By Darren Rudham
In a scant two months, Kenny Dalglish has added alchemy to his already impressive list of accomplishments at Anfield. In a little over nine weeks he’s turned 11 leaden lumps into an auric automaton. And his magic has spilled over into the boardroom, entrancing his new employers, too.
John Henry’s whisperings of involving Dalglish in his long-term plan would seem to be closer to echoing through the halls of Anfield with talks of a two-year contract being publicized. But the King knows better than most about the validity of lip service. Public announcements of support mean very little and new contracts are printed on 2 ply rolls. Three if you are Fernando Torres.
Perhaps the less lustrous part of Kenny’s history is why the brass has been so cagey about putting pen to paper and then only offering a two year deal as opposed to the four-year stint he was after. After setting the gold standard, his unceremonious abdication as regent left the Reds in the hands of one unworthy successor after another. Worse yet, the health reasons he cited for his departure cleared up after 8 months and he rehung his shingle less than an hour way.
Sentiment, no matter how strong it pours out of the Kop, will not sway the brass at Fenway Sports Group. They have already proven that their measures are swift and decisive. After acquiring the Boston Red Sox, they let two managers go within a two year period. First to go was Joe Kerrigan within months of them taking over. Grady Little was next, shown the door after a managerial decision that arguably cost the Sox a divisional title in 2003.
Fast forward seven years. After FSG takes over at Anfield, under-performing Roy Hodgson leaves under “mutual consent.” Their “man for the job” takes over. But if history, and FSG’s impatience for lack of results follows, Kenny Dalglish might not see the end of 2011-12 season if some form of silverware fails to make its way into the cabinet, no matter how close he comes or how long the ink on his contract says he has to try.
As great as Dalglish has been in the short term, FSG have managerial options. Marty O’Neill is still on the dole. Rafa is
playing chess in the Liverpool environs, and with Mourinho more than likely to reinvent himself away from the continent after what is amounting to an unsuccessful season on the Iberian peninsula, successors are now available in veritable spades.
But Henry and Werner have a knack for picking out quality. Or spotting what’s right in front of them when everyone else can’t. Terry Francona, NESV’s replacement for Little, won a World Series for the Red Sox the year after his appointment. And now they have quite literally fallen into a manager that comes readymade with an enviable managerial resume. Three leagues. Two FA Cups and four Charity shields. And that is just as a Liverpool FC manager.
Dalglish has also taken teams from relative obscurity to the pinnacle of the English game. It took open coffers and record signings (sounding familiar?), but he did it, and in a relatively short time period. But money and talent aside, the delicate chemistry that is a modern Premiership team often takes time to perfect. The fact that his experiments, unlike his predecessor’s, haven’t blown up in his face yet after two months would suggest that he deserves more than half a season to perfect his elixir.
It is unlikely that Dalglish will hoist anchor again. Age and experience are a sobering influence on the headiness of youth. His travels outside the gates of Anfield coupled with what has happened inside of them in his absence point to Anfield as being the cul-de-sac on his managerial path. And with Sir Alex looking like he is going to make good on his promise of unperching LFC, odds are Kenny – given the chance – will not abide until the Reds are back on top.
For Liverpool FC fans and the new management alike, the specters of Managers Past are fresh enough to cause some concern. As good as he was – and has been again – forgiveness from the Anfield faithful is a one shot deal. But for now, the King is back. All hail the King.