Skip to content

Liverpool parts with Dalglish: The unlikely, 17-month affirmation of King Kenny

May 16, 2012, 4:22 PM EDT

Liverpool 's Scottish manager Kenny Dalg Getty Images

Ultimately, Kenny Dalglish’s image will be untarnished by his Liverpool return, though there were enough high profile setbacks to justify a minor addendum to his legacy. The team owners explicitly targeted Champions League, a goal few though unreasonable. Some even picked Liverpool to compete for the title, but they didn’t. They never even pushed for top four. Along the way, they more-readily wrapping themselves in Suárez-driven race controversy than inspiring soccer. Perhaps if some of the players had stepped up, the potholes wouldn’t have defined a trophy-winning season; then again, you can’t separate the manager from that.

Who in Liverpool’s squad exceeded expectations this season? It’s a great way to measure managerial quality, yet man-for-man, when you look at this team and ask “Did Kenny get the most out of him”, the answer is always no. Some of the players most-readily associated with Dalglish’s approval (Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam) proved to be the biggest disappointments.

Tactically reactive, unable to generate goals, Liverpool never looked the part of a team that spent over $190 million last summer. Perhaps most embarrassingly, the new-look Reds – looking all Moneyball-y amid their new management team and the financial backing that came with it – finished behind cross-towners Everton, a team who’s losing talent (Mikel Arteta) as fast as they can acquire it (Nikica Jelavic). The rivalry on Mersey aside, the Toffees are a benchmark: If you’re an affluent club and can’t eclipse them, you’re doing something wrong.

And Liverpool is clearly doing something wrong, though not all of that can conclusively be laid at Dalglish’s. We don’t exactly know what the dynamic between him and Damien Camolli (now-departed) was. Still, we know Dalglish had final approval on all moves, and as the new faces started to arrival at Anfield this summer, the Reds started to look like a team that was being built in some mid-90s, early 2000s image was assumed Dalglish retained from his last spell in the Premier League.

Which is exactly how they played. In today’s league, there’s an urgency around the top of the table that’s difficult to describe in last century’s terms. Liverpool never embraced that urgency. They would be their plucky best against the league’s top sides while playing miserably against the rest. It was a Europe-first attitude from a club that wasn’t in Europe and has lost the right to think like Real and Milan.

For the third straight year, Liverpool will be out of Champions League, having fallen to their worst finish since 1993-94. However, they are still one of the world’s most prestigious clubs, playing into a question’s easy to answer: Is Dalglish the best manager Liverpool could get? Certainly not.

But the whole discussion is a bit unfair to Dalglish. I feel it in my chest – the dull, lingering pain of guilt I get with I disrespect somebody. The man was asked by ownership to come in and right the ship after Roy Hodgson’s flat start. He clearly energized the squad in the winter of 2011.

But LFC should have left it at that. They should have taken the team’s minor resurgence and used it as reason to draw a name coach. Carlo Ancelotti? Like a glove. Still, those kind of choices are often too much to make when talking about a club icon.

John W. Henry’s thoughts reflect this.

“Kenny will always be more than a championship winning manager, more than a championship winning star player. He is in many ways the heart and soul of the club. He personifies everything that is good about Liverpool Football Club. He has always put the club and its supporters first. Kenny will always be a part of the family at Anfield.”

Dalglish has responded with similar magnanimity.

“While I am obviously disappointed to be leaving the football club, I can say that the matter has been handled by the owners and all concerned in an honorable, respectful and dignified way and reflects on the quality of the people involved and their continued desire to move the football club forward in the same way as when they arrived here.”

As Liverpool and Dalglish’s statements reflect, King Kenny has not be dethroned. If anything, he can sit more firmly on it. In the year before his appointment, there are been rumors of his angling to be the man that replaced Rafa Benítez prior to Hodgson’s appointment. These murmurs have long faded, and as Warner affirmed today, Dalglish was more servant than aspirant. If the Kop needed one thing in the wake of Hicks-Gillett, it was figurehead they knew would match their devotion to LFC.

Nobody’s going to begrudge him this year’s disappointing finish. His presence (along with delivering the League Cup) gave supporters a reason to love a club that, months before his arrival, as a signature away from bankruptcy. Is one season’s disappointment worth it, if you’re also putting one of club’s most depressing eras in the distant past? Definitely. Dalglish has provide hope, albiet unrequited.

Who’s next for Liverpool? Well, that’s kind of the point: Almost anybody. Papers in England have copied-and-pasted the Aston Villa candidate list into their Liverpool columns, linking Roberto Martínez, Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers. That seems more London’s wishlist than Anfield’s.

