With a Carling Cup trophy in the cabinet, we take a look at what King Kenny has brought to the Kop.
On Sunday, Kenny Dalglish picked up his first trophy in his second reign as Liverpool manager as he oversaw the Reds’ first Wembley appearance since 1996 with a penalty shootout win over Cardiff City in a gruelling contest in the Carling Cup final. The question that hangs in the balance for the Kop legend, what has he actually achieved in the year or so in his second tenure?
Just from the post-match interviews at pitchside, you could see Kenny’s true delight as he was revelling in all of his glory. The small Scot’s smile was beamed from ear to ear, gazing into Anfield south crowd. Dalglish has brought Liverpool’s first trophy in six years, something which his predecessor Roy Hodgson never managed to achieve. Rafael Benitez had the most success at Anfield for a long time, bringing the FA Cup and Champions League home in successive years. Once Benitez’s success dried up, the 2007 Champions League defeat to AC Milan in Greece being a huge factor to Benitez’s anti-climax at the Kop.
This first trophy for Dalglish may lead Liverpool down a blind alley, lulling them into a false sense of success. Ever since King Kenny returned to the Kop dugout in the middle of last season – he has installed a belief around the Kop. It would be the equivalent of Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes taking over Manchester United. However, like if Giggs stepped up to manage United, there’s a possibility it might not work. Kenny returning has installed belief and confidence around the club albeit blind belief. Just look at Alan Shearer as he was appointed in 2009 as the Newcastle United manager. As a club legend, everyone simply assumed success will fall at the number 9’s feet. The same has happened with Dalglish. Yes, he has achieved a trophy and a gateway into European football for next season but what has he actually achieved in the year or so? His predecessor, Roy Hodgson orchestrated a Liverpool self-destruct but the Kop’s knight in shining armour soon pulled them from the ashes, finishing in the dizzying heights of seventh place. Whatever way you look at it, that’s not European football.
Whilst the likes of Manchester United were preparing for a big European final at Wembley, Kenny had already put the cogs of pre-seasons well into the works. What pre-season meant was the apparently new Liverpool tradition of panic buying being a heavy feature of what made Liverpool fans bizarrely optimistic. To add to the combined 57 million spent on strike pairing of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing were persuaded into the Kop for hefty amounts. None of these four players have cured Liverpool of its dwindling status though.
Andy Carroll’s 35 million price tag has evidently given him sleepless nights, leading to poor performances, coupled with less than 10 goals in a year’s work – not enough. Just when Luis Suarez was awaiting his coronation as the Kop king in waiting – his race row with Patrice Evra in October severely hampered his reputation in Britain and further intensifying the relations with Manchester but not in a favourable manner.
Downing and Henderson have largely under performed whilst Charlie Adam’s signing seemed as a player to plug the gaping hole that Steven Gerrard’s long-term injury had left, a hole that Adam hasn’t been able to cover. Just when it seemed that Adam was deemed surplus to requirements, Liverpool’s best player of the season so far – Lucas Leiva was struck down with injury for the rest of the season.
Let’s be honest here, Roy Hodgson, despite all of his achievements at Fulham and so far at West Brom, shouldn’t have been a hard act to follow. Hodgson brought anguish and peril to the Kop, not to be outdone by his owners who extended the Kopites’ misery. Dalglish hasn’t come close to the heights of past managers in Gerard Houiller and Rafael Benitez but admittedly Dalglish hasn’t had his own squad at his disposal, nor his players possess the qualities that his predecessors have had.
Benitez had the likes of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano along with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher in their prime, not to mention an in-form Fernando Torres. The midfield has proven to be a problem, a problem that Dalglish was clear to address in the summer transfer window. On paper, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing look like terrific acquisitions along with Suarez and even Andy Carroll given his previous form at Newcastle United.
Annoyingly for the Kop fans, Dalglish will have to perform another re-boot of the Liverpool side we all know and probably might not love. The return of Lucas will appear to be a new signing whilst Jordan Henderson will almost certainly adapt into the side. If Kenny stays well clear of injuries and that infamous suspension of Luis Suarez among others, then they can truly make a push for more silverware next season. Kenny should perhaps look to flog some dead wood with suspect number one being Carroll. Whether or not he is scared to not play Carroll thanks to his inflated price tag remains to be seen.
Alternatively, Dirk Kuyt has proven himself not only on Sunday but in the big FA Cup tie against Manchester United that he is a game changer. Figureheads like Gerrard and Carragher can be compared to the likes of Giggs and Scholes at Manchester United – the backbone of a squad which is increasingly looking towards youth nowadays. Kenny has endured some ups and downs as manager of Liverpool but the ups certainly seem on their way after a further injection of confidence to the players and fans has been administered thanks to that Carling Cup win. A win no matter how fine or bold has actually proved to be a saving grace for Kenny.
After all if anybody can mastermind a Kop resurrection it’s Kenny Dalglish, right?