Director discusses new Shankly documentary

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Bill Shankly statue at Anfield. Pic © JMU Journalism

The director of a new Bill Shankly documentary described how he underestimated the extent to which the legendary Scotsman’s values still resinated in Liverpool.

The 90-minute biopic looks into the life and time of the former Liverpool manager. He was a man with a strong sense of community, which he later embodied in all of his staff, and instilled a set of values that helped to wake a sleeping giant in the world of football.

Director Mike Todd was careful to ensure that Shankly’s philosophy dominates the film as much as it did Liverpool Football Club from 1958 to 1974, in which time he transformed the club’s fortunes like no-one could have imagined.

Mr Todd told JMU Journalism: “I was interested for a while in the themes and the kind of the change of nature of football and the different relationships that fans had with the game.

“To me, through being familiar with Shankly, while myself not being a Liverpool fan, it seemed through his story, his relationship with the fans, where he came from, and what shaped him, all of these themes really allowed you to go on this journey. It was to understand the true roots of the game, people’s relationship with it, and kind of the history and context of where it came from.”

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The Bolton-born filmmaker eloquently takes the audience back to Glenbuck, the Anfield legend’s birthplace in the Ayrshire hills of Scotland, to help them understand his highly acclaimed morals and values.

The now desolate village was a once a hub for coal mines – a job Shankly once was occupied by when Britain had an insatiable need for coal in the early 20th Century.

However, Glenbuck and the neighbouring areas also produced an array of talented footballers and managers, which Todd acutely emphasises.

Bill Shankly memorial in his birthplace Glenbuck, Scotland. Pic © Wikipedia Commons

Speaking to JMU Journalism, he said: “We felt it was important to visit Glenbuck because it was such a hotbed for footballing talent.

“You’ve got this amazing phenomenon within 20 or 30 miles from each other. You’ve got Bill Shankly, Sir Matt Busby and Jock Stein, who all grew up with similar backgrounds and went on to achieve great triumphs.

“That is a curiosity alone, but when you go specifically to Glenbuck, which had a population of 100 people, yet you have over 50 professional football players.

“When you look at a picture of the Scotland team in 1931, when they were due to play Ireland, three of the players are from Glenbuck.

“There was something about it. You are looking at football’s relationship with industry and kind of the working class communities. It’s incredible.”

Shankly: Nature’s Fire is available to buy on DVD from December 4th.

About Shaun Keenan, JMU Journalism