The Boot Room Boys

INTERESTINGLY, Liverpool Football Club’s managerial heroes were not from the city of Liverpool. Bill Shankly was a Scot, Bob Paisley from the north-east, Kenny Dalglish is another child of Glasgow. Moreover, many of their most influential players have been from other parts of Britain: Ian St. John, Ron Yeats, Kevin Keegan, Dalglish, Ian Rush and John Barnes, to name but a few. The club’s golden age, in the mid-1970s to late 1980s, was built on adopting a more fluid European style of football, taught to them by Red Star Belgrade in 1973-74. And today’s talismanic coach, Jürgen Klopp, is from Stuttgart. 

While the sceptics criticise Liverpool for being an insular, siege mentality club, their influences are far and wide and were more cosmopolitan than their rivals for a long time. Some clubs have tried to adhere to a way of playing that epitomised their culture, but invariably, this has held them back. You could argue Tottenham, Manchester United and West Ham United, among others, were haunted by visions of their footballing past, a house-style that was mostly a myth. Liverpool modified their approach in the mid-1970s at a time when the Dutch and Germans were peddling “total football”. And these changes were formulated in a small corner of Anfield known as the Boot Room.

The BT film, The Boot Room Boys, is a delightful story about a corner of Anfield that will forever be part of the club’s DNA. The image is of a group of ageing men, beer bottles in hand, chatting over the finer points of the game, but this informal setting provided the backdrop for the likes of Shankly and Paisley to build togetherness, common goals and fresh ideas. 

No matter what you think of Liverpool, it was always hard not to respect and admire what they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Yes, they could be machine-like at times, but they were also brilliant and could improvise with the best of them.

Success breeds arrogance in football, but it was not a sentiment you found on the pitch with Liverpool’s players – well, not very often. Shankly was a caricature in many ways, but Paisley was like everyone’s favourite uncle, arrogance was never associated with either, although Shankly could be a poor loser sometimes. 

Yet Shankly was clearly a special person, somebody who created the only true British football management dynasty: from Shankly to Paisley, to Fagan, to Dalglish. It is doubtful if any manager has left such an enduring mark on a club – not even Matt Busby. While so many iconic managers have left behind a club desperately trying to live up to the standards of the departing icon, Liverpool went on to even greater things post-Shankly. That somebody as unassuming as Paisley could succeed his mentor said as much about the strength of the foundations.

What was so good about the Boot Room Boys was the way it told the real story of how the club became a European force to be feared. Watch it, and come away with a very different opinion about Liverpool Football Club.