What difference a year makes. It is exactly a year since Kenny Dalglish took over at Liverpool for the second time. On January 8, 2011, Roy Hodgson’s torrid time at Anfield came to an end. The King was back in town.
There was those who doubted the appointment of Dalglish. For a few, it was seen as a sentimental appointment based on romance as opposed to the practicalities of a club that was, undoubtedly, in crisis. Roy Hodgson had been brought in to steady the ship and had failed miserably. Dire defeats at home to Wolves and away to Blackburn had put the final nails in his coffin.
For the American owners of the club, however, Dalglish was seen as the man for the job. The Scot himself, too, felt that it was his duty to help his struggling club, a club that lies in his heart.
“I made the decision and I made the one I think was best for myself and the football club,” he said.
He added: “I will give everything I have got to put the club in a better position than it is now. Whether that’s going to be sufficient for everyone, I don’t know. I can’t see into the future. I can only promise 100 per cent commitment. That is the way to look at it.”
One year on, few could argue that Liverpool have not made much progress. This time last year, some Liverpool fans, incredibly, feared that the club would ‘do a Leeds’ and be relegated. Given that the club was mere points above the relegation zone, and populated by poor footballers like Christian Poulsen and Paul Konchesky, the reasons for such fears are evident.
Even players who have gone on to be stalwarts of Dalglish’s current side, like Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, treaded water hopelessly under Hodgson who, for all his undoubted talents as a manager, failed to cope with the magnitude of the job at Anfield.
Few could have foreseen the pace with which Dalglish initiated change at Anfield. Players like Paul Konchesky, Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic were unceremoniously shown the door. Joe Cole was also quickly vanquished in an effort to eradicate the bad taste left at the club by Roy Hodgson. Liverpool’s star man, Fernando Torres, was not begged to stay. In hindsight, it will be the easiest £50 million Dalglish has ever made.
On a tremendously exciting final week of last January’s transfer window, the Reds signed Luis Suarez from Ajax and Andy Carroll from Newcastle for a combined total of £52 million. Despite the latter’s stuttering start to his Liverpool career, Dalglish, alongside Damien Comolli and Fenway Sports Group, meant business in the transfer market.
The summer saw the arrival of Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam, Jose Enrique, Craig Bellamy, Sebastian Coates and Alexander Doni. In the transfer market, Dalglish has well and truly freshened up Liverpool’s squad. A plethora of young, British signings has given the club an exciting new look. While the merits of individuals may be debated, few can argue the changes haven’t been for the better.
Indeed, massive strides have been taken on the pitch itself. Since the return of Dalglish, Liverpool have played better football. They have lacked cutting edge this season, and goal scoring is an issue that won’t go away, but this Liverpool team can pass it around a bit and dominate possession, something that the club often found difficult under Benitez and Hodgson.
Dalglish has given the team a steely determination that has often been absent in recent years. Liverpool’s away record is second to none. Both Arsenal and Chelsea, teams that formerly gave Liverpool much trouble away, have been dispatched by Dalglish’s men in relatively straight forward fashion. Luis Suarez and José Enrique have been revelations, while the ‘old guard’ like Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger are playing their best football in years.
Naturally, Dalglish’s reign has not been without its problems. Goal scoring remains a problem, Andy Carroll has struggled for form and the Reds have been guilty of wasting opportunity after opportunity in a number of games this season. Dalglish will be hoping home draws against inferior opposition will not cost his side Champions League qualification.
Nonetheless, it is a measure of the impact that Dalglish has had on the club that expectations among the fans and the media have risen to such high levels. For what many initially hoped would be a season of transition, the disappointment that has accompanied poor results has been that of a team hoping for greater things.
Liverpool fans should be excited by the fact that their King’s reign is only in its infancy. Under Dalglish Liverpool have moved forward by leaps and bounds in a year, a short time in football for a club that faced as many problems on and off the pitch that Liverpool did. With the proper backing, something Liverpool’s owners will give, Dalglish has all the attributes needed to build an excellent football team.
If Liverpool fans aren’t smiling at the moment, they should be. The King has returned, and his reign could well be long and successful.