His tenure at Newcastle was a disaster, selling great players and replacing them with his past it mates. Is King Kenny's grudge blighting his return to Liverpool?
It’s no secret that Kenny Dalglish is enjoying mixed fortunes at Liverpool. Rightly revered as a god by the fans because of his ability on the pitch, it’s a hard spot to be in for most Liverpool fans. Sure, he’s brought them a taste of silverware again. Alas, it was the League Cup… If you think it truly means anything in the grand scheme of things, if you think the trophy hasn’t been devalued, I suggest you speak to some Birmingham fans. Celebrations lasted about as long as it took for them to realise they were getting relegated and now it seems a distant memory.
On the flip side he has spent the sort of money that is more in keeping with the second coming of the Galacticos that Man City was supposed to be. Yet there are no international superstars in this Liverpool team. In place of YaYa Toure there’s Charlie Adam. Stewart Downing isn’t quite Sami Nasri and Luis Suarez isn’t Sergio Aguero. These comparisons all come with similar price tags yet there is one bone of contention that is a weight around Dalglish’s neck and indeed could be the downward force that’s enough to hang him come the end of the season – the massively inflated fee of Andy Carroll.
No manager in their right mind would of insisted on paying it, would have pushed so vehemently to “get their man” in the face of all logic. When it comes to all matters Newcastle though Kenny Dalglish has always had a little bit of a clouded view, something that makes the upcoming fixture perhaps third on his list of ones to win, behind the Merseyside derby and resuming hostilities with the old enemy of Manchester United.
The fans wanted Bobby Robson. Instead, they got Kenny Dalglish
If this seems odd you’d have to go back in time to 1997. Kevin Keegan had walked out on the club after a 7-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur. His reasons weren’t clear but he had the presence of mind to mumble some gibberish about the look in Gerry Francis’s eyes, how he couldn’t believe he’d done that to another human being. It was like the recanting of a child’s first hunting trip story, the time they shot that helpless deer, haunting them forever as they progress to the point of manhood.
In truth he had probably taken the club as far as it could go, which wasn’t bad given that they were second in the league. Second of course would always send a shudder down Keegan’s spine after throwing away THAT twelve point lead and having a meltdown on Sky TV, the replays of which Alex Ferguson probably watches one a month to keep youthful.
The fans wanted Bobby Robson. Instead, they got Kenny Dalglish. In echoes of their playing careers many wondered if Dalglish could be the better man, capable of greater things than Keegan as he was on the pitch. After all, he had won a title with Blackburn after similar bank-rolling and Newcastle, as they had proven, were not short of money.
What came next is perhaps the most inexplicable and grotesque mismanagement of a club that has occurred in the modern game
With Keegan’s team intact Dalglish guided them to another second place in the league, a two spot improvement on where they were when Keegan left. It was guaranteed Champions Leagues football and it seemed as if we might progress. What came next is perhaps the most inexplicable and grotesque mismanagement of a club that has occurred in the modern game.
Under no prompting from the board it seemed that we had become a selling club in the 1997 – 1998 season. The glittering array of stars were pawned off like cheap jewellery. David Ginola and Les Ferdinand to Spurs, the talismanic Peter Beardsley sold to Bolton, local lads Lee Clark and Robbie Elliot also allowed to go, the former to Newcastle’s hated rivals Sunderland. Finally Faustino Asprilla, a mercurial talent and one that the media blamed for costing his team the title in that fated run-in with Manchester United, a player with unfinished business in the premier league as a result, was sold back to Parma at a loss. On his touchdown back on Italian soil – and consider the impact of this statement given that the player was never quite the full shilling himself, the proto-Ballotelli if you will – he declared that Dalglish was out of his mind.
And indeed it was hard to disagree. With the players who had guided the team to second mostly asset stripped, Alan Shearer was injured in a pre-season game and would miss the whole season. This meant reinvestment was crucial and it’d be one sided to say that there weren’t some great additions. Shay Given and the late Gary Speed came to the club under Dalglish and they will always be part of Geordie history. Temuri Ketsbaia was also a stand out acquisition, Stuart Pearce surprisingly good despite his age.
