Outside of familial or spousal disharmony, few things have left my soul as troubled as the painful end to Kenny Dalglish's last spell in charge of his beloved Liverpool. When FSG took the decision to end his tenure, there were not as many dissenting voices as there might have been, but it was the curt and disrespectful nature of his removal which stuck deep in the craw of anyone who has a feel for the club and the esteem in which its greatest ever player is held on Merseyside and beyond.
In the pantheon of Liverpool greats there are many exemplars but alongside Shankly, there is only Dalglish. The significance of his contribution as player, manager and community figurehead is unrivalled by all but his fellow Scot. Over the last seventeen months, whilst nursing the heartbreak of a legend's unnecessary absence, myself and countless thousands of others, have warily embraced the Brendan Rodgers era and begun to enjoy football again. For whilst Dalglish will always be the nonpareil, the only full season of his second term was a hellish amalgam of stress, controversy and frustration. It came down to expectation, you see, and nobody's were higher than those of the Glasgow native.
As the majority of his expensively assembled new boys failed to represent value, another of them caused a storm of outrage and tabloid faux-indignation which was even more deleterious to the Scot's reputation. Simply put, despite Dalglish's uncanny and lasting knack of acquiring silverware, it was a miserable and angst-ridden season, as those of us who love the man dearly watched his increasingly fractious media interactions and lamented the inability of his recruits to lift Liverpool higher in the table. Even more simply put, it broke my heart just as it was breaking Kenny's.
After initial anxieties about his return were quashed by the heady pass-and-move football from January to May 2011, I don't believe I've ever been more exultant. Kenny was back! We were good again. He was beaming, celebrating, beguiling a new generation, as he had mine. The pressers were bloody marvellous as he mixed his vaguely disdainful attitude to a media which had so badly wronged his adopted city with his trademark drollery and caustic wit, all the while personifying the pride and dignity of the club -- LiverpoolFootballClub -- all one word when Kenny speaks it, like a prayer, a mantra or a subtle nod to the greatness and gravitas he understands and many have forgotten.
Many had also forgotten or never known what Kenny Dalglish means to Liverpool. Irascible I may be, but by Fowler, there were some folk close to a knuckle sandwich as Kenny's and Liverpool's fortunes waned. Criticism was justified, and I was prone to a moan myself, but the dismissive vitriol directed at Dalglish and the subsequent grave-dancing after his sacking was abhorrent to me and made me simultaneously maudlin and murderous.
It was a thing I could and will never reconcile. Kenny Dalglish was sacked by Liverpool. Kenny Dalglish. No amount of subsequent spin and justification can justify that. You say business? I say, respect. You say seventh, I say trophy. It could and should have been handled better. Revisit the details if you feel inclined to argue. I have neither the heart nor the stomach to detail them again. It was tawdry and utterly unbecoming. It was the antithesis of all the union between Dalglish and Liverpool has represented since 1978.
Against this background comes the news of Dalglish's overdue return to the club, having been offered a non-executive director's role. That the legendary Scot accepted is testimony to his enduring love for Liverpool. He doesn't need this position, but the club needs Kenny Dalglish. In an excellent piece, Karl Coppack, likened Joe Fagan's role back in 1985 to that of a consigliere for the young player/manager. Dalglish can now provide that wise counsel to Brendan Rodgers and should Liverpool progress into the Champions League, there will be no more resonant figure to represent the club amongst the elite of Europe than Dalglish.
John Henry, the man who initially appointed and then removed the three-time European Cup winner, has now welcomed him back with some measured and respectful words. Words, of course, can be empty or otiose ciphers and previous actions still sting, but Henry is at least careful to fully acknowledge the standing of the man he is inviting back inside a circle from which he should never have been excluded.
"I am delighted to welcome Kenny Dalglish back to Anfield," he told the club's official website. "Kenny is a towering figure in the history of Liverpool Football Club. Along with Bill Shankly, he embodies what the club stands for. As a player and as a manager, Kenny established his position as a football great. But that is only half the story. His compassion and leadership in the immediate aftermath of Hillsborough brought great solace to the families of the 96. His support of the campaign for justice since 1989 has been unfailing and inspirational and has given him a status that goes far beyond that of a mere sporting figure.
"However the return of Kenny Dalglish is not about the past. We are building for the future. From the dressing room to the boardroom, we are creating a structure that will take Liverpool back to the top. Kenny brings the sort of intelligence, experience and knowledge that will help us reach our goals. Tom, Ian, Brendan and I, along with every single Liverpool supporter, staff member and player want to welcome back Kenny with the same warmth and depth of feeling that he has shown for his club over these decades."
Yes, John, his club over decades. That's damn right. The King is back. I care not how or why. Dalglish is part of the club again and the world is as it should be. Enjoy the weekend, folks. This scribbler is getting a bit misty, but walking with a lighter step.