Liverpool FC: Time For Heroes
January 20, 2011 3 Comments
If you thought the situation that Roy Hodgson met at Anfield was difficult, well then spare a thought for Kenny Dalglish who has walked into a complete and utter mess. Bereft of confidence a squad that should be comfortably in the European spots finds itself closer to relegation. The reasons are many but primarily come from the mismanagement of the club at the top level over the last few years. The club Hicks and Gillett bought was heading to its second Champions League Final in three years. Negative net spending, a chief executive and a manager later John Henry and NESV bought a club in the relegation zone. They needed to turn the club around and immediately appointed Damien Comolli in a Director of Football style role. The plan seemed to be to change managers in the summer. However, with Roy Hodgson’s methods serving only to further accelerate any decline the owners felt was time to bring back the biggest living Liverpool legend in an attempt to turn things around.
Of course, people are sceptical of such moves. Not every return is romantic or as successful as hoped. However some have rather naively compared the move to Shearer’s brief managerial stint at Newcastle, but that is an odd comparison. Shearer was a club legend but he was not someone with four top flight titles under his belt as a manager, he had not won the double and he had not created one of the finest football sides of all time. Indeed Dalglish’s resignation from the Liverpool job in 1991 marked the end of Liverpool’s era of dominance; if he had not left the 1990s could have been very different for Liverpool. However, ‘The King’ was forced to quit by the extreme stress he was experiencing, primarily caused by his extraordinary support he selflessly gave to the families affected by the Hillsborough disaster. This support was appreciated as much (if not more) by supporters as the numerous honours he achieved as player and manager at the club. Even if the situation inherited from Hodgson is incomparable to the one he left behind there is the feeling that he finally has the chance to finish what he started. However, no one expects miracles and success at the point of his appointment was secondary. More importantly for Liverpool, their fans and players needed uniting after the turmoil that engulfed the club through the reign of Hicks and Gillett. The wounds were deep. They needed healing. However, through his mere presence and his familiar, reassuring dulcet tones Dalglish has already achieved this. Mediocrity has never felt so good.
Nonetheless it has been a long time since Dalglish last dominated football with his sides. However has kept in touch with the game including his involvement with the Liverpool academy prior to his appointment as caretaker manager. Although the differences in the modern game can be exaggerated the game is slightly quicker and definitely softer than when he left but he should be fine, because to support him there is Steve Clarke. This in itself is a brilliantly shrewd appointment. His defensive nous will be needed to help sure up a defence that has gone from one of the finest to one of the feeblest over recent months. The former assistant manager of Chelsea is highly regarded in the game, not least by Jose Mourinho. He understood Clarke’s important role in the successes at Stamford Bridge claiming he is already good enough to manage a club like Chelsea: “he is that good”.
From the owners point of view they surely will not want mediocrity for long. After all, if John Henry had wished to buy a mid-table side he could have got one for a lot cheaper, and with infinitely less hassle, than he did Liverpool. Henry undoubtedly bought the club because he saw something special in it, the same way he did the Red Sox. It is likely the summer will be the real show of FSG’s intent, with big decisions on a manager and transfers to come. Despite how they are often portrayed, Liverpool fans are not needy; they genuinely do not expect the easy swift Man City solution. It is just they also expect to see their club be run properly and just like any other club do not want to watch it deteriorate so blatantly in front of their eyes like they have recently.
However this January there have already been signs of their purpose. Despite silence from the club there have been definite negotiations with Ajax in an attempt to secure the Uruguayan Luis Suarez. Although the outcome at this point remains in the balance, if this is the calibre of player Liverpool fans can expect their owners to be targeting, they will be infinitely more popular than their predecessors. Supporters will have no doubt also been encouraged by Dalglish’s recent comments “We have a huge responsibility to do our business in the way it has been done since I’ve known Liverpool FC, and that is in private. When we’ve got something to say we will come out and say it.” Former CEO Christian Purslow had run the club in a shocking way under the previous ownership, so this more professional approach will be welcomed. This fresh way of doing business echoes “The Liverpool Way” that the club prided itself on under the likes of Peter Robinson.
The return of the King might not work out spectacularly. However with the club united behind him and with Steve Clarke, Damien Comolli and John Henry’s support the next six months are unlikely to be the disaster they would have been under the increasingly fragile Hodgson regime. Whatever happens now on the pitch in this immensely disappointing season, at least with new owners and Kenny Dalglish at the helm Liverpool fans can feel the greatest satisfaction of all. They have their club back.