Disappointed. Saddened. Confused. Surprised. All these emotions and more were felt immediately following the news that Kenny Dalglish had been sacked by Liverpool Football Club. While the fans can’t seem to agree on anything these days, I imagine a great majority felt the same way I did. Whether the decision proves to be the correct one remains to be seen. But right now, it just feels like an agonizing, soul-crushing breakup.
You know the kind I’m talking about. Where there are lots of wonderful things about the other person, things you adore and wouldn’t change for the world. Such as Kenny’s undying love and affection for Liverpool, the institution, and the fans. His passion and electric smile on view every time Liverpool scored a goal. His pure outpouring of emotion when Liverpool reached and subsequently won the Carling Cup final. And most of all, the way you just knew that he, of all people on the planet, understood the fabric of the club like no one else. Since his arrival in the late 1970′s, the process of weaving the club’s DNA into his own had begun. And it continues to this day despite his unfortunate dismissal.
But with the good in someone you love, there are also a handful of things you find difficult to understand, and even dislike. While I believed in Kenny throughout the season, there’s no denying the league position was not good enough. Sometimes his tactics seemed strange. His substitutions would come too late, or not come at all. His squad selection was often baffling as several players were off-form, but still chosen ahead of others who had more to offer. And while I appreciated his surly demeanor with the press, the press obviously did not. And so the smearing began and continued throughout the season, culminating with the crescendo that was the Suarez/Evra debacle.
Despite all this, I trusted Kenny to get things right. And sporadically throughout the league campaign, and 99% of the time in the cups, he did get it right. Many forget that he was working with a team that had several new players, several young players, and that he lost his best central midfielder for almost the entire season with no suitable replacement. The woodwork, lack of clinical finishing, and lengthy suspensions and other injuries affecting the other world class quality in the team all lead to a dismaying league campaign to say the least. But anyone that doesn’t think Liverpool often didn’t get what they deserved based on their overall play throughout the season, wasn’t actually watching the games. In many cases, it was small margins between winning and losing, which can almost be worse and infinitely more frustrating than overall dire displays and performances. While the old saying goes “the buck stops with the manager,” I think the players should take a sizable amount of responsibility for the results in the league. After all, Kenny couldn’t run out onto the pitch and score goals for them, as much as we all would have loved to have seen that.
Like a breakup, sometimes you know when it is time to call it quits. Other times, you feel in your heart it deserves one last go before throwing it all in. I felt the latter. My head understood the reasons for dismissing Dalglish, but my heart believed he had more to offer. Another chance, a bit more time, and things would turn around. And if not, then you would at least know for sure it was time to part ways, however painful that may be.
FSG didn’t see things quite the same way I did. They operated with their minds, and their wallets, in performing a cold, calculated separation as soon as the season ended. Their hearts were not involved and how could we expect them to be? They may know business, but they don’t know enough about Liverpool Football Club to truly understand what a breakup of this magnitude would do to the fans of this great institution.
As with any breakup with someone you still love despite knowing they just aren’t right for you deep inside, it hurts to see them go. You start to think about how you’ll never spend the afternoon with them, share an inside joke, or lie next to them at night. As a loyal and emotional Liverpool fan, it hurts to think of how I won’t get to see Kenny’s goal celebrations, his beaming smile, and utter unbridled elation at seeing his team succeed while putting an arm around their shoulder when they fail.
Other clubs, other fans, and the media will never understand what Kenny Dalglish means to Liverpool and to Liverpool fans. The breakup might be best for our future, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. And to read Dalglish’s own gracious words describing how he wants the fans to be happy with whoever their new manager is, just makes it hurt even more. Because you know he means it. He loves us, perhaps like no other manager can possibly do, so he can truly let us go and wish us only the best.
I hope all fans, no matter if they were for or against Dalglish’s sacking, can understand what the man gave to this team, not just in the distant past, but in the more recent past as well. He united the club after a period of great turmoil and disillusion. He brought us a trophy, three trips to Wembley, and some of the best performances individually and collectively that we’ve seen in years. But more than anything, Dalglish deserves the best in his future just as he wishes that on us. We may never be together as we once were, but Liverpool and its fans will always love Dalglish. I just hope he knows that.