‘Kenny Dalglish drove me home, and parked right outside our house on Windsor Street. Kenny Dalglish in Toxteth in this big white sports car, a Mercedes I think it was.’
Robbie ‘God’ Fowler
I was reminded of Robbie’s book this week and in particular its 55th page in which Robbie recollects the time Kenny drove him home from training. Robbie was then a youth player who recognised the interest the first team manager was taking in his development and appreciated every ounce of it. Sentiments echoed recently in Jamie Redknapp’s newspaper column in which he spoke about moving North, living in digs and being fed by the family Dalglish who went out of their way to help him settle in. Two young lads so integral to the future of the club that the first team manager went out of his way to ensure their wellbeing. It was, put simply, a class act by a class figure.
This relationship is well observed in other spheres of the sports industry too. I attended a funeral last year for the East End boxing trainer Terry Lawless, who, along with his wife opened the doors and furniture to fighters from across the isles, not least Scotland’s Jim Watt, now of Sky Sports, who forty years later eulogised at length for his former friends funeral. He spoke of the difference the gesture made to his development and the lifetime bond it forged. Such acts of charity and concern, away from the pitch are often remembered and go a long way to building respect.
I was reminded of this recently when I read that Kenny has been driving the exciting duo Suso and Connor Coady like an a-list chauffeur. This is great and shows a real and genuine interest in the stars of tomorrow. It offers hope, for the first time in quite some time, that these young players can and will appear in the first team at some point.
The youth side is in a fine shape and Kenny has been quick credit Rafa with its condition (that of a club in good health barring the since removed Transatlantic vandals). Rafa and his appointed staff worked obsessively to create a team that could supply the main squad in the future, but (and I am a loud cheerleader for Rafa) there remained an underlying concern that it was unlikely that any serious opportunity would be offered to the young. Not so now, as Kenny’s attendance in the dugout throughout last week’s reserve game demonstrates. His relocation of the players and dissolving of the Academy name in order to cultivate a unified identity, is all good news. Changes that suggest there is a long term thinking and planning in place, designed to take Rafa’s excellent work that little bit further. With the inclusion of Kelly, Spearing and Shelvey on a regular basis and Pacheco taking his place on the bench for the two most recent matches the signs are encouraging that before long these thrilling talents will get a serious opportunity to show what they can do, which will come as a huge relief to those of you, who like me, have been waiting in hope for years for another prospect to emerge and make us proud. The wait is almost over.