Kenny Dalglish is known as King Kenny, and for good reason. Throughout his seventeen-year career, he played for only two clubs, and he had 559 appearances, with 230 goals scored between them. As a manager at Liverpool from 1985-1991, his teams won the FA cup twice and the league championship thrice. He and many of his senior players attended funerals of spectators who had been crushed during the Hillsborough tragedy, which changed the way he was viewed by both the media and Liverpool supporters. He brought Blackburn from Second Division to Premier League status. Rovers fans had been questioning whether the team even *wanted* to be promoted; Dalglish showed the fans that the team wanted it, and they could do it. Under Dalglish, Blackburn were part of the founding members of the then-new Premier League. ‘King Kenny’ is indeed a legend. But can he fix the broken Liverpool?
Roy Hodgson had control of the Reds for just seven months. Out of the twenty matches during that period, more than half were losses. I could compare them to West Ham…but that would be cruel and unnecessary. (Sorry, Hammers, but you know it’s true.) In any other career, if you failed more than half the time, you would be sacked, too. However, it has been mentioned that Hodgson was not the instigator of Liverpool’s downfall; that Rafa Benitez began the downward spiral and it only continued under Hodgson, that Benitez just knew when to jump off a sinking ship.
In Benitez’s first year at Anfield, taking over from Gérard Houllier, Liverpool won the Champions League; came in third in the FA Cup; were the runners-up in the League Cup, losing to Chelsea; and came in fifth in the Premier League. In his final year at Anfield (2009-2010), Liverpool only reached the group stages in the Champions League; lost to Reading in the third round of the FA Cup; lost to Arsenal in the fifth round of the League Cup; and came in a disappointing seventh place in the Premier League. In a bit of a consolation, Liverpool made it to the semi-final of the Europa League, only to lose to Atletico Madrid, who went on to win the league. Perhaps Hodgson isn’t to blame for the current state of Liverpool’s affairs, though supporters shouted for his sacking more than that of Benitez’s.
How is King Kenny to fix this? Liverpool failed in their first two matches under his direction. Granted, the first was immediately after he took control. He could hardly be expected to have altered the team’s training. However, that loss put Liverpool out of the FA Cup, a crushing blow for both the players and Dalglish. Liverpool also lost to Ian Holloway’s Blackpool, who had, just the previous week, held a lower position than the Reds in the League table. How can he change a team that has fallen so far from glory?
Then things started looking up. Liverpool beat Mick McCarthy’s Wolves 3-1 on 22 January. There was a new energy to the team, their style of play had changed dramatically in just two matches, and in addition to the decisive victory the Reds had 31 unanswered passes. Thirty-one, a number which had never happened during Hodgson’s or Benitez’s reign! Their next match, against Fulham, had the same exciting feel to it. Fulham, who were only three points behind Liverpool, but who had an equal away win record to Liverpool’s home win record, easily could have recorded a draw had it not been for Pantsil’s own goal. However, Liverpool were completing more passes, playing more defensively, and moving as a unit, rather than playing as just a collection of individuals.
The most recent match against Stoke City showed a completely revitalised Liverpool. Raul Meireles put Liverpool one point to the good in the 47th minute, and Luis Suarèz, on his debut, scored a spectacular goal to give Liverpool a two point lead in the 79th minute. Stoke had no chance. It seems like Dalglish is turning what was a nearly-bankrupt, failing operation back to what it once was: England’s most successful club; the club that has won eighteen league titles, seven FA Cups, seven League Cups, five European Cups, and three UEFA Cups. The club that recently avoided administration…just barely.
Now Dalglish has bought both Andy Carroll and Luis Suarèz. The Reds have won three matches in a row, something they did not do during Hodgson’s tenure, and rarely during Benitez’s. The style of playing has drastically changed, so it seems inevitable that the team reaches the top tier of the Premier League.
To quote ‘The Producers’, perhaps the only thought running through Liverpool supporters’ minds is… ‘He can do it, he can do it, he can make our dreams come true’. Only time will tell.