Cometh the hour…

Posted: January 9, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Manager Talk, Team Talk
Tags: , ,

I could go and find the specific date, but if I’m honest I don’t remember it. I don’t remember the date. I do remember the day. I remember where I stood, who I was with and who told me that Kenny Dalglish had stepped down as manager of Liverpool Football Club. Rushing inside to a friend’s house, even before the days when 24 hour news coverage had taken over our TV’s, it was everywhere. There I stood – 14 years old, in the house of a family of Manchester United supporters feeling lost.

Since then I’ve grown up, left my hometown and now live over two hundred miles away. Yet yesterday, when the news broke through I was stood maybe ten feet away from where I was a couple of decades ago. I had not long finished talking to the mother of the friend I shared the news with the first time and I was with my brother-in-law, a Manchester United fan. Many talk of how this couldn’t have been ‘scripted’ any better, for me personally it feels like it was scripted.

While my brother in law developed a sort of scowling concern on his face, I simply beamed from ear to ear. I tweeted while the news was sinking in. I’m still not sure it truly has. The thought of Dalglish’s return today fills me with hope and comfort. Although, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t point out a few concerns which may surface over the coming months. But first the reasons why the re-appointment of Dalglish makes perfect sense.

Unity

After a turbulent few years those who say everything’s ok at Anfield now are wide off the mark, currently. There remain fractures within the fan base, the club, possibly the team and most importantly between club and fans. The loss of trust between fans and club will take time to fully heal, while one (even unintended) slip will see us fall back. The fans have every right to remain on tenterhooks in these early days of Fenway Sports Group’s (FSG) ownership.

However, the Hicks and Gillett era is over and FSG have (to date) proven themselves to be professional, considered and most importantly trustworthy. If ever there was a character who could accelerate any healing process, bring the club back together, it is Kenny Dalglish. I do not believe there is another living legend who can assist in the ‘healing process’ as effectively as Kenny.

The Sacred Cow Test

I suggested last week that perhaps some of our players should be moved on. At the very least their motivations should be tested and their aspirations assessed against what the club can realistically achieve. Both Benitez and Hodgson failed to deal with some of the characters within the dressing room. Both managers representing diametrically opposing character traits.

Talk of letting key players (the sacred cows as it was aptly put to me) leave the club is always going to cause some level of disagreement. However if they are unmanageable and holding the club back, they need to go. The difficulty was always going to be in how you test those players. I can see no better test than half a season under a third manager. A manager who represents everything about the Liverpool way. Should those sacred cows continue to under-perform it will make any decision in the summer easier.

The Right Conclusion to Years of Wrong Decisions

It just feels right, doesn’t it? If you were writing this as a script, kick off at Old Trafford and Dalglish smiling while shaking hands with Ferguson would be your fade to black moment. It feels like the right decision, at the right time. I don’t agree with those who are suggesting that FSG have caved in to fan demands. Talking to Red Sox fans, caving in is not part of FSG’s make up. The increased risks associated with keeping Hodgson on board had become too great for FSG to keep going with the beleaguered manager. They took their time and considered all of their options. Dalglish wasn’t the only option, but it feels like the right one.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

Too Long Out?

You can see some of the headlines already, if results do not go our way. The media will scramble around a byline of ‘too long out of the game’ and some of them will no doubt enjoy doing it. God knows some have enjoyed kicking us every chance they get over the past few years. Is it a potential problem though?

Time will tell ultimately, but from what I read and hear Kenny has remained close to football. He enjoyed discussions with Benitez and it has been suggested that he favours the Spaniards 4-2-3-1 set up and approach; with a high tempo pressing game. Who knows, maybe a mixture of the old with new thinking may even deliver an approach with added benefits.

The risk remains however that media scrutiny may envelope the club again quite quickly if, at a minimum, our game play and performances (if not the results) do not improve over the next 5 – 10 games.

Power

Is there anybody else out there who could unite, pretty much, the entire fan base behind them? Benitez immersed himself within the club and fan base yet at the end opinions were divided on him. Unless Dalglish’s return sees our decline continue (which is very doubtful) he will enjoy support from the fan base not seen since, well since he was last manager I guess.

For FSG this has to be a concern. If FSG and Dalglish remain on the same page then all will be well. If however they start to have different opinions about things, well I suspect that things could get difficult very quickly. I’m not saying that both of them wouldn’t be working in the best interests of the club either. People can both be working to that end while having completely different ideas.

Dalglish has never appeared to me as someone who craves power. Nor has he ever been afraid to fight his corner though. Both stints at Newcastle United and Celtic ending in legal wrangling about compensation and the inevitable media circus. The last thing our club would need at the end of this season would be to see Dalglish ‘v’ FSG.

I hope whatever agreement they have come to is ‘watertight’ and negates a lot of the risks.

Shadow

Rafa Benitez continued to cast a large shadow over Roy Hodgson’s reign. Right up until the end fans continued to compare the current and previous manager, while the media went into excuse overdrive on behalf of Hodgson. Mainly blaming (wrongly) the poor squad Benitez had bequeathed to Hodgson.

Looking at living managers, only Dalglish has the ability to cast a longer shadow than Benitez. Indeed I suspect that any long term replacement in the summer will find himself working under the shadows of both managers until they can establish their own success. This may be daunting to some potential candidates and could well increase any early pressure that any poor performances may bring.

When all is said and done though it comes down to this amazing news ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man. Kenny Dalglish is back.’ What will be, will be. How things ‘un-crinkle’ is yet to be seen. But for now I, for one, am going to live in the moment. What an amazing moment it is.

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Comments
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Hastie. Michael Hastie said: RT @mcdonaldtaf: Liverpool FC: Cometh the hour (return of Dalglish) http://bit.ly/gSgH5g @empireofthekop @paul_tomkins @jimboardman @rob … […]

  2. Steve says:

    The most optimistic post of yours I think I have ever read Mr. MacDonald. I sincerely hope it is justified…

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