Kenny Dalglish: A coward
The vision never matches the reality. Thirteen hours spent constructing that ice-sculpture and it still looked mainly – if not entirely, as the judges suggested – like a block of ice. Six months writing the novel, only to find that you’d re-written Catcher in the Rye, replacing Holden with a small but feisty bear. For Liverpool fans it must be worse still: twenty years of waiting for King Kenny to return and in his place emerges a belligerent parody, characterised best of all by first-degree cowardice.
After Saturday’s defeat to Bolton, the weakness crept out. “You can’t come to places like this thinking all you need to do is turn up to get a result. That’s what I think we did today, and that’s why we were taught a lesson.” Dalglish spoke of “we”, but on the day he might well have pointed at individual names in his squad for all that he meant to include himself in the blame game. “You have to match the opposition for effort and commitment and today we didn’t do that,” he said of his players as he took in the humiliation of losing to a team in the bottom three. How brave.
Dalglish has spent twelve months hiding beneath a web of tame excuses. At first, there was his predecessor to finger for the state of the club, a man later patronised by Dalglish as having “nothing to prove”. The line spilled by the fans and implied by the club was that Roy Hodgson bought so much filth in his time as Liverpool manager that it would take time to purge the team of his mark. The first half-season of The King’s return, then, was a freebie.
But a whole year has now passed since the switch – the Berlin wall has been torn down and there are McDonalds in Moscow, apparently. Having dwarfed Hodgson’s £26million spend with a garish £117million, Dalglish has his own players neatly lined up in front of him and his own press propped up eagerly behind him, and yet the progress is so minor that even the statistics – Liverpool FC’s home turf – struggle to pick it up. With the loss to Bolton, Dalglish’s precious points per game average has dropped once more closer to Hodgson’s, and his team already scores less frequently than its written-off older model.
It can only be a matter of time before Dalglish’s unblemished record in the Champions League is called up to defend him. Already the wheels are turning to form a League Cup semi-final into something more significant than Liverpool’s finest playing against Manchester City’s reserves. Shamefully, a win in that competition may buy Dalglish more time and money to spend.
So the numbers don’t do make the manager look good and old man Hodgson has moved on to better things at West Bromwich Albion. Dalglish has instead retreated behind referees – remember the video – the FA – who are most certainly against his club – and now his players – the players he bought. When the numbers don’t add up, King Kenny is right, there probably is something wrong – unfortunately, he doesn’t appear happy to see himself as the one blocking the drain.
Even the fat TV pundits now riff on the failures of management. Andy Carroll’s signing was, we are surer every time he touches a ball, a £35million mistake and the notion that signing Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing to sling balls into him seems the kind of simplicity which works in moneyball’s statistical analysis, but not in football’s slippery reality. Yet whilst the performances can be criticised by the manager, the signings of these players seemingly cannot: that, after all, would be taking some form of responsibility for some kind of error.
Dalglish has a sporting director to take some of the heat for the squad he has built: if the pattern holds, it’s only a matter of time before the finger of blame finds its way to him. Anyone But The King, being the pattern.
There has been tactical cowardice too. Dalglish operated with a five man defence against Stoke City three weeks ago and meant it: the disappointment at the end of that goalless farce belying the sense of inevitability around it from its inception.
The best defensive team in the league is only now beginning to give Craig Bellamy a chance after committing to wingers who are as sound defensively as creatively. It turns out, if you play defensive football, you won’t score goals – it is not, as has been expressed by all of the best Liverpool sources, “a case of another world-class goalkeeping performance” each week. Manchester City have scored sixty league goals this season; Dalglish’s Liverpool have just twenty-five.
Drifting in seventh place, this isn’t Liverpool’s year. Mass delusion is more fun than any kind of reality. But that doesn’t make King Kenny a saviour. Nah, he’s just another coward.
Photo courtesy of http://www.welloffside.com/