This story is about a gruff, quote-worthy coach who single-handidly built a football dynasty in the 1960s. No, this isn’t a review of the upcoming Broadway play based on the life of Vince Lombardi. Rather, it’s an interesting story about another type of football coach, born the same year as Vince, whose persona and achievements closely mirror those of Lombardi. Eerily so, in some cases. I call him “Vince Lombardi with an Accent”. This fine piece of historical comparison is brought to you by guest author Fran Dunn, a Packer fan from “across the pond”, known as “baboons” on twitter.
“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
I wonder how many of you reading that quote thought you’d missed an excerpt from one of Vince Lombardi’s famous speeches. Don’t worry, you haven’t. These words belong to Bill Shankly, the manager of English football team Liverpool in the 1960s. Shankly created a team, a dynasty that would live past his retirement and untimely death in 1981.
If Green Bay is TitleTown USA, then Liverpool is the English equivalent. It remains English football’s most successful team, being national champions 18 times and European champions five times. Whilst many of these titles would come after he left the club, it was Shankly’s ideas, Shankly’s philosophy, Shankly’s “way” that was responsible for the success. Shankly and Lombardi were men cut from the same cloth.
AL’s Note: Listen to Shankly’s words. This is Vince Lombardi with an Accent:
Bill Shankly was born just three months after Lombardi, in September 1913, far from the cauldron of Brooklyn in the Scottish mining village of Glenbuck. One of ten children, his family lived a spartan life. The one respite for the young Shankly was the cinema. An eight mile round trip to the nearest picture house by foot would take him to the heartland of American cities and their mobster gangs.
His love of James Cagney and Edward G Robinson would follow him into his managerial career, often quoting movies at players he believed weren’t pulling their weight. “Foist is foist and second is nut’n,” he would say, pointing out that mobsters, not sportsmen were the true “hard men” – if they made a mistake, they were shot dead. Even his speech, soaked in a broad Ayrshire accent that would never be diluted despite years in England, mirrored Cagney’s machine gun delivery.