You can often wonder how many great stories go untold. Those individual perspectives which can be vibrant and crystallising, lost as years pass and memories fade. It is the job of historians to mine for those details, tidbits and anecdotes which illuminate the bigger picture.
Fortunately for Liverpool supporters, another important book has been added to the annals of Anfield with the publication of George Scott’s must-read, ‘The Lost Shankly Boy’.
In 1959, new Reds manager Bill Shankly was out to emulate Matt Busby’s ‘Busby Babes’ by focusing on the recruitment of young talent and moulding them into future stars.
It came as a surprise to Scott, who was only a 15-year-old boy from Aberdeen, when he became one of Shankly’s first signings at a time when Liverpool had been languishing in the Second Division since 1954.
Over the following years, Shankly would build the foundations for what is now one of the most successful clubs in world football, and Scott was there to witness it all.
“(Shankly) was the catalyst. He was the man who had changed everything,” Scott tells Tribalfootball.com.
“He had a driven personality, knew what he wanted, he had charisma and believed in the fans.
“He did it for the fans. He always kept drilling into us what you’re doing here is for the people who go into their jobs on Monday all week and work in the docks, in the factories and a big moment for them is a Saturday afternoon. That’s what you’re doing it for so you’ve got to be 100 per cent all of the time.
“And he built the team. When I first went there was about 30 people maybe more and there’s a photograph on the back of the book with all those players there and within a year 20 of them were gone. He was ruthless, he got rid of the people he didn’t think were too good and brought in people who he would like.”
Shankly after Liverpool beat Leeds United in the 1965 FA Cup final
Many of those recruited by Shankly would become legends of the club, including Ian St. John, Peter Thompson and Ron Yeats.
It took only five years for the Scotsman to lead Liverpool to the First Division title. But unfortunately for Scott, he became a victim of the club’s burgeoning success.
Despite his immaculate record of 71 goals in 182 reserve appearances, Scott left Anfield after five years without making a first-team appearance.
“It was a very sad occasion after I left because I thought I was staying for another year. I was the leading goalscorer in the reserve team for three years and I’d made the most appearances by a mile, I hardly missed a game.
“There was no substitutes back then, you used to go as a twelfth man to away matches and the only chance you had of getting on was if somebody was injured or ill before the game.
“Unfortunately for me nobody did, so I just had to go back to the reserves and get stuck in again, and in the end Shankly let me go because he knew that I was getting to the age of 20 and I had to play first-team football.”
A move back to boyhood club Aberdeen, organised by Shankly, provided Scott with the senior opportunity he so desperately needed.
Life at Pittodrie started swimmingly for the local lad, scoring on debut against Clyde and putting in a scintillating performance against Rangers in which he would nutmeg Scotland captain John Greig, who asked him afterwards ‘what hospital do you want to wake up in son’.
Injuries, though, would rear their ugly head as Scott sustained a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury, and with sports medicine archaic in those days, the 21-year-old found himself out of football.
“I had about nine games and playing really well and then I got a cruciate ligament injury and it more or less finished me at Aberdeen sadly and I was out of work at the end of the season.
“But I got back and I think that’s what the book is about. It’s about survival and if you take anything from the book, it is Shankly’s message was never give up. I tried to be guided by that for my whole life.”
Indeed, after working in a biscuit factory after leaving Aberdeen, Scott was given a chance to play in the South African Premier League with Port Elizabeth FC, on the recommendation of Shankly.
Before departing Liverpool for Africa, Scott met with his former Anfield manager, who penned him an incredible character reference, which read:
Great talk from George Scott #liverpool#lfc#shankly what a reference pic.twitter.com/eZA9oS25LD
— Anthony O’Keefe (@LM6aok) December 13, 2017
“‘Dear people’, that’s typical of Shankly, he’s talking to the world,” Scott says. “It really opened doors for me that, because if Shankly put his name on your character you’ve got to live up to that.”
Scott became a star in South Africa and was top scorer in the league for two seasons, but ultimately a near death experience with an intruder and the country’s ‘horrible’ apartheid saw him return back to the UK.
With help again from Shankly, Scott was successful with a trial at Tranmere Rovers and spent two years at Prenton Park before eventually focusing on a successful business career in sales.
Now 75, and recovering after successful five-way heart by-pass surgery, Scott is delighted to have told the tale of his fascinating life which was shaped by the values of the legend from Glenbuck.
“There’s two things (Shankly) always used to say. Nothing happens unless you make it happen. And with enthusiasm it’s the greatest thing in the world, without it you are nothing. That’s two quotes stuck home with me and there’s plenty others.
“Those sort of things are what people should take away. He communicated simply and effectively. Five years at Anfield with Shankly was worth ten years at university. He was a professor of life. What he taught me as a kid stayed with me my whole life, it’s done me proud.”
The Lost Shankly Boy, out now on Pitch Publishing, can purchased by clicking here.