The fortunes of Liverpool Football Club look to be much brighter after the return of one of their legends, Kenny Dalglish. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the club looks set to become successful once again.
After what proved to be one of the worst periods in Liverpool Football Club’s history, the manager that oversaw it all is now gone. And while there are still some, mostly in the media it seems, that believe Roy Hodgson was not given a chance to shine, it was obvious to about 99% of Liverpool fans that his reign had become untenable.
When the news eventually came of his departure, along with the installment of one of Liverpool’s greatest ever players and managers, the future looked bright once again. King Kenny as he is affectionately called by the Liverpool faithful took time away from his vacation to swoop in at the first call from owner John Henry. It didn’t take much to persuade the 59-year-old to take charge of the club for the rest of the season. It is well known he continued to eat, sleep, and breathe Liverpool despite not having been a player or manager there in two decades.
Dalglish’s effect on Liverpool has already been immense. Having been there less than a week, the whole mood around the club has changed. The owners are behind him, the fans are behind him, and most importantly, he is behind the team and the players. What Hodgson lacked (and he lacked a lot), was the ability to unite the football club and the team behind him. His appointment wasn’t a popular one on Merseyside, and the fact that he managed a mid-table team to some mediocre success in the past did not allay any of the fans’ fears he wasn’t the man for the job. It took him six short months to prove this, and a devastating first half of the season is what he left as his legacy.
As a result, the team has been left low on confidence and with less talented players and more deadwood than was at the club last summer. That was not all down to Hodgson, but a lot of it was. He plunged Liverpool into believing it was no more than a mid-table team and expectations of anything grander would never be achieved with a squad like that. It was Hodgson’s belief that given the time and money to put his stamp on the side, he would bathe the team in glory once more. But what glory was he referring to? That of being safely mid-table? That of going into games desiring just not to lose? He proved with his signings, tactics, man-management, and team selection that he was out of his depth. I hate to say it, but I really can’t think of anything positive he left with the club, except his resignation.
The trouble now is that all the damage he did to the club will be difficult to undo before the season ends. If Hodgson thought it was difficult to take a team that previously finished second and seventh in their last two seasons to loftier heights, than the challenge on Dalglish’s shoulders must be far greater. The team currently languishes in 13th place, and if not for the unpredictable nature of the league this season, they may have been in a far worse position.
While I don’t pretend that Dalglish is the long-term answer for Liverpool, he certainly makes for a bright spark to come in and help arrest the club from plummeting further. As he has done through most of his career as a manager, he intends to win by playing football as he used to. I believe that most fans disliked Hodgson not just because he lost, but also because he refused to play in any kind of positive or attractive manner. Many of the players that Roy so rudely alluded to as not good enough and below par, are seasoned internationals and just 18 months earlier, part of a team that finished second in the league and gained one of their highest points totals ever. You don’t do that without footballing talent and skill. These players want to play football, they want to pass the ball from the back, they want to win the ball in the opposition half and attack, they want to move around the pitch with pace and purpose to win football matches.
This is where Dalglish comes in. Despite not having managed for a while, he is a footballing mastermind. Few have achieved what he has as a manager and there is no reason he can’t apply the same ideas he’s always had to a team begging to play attacking, creative football again.
The first two results of his reign have been unkind. What was always going to be a tough game against United at Old Trafford was compounded by the fact that United earned a ghost penalty in the first minute, and Liverpool had Gerrard sent off after only 30 minutes. This not only made the game more difficult, but also exhausted the players for their next match to be played three days later.
Some will be quick to point out that had Hodgson lost these two games, he would well and truly be crucified. But the fact remains that Liverpool fans saw a lot more in these two games than just two losses. The spirit was back, the passing was back, the disappearance of hit-and-hope long balls was back, and against Blackpool, Fernando Torres looked back. They may have lost these two games, but the wins will come if they continue to play in such a manner.
That’s not to say there aren’t criticisms to be made, and Dalglish is just as accountable as any other manager. I believed his team selection wasn’t the best against Blackpool, but then he is trying to discover just what his best team will be. He made substitutions far too late in the game, and that is something I couldn’t take with Hodgson or Benitez for that matter. And to be fair, the team started very well, but petered out in the second half. A lot of that had to do with the previous game at Old Trafford being played with ten men for 60 minutes. Even so, the defense was all over the place at times, and the passing left a lot to be desired.
The team has a lot of hard work ahead of them, and when I say the team, I refer to the players, Kenny Dalglish, Steve Clark, Damien Comolli, and John W. Henry. No one expects success overnight, and it may even be a season or two before Liverpool are back to their best. What’s important now is the progress the team makes from here until the end of the season when they will have time to further assess where the club is at on all fronts.
Unlike the previous manager, the belief that the future looks good for Liverpool is back. While they may be facing a difficult time in the here and now, and the media continues to be unsupportive of Liverpool, their fans, and their future, those that understand the club will know what lies ahead. So as one manager and era comes to an end, let the next begin with nothing but hope in our hearts and the king back on the throne.