Kenny Dalglish's first stint in the red half of Merseyside is almost unparallelled. What will be the legacy of his most recent reign though?
Kenny Dalglish. King of the Kop. After his first stint with the Merseyside club Dalglish left a legacy of six First Division titles and three European Cups as player while as manager Liverpool scooped three more titles and two FA Cups. The legacy of Dalglish and the success of his 1980’s sides has cast a significant shadow over Anfied ever since. Fast forward thirty years and Liverpool are without a Premier League championship and Dalglish has been and gone again.
Eight place. Eighth place in the league and runners up in the FA Cup, Liverpool supporters can point only to their second rate Cup victory as evidence of Dalglish’s second coming at the club. Brought back to the club by Rafa Benitez, Dalglish soon found himself in the hotseat once again after the clubs disastrous spell under Roy Hodgson. The takeover by American giants Fensway Sports Group and the quick turnaround the relegation threatened club experienced under ‘the King’ fostered a sense of optimism on Merseyside early on in his tenure. But after a bright start, Dalglish was unable to replicate the success of his first term and was swiftly shown the door by the American owners. Now that it’s all over how will history remember Kenny Dalglish?
Things started to go wrong for Dalglish late January 2011. After Fernando Torres’ head was turned by the alluring advances of Chelsea and a British transfer record fee of £50 million was secured the King was handed responsibility and free reign to acquire a strikeforce capable of replicating El Nino’s goalscoring ability. Quite predictably Dalglish went back to what he knew, the English staple ‘big man little man’ pairing signing Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Sadly for Dalglish the modern game has moved on and there is a very good reason that the big clubs don’t play the way they did 30 years ago. The key here is that rather than bank the £50 million FSG allowed Dalglish to spend it and coughed up some more cash. While Suarez has entertained fans with his ability on the ball his inability to score goals and Carroll’s frustrating time at the club continue to hamper the clubs progress.
If Carroll and Suarez were bad business worse was to come in the form of big money deals for Jordan Henderson and Stuart Downing. At £20 million pounds a pop for the British pair, it’s hard to fathom just how bad a bit of business that is. To put it in perspective when signing Downing Juan Mata was available for £17 million. The argument at the time mirrors that of the Carroll/Suarez pairing in that Liverpool needed a touchline hugging winger with the ability to drop long balls on Carroll’s head all day. Again we see Dalglish struggling to let go of the past. Sadly for him the days of 4-4-2 and route one football have passed success by. Jordan Henderson will probably be a good player one day but he is worth closer to half of what Dalglish stumped up for him. Young English midfielder Jack Rodwell went to Manchester City for £14 million this season which just about says it all Henderson. More to the point why was the Brit signed? Henderson is not the player to pick a mediocre Liverpool outfit by the scruff of the neck and drag it up the table and into Champions League spots. So basically he’s not the player they need to get to where they want to go and if they ever get there he’ll only be a squad player anyway. After £60 million was burnt six months earlier Dalglish squandered a further war chest in the vicinity of £60 million once again. This sort of support from the new owners started to really excite Liverpool fans, they started to think ‘how good’s this, we’re out buying £20 and £30 million players’ when history shows they were receiving players worth only a fraction of the fees they were handing out.
Dalglish’s second term was ended at the close of the 2011/12 season after a Premier League season to match the transfer wheeling and dealings. Just like his first stint at the club Dalglish’s shadow is likely to hang over the famous club for quite some time. FSG are seemingly no longer willing to support managers at Liverpool with an open cheque book. The manner in which Dalglish ineptly squandered FSG’s millions is going to be felt at Anfield for quite some time it seems. Just ask Brendan Rodgers. Not only did Rodgers inherit a squad built to play an inferior system but he has had to scrape each and every dollar to make an impact in the transfer market. The month long pursuit of Clint Dempsey reportedly failed because FSG and Liverpool were unable or unwilling to meet the lowly £6 million valuation of the 17 goal star from last season. Brendan Rodgers was stopped from addressing his squads most glaring weakness, goals, and unable to secure a deal for his number one summer target.
Moving forward this will be the legacy of Kenny Dalglish. Just like the King’s first departure from the club it seems Liverpool will struggle to scale the heights of Dalglish’s reign. The saddest thing for Liverpool fans is that second time around that’s eighth place. Eighth place in the league, runners up in the FA Cup and a second rate Cup victory. With his legacy looming large over Anfield once again Brendan Rodgers would do well to match the uninspiring feats of the King’s Last Reign.