by Liam McConville
After two days of limbo, Liverpool Chairman Tom Werner announced yesterday that Kenny Dalglish would not continue as manager. It is a decision likely to split Liverpool fans down the middle with some seeing the King as untouchable whilst others, like the owners, feeling that a change was necessary. To judge the second coming of a man who will forever be a legend at Anfield it is worth looking at where Liverpool were when his reign began.
A tumultuous period in the club’s history was finally coming to a close after Tom Hicks and George Gillett had dragged the club through the gutter and almost administration. Roy Hodgson had overseen a disastrous run which at one point saw the Merseyside outfit floundering in the relegation zone. With the fans calling for the return of Dalglish, FSG duly obliged with the wily Scot returning to the hot seat with the club 12th in the table. He quickly installed Steve Clarke as his assistant and the duo soon oversaw a change in fortunes.
Liverpool promptly exited the FA Cup at Old Trafford after some questionable refereeing decisions but the league form soon saw dramatic improvement. Then came one of the most talked about transfer deadline days in recent memory that would have major implications across the whole of the Premier League. Fernando Torres rocked Anfield with his £50million move to rivals Chelsea. Dalglish responded by confirming the deal to sign long-term target Luis Suarez. He then used the rest of the money from the Torres deal to break the club transfer record to bring Andy Carroll to Merseyside for £35million.
After duly dispatching Chelsea on Torres’ debut, Liverpool continued to soar up the table with a number of impressive results most notably home wins against both Manchester clubs. The win over City saw Carroll net his first goals at Anfield. This run of form culminated in Liverpool finishing 6th, a remarkable recovery considering the predicament they were in. With the stabilising act complete, Dalglish was given the job permanently with hopes high for the new season with some overly optimistic fans suggesting that a title challenge could be possible.
A busy summer ensued with Dalglish and now departed director of football Damien Comolli bringing in a number of players. Ultimately it is these signings that have cost both men their job as they consistently failed to perform. Jose Enrique has been solid although his performances have tailed off somewhat. Craig Bellamy has been a brilliant bargain buy providing some electrifying performances since his free transfer from Manchester City.
Jordan Henderson has shown his potential in small patches however his price tag seems to be weighing him down; he should be a good player for Liverpool in the future. Charlie Adam is another who has had a promising start but badly struggled in the second half of the season with the former Blackpool man looking out of his depths at times. Finally there’s Stewart Downing but let’s face it the less said about him the better.
The Reds started the season well with the objective of a top four finish looking very possible. However inconsistency at home looked to be a problem that Liverpool would not overcome with only six league wins at Anfield all season. A comfortable run into the Carling Cup culminated in an impressive win over Manchester City that saw Liverpool return to Wembley after an absence of sixteen years. The Red Devils were dumped out of the FA Cup as the Reds continued their great cup form just as their league form took an alarming slide.
A six year trophy drought was ended with a nervy win over Championship outfit Cardiff at Wembley with Dalglish seeing the Carling Cup as a springboard to greater things. League defeats against the likes of Wigan and Q.P.R. saw any hopes of a top four finish completely evaporate with the threat of dropping into the bottom half a serious possibility. However the cup run continued as supporters enjoyed another great day out with a semi-final win over local rivals Everton.
This meant a showdown with the much improved Chelsea. Dalglish’s charges initially struggled with them falling two goals behind. However the introduction of the much maligned Carroll almost saw a dramatic turnaround with Liverpool’s number nine scoring once and being mere millimetres away from an equaliser, the Blues ultimately hung on to continue their own love affair with the cup. With hopes of a cup double ended, attention moved back to the league where Liverpool finished 8th, a disappointing campaign ending in defeat to Swansea.
With that Dalglish was removed from his position, his first full season back at the helm deemed not good enough by the ambitious new owners. For me Dalglish’s cup exploits gave him the right for at least another season and another crack to bring further success to the club that the man deeply loves. Perhaps the King has become a victim of the short term mind-set of modern football; remember it took Alex Ferguson four years to win his first trophy at Old Trafford.
Before the dust has even settled on this sacking who will replace Dalglish is something which will cause great debate. The owners want an ambitious young man but surely the likes of Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers are not experienced enough to take on such a big job. There are calls for the return of Champions League winning boss Rafael Benitez with the Spaniard feeling that he has unfinished business at the club.
Whoever FSG choose it is important that Dalglish knows his efforts are appreciated, he put the pride back into the club and ended a trophy drought that was far too long for a club of Liverpool’s size. For all his achievements as a player and manager Dalglish will always be a legend and he has in no way diminished his legacy during his second stint. Now it’s over to Werner and John Henry to make sure they appoint the right man or risk further fury from fans. No pressure then.