Veteran sportswriter pens homage to Reds managers Shankly, Klopp

Veteran sportswriter Bob Holmes with his two books on English football. (PHOTO: Courtesy of Bob Holmes)

SINGAPORE — One is a no-nonsense yet inspirational Scot, the other a German whose wide grin belies his steely determination.

Bill Shankly and Jurgen Klopp may be of different nationalities and born in different eras, but in the eyes of veteran sportswriter Bob Holmes, they follow similar football and managerial principles in dragging Liverpool out of mediocrity during their respective reigns at Anfield.

The Kuala Lumpur-based Englishman, 72, recently released a book about those two larger-than-life managers, titled “Shanks, Yanks and Jurgen: The Men Behind Liverpool’s Rise, Slip and Rise Again”.

It traces how Shankly lifted Liverpool from the depths of the Second Division in 1959 to become the dominant force in English football by the time he retired in 1974. It also traces how Liverpool lost their way under the joint ownership of Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr in the late 2000s, and the Reds were revived under Klopp’s astute leadership.

Why he was drawn to Shankly and Klopp

And here is what’s special about Holmes: he is not even a Liverpool die-hard. Yet, the Nottingham Forest fan said it was easy to admire Shankly and Klopp.

“I was drawn to Shankly as an impressionable teenager – he was a larger-than-life character and every fan seemed to wish he managed their club,” he told Yahoo News Singapore in an email interview.

“He was genuinely funny as well as being inspirational. I just loved the way he built the club by adding about three players a year – no mass recruitment or culling – and he got most signings right. And all the time he was building this amazing rapport with the fans.

“When (Klopp’s former club Borussia) Dortmund started to do well and we saw the Yellow Wall, there were obvious similarities with the Kop and I noticed Klopp's rapport with the Dortmund fans. Even before he joined Liverpool I thought there were similarities with Shankly.”

Holmes, who began his journalism career in the same year that Shankly retired, found that the two Liverpool managers share a similar value of fans and team spirit, despite obvious differences in their tactical approaches. Both managers also got new signings to buy into their philosophies, and were keen to promote youngsters into their first teams.

Hoping readers can appreciate ‘people’s game’

This is Holmes’ second book published in three years. His first, “Living The Dream... Or Enduring The Nightmare? British Football Meets Foreign Billionaires”, took a look at the intriguing characters who were the owners of English Premier League clubs.

For this book, he hopes that readers can appreciate that football is essentially a people’s game despite its current wealth, and that it is important to maintain some of the old values espoused by Shankly.

“Liverpool, despite being one of the richest in the world, does seem to be a people's club even now,” he said. “Unlike their predecessors, the current American owners of the club seem to respect what the club stands for, even if profit was their main motive for buying Liverpool. Other owners could do well to follow them.”

“Shanks, Yanks and Jurgen: The Men Behind Liverpool’s Rise, Slip and Rise Again” is available at Books Kinokuniya outlets in Singapore.