Les Shannon 1926-2007

Last updated : 05 December 2007 By Gerry Wolstenholme
Les Shannon 1926-2007

Gerry Wolstenholme

He was born in Liverpool on 12 March 1926 and joined his hometown club as a junior before signing as a professional in November 1944. He played 11 League games and scored one goal for Liverpool before he was transferred to Burnley in November 1949. He had a hugely successful career in 10 seasons at Turf Moor, playing 262 League games, scoring 39 goals, and winning England 'B' honours along the way.

He later managed Bury and took them into Division Two after finishing as runners-up to Oxford United in the 1967/68 season. Bury's stay at the higher level was short-lived as they came down with bottom-placed Fulham after just one season.

Les Shannon
Les Shannon
Shannon was recruited as Blackpool manager after the dismissal of legendary Stan Mortensen in April 1969 so he had a difficult act to follow as Mortensen was the fans' hero and many felt that his dismissal was unjust. Blackpool initially tried to entice Bob Stokoe from Carlisle but Stokoe was not interested and was later to say, "When Blackpool first approached me, I didn't want to come. This was before Les Shannon became Blackpool's manager. I had just moved to Carlisle, and, at that stage, I had no intention of leaving them. I'd done a fair bit of moving around over the previous 10 years."

So Blackpool went looking elsewhere and it was reported that Shannon was chosen from 77 candidates and was appointed in early May 1969 with no official contract. He quickly earned the respect of his players and added some experienced players to the squad, such as Fred Pickering for a fee of £45,000 from Birmingham City, Dave Hatton for a fee of £37,000 from Bolton Wanderers and a shrewd signing in Harry Thomson for £5,000 from Burnley. He also made another astute signing when he poached Mickey Burns, an England amateur international, from Skelmersdale United for no fee.

Expectations for Shannon and Blackpool were high as they had just missed out on promotion back to the First Division in the 1967/68 season and had finished in eighth place in 1968/69. His reign at Bloomfield Road began well with an opening day 2-1 victory over Portsmouth, which prompted Shannon to remark, "I was quite pleased with the way things went against Portsmouth, although there are still one or two things we have to work on. It's nice to start with a win and I thought although we went through a bad patch in the second half we came strongly again at the end." But thereafter results were mixed but were still good enough to keep the Seasiders on the verge of the promotion race.

After seven defeats up to the turn of the year, Blackpool then only lost two games until the end of the season and one of those was a meaningless 2-0 loss to Oxford United in the final game of the season. By that time Les Shannon had written his name large in the history of Blackpool Football Club by masterminding the club back to the First Division in his first season at the helm. And it was achieved on the back of an historic 3-0 victory over Preston North End at Deepdale, a result that not only secured Blackpool's place in the top flight but that sent Preston down to Division Three.

Les Shannon and chairman Bill Cartmell
Les Shannon (right) stood alongside Harry Glossop the Kit man.
However, this was more or less the beginning of the end for Shannon for early in the 1970/71 season there were strong rumours of a strained relationship between Mr Shannon and chairman Bill Cartmell. Blackpool's results were none too promising, Shannon constantly changed the team and then there emerged reports of a contractual dispute between the club and the manager. The chairman eventually resigned in September 1970 and Shannon at that time appeared to have the backing of the remainder of the board.

Frank Dickinson took over as chairman but Blackpool continued to struggle and an under siege Shannon commented in early October 1970, "Our biggest trouble is that we are not getting enough goals. The fact has to be faced. A lot of our outfield play has been good but we are not getting people knocking in the chances. But the thing to do in a situation like this is to keep working at it. We have to keep working at our game. The hardest thing, surely, is to create the chances. When the chances are created, it should be simple enough to take them. You have to just keep working on this theme. Nottingham Forest, who beat us 3-1 last week [10 October 1970] had not scored for six matches beforehand and who would have dreamt that they would have got three goals like the ones they scored."

Sure enough after these words Blackpool took two chances in the game against Huddersfield Town on 17 October 1970 and managed a 2-2 draw. Then they took three chances in the first half of the game against Chelsea on 24 October 1970 and went into the break leading 3-0. As all followers of Blackpool will know, Chelsea scored four in the second half to win by the odd goal in seven, with the unfortunate Dave Hatton putting through his own goal in the final minute to clinch the result and, as it turned out, clinch the fate of the manager.

It was all too much for Shannon and the directors. The manager officially resigned from his post three days after the Chelsea game, although it was leaked that by then he did not have the confidence of the board, whose members were apparently unanimous in the decision for him to depart. He received no compensation, as his contractual arrangements had not been sorted out.

He duly departed and went to manage overseas, something that he had been approached to do at the end of his first season at Bloomfield Road when he refused to move being assured that his future was with Blackpool. Sadly it was only for a further six months but he will go down in history as the first Blackpool manager to gain promotion in his first season in charge.