I Liverpool 1958 - 1986
So highly was he thought of at Liverpool that he was offered the Manager`s job ahead of Mr Shankly, but declined it.
He may be the most unheralded member of the famous Boot Room but he was integral to the success Liverpool had during the 1960s and 1970s. While Shankly, Paisley and Fagan schemed, Bennett was the man behind the scenes who drilled the players.
(Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Ronnie Moran, Joe Fagan and Reuben Bennett)
The five original members of that legendary coaching think-tank have been much-celebrated for their achievements over the subsequent decades. From Shankly himself, on to his managerial successors Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan, the quintet that made up the brains behind Liverpool’s success were wholly or partly responsible for the incredible haul of 10 First Division titles, 2 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 4 European Cups and 2 UEFA Cups amongst other minor honours. They were the creators of a dynasty; the instigators of an era.
Obviously, the greatest amount of credit for these achievements has rightly been apportioned to the figurehead and leader Shankly, and the master tactician and talent spotter Paisley, but it was Bennett who was the man that helped to galvanise and condition the players. It would be no good having the sharpest, most-skilful team in the land if they were not able to compete with and overcome opponents in the notoriously physical domain of English football.
Shankly and Bennett had an affinity for one another; their working-class Scottish upbringing, an iron will and the belief that fitness and conditioning the body would go a long way to conquer whatever obstacle was thrown in front of them. Bennett had also worked alongside Shankly’s brother Bob during his time in Dundee and at Third Lanark.
The pair spent a lot of time together travelling to games, scouting opposition and talking tactics – they were close confidantes. Shankly trusted Bennett implicitly, as did the Liverpool board; they offered him the manager’s job ahead of Shankly only for him to turn it down.
He may be the most unheralded member of the famous Boot Room but he was integral to the success Liverpool had during the 1960s and 1970s. While Shankly, Paisley and Fagan schemed, Bennett was the man behind the scenes who drilled the players, and while he was often uncompromising and hard on them with the aim of toughening them up, he gained a tremendous amount of warmth and respect along the way; inspiring good players to become great.
Just as Liverpool began to dominate domestically, Ronnie Moran was added to the backroom staff in 1971 and Bennett’s role changed in order to assist Shankly (and eventually Paisley and Fagan) take on the rigours of European football. He began to spend more time on various foreign spying missions, gathering as much information as possible with which to prepare the Reds for continental glory. These trips paid off spectacularly as Liverpool assumed the mantle of Europe’s dominant team vacated by the great Real Madrid side of the late 50s and early 60s.
“In 1958 he was approached by Liverpool to come South and in December, he joined them. Liverpool, although then a Second Division club, were a big club with as good a history as the best [clubs] in England. He was a coach in demand, and when he went to Liverpool it was as Chief Coach, not just as a member of the coaching staff.”
He joined Liverpool’s coaching staff during the reign of Manager Phil Taylor. Phil Taylor was not the power to take Liverpool back to the top flight. A year after Bennett’s arrival Taylor resigned on 17th November 1959.
So highly was he thought of at Liverpool that he was offered the Manager`s job ahead of Mr Shankly, but declined it. That was probably one of his greatest decisions because history shows how important that was.
Bennett is the only member of the original Anfield boot room quartet who did not manage Liverpool at some point during his career. Thus the former keeper’s contribution and achievements remain relatively untrumpeted.
Bennett joined Liverpool’s coaching staff when Phil Taylor was team manager. However Taylor resigned on 17 November 1959. In December Taylor’s replacement was announced as Bill Shankly who immediately set about rejuvenating the club with relish. Shankly arrived at a decayed club in stagnation but recognised the strength of the existing coaching staff of Bennett, Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan. Shankly elected to retain all three with Bennett staying on board until 1986. Shankly started holding his coaches meetings in the Anfield boot room. In this informal environment, between them they discussed tactics and plans, during which time Bennett was referred to as Sherlock, due to his preferred choice of headwear, a deer stalker. Thus the management philosophy behind Liverpool’s success over the next three decades was born. A fitness fanatic, at Liverpool Bennett was entrusted by Shankly with responsibility for player training and physical condition.
Shankly signed Ian St. John from Bennett’s former club Motherwell and Ron Yeats from Dundee United after the season’s end in 1961. Yeats was immediately installed as captain.