When it turned into “jobs for the boys FC”, that’s when we all realised just how little Dalglish thought of the club.
The trouble was the rest of them. There was no big marquee signing to replace the talent that had been lost. Wasting money on unproven garbage such as Andreas Andersson (how he got to AC Milan I’ll never know) and Nikos Dabizas (his ineptitude encapsulated forever in that Bergkamp goal that made the Dutch master look as if he had meant it all to be that perfect) wasn’t the worst of it – when it turned into “jobs for the boys FC” that’s when we all realised just how little Dalglish thought of the club.
How else could you explain Ian Rush who had scored just three times for Leeds in nearly forty appearances suddenly turning up at the club and being expected to fill the shoes of Alan Shearer? Why did an aging and overweight John Barnes materialise as the person we would be looking to beat players in midfield in place of the Gallic genius of Ginola? Why was Kenny’s son Paul on our payroll, suddenly deemed good enough for a senior club and one that had finished second in the Premier League?
If it had been a company he’d have been fired and possibly sued for malfeasance but this is football where ineptitude comes with a golden handshake and the promise of future work for similar rates. The fans were ecstatic when he was fired. Towards the end of his tenure he was resoundingly booed at every match, chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” ringing in his ears.
Dalglish is not a man used to failure, not a man used to being anything other than worshipped
He might have forgiven that but what allegedly came next probably was the nail in the coffin of any hope of a respectful relationship with the club and fans. This is a well known story on Tyneside and whether it’s true or simply footballing folklore you’ll have to decide for yourself. However, after being sacked and Ruud Gullit installed it is said that Kenny returned to watch his son play in a reserve game. After the match his vehicle was surrounded by angry fans who made their views clear that they never wanted him to return. The player was loaned out shortly after the incident is said to have taken place.
Dalglish is not a man used to failure, not a man used to being anything other than worshipped. He learned that things in Newcastle are very different, that all his achievements and success meant nothing to a fanbase that desperately wanted success by any means possible. I think it’s safe to say it has stayed with the man all these years.
I imagine there’ll be plenty of you reading this that won’t buy it
This is why I’d say he was so eager to land Andy Carroll. The player many saw as the successor to Shearer was already a club legend. Was he worth £35 million? Not even the most rabid of Geordie would have said that. But the fee doesn’t just represent the acquisition of a decent striker for Liverpool. The extra was about getting one over on a club that was finding legends hard to come by.
The same transfer policy had been employed with the acquisition of Luis Enrique. It is no coincidence that every player who has performed well this season for Newcastle has suddenly been linked with Liverpool. Demba Ba has a release clause that Liverpool would simply love to trigger. Fabricio Collocini has been talked about as a potential signing on more than one occasion. Check Tiote is supposedly a “long term” target… Why do these stories keep manifesting themselves?
Of course now the reality about Andy Carroll has dawned on Liverpool fans and Dalglish alike the manager, always happy to support him verbally, is further ramming his confidence into the ground by attempting to offload him, even it means bringing in the blight that is Carlos Tevez. This time his attempt to get one over his former employers has backfired spectacularly.
I imagine there’ll be plenty of you reading this that won’t buy it, frothing Liverpool fans that won’t enjoy having the great ones professionalism called into question. Much like the detective at the end of a drama where the crime goes unsolved all I can offer is the hunch that some, if not all of this, is true.
Whether you believe it or not to Newcastle fans winning the match will be sweet, a small piece of revenge for the harm done to our club under Dalglish’s tenure. A victory should just assure us of finishing above Liverpool in the table and securing European football. We can do that knowing we took a third of all the money they spent to achieve relative mediocrity. Perhaps it will serve as a reminder for future seasons that Dalglish really needs to start looking to his own club.
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