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‘Dynasty: Fifty Years of Shankly’s Liverpool’

Well known Liverpool FC author Paul Tomkins recently released his sixth book on the club ‘Dynasty: Fifty Years of Shankly’s Liverpool’.

Dynasty provides a factual and anecdotal historical analysis of each manager’s reign - from Shankly to Benitez.

Something unique the book brings is a look at the quality and value for money of the players who have represented the club, by using an expert panel comprised of 12 well-known journalists, statisticians and fans of the club who helped rank each player’s contributions to LFC.

Here’s what Paul has to say about the book:

Tell us a little about ‘Dynasty’, what’s it about?

It’s a reassessment of every manager of the club over the last 50 years, going back to Bill Shankly – this is the start of the 50th season since he took charge. As well as outlining the historical facts in great depth, I wanted to find new and unique ways of accurately analysing the managers’ achievements, rather than just trotting out the same old platitudes.

For this purpose I put together a Brains Trust of writers, authors, statisticians and high-profile fans, including people like Brian Reade, Oliver Kay, Neil Dunkin, Ged Rea, Les Lawson and Shankly’s son-in-law Vic Gill, as well as some very longstanding Reds (one of whom, John Crossley, went to his first game in 1936). Their task was to rank every single player out of 10 in terms of what he gave to the Reds’ cause. Working with the player averages from almost 40 contributors, I devised coefficients to assess how good each manager’s signings were, and how strong each squad was at the time each man took charge. Worked into the equations was also stuff like how much each player cost, what he was later sold for, his age, and how many games he played. It’s not a statistical book, but this was just a small part in assessing the quality of the personnel.

On top of this, there’s a look at how strong rival teams were at the time, and how much money, relative to the transfer record of the day, the major sides, including Liverpool, cost in the 60’s, all the way through to the current day. So hopefully the book puts each manager’s achievements into the context of the era in a way that can be related to the modern day.

Image“A unique analysis of the club’s managers, which is no mean feat given the extensive bibliography of the club… informative … another perspective on the last 50 years at Liverpool.” - Programme & Football Collectable Monthly

How did you research your material for Dynasty?

I referred to all manner of books written about, and/or by the managers in question, as well as the autobiographies of many of the players. There was also a number of internet sites that were handy for certain specialised aspects of the research. It’s obviously harder for me to write with true authority about what took place before I was even born, but hopefully I’ve managed to understand and capture the strengths and weaknesses of all the managers to an equal degree. Some older fans have told me that even they learned plenty from reading it, so that’s a great compliment for me.

The contribution of people like Brian Reade, Oliver Kay, Neil Dunkin, Ged Rea, Vic Gill (Shanks’ son-in-law, and an LFC trainee between 1957 and 1962) and numerous others was an exciting part of the process; these are people I’ve got to talk to about LFC over the years, and it’s great that I could call on genuine, knowledgeable fans to help with the assessments of all the players of the last 50 years, which all goes towards evaluating the managers who bought or inherited them. The most rewarding feedback I’ve had so far is from a number of older Reds who themselves have learned stuff about the club’s history (as I did while researching the book), while Vic Gill sent me an email saying that “it has brought back some very nice memories, but I feel it would also educate the younger fans, give them a sense of our history.”

In the end there wasn’t room for loads of the statistical analysis, plus I didn’t want it to be a book that was too stat-heavy, and so this will be published in Compendium. Compendium is a book I’m selling only via my website, and is a collection of the best bits of all my other books, including the recent Champions League and FA Cup Finals, my best articles of 2008, plus the full lists of all the Liverpool players since 1959 ranked in order of Quality, and for those who were signed from elsewhere, Relative Transfer Fee and Value For Money.

Have you gained more appreciation of any of the managers you have been studying in preparation for your book?

Definitely. I always prided myself on trying to make sure I knew a lot about the club, but one of the greatest pleasures in writing this particular book was discovering so much more about the men in question. I gained more appreciation of all the managers to some degree or other, even Graeme Souness. While his signings remain mostly awful, and his temper rubbed players up the wrong way – not to mention other numerous failings – he was right in trying to modernise the club at a time when there was understandable resistance to new methods by some of the old guard. But a change towards more continental habits later proved to be necessary.

We understand there was some confusion over the book being ‘banned’ by LFC? Care to clear up the situation?

I was approached to write for the official website in 2005 on the basis that I wouldn’t be paid, but they’d happily help me promote my books. After a couple of years unpaid I started to get a very small fee for writing the articles, but the arrangement still based on being able to promote my books, which is what helps me make a living. So it was a shock when I was told that Dynasty could not be mentioned on the website as someone at the club felt it was critical of those running the club and the current manager. The people at the website worked hard to get the ‘ban’ overturned, and a few days later succeeded. I must reiterate that the book was never banned in all senses, or blacklisted, but for me the decision to not allow any mention on the official site was clearly a ban of sorts.

I obviously felt very upset at the original decision, particularly as I’d chosen my words carefully to limit criticisms of the way the club has been run in the past 12 months to what pretty much what the protagonists themselves had acknowledged, and also because I don’t see what the problem was in what I’d said about Benítez - about whom I’ve generally been incredibly positive. It was the last thing I needed on the eve of the launch, and very stressful at a time that is naturally stressful for anybody releasing a new project into the world, but I’m thankful for the support from .tv in overturning the decision. I worked incredibly hard on Dynasty, and the research was painstaking – as many people have appreciated after reading the book. So having my main source of publicity cut off ahead of publication was a worry, but thankfully common sense prevailed.

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