KENNY DALGLISH’S questioning of decisions – or lack of them – benefiting Liverpool in the first four Premier League games of the season has caused much debate.
On the podcast earlier today, we discussed whether this tactic – a favourite of Alex Ferguson’s – is a road that Kenny should be taking.
The aim is obvious – it piles on the pressure for the next official to take charge of a Reds’ match. If another decision goes against Liverpool, it fuels the fire and gets fans on the back of the ref. They’re only human and they crack. Regularly.
And if we get a generous decision on the back of it and win a game – well job done, right?
Whether it’s right or wrong, it didn’t signal any change in Dalglish for me. It just underlined what we always knew – he’s fiercely competitive and desperate for Liverpool success.
How it should be.
For others though, it represented a chance to snipe. To suggest the halo is slipping. Or to call out the fans for suggesting Kenny could do the job in the first place.
And for a prime example, look no further than Russell Kempson, who was – apparently – at the Britannia Stadium to report on the defeat to Stoke for The Independent.
In a condescending tone that had all the hallmarks of a Manc blogger, he kicked off his report – headlined: “Kenny’s from heaven? Er, not exactly” with this:
“Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool legend. He rescued us from Roy Hodgson and will return us to the promised land of a top-four finish in the League and a natural resumption of Champions League hostilities in 2011-12. Our rightful place, where we belong.”
Ah yes, the entitlement theme (tick). Undermine the fans (tick). Suggest that Kenny as a goodie and Hodgson as a baddie is an overplayed card…by fans (tick, tick).
He went on:
“That is how it looked to the bewildered fans at Anfield in January this year after the car-crash reign of Hodgson had mercifully ended. And that is how it felt on the Kop when Dalglish’s temporary role became permanent in May. “King Kenny” was back. What could go wrong? But the facts – as yet – do not back up the blinkered idolatry.”
Sigh. Nice use of quotations, Russell. How dare we call Kenny, King. I mean, what has the greatest player in the history of Liverpool Football Club done to deserve that title? And as a manager, well he’s only won the league four times (three at Liverpool, one at Blackburn – save you Wikipediaing it, fella). No wondered we’re blinkered about our idol…
What about more recently? Did you miss the dramatic turnaround in form last season? How about the style of play? The number of goals? The string of results that replicated over the season would have put us among the front runners last season?
Did you miss that, Russell? Maybe you didn’t. Perhaps that’s where the caveat of “as yet” arrived from.
More? Oh go on.
After a schizophrenic raking over of more facts from the arse end of last season – “The defeat against Stoke City here on Saturday was Liverpool’s eighth loss in 28 matches since Dalglish sifted through the Hodgson debris and embarked on his emergency salvage operation. Perhaps 14 wins and six draws are the better stats to view…” – it was onto the failure to reach Europe.
This, it seems, was solely down to the 2-0 home defeat to Spurs last season, a club that threw millions at the playing squad and was prepared to back its manager to the hilt.
Did you forget Hicks and Gillett, Russell? And what about Hodgson? Worst start in a lifetime, anyone? Made the race for Europe a tad difficult that did. Just saying, like.
And so, inevitably, on to the summer spending…
“Did not Dalglish spend £55.5m this summer to revamp his squad? Which, so far, has produced a 1-1 home draw with Sunderland, a 2-0 win over an imploding Arsenal, a 3-1 stroll at Exeter City in the Carling Cup, the same scoreline at home to Bolton … and a put-me-down in the Potteries.”
He did spend it, and? How did you propose he revamped the squad? He’s also overseen a complete clearing of the decks of the Hodgson/Purslow deadwood, slashed the wage bill and been left with a squad that looks infinitely more balanced and offers more options than last season.
The side that kicked off against Sunderland featured seven new players from the side Dalglish inherited in January.
That’s eight months ago, Russell. Eight months. Time to gel? Time to settle? And what’s he up against, by the way? How much have City spent on creating their current squad – half a billion quid? Context? Heard of it? He might have done, you know…
“Reputable names may ripple through the Liverpool ranks but it is very much a work in progress. Restoring former glories can take years and perhaps Dalglish needs to infuse just a smidgeon of the Stoke spirit into the genetic make-up.”
Indeed – work in progress. So why the piece? Why the tone? Liverpool will lose games this season, no doubt. But they will probably win a lot more. And who’s to say, after FOUR GAMES, whether they will, or won’t be in the top four?
As for spirit, well believe me, Russ, there’s a lot more of that evident under Kenny. You’d know that if you’d watched the team regularly…
“Dalglish simply demeaned himself by claiming a kind of conspiracy against Liverpool from match officials in each of their opening four League matches. Get real, Kenny. Once upon a time, was it not the “big four” clubs that had all the big decisions go in their favour? Of course it was.”
So we’re back to the real debate – the news of the piece. “Demeaned himself”? Well, if suggesting refs are against your team achieves that, Kenny can’t possibly have a lower stock than Ferguson, right? He’s been at it for years. And call me paranoid, but when he does it, what’s the reaction? Some have – refreshingly – dared to criticise but to my mind most scribes prefer not to.
And for the record, whether he went about it the right way or not, could Kenny, for starters, be referring to…Richardson staying on the pitch against Sunderland after felling Suarez when last man, the rejected penalty appeals – and failure to punish a backpass – against Bolton, and now the rejected penalty appeals against Stoke?
Does it really warrant a call for him to get real? I assume you’d write the same about Ferguson? Oh, and hang on folks, here it comes…the big build up to the last-line of genius. Notice those quote marks again. Key that “big four”…
“But, of course, once upon a time, Liverpool were a “big four” club. On Thursday, in Champions League week, Stoke go to Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League. The Liverpool players, er, have the evening off. As the Second Coming of Dalglish, the legend, takes shape, he still has much to prove.”
Ah, nice one. Once upon a time? Why not throw in ‘in a land far, far away’ just for added effect?
Once upon a time is one way of describing when Liverpool were in the ‘big four’.
Another is eight times in the last 12 seasons and as recently as two years ago (when Liverpool finished second).
Kenny still has much to prove? In the context of his current reign, maybe.
More importantly, he’s still got much time to prove it. Defeat to Stoke? Where’s the fire?