Firstly, I”d like to apologise for the vile and incendiary language you”re about to read in the next paragraph. People of a nervous disposition should look away from this barrage of racist filth, but I hope other readers will recognise the need to expose hate speech with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play.
“It”s fantastic to have him back. He should never have been out in the first place.”
The most astonishing apologia for racism since Mein Kampf, this screed came from the mouth of none other than Kenny Dalglish, public enemy number one, the ranting demagogue threatening to tear asunder British football”s undoubted commitment to fighting, you know, racism and that.
At least, that”s the impression you”d gain if you followed football through the eyes of Oliver “is black c**t racist?” Holt and chums.
It”s open season on Kenny in the press, the peculiar circular logic they employ dictating that a comment is reckless and irresponsible and therefore must be amplified and repeated until it can be heard in every corner of the land. Because that”s the responsible thing to do.
Would Dalglish have been better saying nothing? As a communications and PR professional my initial reaction would be to say yes.
While it was hardly the Oswald Mosley-esque rant certain members of the fourth estate would have us believe, it was clearly the kind of thing the scribes would pounce on to reheat the entire affair for the umpteenth time.
Given what we know about Kenny, are we to believe this was a slip, a case of speaking in haste without due regard for the club”s reputation?
That”s the simple narrative, easy to arrive at and file before heading for your post-match chicken vermicelli.
Grist to the mill and fuel for the fire nicely arranged, the press have done their worst once again and Dalglish has only helped them.
That”s one way of looking at it. Here”s a different take – one based on Kenny”s experience, his undoubted media savvy, his unique insight in to the imperfect science of creating team spirit and holding things together in the most trying of circumstances.
Up until the interview, the post-match chatter focused on Suarez”s clearly accidental but unfortunate kick to Scott Parker”s midriff. Even this morning the “furore” over the incident, which was dealt with promptly and effectively by referee Michael Oliver, was leading BBC Sport”s garish new website. Apparently an England striker whose kick on an opponent earned him a three-match ban until the FA stepped in had Tweeted…I”m sorry, I can”t complete this sentence without wanting to vomit my internal organs out at the hypocrisy of it all.
Right, better now. At the time of writing the BBC headline has changed to “Suarez ban wrong, insists Dalglish”. And that, I suspect, will be seen by Kenny as job very much done.
In making himself the story, Kenny has deflected some of the attention from Suarez. Not reputable online casinos all of it – that would be too much to ask. But enough to provide some breathing space, enough to ensure the hand-wringing over a clash which Parker accepted contained no malice would rank alongside the appearance of a cat on the pitch as a second-tier story in the wake of the match.
The narrative is changing, from nasty foreigner does some racism to out-of-touch Scotsman defends the supposedly indefensible. It”s been a gradual shift, and one it”s tempting to conclude Dalglish has encouraged, placing himself as a partial firewall between his star striker and the media.
Perhaps the reason is pragmatic, born of a desire on Kenny”s part to ensure Suarez does not take what must be a strong temptation to cut and run, to take his talents away from England and Liverpool and seek a fresh start elsewhere. By taking on the role of media bogeyman he shows Suarez how far he will go to protect his man.
An alternative explanation is rooted in the Dalglish vision of the team, and of his central part in it. He may be dubbed the King, but Dalglish has always run a meritocracy, an approach which has antecedents in his remarkable rise as a player-manager. Dalglish has never seen himself as above the team but as one of its integral cogs.
If the team can be helped through Kenny taking a PR hit, that”s no different in his mind to Jay Spearing risking injury to stem a midfield breakaway or Craig Bellamy straining every sinew to drag Liverpool in to a cup final which has bought Kenny a significant amount of political capital he seems intent on spending.
That approach is key to understanding just why his statement after the Spurs game was not rash or ill thought-out. You may disagree with it, but it was surely planned and entirely consistent with both Dalglish”s previous comments and the direction he wants this story to travel in. Taking the hit himself may be the least-worst option right now, but sometimes that”s the most you can aim for.
Anyone seeing these latest comments as evidence of some kind of slide from relevance on Kenny”s part should beware. Past it? Not with the fire in him now.
A season which was threatening to lose its shape and direction is coalescing around a siege mentality and a sense that Liverpool are as unified now as at any point since May 2009. This season”s best stories are yet to be written.