Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughWrong to judge Dalglish over just the Suarez controversy - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Wrong to judge Dalglish over just the Suarez controversy - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Wrong to judge Dalglish over just the Suarez controversy

Last weekend marked the FA Cup third round, approaching exactly a year ago since Kenny Dalglish returned to be manager of Liverpool and it has been far more eventful than he could have wished for. It had been 17 years since Dalglish, held in such high esteem around Anfield, had given priority to his personal well-being in order to walk away from the club that had given him so much. His stay in the game lasted another seven years before he ended a short stint with Celtic rather bitterly, only for a decade later, to be re-united with Liverpool in the most unceremonious of returns.

The situation under Roy Hodgson, with the club lying 12th in the league, their worst start for 57 years, and an embarrassing league cup exit to fourth tier opposition, had reached near-crisis enough to mitigate his departure by mutual consent and in stepped the legend of Dalglish on an interim basis, yet even though his immediate remit promised a troublesome task, his wildest dreams would not have contained the 12 months that have laid in wait.

Beset by a run of poor results and disruption at boardroom level centring around the purchase of the club by the NESV group, things did not start easy for Dalglish, losing to Manchester United in the FA Cup and then to Blackpool upon his return to the Premier League. Things did improve dramatically on the pitch though as he led his team to a sixth place finish, only losing five of the eighteen games that fell under his stewardship as they finished behind only Chelsea and Manchester United, who they both beat with superb performances under Dalglish, in the post- New Year form table. This convinced owner John Henry to hand the Scot a three year permanent contract, he was back at Liverpool for the foreseeable future.

Yet off the field, it has never been quite as straight-forward for Dalglish since his return. January saw the acrimonious departure of Fernando Torres to Chelsea as he became disillusioned with life at Anfield, whilst in came Newcastle’s rough-diamond Andy Carroll, the perceived perfect replacement for £35 million. 11 goals in 20 games was the reasoning behind a sensational move to Merseyside and Dalglish’s faith has been tested with every passing week since as the goals have slightly harder to come by; 4 from 22 is not the best return for such a luminous price tag and this has been the topic of questioning for the Liverpool manager with every unconvincing performance from his striker. Furthermore, there is slight discontent at the size of fees handed to clubs in the summer for players who have not quite returned what has been suggested. Stewart Downing’s £20 million move from Aston Villa has returned just one goal and two assists while £15 million Jordan Henderson endured a slow start to his Anfield career. Such accusations of over spending has come with Liverpool in the same sixth spot, eight points behind third placed Spurs, as they finished last year, suggesting the progress that their summer spending promised, which lay just short of £60 million, hasn’t quite occurred.

However, rumblings over Dalglish’s durability at the helm and credibility as a long-term choice in contrast to a short-term stabilising option has been irrelevant compared to the un-ignorable controversy surrounding that of his other January signing; that has put a bitter crescendo to his return to management. Of course, we are speaking here of Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan attacker whose misguided antics have overshadowed any positive effect his outrageous skill and flair talent have threatened to imprint on this league. The subject of an investigation into alleged racial abuse aimed at Patrice Evra in Manchester United’s visit to Anfield in October, clouds started to gather over him, getting gradually darker in the form of a single match ban for a one fingered salute given so compassionately to the fans of Fulham.

In a metaphorical sense, the clouds had well and truly opened upon news that Suarez had indeed been found guilty of the FA’s investigations and that an eight game ban would ensue as the English footballing authorities sought a totalitarian stance upon any hint of racist abuse that could be creeping back into the English game. This sparked debate into what Suarez had actually said, a cultural term that had been taken out of context so far that it was impossible to comprehend it being any kind of reflection that the player was a racist. This of course, was all missing the point. Liverpool released a dramatic statement in defence of their player on the night news of the ban filtered through, described by Dalglish as “fabulous”,  which conveniently swerved any acceptance that Evra may have been offended by whatever the Uruguayan had said, therefore making it offensive by its very nature. Not content with this, the club went on to make catastrophic errors regarding the whole episode, t-shirts with “Suarez 7” emblazoned across them worn at Wigan to indicate togetherness in the squad of their support for the striker backfired rather magnificently. There appeared to be no acceptance, especially from their universally highly-reputed manager, that their talisman may have done wrong.

Dalglish has been criticised for his handling of the whole affair, a sequence of mis-handled diplomacy that reached a summit in his questioning after the loss to Manchester City last Tuesday. He took the investigation apart, almost belittling any seriousness that has come from the case in accusing the FA’s hard-line of yearning just to make an example of his Uruguayan striker. It was clear that the Scot had gone overboard on his wish to batten down the hatches of his Anfield office, to enclose his team together against the vultures attempting to bring the walls down, the siege mentality haven that Ferguson is a master of. Of course, Dalglish was given free-reign to do this, worryingly there was no intervention from John Henry or any member of Fenway, leaving the manager very much alone to do nothing else but “support his player and a dressing room friend” as he put it. The game has changed immensely in the period that covered his self-imposed break and it has taken such a sensitive case, sadly, to raise awareness of the manager’s archaic failings.

It was in the realms of irony that the fates conspired on Sunday evening to bring the two clubs together again at Anfield for the FA Cup fourth round, but this gives the two clubs the perfect opportunity to banish the whole saga to the history books and move on. Both clubs now have the opportunity to do duel, not by semantics or linguistic nuance, but by sport and Kenny Dalglish will do well to circle this date in his diary. He may have lost his way off the field, but his priority, may we remember, is on it and the tie gives him the perfect opportunity to prove he is still to be judged on what he can organise his team to do on the pitch , not what he says or does off of it.

Adam Gray @AdamGray1250

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