Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughLong live the King? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Long live the King? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Long live the King?


Think about Kenny Dalglish for a moment. Older footballing traditionalists will associate the Glaswegian with a glittering playing career for Celtic and Liverpool, with Dalglish creating a wonderful legacy for both club and country.

He is Scotland’s most capped player, and joint-leading scorer – with 30 goals. The striker notched 112 and 118 goals for Celtic and Liverpool respectively, with his time at Anfield perhaps more memorable for the success the club was enjoying.

Seven league titles, three European Cups and five other domestic trophies were achieved while Dalglish played for the Reds. This was where he earned the title ‘King Kenny’. This was where a legendary reputation was made.

This very same reputation got him the player-manager job at Liverpool, and rightly so. In his six-year tenure, the Merseyside club won three league titles and two FA Cups before his resignation in 1991.

This reputation created a formidable Dalglish-shaped shadow over Anfield in the 2010-2011 season, rendering then manager Roy Hodgson’s reign at the Reds doomed from the beginning.

Personally requested to draw up a managerial shortlist, Dalglish instead put himself forward for the position. This was dismissed, and consequently, Hodgson’s appointment was met with derision from a large number of fans at Liverpool. 

With the team struggling, coupled with a crescendo of cries for the return of ‘King Kenny’, the fans got their wish, and the shortest managerial reign in Liverpool’s history was over.

After a brief stint as caretaker manager, Dalglish put pen to paper and signed a permanent three-year deal.

‘King Kenny’ had returned.  

However, as the old adage goes, it takes years to build a reputation, and seconds to destroy it.

Fast forward nine months later. A late Javier Hernandez header had just rescued a point for fierce rivals Manchester United at Anfield. What transpired during this game between United’s Patrice Evra and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez were to have seismic ramifications.

Suarez, one of Dalglish’s first signings, was later found guilty in a 115-page document detailing his racist abuse towards Evra, and was subsequently banned for eight matches for “damaging the image of English football around the world”.

End of story right? Wrong.

The handling of this punishment, was nothing short of pitiful. To this day,  a historical and world-renowned club’s image has been severely dented.

From a number of ill-advised statements from Liverpool and Suarez himself, protesting his innocence, to wearing t-shirts in support of the Uruguayan striker. If ever there was a promotion for racist behaviour, Liverpool Football Club provided it.

A strong personality in the form of Dalglish was surely required to end this saga and move on before further damage could be done.

Wrong again.

Move forward again three months. Manchester United and Liverpool clash at Old Trafford in what was expected to be a fiery encounter, as it should be with great rivals.

A sinister side issue was simmering, as both sets of players agonised all week whether to conform and shake hands, or prolong further this already overdrawn saga.

During the pre-match handshakes, Luis Suarez, filled with his and Liverpool’s delusional indignation, bypassed Patrice Evra – who had remarkably offered his hand, in the wake of racial abuse, and the subsequent castigation from certain circles for standing up to racism.

Cue chaos. Evra grabbed Suarez’s arm, only to have it pulled away again. United’s Rio Ferdinand withdrew his hand for Suarez, stating he had “lost all respect for the guy”. Game on.

Two goals from United’s Wayne Rooney and a Suarez consolation later and this ill-tempered, ugly game was over. On two occasions both sets of players had to be separated by police and stewards, a half-time melee had ensued in the tunnel.  

Both Evra and Suarez had hardly covered themselves in glory during the match, but it was evident to all who had caused these events.

All except Dalglish.

A long overdue condemnation of Suarez’s behaviour was not forthcoming. Instead, the Glaswegian played dumb, displaying the ignorance of a spoilt teenage girl on MTV’s ‘My Super Sweet 16’.

Gawking at Sky’s pitchside reporter Geoff Shreeves, Dalglish had the gall to suggest Shreeves was “bang out of order” to blame Suarez for anything that happened during the game, and moved further away from reality as he criticised the media’s scrutiny on the match. Dalglish was certainly walking alone.

