BILL Shankly was a giant in a world where heroes are quickly made and shot down.

For all his working life and long afterwards, he was recognised as someone who had football in his soul.

Three cousins, all in their 70s, have stepped back in time to remember their uncle, Bill Shankly, the village's famous son whose name is synonymous with Liverpool Football Club after he revolutionised the club in the 1950s and 1960s and generations later is still worshipped by adoring fans.

Now walking up the hill to the site of the village where he was born, the memories come flooding back.

Local landmarks are pointed out: where the football pitch was, the row of cottages where their granny lived and the crumbling remains of a garden wall.

There's nothing left now in Glenbuck, a ghost village levelled after the Ayrshire mines closed.

Former Rangers and Crystal Palace player Roger Hynd, the son of Bill's sister Jean, lived in Glenbuck as a boy with his grandmother, Bill's mother.

He said: "My brother and I liked playing football in the park - 40 a side, all day, every day when you were on holiday, and all day Saturday and Sunday.

"I would write occasionally to my Uncle Wullie and say, 'Can you give me a ball, a proper ball?'

"He would send a ball that was all polished and dubbined up with instructions on how to lace it up."

As the 100th anniversary nears of Bill's birth on September 2, Roger and his cousins Wye Taylor and Barbara Alexander have returned to Glenbuck.

Today, all that stands in the village is a memorial stone dedicated to Bill, shrouded in Liverpool scarves.

The roots of a childhood immersed in hardship shaped the man he was to become and germinated the strong socialist beliefs that defined the firebrand footballer and manager.

The ninth of 10 children and the youngest of five boys, his early years were crammed cheek by jowl alongside his siblings in two houses knocked together on Monkey Row.

He left school at 14 to earn 2s 6d a day down the mines and but for the Depression could have spent the rest of his working life underground and his free time playing cards with his pals.

His four brothers all either played football professionally or managed, but it wasn't a foregone conclusion that Bill would follow in their footsteps.

Local team the Glenbuck Cherypickers won numerous local cups and was a hotbed for up-and-coming players who moved on to senior football.

When Bill tried out for the team they didn't think he was good enough, so he found a right-half position with Cronberry Eglinton and played with them until he caught the eye of scouts who offered him a choice of contracts - with Carlisle and Preston. The big time beckoned, and he signed up for Carlisle for the princely sum of £4 a week.

Wye said: "I always remember he had a presence when he was in a room.

"He was quite gruff but in a gentle kind of way; he didn't frighten you. He was a man's man.

"I'll never forget his funeral, as the cortege drove through Liverpool there were people going to work and standing at the side of the road with their hats off when it went by; thousands of people throughout the city.

"I suppose we didn't realise just how important a figure he was in Liverpool. He was always just Wullie to my mother."

The Shanklys were a close-knit family, and Bill was a regular letter writer.

Among boxes of photographs and newspaper clippings, Barbara still has bundles of cards and letters he wrote, or typed himself, to herself and her mother. Barbara said: "When he came home he was treated as a celebrity but he didn't want any of that.

"There were few activities in Glenbuck but with the boys he used to work with, from the days down the pit, he would go and tell stories, play cards and toss coins.

"He just loved coming back and talking about family things.

"When he had a family of his own, he would visit with Nessie and the girls, they would go up to Douglas Water for a picnic."

Roger graduated as a PE teacher while he played for Rangers, and went on to play for Crystal Palace and Birmingham City.

He says he never talked about football with his Uncle Wullie, even though Roger was often in the opposing team.

He said: "I remember when I was at Palace, we played Liverpool and beat them at Palace's ground and I had strained my thigh.

"He came in and gave me a clip on the ear - I was in my late 20s. 'You should never have played,' he said. 'If you're unfit you don't play.'"

He laughs: "There was nothing in it, of course. It was just to get the point over."

Bill announced his retirement from Liverpool in 1974.

By 1981 he was dead, after a series of heart attacks.

Roger said: "He just couldn't cope with not being involved in football. He wanted to go in and watch the training and still be part of it. I think he was told not to go back and that broke his heart.

"He lived and breathed football for Liverpool."

l Tomorrow: The Liverpool glory years