There is, without a doubt, no place in England happier than the city of Liverpool today. The yawning chasm of pain and vexation that the club and the fans faced for nearly 18 months was shut in a jiffy as one of Liverpool’s greatest heroes gave his nod to take over the reins at Anfield. He loves Liverpool; Liverpool loves him, the king himself, Kenny Dalglish.
Little did the Scotsman know that his holiday in the Middle East would be interrupted only for him to listen to the words he has been waiting to hear for nearly 20 years now – his last game in charge of the Reds was against Everton in the FA Cup fifth round. It doesn’t matter if he hasn’t been in touch with frontline management for over a decade, it doesn’t matter if his previous stints at Newcastle, Blackburn and Celtic as manager didn’t go down well, it doesn’t matter if his appointment will bring about a radical change in Liverpool’s fortunes this season; what the fans wanted to see was one who recognizes Liverpool, who knows what Liverpool is all about, to come to the office. The dream has now come true.
FSG waited, FSG acted
Roy Hodgson was supposed to be the lifeboat to a sinking Liverpool team when he was brought in by ex-CEO Christian Purslow; but what ensued soon after, clearly proved that every word spoken prior to and after a game was an attempt to create an illusion of things improving at the club. Sadly, reality did not favour Hodgson’s words as Liverpool continued to ebb away from unison and success. Instead, they were heading in the opposite direction and towards their worst Premier League campaign since 1953/54, a season they were last relegated.
There have been plenty of landmark defeats that Hodgson oversaw, but what practically marked the climax of his Liverpool career was his open criticism of the fans’ support following Liverpool’s defeat to Wolves a couple of weeks ago. Accusing the Liverpool folklore of “lack of that special Anfield support” and demanding them to turn into “supporters” were not the right choice of words for a man with over 35 years of managerial experience.
FSG (Fenway Sports Group), Liverpool’s owners, had nothing to do with Hodgson’s appointment. This allowed the fans around the globe to turn to them with the plea to replace him. Why FSG would wait till summer to appoint their choice is a reason that is debatable. John Henry and Co. are still not familiar with the semantics of English Football which means they should have already had an idea of whom they were going to appoint next season and hope that their target would be available for a move to the Merseyside club. Waiting for the 2010/11 season to get over and then beginning their hunt would only otherwise mean a waste of time, since, that is what they claim to be doing right now. Both the statements make very little sense and prove that the Yanks do not really seem to have a clear picture of their operations to bring in a new manager.
However, this move of reinstating Dalglish could spring up as a blessing in disguise because there is one thing that Dalglish knows and the owners don’t – Liverpool Football Club.
How Kenny Will Make a Difference
How Kenny Will Make a Difference
Kenny Dalglish is a living legend, one of Liverpool’s own, who is respected by everyone associated with the club in all spheres. Liverpool heroes Phil Neal and Tommy Smith also concurred with the growing euphoria on Dalglish’s appointment. However, with the air of relief slowly fading, one must begin to see what Dalglish can bring to the table considering he comes in at a time where Liverpool are struggling to cease their decline.
First of all, Dalglish’s understanding of the club and its decorated journey in top flight football is going to offer Liverpool what it desperately needs at this stage – the belief as a team. Sure, there have been a couple of low quality signings this season and individual players have not really performed upto their mark but that doesn’t mean that the squad cannot yield success. Kenny knows the importance of teamwork at this club and before picking up a pen to explain his tactics on a white board, he will surely have a word with the squad on the vitality of coming together at this stage of the season.
Secondly, Kenny comes across as the kind of figure that can even inspires the world’s best players. One can imagine the kind of impact that he can have in the locker room when Sir Alex Ferguson had this to say about him- “Kenny was a tremendous player, absolutely tremendous. I would have paid to have seen him play. I loved the way he could hold the ball up and make goals as well as score them.” Hence with him at the helm, players like Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are bound to play better. In fact, it will be more interesting to see the change in Fernando’s game from now on. When one player plays well, it sparks an epidemic of the same feeling amongst the others on the pitch.
Third, and the most important of all, is the fact that Kenny Dalglish is present. He has lived to see both the worlds for Liverpool Football Club – the era of the Shanklys, Paisleys and Fagans and the era of the Houlliers, Rafas and Hodgsons. He has practically seen a drift in the club’s fortunes, successes and ambitions. There is no doubt that the preaching he has received as a player and manager is going to surface again. There is no harm in rewinding through time to bring back some of the old ways to restore stability into the squad. May be this is exactly what the club needs. A little bit of soul; and who better than Kenny to reinvigorate it?
The above three points are as vital as Kenny’s tactics on the pitch. The King is said to be an admirer of the 4-2-3-1 formation which, if he gets it right (‘right’ here refers to correct squad selection and player positioning) will make life difficult for opponents. It gives Gerrard and Torres a chance to reunite their lost partnership, it will employ players in positions best suited for them and will no doubt lead to more organized football on the pitch, irrespective of the end result. To begin with, this should be the first change that everyone would expect to see. Hopefully Raul Meireles will not play on the right flank ever again.
The Lingering Question: Was Hodgson’s sacking the Right Move?
Every single individual has welcomed the appointment of Kenny Dalglish with genuine delight but there is still a diaspora of players and supporters who, at the same time, feel Roy Hodgson did not get a fair chance. Well, this is a statement whose credence can swing both ways but the verdict now favours FSG’s decision.
To be? Or not to be?
Going by the numbers, there was no way one would say that Roy Hodgson has been managing Liverpool FC. He left with a winning percentage of about 35%, which is about the same figure while he was manager at Blackburn and Fulham too. So one can see that although the way the game is played has been changing over the years, Hodgson’s old school tactics are not.
The above fact further encompasses the following numbers: 9 league defeats so far (which has placed the club 4 points above the relegation zone at present), the shocking 2-4 scoreline in the penalty shootout against Northamption and just 1 away win on the road this season (against Bolton Wanderers).
Well, the numbers speak for themselves. How is any club owner or an ardent fan going to tolerate such kind of results? Claiming a victory at Bolton to be “historic” on one hand but losing to a Blackburn side which had upto 6 first team players missing, on the other, does not really emanate the thirst for winning from a Liverpool manager.
Moving over to the other side of the argument, the club has broken its long lasting tradition of sticking by managers in the same spirit as sticking by the players. Roy Hodgson became the first Liverpool manager to have left the club without winning a trophy. Well how could he? He was asked to leave.
The million dollar question here is – had he stayed, could he have clinched a title for the club? FSG were likely to take Hodgson off the seat at the end of the season to bring in a manager of their own choice. And they weren’t going to do this just for fun. They have a philosophy; a philosophy of placing young intellectuals in charge of a team in order to foster longevity in the club-manager relationship. They did this at Boston Red Sox and there is no doubt they were going to replicate that move at Liverpool too. And with the club’s dwindling fortunes, they have every reason to do so. Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and Arsene Wenger at Arsenal are examples of such an ideology. So, at 63 years of age, for how long Hodgson was going to be the key unlocking Liverpool’s success?
Liverpool were out of the title race sooner than ever, their dismal performances in the league do not favour them to come out winners in the FA cup tie against Manchester United on Sunday. This leaves them only with the Europa league competition. Would winning the Europa League ensure Hodgson’s continuation as Liverpool manager? If yes, think again.
All said and done, the next man to walk into the Liverpool dressing room is going to be Kenny Dalglish. The King has returned home. So has hope.