Kenny Dalglish has been given the boot by the owners of Liverpool FC. It was a long time coming. Ronnie Whelan who vociferously lobbied to get rid of Rafa Benitez two years ago and who played alongside Dalglish in the good Liverpool sides of the 1980s, was a few evenings back predicting that his former teammate would stay in place and start the new season as boss. He added however that Dalglish knew himself that he had to deliver if he was to have a realistic chance of being there at the season’s end.
The owners were not prepared to wait that long. Hopeless, humiliating performances week in week out finally got to them (no doubt the potential threat to revenue was not absent from considerations). Losing home fixtures to forgettable names like Wigan and Fulham simply do not compute. Equally incomprehensible have been Dalglish’s transfer forays. £110 million spent on seven players was revenue down the drain as he threw good money after bad. Only one of the imports, Luiz Suarez, consistently delivered. The talent in Andy Carroll flickered too late. As for the rest, they never made it out of the packaging they arrived in.
Watching the spirit of clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City must have confirmed for the owners that the wrong man was in charge. Sometimes a club has it in depth but has the wrong man on top drilling for it. Andreas Villa Boas at Chelsea was a case in point. Enter Di Matteo and the sluggishness dissipates as a new zest forces its way through and the team starts playing.
Dalglish’s 18 month reign at the club saw it go from bad to worse. The team’s lowest points rating since the 1950s confirms it is the worst Anfield side in six decades. Having lost 14 games in the championship it finished 8th, an incredible 37 points off champions Manchester City. A useless outcome but fitting for a useless team.
In the wake of his departure Dalglish spoke of feeling:
proud that we delivered the club's first trophy in six years winning the Carling Cup and came close to a second trophy in the FA Cup final. Of course I am disappointed with results in the league, but I would not have swapped the Carling Cup win for anything as I know how much it meant to our fans and the club to be back winning trophies.
That’s for the optics, the mere painting of a smile on the face of a corpse. It might coat the bitter bill Dalglish was forced to swallow but either way he had to drink from the poison chalice. A Carling Cup Final was not enough to save his crown. Perhaps had his woeful side taken the FA Cup he would still be there on the terms suggested by Whelan. But it would have been papering over the cracks. He simply was not the man for the job. Probably too long out of the game to make a comeback at 60 a successful venture. Ferguson can do it at 70 but he has been there, no breaks and has kept apace of changes.
Some fans have expressed disappointment at the decision to behead the king. They are delusional if they think he was ever going to pull things around. Time to get serious rather than sentimental. Had Dalglish stayed the results next year would have been no different.
Of the names so far floated to replace him there are two any serious owners must consider. One is Rafa Benitez who guided the team to European glory in 2005 against the odds. He knows the club and had a strong commitment to it. True, some of his judgements were dubious particularly in the transfer market, but he easily surpassed the two men who succeeded him, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish. The owners, however, having already brought back one former manager and getting their fingers burned, may see that as tempting fate, inviting lightning to strike twice. The second has to be Roberto Di Matteo if Chelsea makes the blunder of letting him go.
Kenny Dalglish turned Liverpool’s fortunes around. When he arrived the team was drab and dreary. When he left it was dreary and drab