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Domestic cup success was not enough to save Kenny Dalglish's job at Liverpool
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They killed Kenny - Dalglish out

By prolifik on May 24th, 2012 in Blow the whistle 15 comments
They killed Kenny - Dalglish out
Sent packing - Kenny Dalglish
Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish’s second spell as manager of the Reds came to an abrupt end when the club’s American owners Fenway Sports Group decided to fire him, following his failure to secure Champions League qualification. The 61-year-old Scot could only manage to guide Liverpool to eighth place in the league, a disappointing finish considering many had them down as potential title contenders before the start of the season. At the very least, the owners expected Champions League qualification. Unfortunately for King Kenny, they ended up 18 points behind Arsenal who finished third and took the last remaining Champions League qualification place after Chelsea won the trophy.

Despite Dalglish winning the League Cup, Liverpool’s first piece of silverware since 2006, and getting them to the FA Cup final, where they lost to Chelsea 2-1, the season was not deemed good enough to meet the expectations of the principal owners John W Henry and Tom Werner. It is a sign of the times that coming close to winning a domestic cup double means nothing these days. Champions League qualification is the be all and end all of modern football. It is the financial threshold that determines a successful club, as opposed to a mediocre one. Liverpool’s owners clearly see the club as being worthy of a Champions League spot and will not settle for anything less.

One factor that may have played a part in the decision to axe Dalglish is the vast amount of money that he was given to spend to help them reach the kind of level where they would be challenging for a Champions League place. This was of course Dalglish’s second spell in charge at Liverpool and during this spell, he spent in excess of £100 million. Unfortunately, some of the signings he made failed to represent value for money.

The most high profile of these acquisitions, or, as some might class them, ‘flops’, was the £35 million hit-man Andy Carroll, who joined from Newcastle in January of last year. Carroll had been excellent for the Magpies before he made the switch, but throughout most of his time at Liverpool so far, the big striker has failed to nail down a place in the starting line-up and, as a result, has not showed the kind of form that caught Dalglish’s eye initially.

Last summer, the Reds also secured the signings of Stewart Downing, for around £20 million and Jordan Henderson for £16 million. England winger Downing came with a big reputation but has failed to deliver a return since joining the Reds, famously finishing the season without a goal or an assist in the league. A few eyebrows were raised when Henderson was brought in for such a big fee at just 20 years of age. Alright, he looked a good young prospect at the time but to splash such a lot of cash out for him was a big gamble. Again, Henderson has failed to nail down a regular place in the starting line-up and has not really looked anything close to what his price tag would suggest.

Even the signing of Charlie Adam from Blackpool hasn’t really proved a great move, as his performances have been poor in comparison to how he played for the Seasiders in the previous season. At the time, £7.5 million looked a great deal for the 25-year-old Scot. But again, it really underlined the difficulty Dalglish had in bringing top notch talent to Anfield.

Dalglish’s other big signing, Luis Suarez, is a great player, and few would deny that, but his attitude and disciplinary issues brought a world of problems for King Kenny to have to deal with. His consistent diving to try to gain an unfair advantage was criticised heavily in the press and caused Dalglish’s relationship with the media became somewhat strained. 

Suarez’s unsavoury attitude toward opposing players on the pitch also put a lot of strain on Dalglish. First there was the alleged racist comment toward Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, then the refusal to sake Evra’s hand the next time to the two teams met, causing further controversy. Dalglish stuck by Suarez through it all, protecting his player as much as he could, as most managers would. But it meant that he wouldn’t come out of the situation smelling of roses and many question marks were raised about his handling of the incident and of the player concerned. In the end it was the American owners who were forced to intervene in order to get an apology out of both Dalglish and Suarez. 

In a way though, you can hardly criticise Dalglish for sticking by Suarez, however distasteful his actions may have been. The experienced Scot would have known that Liverpool could not afford to lose their most skilful and talented player. In the end Suarez was handed an eight match ban, which may well have made some contribution toward Liverpool’s disappointing final league position.

