#SHANKLY100 The One...The Only...Mr Reuben Bennett...

Posted by Em5y on August 12, 2005, 03:44:45 AM

The One...The Only...Mr Reuben Bennett.

"Fellows, your jobs are safe. Some managers bring their own people with them. Not me. I have my own system and it will work in co-operation with you"

When any new manager arrives at a football club - players and backroom staff immediately begin to fear for their futures.  It is understandable of course that any new manager wants to surround themselves with people they can trust - familiar faces who can help them shape a side in their own image.

And loyalty was key to Bill Shankly.  It was the one thing he asked for from the team he inherited back in December 1959.

"I will lay down the plans and gradually we will all be on the same wavelength. I demand only one thing: loyalty."

Loyalty and honesty were the foundations which Shankly built his sides upon.  He was honest and loyal to his staff - and he demanded the same in return.

The Bootroom Boys have become legend to Liverpool supporters everywhere.  But for some reason - one 'Bootroom Boy' is talked of less than the others.  And it is a situation which should be redressed.

Reuben Bennett was born in Aberdeen in 1914 - he was a goalkeeper in his playing days - turning out for Hull City, Queen of the South and Dundee.  It was a pretty unremarkable playing career by all accounts, though Reuben did tell Roy Evans one story about his playing career.  Reuben had a reputation for telling 'tall stories' - stories which many believed contained an element of truth - but were embellished for the purposes of entertaining people.  He told Roy that in one tough Scottish game, he had gone in to challenge an oncoming striker and got concussion.  He was carted off to hospital - but decided he was fit enough to continue.  Reuben insisted that he made his way back to the ground, paid on the turnstile to get back in the ground - and then went back in goal and continued playing.  Any other man telling this story would have been laughed at - but even a wily scouser like Evans wouldn't write off the possibility of this story being true - because he knew that Reuben Bennett was one of football's hard men.

Reuben's real passion was fitness, and it is when he turned his attention to coaching that his career in football started to take off.

Reuben became a coach at Dundee alongside the brother of Bill Shankly.  Bob was Bill's older brother - and they were very similar in their style of management.  Reuben coached the Dundee side as Bob Shankly lead the team to  two Scottish League Cups in 1949 and 1952.  His success lead to management - and Reuben took the helm at Ayr United, Motherwell and Third Lanark.  His time in management did not go well however, and when a call came from Phil Taylor asking if Reuben would be interested in becoming coach at Anfield - the answer was 'yes'.

Bennett arrived toward the end of Taylor's reign in charge - and when Bill Shankly arrived - Reuben probably more than anybody else at the club would have felt confident about keeping his job.  For a start the men were both of Scottish origin and were fiercely proud of the fact.  Reuben would often wind the players up at Anfield about how Scotland had the greatest international side in the world, and whenever Scotland suffered a defeat - it was always due to the weather being too hot or a poor referee.

For Shanks to entrust his sides fitness to Reuben Bennett shows how much faith Bill had in Reuben.  Shankly was also a fitness fanatic.  Indeed his whole outlook on the game was based on the premise that his side should be fitter than any other side and should be able to keep running longer than any other side.  Shankly's attitude toward injured players has been well documented in the past - and so perhaps the biggest honour you could pay Reuben Bennett is to acknowledge that if Shanks believed Reuben could get the players fit to the level he required - the he was obviously a remarkable coach.

In  fact, Bennett and Shankly were also very much alike in character with regard to injuries.  If a player came in injured - they needn't expect sympathy from Reuben - "Rub it down with a kipper!" he would bark at them.  If a player came in with a bad cut or graze - Bennett would tell the tale of how he would scrub his own cuts with a wire brush to get the dirt out.

Reuben was hard as Iron and Shankly trusted him implicitly.  Every morning Shankly would pick Bennett up in his car and drive him to Anfield or Melwood.  They would take these opportunities to chat about players and opposition, also travelling to away games or on scouting missions together - Shanks using Reuben as a sounding board for many of his ideas.  Phil Chisnall once said about Bennett:

"We were in America one time, and something happened on the field.  Reuben was giving it all - he must have been 50-odd then, someone tackled him and I always remember Shanks saying that he was tackling the Strongest Man in the World.  He (Bennett) would smoke like a trooper - but he was very fit for his age.

Roger Hunt gave an interesting insight into how training would work under Bennett.  Apparently the players at that time referred to Reuben as 'The Warm Up Man'  He would start training off with gentle runs and exercises designed to warm the players up for the 3-a-side and 5-a-side games which would follow.  Bennett would put the players through their paces whilst Shanks, Paisley and Fagan would keep a watchful eye on things.  There was constant banter between the players and Reuben, and despite his dour nature on occasion - the players all found him to be approachable.

Hunt said of Reuben:

"Reuben was a very, very popular man - a real hard man.  In the afternoons you would see him standing outside Anfield in shirt-sleeves when it was ten degrees below.  he said he couldn't feel the cold.  We went away to Majorca once or twice on end of season tours and Reuben, who liked a drnk, used to say that he liked nothing better than to take the top off a bottle of Scotch and drink it until it was empty.  He was always awake first whenever we went away - and when the players came down for breakfast, he would say that he had been for a five-mile run or a five-mile swim".

Willie Stevenson backs up Roger Hunt when he said that Reuben was as hard as nails.

"Reuben didn't tolerate wimps too much.  He considered any feeling of pain or hurt as soft.  One time we were in Blackpool.  It was really, really cold.  I think it was the 1965 winter when a lot of games were abandoned.  We were on the beach playing in snow and the water was iced out to about 30 or 40 feet.  One of us kicked the ball into the water and Reuben says 'Go and get it'.  We told him to bugger off.  So he called us a load of wimps and promptly proceeded to run into the sea, swim out, get the ball, and come back and carry on playing.  He was only wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts.  We all had balaclavas, hats, gloves and pullovers"

Reuben loved recounting tales promoting the idea amongst the players that he was a hard man.  He would tell tales about how he had played golf in Scotland on golf courses with bunkers so big - you needed a rope ladder to get in and out of them.  One of his favorite tales was from Reubens time in the Army where he took Physical Instruction.  Men would run at him with bayonets - as they got near him, Reuben would push them aside and shout 'NEXT!".  One day, a man run at him with the bayonet - and ended up plunging the bayonet into Reuben's arm.  Reuben looked at it - pulled the bayonet out from the flesh and shouted 'NEXT!".  How may of these stories were true is up for debate - but in every account you read about Reuben three things keep cropping up.  Loyalty, Honesty - and the fact that Reuben Bennett was the hardest man at Liverpool FC.

It's a shame that Reuben doesn't warrant more attention from us fans - because his role at Liverpool FC and the growth of the team under Shankly was largely down to the work Bennett carried out with the players on a daily basis.  But Bennett wasn't one for attention - he knew his role at LFC - and he carried it out to the best of his ability.  One journalist tells a story about how he was thrilled when Reuben agreed to give him an interview.  He arrived at Reuben's house, the Scotch came out - and Reuben began to tell his tales which kept the journalist enthralled.  The journalist was happy that he had got enough from Reuben to write a detailed piece - until right at the end of the interview, Reuben says "By the way, I don't want any of what I have told you printed in your paper".

Reuben died in December 1989 - leaving behind him a legacy of success at Liverpool Football Club - one which deserves far more recognition that it receives.

That sums up Reuben Bennett.  It is difficult to find out much about him - largely because he kept his head down and did his job well.  I would love to hear of any other stories people may have about him.  But for now - I present - The One...The Only...Mr Reuben Bennett

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