"It has been an honour and a privilege to have had the chance to come back to Liverpool Football Club as Manager...I would like to thank all of the staff at the Club for their effort and loyalty. I said when first approached about coming back as Manager that I would always be of help if I can at any time and that offer remains the same. Finally, I want to put on record my heartfelt gratitude to Liverpool's fans, who have always given me and the Club their unwavering support. Without them neither the Club nor I would have achieved anything." Kenny Dalglish, 15 May 2012
Yesterday was a strange day. I spent much of the previous night frustrated in finding a way to craft some sort of optimistic perspective on the potential that could emerge from Liverpool's two cup runs, and how Kenny Dalglish would need to make some tweaks to get the best out of his current squad on a more consistent basis in league.
I didn't get that far in the piece, mostly because I wasn't sure how to milk the obvious answers (less Downing and Adam, more Kuyt and Maxi, Henderson in the middle, cover for Lucas, etc.) into a coherent wrap-up. I was selfishly glad to see that when I woke up most of the discussion was focused on the announcement of the England squad for Euro 2012, as well as Martin Skrtel's denials that he wanted a summer exit from Liverpool. Both fairly easy topics to cover---Stewart Downing's inclusion made for simple "look, Roy Hodgson's still a boob despite everyone outside of Liverpool trying to pretend he's not" discussion, and the Skrtel bit lent itself to some fun ridiculing of Goal.com, mostly because, you know, it's Goal.
The last bit was planned to be a throwaway comment on the state of the Kenny Dalglish situation---lots of speculation about what had occurred in Boston earlier this week, but there had been little in the way of concrete information to emerge from what appeared to be pre-planned sessions focused on reviewing the goods, bads, and in-betweens of a rocky campaign. Lots of panic in the absence of facts, something Liverpool supporters have become awfully good at in the past few years.
Once again, I didn't get that far.
News of Kenny Dalglish's dismissal started as a trickle on Twitter, as most things nowadays do, and by 5:00PM BST we had confirmation that the club legend, who'd arrived at one of the club's darkest post-Hillsborough moments back in January of 2011 and almost single-handedly united a club that was frighteningly divided, was no longer in charge.
Suddenly the speculation wasn't speculation at all, and Liverpool were in the very familiar position of saying goodbye to a manager that had been appointed, at least by non-Chelsea standards, only a short time ago. We always knew it was a possibility, particularly after the club limped to the finish line in the Premier League for most of 2012. The cup runs, as I intended to argue, were reason for the slightest bit of optimism, but only if they---and Dalglish in particular---could prove that lessons had been learned.
And while we're still not privy to any of the details about how the decision was made, we do know that he'll never have the chance to prove that he'd learned from the struggles of the season gone by. The League Cup trophy was good enough for some, two cup finals was encouraging for most, but eighth in league wasn't good enough for anyone, and it certainly wasn't good enough for Fenway Sports Group, who are now tasked not only with finding a new manager, Director of Football, and Director of Communications, but with showing the Liverpool-supporting world that they've got a plan in place and can begin to carry it out by appointing someone in the impossibly large shadow of a club legend.
To focus solely on the future doesn't seem quite right, however, even if that's what we're supposed to be doing. An immediate look forward was appropriate when Roy Hodgson was sacked, given that he had no history with the club and burnt more bridges than he could even picture during his short time with Liverpool. There were the predictable cries in the wake of the Dalglish dismissal that he, like Hodgson, wasn't given enough time, and that now Liverpool have set a standard that managers either produce on the Abramovich clock or they're done. I'm not sure that's entirely fair, however, as Hodgson was an appointment that never should have been, and the subsequent triage work by Dalglish is something that never should have had to occur.
The most obvious recent parallel---tenuous as it might be---is the forced exit of Rafa Benitez, whose name has obviously been widely spread as a potential replacement. Regardless of whether or not that happens, his was a departure that felt unsettling despite the relative acceptance that it was bound to occur. Benitez was more divisive than Dalglish, and possibly more stubborn, but there was still a level of emotion surrounding the end of his tenure that made it an uncomfortable experience, and one that brought about a level of dissonance I'd rather not have experienced again.
That's heightened with Kenny Dalglish, and it's not overly sentimental to just acknowledge the fact that, with someone of his stature, it was always going to be difficult to rectify reason with emotion. The man has formed a relationship with the club that makes sentimentality part of the package. There's not a right reaction in this situation as a supporter---maybe it's natural to lean towards logic or emotion, as so many of us often do. But neither is better than the other. Neither solves the problem at hand, and neither brings about a comfortable conclusion to this whole situation for anyone.
I'm not too fond of absolutes, and today's been a day that's had more than its share of them, but I feel comfortable saying that if there's any sort of true investment in Liverpool Football Club, today was a difficult day. If life were decided solely on facts, it'd have been easy, just as it would have been if life were decided solely on emotions. In those scenarios, Kenny Dalglish's exit was either far too late or never going to happen. But that's not the case, and we're left with a situation in which there really aren't any winners.
That it's hard to deal with goes without saying, unless you're trying to pride yourself on being objective and condescending and responding to everything with an "I told you so." I'm sure that feels nice enough, and it guarantees that your connection to the club and its supporters, at least those who are willing to take a risk in actually caring, is superficial at best. Comfortable, maybe, but also an experience that leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to connecting to a club that prides itself on its ability to connect.
About the best conclusion I can muster is that yesterday sucked. Someone who cares about the club deeply was dismissed, plenty more who care about the club were at odds with one another, and the day ended without anything resembling answers from those who purport to provide them for a living.
We'll look to the future with optimism, tempered as it might be by recent events, but there's no denying that yesterday was, by any standard, a tough way to say goodbye.