First things first. What Kenny Dalglish did for Liverpool, both the club and the city, during the unspeakably tragic, sorrowful and desolate days of 1989 has deservedly guaranteed him a place in this region’s affections forever. Red or Blue? It matters not. Or at least it shouldn’t.
He was the glue that kept a city’s crumbling emotional edifice together, he somehow – somehow – carried and personified and cradled and shouldered the grief felt by 96 families, 96 mums and dads and brothers and sisters whose families were torn apart.
In a pre-Diana time when things were done differently, he did what was necessary very quietly, very beautifully and with the minimum of public acknowledgment. He didn’t do it for publicity – he did it because it was right.
The word ‘King’ falls a considerable distance short when considering the man’s emotional strength, courage and importance during that time.
We all know that in the end it took its toll – like it would anyone else – as he resigned his Anfield position in February 1991, haggard and weathered and dragged down by the pressure he was under on and off the field.
He was worn out. He was cried out. Go and look it up on Youtube – he looks older then than he does now.
But what that demonstrates is just how genuine Dalglish’s own grief was; it underlines the scale of the man’s integrity, the depth of his humanity.
So despite the shock of his resignation, Liverpool’s fans at the time could safely assume that Dalglish’s legacy and reputation were carved into the hardest stone. His prestige was immovable, his image irreplaceable.
Ah, not quite.
The past 18 months have slowly, bit by bit, inch by inch, chipped away at the granite of Dalglish’s reputation. It has been painful to watch. Dalglish has been raging against the dying of the light, against the media, against referees and fictional foes at the FA.
He has been raging in the face of common sense (Evra/Suarez) and he has been raging against anyone who does not buy into Liverpool Football club with the same passionate fervour as himself. And it has not been pretty.
Dalglish’s press conferences had become almost farcical within weeks of him getting the job full-time. Fully reasonable, legitimate and well constructed questions were huffed, puffed and rebuffed. Dalglish appeared to think he could operate like he had once done at Anfield when the press pack was a fraction of the size of today’s.
This is not the time to debate the rights and wrongs relating to the explosion in media outlets. But that is not going to change anytime soon. And no-one bothered to tell Kenny that. Every manager in the Premier League has to speak to the media – it’s as much a part of the job as putting the cones out and trying to keep a straight face when Steve Kean is about.
Yet Kenny’s default answer has been no. He has been uncooperative, pig-headed and plain obstructive for no other reason than he thought he could. That set a tone that has helped nobody.
Some of you reading this will say “good, the media are this, that and the other” and there is an element of truth in this. But Kenny’s reluctance to help himself and to help rehabilitate Liverpool’s reputation (the T-shirts, dear God the T-shirts) highlights that he has become a man either incapable or unwilling to manage within the parameters of the modern game.
As time has gone on – and the likes of Carroll, Henderson and Downing have turned into the high-cash flops every pub expert had safely assumed they would – Dalglish has looked increasingly out of step.
We need more luck, we need more respect from officials, people need to respect our Carling Cup win. We need, we need, we need.
The bottom line is that Dalglish came back – was brought back – because Liverpool’s fans and hierachy bought into the idea that he had the Midas touch. He could simply Dalglish Liverpool to victory, to the top four, to glory. Yet results this season have shown that has not been the case and watching Dalglish trying to find the answers has been painful to all those who love football.
So the news that he has been sacked should please the club’s fans because nobody wants to see Dalglish, a Giant of Merseyside, reduced to what we have seen in recent times.
Dalglish has been Elvis bursting out of his jumpsuit, he’s been Sinatra requiring cue cards, he’s been Ali getting a late-career pasting by no-marks he would once have shrugged off before brushing his teeth in the morning.
Do not be miserable that he is gone. Be thankful that he went before the Dalglish that deserved to be remembered was replaced by the Dalglish that would have been.