For John W. Henry and Tom Warner, this is their first major coaching search, one that will be approached with the same philosophies that underscore all of their sports ventures. Could that lead to a list of Fleet Street favorites? Perhaps. Could that also lead to Marcelo Bielsa, Luciano Spalletti, Jurgen Klopp and Frank de Boer? We’re all just guessing.

Latest Posts
  1. WATCH: Ale Bedoya’s half-volley part of Nantes blowout of Valenciennes

    Apr 20, 2014, 6:41 PM EDT

    Alejandro Bedoya AP

    Bedoya’s fifth Ligue 1 goal was part of a 6-2 win.

  2. Spain roundup: Atletico now three wins away, but Barcelona keeps pace

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi, Gorka Iraizoz AP

    Atletico Madrid is now 3 wins away from its first La Liga title since 1996, while Barcelona and Real Madrid can only hope for big mistakes

  3. Portland’s Porter praises form, but captain Johnson just wants wins

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    MLS Real Salt Lake Timbers AP

    The Timbers fell to 0-3 on the road this season with Saturday’s 1-0 loss, complicating an already head-scratching start to the year that has Portland in second-to-last place out West at 0W-3L-4T.

  4. Americans Abroad Review: Bedoya buries one, Boyd bags brace

    Apr 20, 2014, 4:21 PM EDT

    Yevhen Khacheridi, Terrence Boyd AP

    How many Americans could find themselves in the UEFA Champions League next season?

  5. WATCH: Arlo White, Graeme Le Saux talk Everton and Manchester United

    Apr 20, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT

    Romelu Lukaku, Alexander Buttner AP

    Arlo White and Graeme Le Saux break down how having a clear identity continues to push Everton above teams while Manchester United’s lack of an identity continues to hurt the team.

  6. Despite season’s disappointing end, Blanc close to PSG extension

    Apr 20, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Blanc Getty Images

    With domestic success and European disappointment, Paris Saint-Germain has decided to extend Blanc’s contract and the manager says it will be finalized in the coming days.

  7. Roberto Martinez revels in Everton’s humbling of Manchester United

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    After Toffees do the double over United, Martinez praises Moyes work and his own side:

  8. Video: Liverpool’s title charge headed by selfless teamwork

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    SuarezSterling

    Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling combined for Liverpool’s second goal, and video showed it wasn’t a fluke they knew exactly where their teammate was going to be.

  9. David Moyes vilified on return to Everton, as Manchester United nightmare continues

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Everton v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Everton’s old boss the villain on return to Goodison, as pastures new prove to be a nightmare:

  10. Berbatov scores a very Berbatov goal to send Monaco to the Champions League

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    Berbatov Getty Images

    With the cheekiest of chips, Dimitar Berbatov sent Monaco to the Champions League with his winner against Nice.

  11. Villa owner Lerner releases head-scratching statement

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT

    Lerner Getty Images

    Randy Lerner released a pretty useless statement on the Villa website today, refusing to rule out a sale of the club which has been reported in recent days.

  12. Everton 2-0 Manchester United: Toffees rampant in miserable return for Moyes

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT

    Baines gave Everton perfect balance, as Martinez's side impressed once again. AP

    Nightmare return for Moyes, as Everton do double over United for first time since 1970:

  13. Video: Sunil Gulati believes US Soccer is headed in right direction

    Apr 20, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT

    Gulati Getty Images

    The US Soccer Federation president talks USWNT coaching search, men’s World Cup goals, and MLS growth with NBC’s John Strong.

  14. Miami mayor hits back at Beckham stadium critics

    Apr 20, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Gimenez AP

    With the Miami port vehemently against the new stadium deal, Miami’s mayor comes to Beckham’s side.

  15. Hull City 0-3 Arsenal: Full-strength lineup sees Gunners cruise

    Apr 20, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT

    Arsenal

    Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil were back in the starting lineup and Arsenal looked like a rejuvenated bunch.

  16. Watch Live: Everton vs Manchester United (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT

    Moyes Getty Images

    David Moyes returns to his old home as Everton continues their fight for a Champions League place.

  17. Ramsey marks Gunners return with Hull City opener

    Apr 20, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT

    Ramsey Getty Images

    It’s been nearly five months since his last goal, but Aaron Ramsey picked up where he left off to give Arsenal the lead at KC.

  18. Norwich City 2-3 Liverpool: Sterling, Reds with one hand on the title

    Apr 20, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT

    Sterling Getty Images

    Raheem Sterling shined and they held off a charging Norwich at the end to go five points clear at the top.

  19. Watch Live: Hull City vs Arsenal (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 20, 2014, 8:35 AM EDT

    Ozil AP

    Mesut Ozil returns for Arsenal after a 6-week absence, can he lead Arsenal’s charge for the top four?

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title