- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Matthew Handley
‘All around the Fields of Anfield Road, where once we watched King Kenny play, and could he play!’
Thus begins the chant that will ring around Anfield at least 5 times on matchdays. It is a chant that sings of a stadium in which ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish won 7 league championships and returned 3 European Cups as a player. But recently, Liverpool fans have had less and less to sing about. And the prolific success that Dalglish brought to the club as a player and manager in his first stint seems to become more and more distant. After a string of results that had the league begun on January 1st would leave the Reds in 19th place, the side now languish behind city rivals Everton. Suddenly, questions are starting to be asked of a man who was once thought of as untouchable.
And rightly so. Legendary status counts for a lot. Indeed it was the key reason for Dalglish being brought back to the club. With Liverpool devoid of morale and languishing in the bottom half of the league under Droopy Dog lookalike Roy ‘Woy’ Hodgson, the side desperately needed to be injected with a feel-good factor; Dalglish, the returning King, provided this. Suddenly the players seemed galvanised, and the arrivals of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez on deadline day only seemed to add to a new found buzz around Anfield.
But now those two players seem to typify exactly why Dalglish has gotten it wrong. Andy Carroll is the 8th most expensive footballer of all time. At the moment he’s playing like the kid who got picked 8th in P.E. When there were only 9 kids in the class. Only ‘Fat John’ got picked after him. Signed for £35million, Carroll has cost £7million per league goal so far. Similar flops have included Jordan Henderson, a midfielder with the on-pitch presence of a particularly quiet foetus, and Stewart Downing, who has dramatically failed to recapture the form that made him so sought after at Aston Villa last season. But these three players cumulatively cost around £70million, a frankly absurd figure. The inflated price tag stems from the way in which Damien Comolli, Director of Football, and Dalglish seek to do their business, signing young English players with resale value. This obvious flaw in this policy is that English clubs massively inflate the price tags of their young stars, as the sensationalist sporting press hype up the ‘next big thing’; a few good performances and you’re suddenly touted as the nation’s saviour, and Kenny will probably try and sign you up. This has failed.
Luis Suarez, in a strictly footballing sense, has been able to contribute much more to the side than the aforementioned players. However, in the aftermath of his 8-match-ban for racially abusing Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra, Dalglish’s response brought shame upon the club. Firstly in a match against Wigan he donned a t-shirt with an image of Suarez as a show of support. Aside from making him look like he was on a ‘day out’, it was behaviour more appropriate when a teammate has been diagnosed with serious illness, not when they’ve been found guilty of discrimination. Moreover, after Suarez petulantly refused to shake Evra’s hand upon the clubs’ next meeting, Dalglish refused to criticise his player, and shrugged off media questions about the Uruguayan’s childish actions, until the club’s owners Fenway Sports Group were forced to intervene. This is emblematic of how out of touch Dalglish has become with the modern-day game. He doesn’t seem to understand the fast-moving, media-driven nature of the game, and, in his blinkered support for his players attracts distracting levels of press attention that have contributed to recent poor form. Dalglish simply hasn’t been critical enough of his players, hasn’t given them the necessary kick up their collective backside, and seems completely devoid of ideas as the club sink further into a quagmire of mediocrity.
It’s time for a change. It’s time for someone who understands the modern day game. Someone fresh and original, who won’t be given too much leeway by fans because of their cult standing at the club. Someone young, hungry and with a point to prove. It’s time for Andre Villas-Boas. Simply not given a fair enough chance by Chelsea, AVB is an incredibly promising young manager, who would break with the idea of buying players for ‘resale value’ and instead cultivate a team to work together, rather than the individualism that has massively hampered Liverpool in recent weeks and make them seem devoid of direction. It’s worth a shot. Things, at the moment, seem unlikely to get any worse.
Thanks for the memories Kenny, and you’ll always be a hero. But it’s time for someone new. AVB isn’t doing much at the moment; perhaps FSG should give him a bell…