[F]or the most part football these days is the opium of the people, not to speak of their crack cocaine. Its icon is the impeccably Tory, slavishly conformist Beckham. The Reds are no longer the Bolsheviks. Nobody serious about political change can shirk the fact that the game has to be abolished. And any political outfit that tried it on would have about as much chance of power as the chief executive of BP has in taking over from Oprah Winfrey.
The eccentric passion of Shankly was underlined for me by my England team-mate Roger Hunt's version of the classic tale of the Liverpool manager's pre-game talk before playing Manchester United. The story has probably been told a thousand times in and out of football, and each time you hear it there are different details, but when Roger told it the occasion was still fresh in his mind and I've always believed it to be the definitive account. It was later on the same day, as Roger and I travelled together to report for England duty, after we had played our bruising match at Anfield. Ian St John had scored the winner, then squared up to Denis Law, with Nobby finally sealing the mood of the afternoon by giving the Kop the 'V' sign. After settling down in our railway carriage, Roger said, 'You may have lost today, but you would have been pleased with yourself before the game. Shanks mentioned you in the team talk. When he says anything positive about the opposition, normally he never singles out players.' According to Roger, Shankly burst into the dressing room in his usual aggressive style and said, 'We're playing Manchester United this afternoon, and really it's an insult that we have to let them on to our field because we are superior to them in every department, but they are in the league so I suppose we have to play them. In goal Dunne is hopeless- he never knows where he is going. At right back Brennan is a straw- any wind will blow him over. Foulkes the centre half kicks the ball anywhere. On the left Tony Dunne is fast but he only has one foot. Crerand couldn't beat a tortoise. It's true David Herd has got a fantastic shot, but if Ronnie Yeats can point him in the right direction he's likely to score for us. So there you are, Manchester United, useless..'Apparently it was at this point the Liverpool winger Ian Callaghan, who was never known to whisper a single word on such occasions, asked, 'What about Best, Law and Charlton, boss?'Shankly paused, narrowed his eyes, and said, 'What are you saying to me, Callaghan? I hope you're not saying we cannot play three men.