The day Bill Shankly made Liverpool see red, is a remarkable, inventive lesson in mind games.
In 1965 Liverpool FC played the champions of Germany: FC Cologne in the European Cup.
They played in Cologne and they drew 0-0.
They had the replay back at Anfield and again they drew 0-0.
A deciding game at a neutral venue, Stadion Feyenoord took place on 24th March, 1965.
The game went to extra-time, but ended 2-2, with goals from Ian St John and Roger Hunt.
After 400 minutes of an intense, gruelling battle, the toss of a coin would decide both the teams fate.
Liverpool captain, Ron Yeats recalled: “I got in first to the referee and said: ´I’ll have tails.´ Lucky for me the referee said ok.
Liverpool tails, FC Cologne heads.
Up it went and christ didn’t it stick in a divot! I said to the referee: ´Ref, you’re going to have to re-toss the coin.´
And he replied: ´You’re right, Mr. Yeats.´ I thought the German captain was going to hit him. He was going berserk because it was falling over on the heads.
He picked it up.
Up it went again, and came down tails!
We were coming off and who is standing there, but Bill Shankly.
I was first off the pitch and he went: ´Well done, big man. I am proud of you. What did you pick?´
I said: ´I picked tails, boss´.
I was waiting for the adulation but he just went: ´I would have picked tails myself and just walked away.´
After the gruelling mid week match, the Liverpool team returned triumphantly to England, and just three days later they were up against Chelsea in the semi-final of the FA Cup, at Villa Park.
The players were shattered.
They sat in the dressing room before the Chelsea game. Muscles aching, chests sore. Exhausted.
Shankly stood and looked around at his players.
He said “Lads I’ve got something here I didn’t want to show you in case it upset you. But there’s nothing to lose now so I might as well.”
Shankly pulled a leaflet from his pocket and held it up.
He said “This is the leaflet that Chelsea had printed for when they get to the FA Cup final.
They think it’s a formality that they’ll win today, because they think you’re knackered.
They think you’ve left everything on the field in Rotterdam.
They think flying over there and playing the Germans took it out of you, so they think you’re easy meat now.
That’s why they’ve printed this up for when they get to Wembley…
After the formality of brushing Liverpool aside.
What do you think lads, is it a formality?
Can they just brush you lot aside?
Are you as knackered, as done in as they think?
Are you finished…?”
As Shankly continued, the players got more and more irritated, then annoyed, then the red mist descended.
Chelsea presumed they’d just brush Liverpool aside.
They thought Liverpool would just roll over.
But this was Liverpool. They never know when they’re beat.
Liverpool won 2-0.
The Liverpool side were all over Chelsea like a rash at Villa Park, and knocked them out of the FA Cup.
After the match Bill Shankly walked over to Chelsea’s manager, Tommy Docherty, to shake hands.
Docherty was pretty much shell-shocked.
He said “Bill, how did they ever manage that?
They’ve just come back from playing against the German champions in Rotterdam?
How come they’ve got so much energy?”
Bill Shankly then handed Docherty the Chelsea Cup Final leaflet.
He said “There you are Tom, a little souvenir.”
Tommy Docherty looked at it and said “What the fuck’s this!?”
He didn’t recognise it.
Well, he wouldn’t, would he.
Because Chelsea had never printed it.
It’s said, Bill Shankly had just the one copy printed to show his team before the match.
Just to give them a little incentive.
What a stroke of genius.
What a motivator.
It was the day Bill Shankly made Liverpool see red.