It was the evening of Carlisle United's most famous result to date. Some of the players, having heroically held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup, headed out for a tempting taste of London's nightlife. But not all of them. And certainly not the manager.

Instead of hitting the capital's streets, Bill Shankly invited a few of the United team to his hotel room. In no time he was demonstrating sliding tackles across the carpet, showing Paddy Waters, Tommy Kinloch and Geoff Twentyman how best to deal with the Gunners in the replay.

So vivid is Shankly in the mind's eye that it is not difficult to imagine this scene from 1951; so distinctive the personality that there must still be a few hundred more tales to be told, aside from this gem from Stephen Kelly's biography.

So rich in character, in fact, was Shankly's time at Brunton Park that it is a shame the spell did not get more than a couple of minutes on the powerful documentary on the man, Nature's Fire , which aired this week.

His brief playing career with the Blues received 30 seconds or so, and if his feisty time as manager gained marginally more - likewise his time at Workington - there was a sense of the programme's director hurrying things along so that full justice could be given to the way Shankly made Liverpool into a club for the ages.

It was, one had to conclude, an understandable urge, even if extra colour would have been added by exploring the Bard of Glenbuck's very first managerial position: the pre-match Tannoy speeches to the crowd, the demands for tidiness in his players' appearance, the insistence that the city's motto should adorn the shirts, the imposition on poor Nessie to wash the team's kit in a Bendix machine specially piped into their house, because Brunton Park did not yet have a laundry room.

Shankly's twilight one-v-ones with Ivor Broadis, with upturned chimney pots for goalposts, could also have shed more light, his salt-and-pepper-pot tactical demonstrations in a friend's kitchen the same, likewise hints at his softer and even slapstick sides. Dave Bowler, in another book, writes how Shankly, upon learning Billy Hogan was ill, ferried his star United winger to Edinburgh in a taxi to see a renowned doctor of his acquaintance, not realising the medic had been dead three years.

Delving deeper into the frustration Shankly felt at a lack of funds - and, you could say, ambition - at Brunton Park would also have hinted at his unstoppable nature. It is timely, in this respect, that Carlisle today face the club he chose next, Grimsby Town, five years before his Anfield empire began.

There cannot be too much parochial complaint, though, given the impact of the documentary overall. It is Carlisle's (and Workington's) privilege to have chapters in one of British football's best and most charismatic stories and where Nature's Fire was most potent was towards the end, when a handful of voices used Shankly's meaning to reflect on what today's game has lost.

A socialist, for whom football was an escape from the pit, Shankly's roots and beliefs were in community. Even his playing principles - "give, and take, and give, and back up" - reflected a sense of being in it together, of common purpose.

Most strongly, though, it struck how Shankly felt about football's fans; its fabric. Hence those pre-match sermons at Brunton Park, and the way he bonded at all his clubs with people who, like him, found the game a release.

"Football without supporters is nothing - there's no noise, no passion, no shouting, nothing," said Karen Gill, describing how her grandfather would routinely open his door to the fan on the street and invite them in. "For him, all of that, and being accessible to the people who would come and watch faithfully, was really important. That's where the joy and passion came from."

This extended, later, into eloquent objections from the Spirit of Shankly group in Liverpool about the way modern, commercially-unstoppable clubs are disconnecting from their communities. "You should keep those links with the community, otherwise you've lost your soul," said Peter Hooton.

"If they're just treated as customers," Karen Gill added, "that's not what my grandad was about and what he felt football was about."

Chris Lawler, a great Liverpool player, said the hatred of letting supporters down underpinned all that he did, and the more you listened to contributions like these you did feel aggrieved at how the fan's voice often gets lost in the clamour today.

On the weekend Nature's Fire was aired on the BBC, Carlisle's chairman Andrew Jenkins was writing in his programme column about the possibility of staging home games on Friday nights. United's veteran co-owner, who joined the board only eight years after Shankly left, wanted to know what people thought.

Spread on social media, the idea drew different opinions - but a thread of cynicism ran through several. Some asked why supporters should even bother giving their view to a club that had already ignored what they had said about that rotten old spud, the Checkatrade Trophy?

How cheerless, and how hollow, that should feel: that people, having had their say so emphatically, figure that whatever opinion they give next would count for nothing with those making the decisions, provided there is enough money on the table to encourage the alternative.

The organisation running that wretched competition now has a split personality: one minute issuing press releases that trumpet the importance of crowds, then spinning like tops to promote something that turns folk away. In Carlisle's case, the latter has, in the last two seasons, produced half of the club's eight all-time smallest attendances.

They should be enough, miserable statistics like this. The business reasons for voting as the Blues did have long been explained. They are, no doubt, genuinely intentioned.

The public sense of 'why should we bother?', though, is a legacy of doing what the people desperately don't want you to do, and above all it returns to the old distinction between price and value, of managing to catch what is really important, and what will last, rather than whichever subsidised debacle is best for the bottom line this week.

Deals with the devil are sadly commonplace now. They engulf not just Carlisle but all professional clubs, at the expense of older values. The simplest values, which Shankly not just embraced but embodied.

"It's something you feel has been taken away from people then sold back to them - a lost paradise, in a way," said Irvine Welsh of the modern football "industry" with all its fake charms. Shankly's own voice, though, burned the strongest in Nature's Fire , as indeed it did here in Cumbria, generations back.

"My aim," he said, "was to bring the people close to the team, the club." How many of the game's leaders today, you sadly must ask, get out of bed with that as their driving thought?