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Dalglish Enthused by "How Far Liverpool Have Come"

Kenny Dalglish was quick to praise the progress of his beloved Liverpool Football Club under Brendan Rodgers, insisting the team have done "extremely well" but retaining his old-school focus on the "next game" only.

It's your debut season and you chip a delightful winner in the European Cup Final - how very Dalglish.
It's your debut season and you chip a delightful winner in the European Cup Final - how very Dalglish.
Central Press

When, in October of last year, Kenny Dalglish returned to the club as a non-executive director, a vexatious restiveness and disquietude which had plagued your scribbler was finally becalmed. You see, I have little use for, or indeed any comprehension of a world in which a healthy and active Dalglish is not a central part of the make-up of Liverpool Football Club. It was nothing short of benighted folly that the great man had been uninvolved for so long, following his second departure from managerial duties in 2012. The role he was assuming was almost irrelevant. Kenny was back and it was good.

Only the most myopic and self-delusional of Dalglish loyalists would deny that there were a myriad of issues building by the end of the 2011/2012 season -- from disastrous purchases to PR faux pas and media stand-offs -- as the team struggled to an abysmal eighth place and a lamentable 52 points. Dalglish, of course, was not to blame for all of those things but his input into the ill-starred recruitment of Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll combined with his stance on the Suarez-Evra scandal and his increasingly belligerent and pugnacious method of dealing with the media had seriously compromised his previously unassailable position.

I won't lie. Initially, the sight of a surly Kenny treating Ferguson sycophant Geoff Shreeves and his ilk with the disdain they deserve was a tonic after the nodding-dog cozy media routine of Roy Hodgson. Here was a man imbued with the distilled essence of the club and the city, ready to fight on their behalf, but it had gotten to the stage where Dalglish was openly hostile any time a camera was in the vicinity and that did nobody, especially himself, any favours.

For older fans, the glorious cup runs and the League Cup success were a throwback to greater days and the sight of Dalglish, arms aloft, with that joyous, almost beatific grin fixed on his features was a nostalgic, and in the case of some of us, massively emotive image. Liverpool felt like my club again and the man who's done more than anyone else alive to make it the great institution it is was back at the helm.

The savage and vituperative fashion in which some fans turned on him and the utterly disrespectful way in which this living legend was spoken about, by folk who purport to stand beneath the same banner as I do, was enough to make this writer bilious. It was short-term, I want it all now culture writ large and it was repulsive to behold. Articulate your frustrations, by all means. Much as it pained many of us, we did just that, but one simply does not spew bile-laden maledictions at Kenny Dalglish without at least acknowledging the greater context of his contribution to the club you claim to understand.

Watching Stewart Downing mince about and provide approximately zero end product, witnessing Chuckles Adam as he barrelled around in the centre failing to hit Hollywood balls and wincing at the spectacle of record signing Andy Carroll, as he watched on from the treatment room were all horrors that could be attributed to Dalglish. The ill-judged stance on the racism allegations against Luis Suarez were well-intentioned but left the club open to ridicule. Again, Kenny contributed to that debacle.

However, nine league titles (four as manager), three European Cups, two FA Cups (as manager) and a League Cup in his last spell are also attributable to this man. Leading the city through the horror of Hillsborough in an almost statesman-like way -- that was Dalglish too. Rescuing the club, Red Adair-style, after it had almost utterly lost its identity thanks to Hicks, Gillett and Hodgson was an achievement of note for the Scot too. Context. Balance. Respect. That's all that is required.

Suffice it to say, then, that the return of this most singular of gents was a real boost to those of us who feared that in all the earnestness about moving forward from Year Zero, the soul of the club might be lost. In Kenny Dalglish Liverpool has a tangible and vibrant connection to an era in which the club was unmatched, peerless, a colossus of world football. Common sense dictates that such a man must be an integral part of the football club.

Speaking at a grassroots event, Dalglish was phlegmatic about the recent loss of two points and maintained an optimistic, if old-school attitude to the remainder of the season.

"If Liverpool are disappointed with the result, it tells you how far Liverpool have come," insisted the two-time manager. "They're on there for fourth spot and I think it'll take someone half decent to put them out of the fourth spot. Throughout the length of the season people do make mistakes, it’s how you react to them that counts. It was unfortunate that they never came away with the three points on Sunday at The Hawthorns but I’m sure there will be many more games when they’ll get the three points."

In Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool have a partnership which, in the eyes of Dalglish, has "bloomed" and become the envy of the top division. Canny old-stager that he is, the Scot would not be drawn on any fanciful title talk, referring to such projection as "stupid" and a betrayal of his years of "education" in the Liverpool method of doing things. He was, however, happy to eulogise about the duo whose goals are firing the club towards their best chance of Champions League football in years.

"They’re two fantastic individuals and all credit to them, they’re playing for the team as well," he averred. "They put in a good shift when they’ve not got the ball, they work well with each other and as individuals. They’re really difficult to stop so they’ve been fantastic."

Fantastic, indeed. It may be the non-committal, one-game-at-a-time stuff we've heard from him since Bob Paisley signed him in 1977, but it is good to hear Kenny Dalglish talking about Liverpool again. Long may it continue.

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