Back in July 2010, Liverpool FC were in a state of turmoil as their UEFA Champions League winning manager Rafael Benitez had been dismissed, or in our PC world “left by mutual consent”, for a continuing run of poor results and ever increasing calls from fans for a change, after having spent close to $300m on new players. On the list of possible replacements were Fulham manager Roy Hodgson and former Anfield icon Kenny Dalglish, who as a player was idolized by the Kop and who as a manager had produced successful League winning sides in the late-80′s. After a protracted period of evaluation, the Liverpool board finally settled on Hodgson as it’s new leader leaving Dalglish lingering out in their Academy Centre. How prophetic that turn of events proved to be just 20 months later.
The history books tell us that Hodgson’s reign bordered on the disastrous as Liverpool fans never seemed to warm to the man from London whose worldwide resume included managerial jobs at Inter Milan, and also with the Finnish and Swiss national teams. The fact that Dalglish had publicly derided the initial shortlist of managers drawn up to replace Benitez, had placed Hodgson in an almost impossible position and so it proved only 6 months later when Hodgson was dismissed after a string of indifferent performances and an average League position. I personally recall my son’s description of his visit to Anfield in November of that year for the Aston Villa game and his feeling that Liverpool fans just never gave “Woy” a fair shot although it did seem to him that playing standards had dropped significantly. So once again, Dalglish threw his hat in the ring for the manager’s seat and the Liverpool hierarchy finally took the bait and King Kenny’s return was complete.
You may detect a certain amount of cynicism in that last sentence and you would be correct as I have never been a fan of sports figures, or any athletes for that matter, coming back from lengthy spells of retirement and expecting to be successful, unless you happen to be Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali. The sport of professional soccer is so dynamic in nature that previous successes in no way guarantee present or future repeats, and so it has proved at Anfield. Dalglish’s return transformed many Liverpool fans from knowledgeable, passionate students of the game into blind, senseless, zombies who drool all over themselves at the first hint of a wave from their hero in the dugout. Liverpool’s performances under Dalglish have been just as inconsistent as they were under Hodgson as their current League position of 7th place clearly shows. Incoming transfers have been for the most part poor to say the least with only Luis Suarez showing any Premier League class at all. Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam have been average along with Jordan Henderson and need we even mention Andy Carroll’s pathetic demise, such is an under performing pool of talent for $175m outlay.
Liverpool have achieved a small measure of success this season having won the League Cup trophy several weeks ago in a Wembley extra time thriller over Cardiff City and still might have success in the FA Cup, but what is worrying for me, is Dalglish’s apparent disregard for any criticism or anti-Liverpool sentiment that may or may not have a base in some common sense. His blatantly ignorant attitude over the Patrice Evra/Luis Suarez racial issue was an embarrassment to the club and the sport, resulting in an even more humiliating public apology from Dalglish and the club about their handling of the whole incident following some serious words from owner John Henry. Following on from this, we had his similarly laughable comments last week that “seasons and success are measured not only by trophies but by other things such as kit deals”. It makes you wonder what he is thinking sometimes and the headline on ESPN UK that “we all need an intelligence check and that League position is not the full story” makes the educated observer think in some way he is deluded. Whilst his opinion of success might be true this year, as any trophy would be an improvement, those comments most probably might be written on his pink slip in a season or two down the road following no League or Champions League success.
I refer back to the comparison with the Hodgson tenure and I have to say I find little improvement. Liverpool are just as inconsistent as ever and will be lucky to finish any higher than 6th place in the League. They struggle to compete long term with the “Big 4″ of which they should be a part, and still rely too heavily on captain Steven Gerrard without ever having replaced Xabi Alonso. Dalglish continues to live in a dream world of previous glory and achievement as he drags along the club’s supporters like the Pied Piper of Hamlin..
I wonder how long before the old, tired song loses it’s appeal.