Even more embarrassingly, Liverpool fans and figureheads alike still found the audacity to dare to suggest it was Evra who had not offered his hand. Former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp, in front of Sky cameras, even had the nerve to divert the issue and attack the Premier League for allowing the handshakes to go ahead.

Sensing their club in turmoil, Liverpool’s American owners – Fenway Sports Group – took the lead, and soon three statements followed from Liverpool, Dalglish and Suarez, all with the tone of a chastised child who had just been told off by their parents.

With a sense of order restored off the pitch, on the pitch, Liverpool and Dalglish have left a lot to be desired.

With over £110 million invested in the Dalglish era, the Reds are currently 31 points behind leaders Manchester United, on the back of mortifying defeats to relegation-threatened sides Queens Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic.

Admittedly, with an upcoming FA Cup semi-final to play and a Carling Cup triumph secured, it can be argued that Dalglish’s position is, for now, still tenable.  

However, a quick look at Swansea, a side only three points behind Liverpool with £100 million less spent, illustrates Dalglish’s profligacy in the transfer market.

Luis Suarez, on the pitch at least, has been a resounding success since his transfer from Ajax. Jose Enrique’s £6 million arrival from Newcastle has also brought solidity to Liverpool’s left-back position.

Charlie Adam, a £5 million signing from Blackpool, has also shown moments of quality in midfield, with six league assists, however Liverpool’s midfield too often looks bereft of creativity without their talisman, Steven Gerrard.

The same praise cannot be aimed in Stewart Downing’s direction for instance. A £20 million signing from Aston Villa, the winger has mustered a feeble two goals and one assist in all competitions this season – none of which have come in the Premier League.

Another glance over at Swansea will demonstrate Downing’s sheer ineptitude this season. Swans’ wingers, Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer, at a combined cost of just under £1 million, have provided a total of 11 goals and four assists in all competitions.

Yet Sinclair and Dyer will receive nowhere near as much consideration for a place at England’s Euro 2012 campaign as Downing inevitably will.   

But Downing is not the only Dalglish signing which has fallen so disappointingly flat. Jordan Henderson, another £20 million signing from Sunderland, a promising youngster earmarked for the future, has shown so few indications of his potential.

One league goal and one assist in 29 league appearances this season for the cost of £20 million is hardly shrewd, with the Sunderland-born midfielder highlighting a horrible tendency to look so anonymous on the pitch this season.

And now for the unavoidable look at Dalglish’s £35 million capture from Newcastle, Andy Carroll. A problem off the pitch, and an even bigger problem on the pitch.

In a system tailored entirely for Carroll at Newcastle, perhaps the striker felt a dubious sense of entitlement as he arrived at Liverpool. Too often this season Carroll’s attitude has been to expect perfect service, rather than work for the team, and indeed fashion himself goalscoring opportunities.

His patented left foot, a source of much joy at Newcastle, has now been rendered pointless, with his team-mates not helping matters by lobbing continual balls to utilise his height and aerial ability.

The initial problem with this is apparent. Even more so when Carroll’s attitude has been to criticise the provider if the ball has not landed perfectly on his head. Three goals and one assist in 29 league appearances tells its own story.

So that’s over £110 million spent, with little chance of a Champions League place next season. Is Dalglish really the right man to take Liverpool forward?

Perhaps in the short-term, but a vibrant, younger manager with long-term ambitions would be more suited to bring about change, or the Reds face a risk of reduced status, with Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and even Newcastle in front of them at the moment. Can they guarantee players Champions League football every season?

With an FA Cup triumph, it may be argued that two trophies in a season can be considered a success, and rightly so. But Liverpool are in danger of slipping so far down the pecking order in English football, there may be no chance of recovery.

And with Dalglish at the helm, the battered image of Liverpool Football Club will take some salvaging. Even as recently as last weekend’s defeat to Wigan, a bitter Dalglish looked to blame just about everything but himself and his players – citing tiredness, a “debatable” schedule, injuries, and a need for a stronger squad.

But will even more signings be sanctioned by Liverpool’s owners under Dalglish? Or has his reputation taken him as far as it can?

Only time will tell.

Alex Smith

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