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The Three Kings: Busby, Shankly,  Stein

The Three Kings: Busby, Shankly, Stein

Leo Moynihan
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
Busby, Shankly and Stein. Three of the greatest managers who helped create the modern game of football and who had more than one thing in common. Not only were they Scottish but they were all born within a 30 mile radius of each other in the Central Lowlands of Scotland. Two of them won what was then The European Cup, the other set in stone the foundations for his club to be the most successful British club in Europe to date. Think you know about them? Well read this book and find out a bit more. The introduction starts with three games, three tunnels and the managers looking at their teams, the build up before they run out, this is the moment.

Chapter 1 is quite literally that, with each one of their births and the makeup of their families told, it was a really great start to the book and I can assure readers that if like me you are a staunch supporter of one of these clubs don’t worry, the book is a super story of these three great characters of the game and club loyalty is most definitely put on the back burner as you very soon read and learn about the men, what they did for football, sure the clubs are mentioned but it’s about the men not the clubs and this is what makes this book, it’s not three separate parts the stories are entwined in the chapters so you have to read the whole book, you learn very early on that Shankly and Busby were to become great friends, the author has been a sports writer for quite some time and it shows in the passion that shines through.

What amazed me was the history of the game, how The Scottish FA changed the laws of the game and introduced them south of the boarder making the game closer to what we know today, the amount of great players that came from Scotland how seriously the young lads took the game, this is a wonderful book and not just for the football side of it.

Now as we know there is a great rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, Busby whose family originated in Ireland, his great great grandfather came over and settled in Scotland was catholic, as a boy Busby had trials with Rangers, later when Busby was signed by Manchester City Celtic refused to make a move for him because of his connections with Rangers, religion rears its ugly head once more and Busby who was homesick stayed in Manchester.

Shankly meanwhile was playing for Carlisle and he had a word which summed up the club and his surroundings GRIM. Shankly got a transfer to Preston and in his first season won promotion to the top tier of English football, the first division.

Stein was still a boy at home when these two had left but their early days of working in the pits stayed with all three of them, who could blame them for their political views when Churchill decided that Britain should join the Gold Standard interest rate soared, British goods were hard to sell coal fell out of favour but that didn’t stop the pit owners from making money, they simply cut the wages and increased the working hours of the miners, of course they went on strike but were starved into going back to work under the new terms.

The author certainly digs into the social history that these men lived through. When the Second World War came Busby was 30 and was playing for Liverpool having transferred from City for £8,000, Shankly was 26. Busby joined the army and was made a PTI and posted to Aldershot. It’s explained that he travelled as far as S Africa to put men through their paces but didn’t see action himself, he ended up being CSM and met Monty on two occasions, what he said to Monty is in the book. Shankly got a job at an aircraft factory but didn’t like it so joined the RAF. Both players had their careers interrupted because of the war but neither complained as that was a very small sacrifice compared to what millions of others went through and this is what separates these two great managers from the so called greats of today. They knew true sacrifices and bravery. During the war Old Trafford was bombed the main stand destroyed Shankly visited and said that’s it, no more football will be played here. Well that’s one thing he got wrong!

The author explains how Busby, a Liverpool player was contacted by United during the final months of the war and how he thought hard about the job offer after all he was still a Liverpool player and was earmarked to be the assistant at Liverpool but assistant hovering over the man he admired waiting to take his job? No he took the United job, Liverpool wanted compensation, they didn’t get any, the rest they say is history.

Meanwhile Shankly who finished his playing career at Preston returned to Carlisle after the war as manager, he struggled with the board having no money and eventually made a sideways step to Grimsby a club that traditionally gave a box fish to the visiting team, now this was funny when he arrived he was groping for the light switch in the office, what are you doing he was asked, looking for the light switch, oh we are on gas here came the reply, was this such a good move?

Shankly kept the club up and moved again he was learning his trade at real grass roots level then a big break came and he moved to second division Huddersfield where amongst the younger players was a player who would go down in folk law history but not playing for Shankly, his name was Dennis Law. Shankly was building a team that were challenging for promotion and he wanted two players, the board said no. Huddersfield had beaten Liverpool 5 - 0 earlier that season and they came calling he moved to Liverpool in 1959.

Meanwhile Stein had a less glamorous route to the top, playing for a small town club in Scotland he eventually moved South to South Wales, no not to Cardiff City, Swansea? No Llanelli Town was to become Jocks new home, yes I never knew they had football club, a rugby club yes but football? My how times have changed, Jock enjoyed his time there, the land lady had a tub kept under the kitchen table that was the bath but the scenery reminded him of home as did the tub. Then after a year Celtic came calling and he didn’t have to think twice, Jock didn’t listen or care about the religious side of things, others did but Jock was hard skinned, he ignored the boos and after a few seasons was even made club captain as Celtic won the league. A cruel ankle injury ended Jocks playing career he was offered the coaching role for Celtics reserves and jumped at the chance. The author explains what a success he made of this job and crowds of 40,000 would watch the reserves on a Friday night, this gave the reserves a taste of the big time. He moved away from Celtic to become manager of Dunfermline before moving to Hibs then once again moving back to Celtic where great things would happen for both the club and the man.

I have just realised writing this review that I might have put too much detail in, so I hope what you have read has whetted your taste buds for this book, as there is far far more in this book than what I have touched on. It’s a great look back on time gone by, not all was sweetness and light, the sectarian violence in Glasgow between the two sets of supporters and Catholic and Protestant families is written about and it is quite shocking what took place.

As a fan of the game, which I may add is fading with all the diving, feigning of injury and general cheating not to mention this new VAR I loved this book. It told of how three boys escaped the pits and went on to great achievements in the game they loved. I wish the book had a few more photographs and a few in colour wouldn’t have gone a miss, after all the hardback is priced at £20.00 so I can’t give it five stars, a pity as I know for a fact it would have been very easy to have a lot more pages with pictures which may have justified the price, after all as the saying goes a picture paints a thousand words.

Four out of Five Mushroom heads.

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