It is pretty clear that the owners knew exactly what they wanted when they put so much money into the pot for transfers. They had only one aim in mind and that was to get Liverpool into the Champions League. This was Dalglish’s mission statement. His job depended on this sole factor, which meant that the success Liverpool had in the domestic cup competitions was neither here nor there. Treating the Liverpool fans to three trips to Wembley, winning the League Cup and reaching the FA Cup final hardly sounds like a failed season. But in the eyes of the owners, success in the domestic cups counted for nothing. He may as well not have even bothered. The Champions League is where the money is in football these days and that is where the owners want their clubs to be.

Before Dalglish took on an ambassadorial role at Liverpool in 2009, he had been out of football for almost nine years and it would be fair to say that King Kenny has something of an old school approach to the game. Perhaps it was this that eventually led to his downfall. He probably saw his League Cup triumph and taking the Reds to the FA Cup final as a great achievement. But unfortunately for him, success in these competitions has significantly diminished in value over the years and sadly, it was not enough to see him keep his job. Dalglish comes from a time when football was all about winning trophies and he has won several of them for Liverpool, as both a player and a manager. He did not take charge with the purpose of leading Liverpool to third or fourth place in the league. He came to win things.

It’s a shame really that football has changed in such a way. I remember when I was a child and some of my best memories in football were when my team, Arsenal, won the FA Cup. Nothing could really compare to that feeling. It was considered as almost the pinnacle of achievement back in those days.

Arsenal have now just completed their seventh year without winning a trophy. But because they’ve qualified for the Champions League every year, their manager, Arséne Wenger, has been in no danger of losing his job. And the crazy thing is, finishing third in the Premier League but having had no success in the cups and no trips to Wembley, is considered a far better season than Liverpool’s, despite the fact that they did taste the glory of winning a trophy and did reach the final of the FA Cup. As an Arsenal fan, deprived of silverware for so long, I look at what Dalglish did for Liverpool with some degree of envy. Sadly, I know deep down that I might never see a season like that again for Arsenal, since it is now all about Champions League qualification. That is the remit, and winning a domestic cup is merely a ‘nice to have’.

So what will happen to Liverpool now? Will they become another Chelsea, taking on a new manager every year, and if that manager fails to achieve the main goal, in this case, Champions League qualification, he will be shown the door? Chelsea have done this for years, with their wealthy owner Roman Abramovich hiring and firing managers at the drop of a hat. For them, winning the Champions League is the only accomplishment deemed big enough for the manager to keep his job. And even though Roberto Di Matteo has finally done that, they are still deliberating over whether to give him the job on a permanent basis.

If this is the way Liverpool are going to go then they may as well not offer their next manager a four year contract. They may as well give him a one year rolling contract and say, your target is Champions League qualification and if you don’t achieve that, you’re out; if you do, you get to keep your job for another year.

And it is worth considering that gaining Champions League qualification is going to be no picnic in years to come. Manchester City and Manchester United will almost certainly be in there, leaving only two places remaining. So the Reds will face competition from Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Newcastle for those remaining Champions League spots. Just because Liverpool have an illustrious history and just because the owners are prepared to throw £100 million at it, this does not mean they have a God given right to be there, as this season has proved.

Whatever happens, the new manager will certainly have the ghost of Kenny Dalglish hanging over him as well. King Kenny will always be a Liverpool legend and is still loved and revered by most connected to the club. For his successor, he will indeed be a very tough act to follow.




Contributed by richbrawn1
By prolifik on May 24th, 2012 in Blow the whistle

They killed Kenny - Dalglish out
15 responses
Benyain
8 Jun, 2012
Liverpool fans are eternal opitstmis.We had (one of) the best teams in the world during the 80 s, (one of) the worst during the 90 s and become competitive again in the 2000 s. Now that we have new owners (who know football) and, of course, now that Kenny Dalglish is back, there is a general feeling that things are moving in the right direction and that, in a few years at most, Liverpool will be back with the top teams which currently rule the Champions League.
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