Skip to content

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

May 16, 2012, 4:22 PM EST

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: Midweek Premier League TV schedule – Week 28

    Mar 2, 2015, 3:30 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every single PL game on Tuesday and Wednesday.

  2. WATCH: Bungled tackle in Bundesliga.2 turns into well-hit own goal

    Mar 2, 2015, 3:15 PM EST

    VfL Bochum v VfR Aalen - 2. Bundesliga Getty Images

    The 23-year-old German defender was attempting to win a loose ball, and instead struck a strong ball past his keeper.

  3. 2015 MLS season preview: Montreal Impact

    Mar 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    www.impactmontreal.com/ www.impactmontreal.com/

    After finishing with the fewest points in MLS last season, the only way to go is up for Montreal.

  4. 2015 MLS predictions: Cup winners? MVP? Lampard or Gerrard? Kaka or Giovinco?

    Mar 2, 2015, 2:20 PM EST

    2014 MLS Cup 2014 MLS Cup

    Why wait for the season that might not happen, when we’ve got all the answers for you right now?

  5. Liverpool’s Rodgers: Gerrard back “in very near future”, Ibe out for a while

    Mar 2, 2015, 2:14 PM EST

    Liverpool v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    The captain has been out since Feb. 10, while Ibe was hurt in last week’s Europa League dismissal by Besiktas.

  6. MLS Atlanta makes shrewd hire, bringing in Carlos Bocanegra as technical director

    Mar 2, 2015, 1:30 PM EST

    bocanegra Getty Images

    Bocanegra will work with MLS Atlanta president Darren Eales, who has worked with Premier League clubs West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur.

  7. BBC report: Sunderland’s Adam Johnson arrested on suspicion of sex with a 15-year-old girl

    Mar 2, 2015, 12:36 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    The Daily Mail had reported that three cops cars stormed a Premier Leaguer’s apartment earlier Monday to make the arrest.

  8. Is Rafael van der Vaert closing in on a move to MLS with Sporting KC?

    Mar 2, 2015, 12:22 PM EST

    FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-BAYERN MUNICH-HAMBURG Getty Images

    KC only has two Designated Players — Matt Besler and Zusi — and RVDV would be a nice match provided the money works for both parties.

  9. 2015 MLS season preview: Orlando City SC

    Mar 2, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    Orlando_City_2014.svg

    The Lions will roar into MLS after several successful seasons in the third-tier. How will Orlando fare in 2015?

  10. Premier League Playback: Why Manchester City are throwing away the title

    Mar 2, 2015, 10:06 AM EST

    PST’s Editor and Lead Writer take a look back at Week 27 in the Premier League.

  11. Police investigating post-League Cup racist behavior claims against Chelsea fans

    Mar 2, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

    Chelsea v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea fans on a train from London to Manchester have been accused of more racist behavior following the club’s 2-0 League Cup final win over Tottenham on Sunday.

  12. Mourinho: “Need to feed myself” with titles. Will Chelsea finish with one, two or three? (Vote now)

    Mar 2, 2015, 9:23 AM EST

    Britain Soccer League Cup Final AP

    Barring a catastrophic run of injuries, Chelsea looks set for a double, but the treble will take all of Mourinho’s managerial magic and likely some luck.

  13. 2015 MLS season preview: New York City FC

    Mar 2, 2015, 9:02 AM EST

    NYCFC_Badge

    Can NYCFC capture the hearts and minds of soccer fans in the Big Apple? Here’s a look at how things are shaping up for their inaugural season in MLS.

  14. WATCH: Lukas Podolski offers up one of the worst corner kicks in Inter Milan history

    Mar 2, 2015, 8:15 AM EST

    56e7def813d446eabef28b3cc190021d Getty Images

    It has not been a banner loan for the 6-foot Polish-German striker.

  15. Rumors know no window: Orlando using Kaka to lure Balotelli to MLS

    Mar 2, 2015, 7:48 AM EST

    Kaka Balotelli Getty Images

    The transfer gossip out of Spain is that Orlando City is trying to woo the agent for Mario Balotelli.

  16. VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week — Stars of Matchweek 27

    Mar 1, 2015, 11:10 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Find out who made the cut as one of the top performers of Round 27 in the Premier League.

  17. Thierry Henry on Chelsea: “They live to defend”

    Mar 1, 2015, 10:20 PM EST

    Soccer - Capital One Cup - Final - Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Wembley Stadium AP

    One of the greatest strikers of all-time says it all starts on defense, something Chelsea proved today in their Capital One triumph.

  18. VIDEO: Premier League Goals of the Week — Round 27

    Mar 1, 2015, 9:09 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    It’s a battle between Liverpool super-strikes for best goal of the week in the Premier League.

  19. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Draws for Real, Atletico; Salah shines for Fiorentina

    Mar 1, 2015, 8:15 PM EST

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    Catch up on all of Sunday’s action from Spain and Italy’s top flights.