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. Sunday Transfer Rumor Roundup: Draxler to Wolfsburg, Wanyama to leave Saints

    Aug 30, 2015, 11:48 AM EDT

    Draxler Getty Images

    Juventus was in for the Schalke winger, but Wolfsburg now need a replacement for Kevin de Bruyne.

  2. Manchester City officially signs Kevin de Bruyne

    Aug 30, 2015, 11:12 AM EDT

    DeBruyne Getty Images

    Wolfsburg tried its darndest, but Kevin de Bruyne still decided to leave in favor of a crowded Manchester City squad.

  3. Watch Live: Swansea City vs Manchester United (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptfly2fjmgq3njvimzkxyze4mmmxowe2zwziyzg0mwvi AP

    Manchester United has started the season strong, but they take on a team that beat them twice last season.

  4. Southampton 3-0 Norwich City: Saints swarm 10-man Norwich for season’s first win

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:22 AM EDT

    Pelle Getty Images

    Graziano Pelle grabbed the opener and Dusan Tadic finished it off with a brace as Southampton flew to its first win of the year.

  5. Victor Valdes to trudge on at Manchester United after Besiktas move falls apart

    Aug 30, 2015, 9:29 AM EDT

    Valdes Getty Images

    Could Valdes be forced to stay with Manchester United despite his obvious wish to leave?

  6. Australian striker scores eight goals in A-League preseason match

    Aug 30, 2015, 8:46 AM EDT

    Maclaren Getty Images

    Oh the season hasn’t started yet? Jamie Maclaren wasn’t aware.

  7. Watch Live: Southampton vs Norwich City (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Aug 30, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT

    Koeman Getty Images

    Ronald Koeman must pick up a win fast or risk seeing Southampton in a serious early season hole.

  8. Montreal’s Frank Klopas becomes first MLS head coach fired this season

    Aug 30, 2015, 7:30 AM EDT

    Klopas Getty Images

    A single coach had yet to be fired as we approach the start of September, but that changed as Montreal made a change.

  9. MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 2-0 Real Salt Lake (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 11:37 PM EDT

    Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas

    The playoffs look a might big ask of RSL, as they sit rock bottom, 10th place, in the Western Conference.

  10. MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 2-1 Sporting Kansas City (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 11:08 PM EDT

    Seth Sinovic, Sporting KC & Vicente Sanchez, Colorado Rapids Seth Sinovic, Sporting KC & Vicente Sanchez, Colorado Rapids

    Three losses in a row for Sporting KC, and the team with the highest points-per-game total is slipping in the West.

  11. Premier League Sunday preview: Man United looking for revenge vs. Swansea City

    Aug 29, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT

    Wayne Rooney, Manchester United FC Getty Images

    Man United fell twice at the hand of Swansea City in 2014-15. On Sunday, Louis van Gaal takes his crack at revenge.

  12. MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 2-1 Montreal Impact (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 6:34 PM EDT

    Michael Bradley, Toronto FC Michael Bradley, Toronto FC

    Michael Bradley powered TFC to a 2-1 victory in the 401 Derby, and essentially locked up a playoff place in doing so.

  13. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 1-2 Columbus Crew SC (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Mix Diskerud, New York City FC Mix Diskerud, New York City FC

    NYCFCs struggles continued on Saturday, as they lost to a very poor road team in Columbus Crew SC.

  14. VIDEO: Which of James Rodriguez’s stunning goals is better? Is it the free kick? Bicycle kick?

    Aug 29, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT

    James Rodriguez, Real Madrid CF Getty Images

    James Rodriguez scored two filthy goals on Saturday. We need your help deciding which one was more impressive.

  15. Bundesliga wrap: Aussie magic helps Ingolstadt shock Augsburg (video); Bayern, Mainz roll

    Aug 29, 2015, 4:55 PM EDT

    Bayern's Arjen Robben, center, celebrates with teammates Thomas Mueller, left, and Arturo Vidal after scoring  his side's third goal from the penalty spot during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen 04 in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader) AP

    Bayern Munich continued its strong start to the Bundesliga campaign, and will be the only team to boast a 3-0 record unless BVB beats Hertha Berlin on Sunday.

  16. Pochettino: Tottenham “much better than Everton,” but nothing to show for it is frustrating

    Aug 29, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur FC Getty Images

    Being the “better” side is a subjective thing, of course, especially when you fail to win.

  17. Premier League roundup: Chelsea, Liverpool suffer stunning home defeats

    Aug 29, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Catch up on all the action from eight games on Saturday, as there were plenty of shocks in the PL.

  18. Arsene Wenger: It was difficult playing up a man, but “vital for Arsenal to win today”

    Aug 29, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC Getty Images

    Arsene Wenger isn’t panicking over another close call against Newcastle United. The way he sees it, they did well to win 1-0 on an own goal.

  19. Tim Howard ready for USMNT return, as heroics rescue Everton

    Aug 29, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    Tim Howard Tim Howard

    With Howard back in a U.S. jersey next week, he put in a Man of the Match display to grab Everton a point at Spurs.

  20. Three things we learned from Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton

    Aug 29, 2015, 2:35 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Here’s three things we learned from the Lane.

Featured video

Premier League, Week 3 review