Kenny – On the Edge?

By , Posted on 18th February 2012 - Posted in: Football News, News

When Kenny Dalglish walked back into the manager’s office at Anfield just over a year ago to resume the job he was doing twenty years previously, he carried the swagger of a man who’d realised a long cherished dream. Though life in those intervening years had hardly been dull and lacking in opportunity to showcase his managerial talents (stints at Celtic and Newcastle and a Premier League title with Blackburn) it was an open secret that he’d always nurtured hopes of returning to the club he loved above all others.

When Roy Hodgson was sacked the planets finally aligned and Kenny was back. Overnight he appeared to shake off the rather dour and tetchy persona that had enveloped him in his later career. Seeing him skip almost playfully through his first couple of press conferences one was reminded of Ebeneezer Scrooge’s transformation, having found himself still alive on Christmas morning, when all had seemed lost the night before.

Not only was Dalglish back, he was back with a bang, lavishing tens of millions of pounds in that  January transfer window of 2011, and overseeing the departure of Fernando Torres to Chelsea and the arrival of Andy Carroll from Newcastle – a double transfer of such magnitude that it somewhat overshadowed the purchase of Uruguayan international Luis Suarez from Dutch club Ajax.

And yet one year on, for all the talk of Torres and Carroll (and there’s been a fair bit of it) it’s Suarez who looks set to be the player Dalglish’s legacy either stands or falls around. First impressions of the man were of a supremely talented footballer; a man whose signature seemed to confirm Dalglish’s steady touch in the transfer market. For a long time Suarez’s presence neatly offset the criticism that was aimed at his other expensive signings – the much more disappointing Carroll, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson.

Wonderful player he may be but Suarez came with baggage. His disciplinary record is appalling and he was serving a lengthy ban from the game for biting an opponent when Ajax sold him to Liverpool. He has an ever expanding rap sheet that includes: a red card in the last World Cup for a goal line ‘save’ against Ghana, an eight game ban for the racist abuse of Manchester United‘s Patrice Evra and a one game ban for an abusive one fingered salute to Fulham fans at Craven Cottage. All that coupled with some rather theatrical antics on the pitch have left his manager exasperated.

The Patrice Evra affair has seen Liverpool FC looking sadly out of touch and rather foolish. In their eagerness to back their man they’ve misjudged the situation entirely and Dalglish, as manager, has to take a lot of the blame for that. Accordingly, the spring has gone from the step and we’ve seen the demeanour increasingly regress back to that of old Scrooge. Having walked away from the job in the past because of a build up of pressure he looks increasingly like a man on the edge once more. Suarez has proved as slippery to deal with off the pitch as he is on it and the relationship between player and manager now seems irreparable. What bet either Dalglish or Suarez leave Anfield in the summer? Maybe even both?

It could change dramatically in the next week or so of course. Progress in the FA Cup this weekend at the expense of Championship side Brighton will see Liverpool go into next weekend’s League Cup final full of confidence. There’s nothing like winning cups to blow away the dark clouds, but the damage inflicted on the club in the current disastrous run of PR failures runs deep.

Suarez no longer looks like the one transfer Dalglish got right. Strike partner Craig Bellamy, signed on a free from Manchester City, is carrying the fight almost single handedly and has been one of Liverpool’s brightest players this season. Perhaps the most amazing trick Suarez has conjured is in making Bellamy, a player universally vilified by fans up and down the land, seem almost likeable in comparison. And that really does take some doing.


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