Dunston-on-Tyne, Gateshead born centre half Bob Shanks began his football career with Lintz Colliery in 1928 and played for Marley Hill United in 1929, joining West Stanley in 1930 before entering senior football as an amateur on the books of Leeds United in May 1933. He never made a first team appearance at Elland Road and in May 1935 he joined Swindon Town, for whom he made his Football League debut against Newport County in December 1935.
After a single goal in 28 appearances he joined Crystal Palace in May 1937 but was mainly a fringe player between then and September 1939, when peacetime football was abandoned due to the outbreak of the Second World War, by when he had made 23 appearances for Palace. After the War he returned to Swindon Town in October 1946 and made one further League appearance for them in February 1947, already aged 35, in a 3-0 defeat at Bristol Rovers, before joining non league Gloucester City in the 1947 close season. He joined Tonbridge in 1948, Chippenham Town in 1949, Ilfracombe Town in 1950 and finished his career with British Railways AM Shop in 1951.