King Kenny Returns

There have been 7261 days since Kenny Dalglish last managed Liverpool FC, and in that time Liverpool have played 1423 matches, won 3 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 1 UEFA Cup and the 2005 Champions League. They have not won the league since.

Dalglish famously resigned after a 4-4 FA Cup 5th round draw with Everton – which remains to this day one of the all time classic games. However, it was often assumed that the toll of Hillsborough made him want to relinquish management at Liverpool.

His strike partner Ian Rush said, “He used to take all the pressure off the players and heap it on himself. Looking back, you can see how it all built up inside him and he didn’t tell anyone. It does take a toll when you manage a big club, and he had things to cope with that no one else had experienced – I think he went to every funeral after Hillsborough.”

“It would have been great if he could have just taken a year out and then come back refreshed but it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen.”

Liverpool dynastically passed the torch to Souness and then to Roy Evans, before the club lost faith in the Boot Room, and Dalglish became King again but this time at Blackburn Rovers. Who will ever forget the Kop willing Rovers to defeat Liverpool to deny Manchester United the title?

Roy Hodgson was treated poorly by Liverpool fans, but when Dalglish made it publicly clear that he thought he should succeed Benitez, it was almost in their interest that Hodgson should fail. Liverpool and Dalglish only seperated due to exceptional circumstances it’s only right that he is given the chance to return to club to former glories.

Such was the body blow of Dalglish’s sudden departure in 1991 that Liverpool, lost their next 3 matches. 3-1 Away at Luton who were 17th in the League, the FA Cup replay against Everton, and 1-0 at home to Arsenal who leapfrogged them at the top of the table.

Liverpool lost 6 of their 14 remaining league games in the 1990-91 season, and ended up 13 points adrift of eventual champions Arsenal.

It will be a big ask for Dalglish – quality players will be reluctant to come to a club with no guarantee of European football and an interim manager. Besides NESV might not be too keen to give him money to burn this January, instead relying on his man-management to propel Liverpool up the table.

His past record in the transfer record is mixed. Most recently his time at Newcastle saw the shrewd acquisitions of Shay Given, Nobby Solano and Gary Speed alongside the less remarkable Temuri Ketsbaia, Stephane Gui’varch and the nepotistic John Barnes (35) and Ian Rush (36) .

At Blackburn he obviously had a lot of money to spend, but no one would argue breaking the British Transfer Record for Alan Shearer was a bad bit of business. Especially, when it delivered a league title and an £11m profit in four years.

Bruce Grobbelaar tells a story on the after dinner speaking circuit that one of the reasons for Dalglish’s departure at Liverpool was the board’s refusal to sanction a £2.5m transfer of Shearer from Southampton. A signing that Grobbelaar says Dalglish told the Liverpool board would secure their place as the top club in England for the next 10 years.

Dalglish’s transfer dealings at Liverpool were significantly less successful after Hillsborough than before. Pre Hillsborough it is hard to point to a signing and say that there was an error, which may be as much a statement about the strength of scouting at Liverpool, but the manager had the final say, and to start with Dalglish did not buy rubbish.

Steve McMahon his first signing from Aston Villa (£350k) was a central figure for 6 years, and sold for £900k to Manchester City when he was past the peak of his powers.

Stan Staunton was brought from Irish League side Dundalk (£20k) and made 148 appearance before Aston Villa paid £1.1m for his services.

John Alridge, Barry Venison and Nigel Spackman gave solid service and were again sold on for more than they cost.

Barnes arriving from Watford for £900k was a steal, Ian Rush returned from Juventus for less than he was sold for and Peter Beardsley (£1.9m) enjoyed four fantastic seasons before Souness disgarded the player in favour of Dean Saunders, he would later come to admit that as a mistake.

So it’s apparent that shrewd transfers were a large part of Dalglish’s winning formula. However, post Hillsborough his signings were not at the same level.

Jamie Redknapp aside the acquisitions between Hillsborough and his departure were poor. It’s completely fair to give him and the club and pass on this, some things are more important than football – but the network did not deliver as it once had. The poor nature of Dalglish’s later signings go some way to excuse Graham Souness’ tenure. However, his own transfer policy does not cover him in glory (think Paul Stewart).

Glenn Hysen was 29 when he arrived and solid – but his capture from under the noses of Manchester United promted SAF to get Gary Pallister from Middlesbrough. An undoubtedly better long term signing, and one that helped Utd bridge and overcome the gap between the rivals.

Steve Harkness stayed at Liverpool for eight years but only averaged 13 appearances a season over that time. It is fair to say he was not the sort of player a title side required.

Don Hutchinson was a disappointing acquisition on the field, but did turn a nice profit – when the club sold him following a “nads out” incident in one of city’s nightspots.

Jimmy Carter a £800k signing from Millwall played 8 games for Liverpool, David Speedie (£675k) managed 12 and Ronnie Rosenthal was signed for £1m. Ronnie initially impressed the Kop scoring 7 times in his first 8 league appearances, but only managed 14 more in the next three seasons and was shipped on for a £750k loss.

So, had Dalglish not jumped in 1991 – Liverpool may not have had such a poor run of results to the end of the season, they may even have won their 19th title. But, it is hard to see a sustained challenge from *that* Liverpool team, even if Beardsley and Staunton stay. He would have had to refresh the team, and his 89-91 signings do not give you counterfactual confidence that he would neccessarily get it right, but and here is the big but he did sign Alan Shearer for Blackburn.

Can you imagine Liverpool with Alan Shearer, knowing the partnership he forged with Beardsley for England and Newcastle?

Graham Le Saux and not Julian Dicks comes in at left back, and he befriends a young academy prospect called Robbie Fowler.

Henning Berg is added for £400k, Rob Jones is still picked up by the scouting network, Tim Flowers is the long term successor to Bruce Grobbelaar and Steve McManaman comes through the ranks.

That is a team that could have challenged for titles in the early 90s, instead King Kenny took his gifts to Ewood Park and we know he did deliver there.

Is 10 years out of management too long? Can Dalglish motivate a side of underperforming players that Liverpool (read Benitez mainly) overpaid for?

If anyone can he can – and I for one wish him all the success in the world.

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