of Suárezesque cheek. The referee saw no intention, though a modern interpretation might consider why the player’s left arm was dangling out unnecessarily. McDermott won a free-kick for Newcastle in a dangerous area down the right, but even that ended in a quick Liverpool break, Cormack feeding Callaghan down the left wing, Heighway not quite managing to bend his run to receive a pass through the middle in an onside position. Had he managed to stay a couple of feet back up the field, the winger would have had a clear run on goal from the halfway line.
Seven of Liverpool’s outfield players – Hughes, the 20-year-old newcomer Phil Thompson, Smith, Toshack, Hall, Callaghan and Keegan – put together an 11-pass move which started on the left but ended on the right, Keegan eventually smearing a shot inches left of the target. “That was almost a dozen passes,” ran David Coleman’s perfectly judged commentary, a sharp-eyed feat in the days before commentators were propped up by ranks of statisticians and banks of computers. Keegan-Suárez then flicked a header on the turn to scuttle round a flat-footed Pat Howard down the left, the ball then shuttled inside via Cormack to Hall, coming in from the right. Hall’s shot flew wildly over.
Liverpool were relentless. McFaul launched a long drop kick upfield, Smith stepped out from the back and met the dropping ball with a first-time flick wide right to Callaghan. Liverpool were immediately back on the attack. The pattern was finally broken when, with 17 minutes left, Newcastle won their first corner of the match, McDermott having busied himself down the right. Hibbitt floated a decent ball into the six-yard box, but Clemence, on the case despite having had so little to do, gently shouldered Macdonald out of the way and claimed the dropping cross: wonderfully efficient keeping, though already the striker looked a broken man, perplexed and utterly defeated.
Two minutes later, Liverpool scored a simple second, Toshack flicking the ball on for Heighway to break into the area and lash a shot into the left-hand side of McFaul’s goal. On the bench, Shankly again launched into his pass-and-move hand shuffle, but it was a rhythmic dance now, arms flicking to and fro in time to the chants of the crowd.
Macdonald had a chance to respond almost instantly, Tudor rolling the ball to him on the left-hand edge of the Liverpool box, the culmination of a rare Newcastle attack, their opponents momentarily giddy after taking a two-goal lead. But the striker squirted an incompetent shot miles left. He wiped his fringe slowly across his forehead in a mixture of embarrassment and shame, as though he was attempting to draw a curtain over his entire face and blot out his surroundings.
As the last 10 minutes ticked on, Toshack would miss two more chances, flicking a Keegan right-wing cross wide left and failing to extend a leg to poke home Lindsay’s fine left-wing fizzer. And Macdonald would suffer an even more egregious humiliation, sent clear down the left by Tommy Cassidy’s long pass, only to chest down and launch some filthy nonsense miles high and wide to the left. An abject capitulation from the man who had spent the previous week guaranteeing goals. The Muhammad Ali of English football was flat out on the canvas.
But the conclusion of this Cup final was all about Shankly. The travelling Kop broke into “Amazing Grace”, reworked as a paean to their manager, sung softly, with feeling, at proper hymnal tempo. Real love. In retrospect, the knowledge that Shankly would retire a couple of months after the match makes this scene almost too bittersweet to bear. But even at the time, it was enough to crack the hardest heart and would certainly have melted the sentimental Shankly to the core.
Time for one last crescendo, and the apotheosis of Shankly’s time at Liverpool. Hall to Toshack down the right. Back to Smith, who sprays wide left to Lindsay. A flick down the wing finds Keegan, who bustles, turns, cuts back up the flank and inside, launching a cross-field pass towards Smith. The defender flicks the dropping ball along the right wing for Hall. Smith under-laps, then takes up possession again before swiftly exchanging passes with Heighway. Having reached the by-line, Smith rolls the ball through the Newcastle six-yard box for Keegan, falling backwards, to guide home. Pass and move, pass and move. Shankly’s gestures made flesh. What a way to end the match. What a way to end Shankly’s reign.
“Newcastle were undressed!” screamed the BBC’s Coleman. “Absolutely stripped naked.” Coleman then added a final flourish as rhythmical as Liverpool’s metronomic brilliance, art imitating art: “Keegan two, Heighway one; Liverpool three, Newcastle none.” On the bench, before the final whistle had sounded, Liverpool having lit a metaphorical cigar, Bob Paisley sparked a real one and puffed away with great contentment. Nearby, Joe Harvey was smoking too, still, but now looked as drained as the 40 stubs scattered about his feet, a cadaver pallor washing over him. It was all over. Shankly stood and, arms aloft in his trademark preacher’s style, saluted the crowd. “We want Shankly,” the Kop insisted. They eventually got their way, as the manager walked onto the pitch and embraced each player one by one, reserving special embraces for the veteran Callaghan and the prodigy Keegan, plus a bear hug for Hughes, his captain, his favourite.
Shankly quietly, shyly, contentedly watched Hughes climb the 39 steps to the Royal Box and nearly get decapitated en route by the over-zealous embraces of joyous revellers. Hughes lifted the cup. The rest of the team trooped past to collect their medals, Thompson bedecked in a swapped Newcastle jersey and black-and-white bowler hat. Then the vanquished. Young Kennedy trudged past. “His time will surely come again,” predicted Coleman, of a player who would later transfer to Liverpool for whom he’d score two European Cup-winning goals. Finally, the man with whom Thompson had swapped his red shirt: the Liverpool-mad Terry McDermott, Newcastle’s man of the match and a player destined for Anfield six months later. McDermott would put together an astonishing portfolio of goals for Liverpool: a lob in an FA Cup semi against Everton, the opener in the 1977 European Cup final against Borussia Mönchengladbach, that header against Tottenham, a glorious chip against Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen.
In Kennedy and McDermott, Liverpool would be assured a glorious future. Nobody knew that yet, of course. And nobody knew that for Shanks, the die was also cast. He would resign in early July, an abdication which has never been fully explained and was soon regretted by the man himself. And yet the old showman must have subconsciously twigged that the leaving of Liverpool was the right thing to do, with reference to those hoary old showbiz maxims: leave them wanting more, go out at the very top.
Which is undoubtedly what this was, in an era when the FA Cup still meant everything. Shankly bequeathed Liverpool a precious blueprint for a decade of red domination in Europe. But more importantly, he took his leave of the stage clutching silverware, and saving his very best till last, and according to his beloved socialist beliefs too. His men had delivered the greatest team performance of any FA Cup final, one which culminated in one of the great team goals, while his people sang hymns which rang down Wembley Way. Shankly’s signature, right there, right at the very end.