New King in Town

by Ian Mahon

To whom it may concern,

The next few hundred words will be a love-in involving a Glaswegian with a fiery temper. A Glaswegian who once lived in a flat overlooking Ibrox, and went on to play there in many an Old Firm battle.

He has previously assembled a team, won the Premier League and in the process been awarded Manager of the Year. This Glaswegian occasionally intimidates journalists with his general demeanour at press conferences. He also had a son who played under his tutelage, briefly, before father dearest decided he wasn’t good enough and so eventually moved him on.

For his efforts this season, in achieving success despite the surroundings of big-spending teams, this Glaswegian should be awarded LMA Manager of the Year.

No, not Sir Alex Ferguson. Kenny Dalglish.

Reader discretion is advised.

Before setting a scene, it’s important to wade through the hate mail, rotten fruit and strange sex dolls sent via the Manchester direction.

Ok, done.

Sex dolls?

Ok, moving on.

Liverpool have just walked off the pitch to a chorus of boos after a 3-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers, who now embarrassingly leapfrog them in the league table. Benjani is a well-known striker. He’s well known for not scoring goals, yet he’s scored two for Blackburn today.

Liverpool weren’t just beaten, either. They were comprehensively beaten.

The defeat leaves them with a return of 25 points from 20 games, and despite sitting in 12th position, relegation is still a real possibility considering there are two teams in the drop-zone who are only four points worse off. They’re the 18th best team in the league on their travels, with five points earned out of a possible thirty.

They’ve an overall goal difference of -3. They’ve lost more games than Wigan, a team in the relegation zone. Their supposed star striker, Fernando Torres, is waltzing around the pitch with a sulk on his face. It’s almost as if he would rather be trapped in a never-ending merry-go-round, with an Alvin and the Chipmunks CD on repeat, than continue playing for this disjointed outfit.

“There were literally a long list of negatives, to be fair,” Jamie Redknapp didn’t say.

But after the Blackburn defeat, when it was really cold, the club’s new owners, New England Sports Ventures (Later to become known as Fenway Sports Group for some strange, unknown reason), decided they’d had enough and parted ways with Roy Hodgson – despite his best efforts as a world-renowned turtle impersonator.

Without getting overloaded in statistics, or commas, like the last paragraph, 25 points from 20 games translates as 1.25 points per game. If this points-per-game average continued until today, Liverpool would be sitting in 12th position, with just under 44 points. Mid-table obscurity.
Back to the scene.

While holidaying on the other side of the world with his family, Kenny Dalglish picks up a red emergency telephone. It’s John Henry. He’s manic.

He needs Dalglish in place as manager before the fans revolt. Dalglish immediately says yes, before presumably adding something in a Glaswegian accent that Henry barely understands.

He returns to Liverpool within a couple of days with Steve Clarke as his assistant.

Today, a little over four months later, Liverpool aren’t sitting in 12th position. And they’re not heading for mid-table obscurity, either.

They’re in fifth place with two games remaining. Tottenham travel to Anfield on Sunday and a win for Liverpool would see them cement a European place for next season.

This rejuvenated outfit have scored 35 goals in the 16 league games since Dalglish took over, scoring in each of the 16 games and keeping eight clean sheets in the process – feats unmatched by any other team in the league. They’ve collected 33 points, which only Chelsea (35) can boast about matching. On their way to collecting the 33 points, they’ve beaten Manchester United and Manchester City at Anfield, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and drawn at the Emirates against Arsenal.

They are averaging 2.06 points a game, which, if achieved from the beginning of the season, would leave them on 74 points, just two behind Manchester United on 76.

Fernando Torres, their sulking striker, was sold to Chelsea for £50 million, with two strikers arriving in his place: Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez – for £35 million and £22.8 million respectively. And now, while Torres is struggling for both confidence and a place in the Chelsea starting XI, Carroll and Suarez are flourishing.

Dalglish has transformed a broken side into European hopefuls; they’ve gone from a fractured eleven devoid of any enthusiasm into a cohesive unit, pressing high up the pitch with a renewed attacking mentality. Many felt he was out of touch when he took the job; he’s since proven them wrong, especially from a tactical point of view.

The ‘two banks of four’ approach favoured by the turtle impersonator has been thrown out in favour of a flowing 4-3-3, and at times when needed to counter specific threats, a 3-5-1-1.

This Liverpool side have gone from one extreme to the other; from a laughing stock towards the end of 2010, to a side that were just a few points shy of playing Champions League football next season.

There are other contenders for the LMA Manager of the Year award, with the likes of Tony Pulis, David Moyes and Ian Holloway mentioned.

But Blackpool, despite an initial honeymoon period, have since torpedoed down the league. With just two wins and 12 defeats since the turn of the year, Holloway faces an uphill struggle to even stay in the division.

Everton have once again performed well, with their post-Christmas form helping them to seventh place. But Moyes has won the award previously, for a fifth place finish in 2009, and has since failed to build on that – although financial constraints haven’t helped his cause.

It seems Pulis may be Dalglish’s biggest contender for the award.Stoke have pulled off some unlikely results this season. Currently in 8th spot with an F.A Cup final still to play, Tony Pulis has made the Brittania Stadium a tough place for any team to visit.

But have they really been that good, though?

At a glance, it appears Stoke have been remarkable, when in fact they look set to barely equal their points tally which guided them to 11th place last season.

It’s away from home they encounter problems, with only three wins on the road all season, all coming before the turn of the year. They’ve collected just two points away from home in 2011, with one of those coming against Blackpool.

Their F.A Cup run hasn’t exactly been the most challenging, either, with ties against Cardiff (which needed a replay), Wolves, Brighton, West Ham and Bolton. The 5-0 semi-final demolition job of Bolton cannot be ignored, but it appears a freak result considering the last time they scored five goals in a game, prior to the Bolton hammering, was against Norwich in 2006.

Liverpool, on the other hand, have knocked five goals past both Fulham and Birmingham in the last three weeks. Not bad going for a side that were two points below Stoke when Dalglish took over.

They’re now 12 points ahead of them.

Ok, I’ve had enough of the rotten fruit.It is more than fair to suggest that Sir Alex Ferguson be awarded Manager of the Year should he guide Manchester United to an unprecedented 19th league title come the end of the month.

But considering that the LMA equivalent “is voted by fellow professional managers, unlike the Premier League Manager of the Year, and as a result consideration is also given to managers who inherit poor sides,” then it is equally fair that Dalglish receive the latter.

Twenty-five years ago, Ferguson said he wanted to “knock Liverpool off their f***ing perch.” Now, with Liverpool well and truly on the ground dusting their shoulders, it is apt that the man who kept Liverpool on their perch in the first place has got back into the ring.

Two fiery Glaswegians given both Manager of the Year awards. What a fitting start that would be to Round Two.

3 Responses

  1. Steve, Reading says:

    Just a quick correction …

    “Twenty-five years ago, Ferguson said he wanted to “knock Liverpool off their f***ing perch.” ”

    He didn’t mention a perch until September 2002, over 16 years after taking over at Old Trafford. It was in an interview with Michael Walker int he Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2002/sep/28/newsstory.sport?INTCMP=SRCH

    1. Ian Mahon says:

      Cheers Steve.

      Replace said with felt. Problem solved!

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