My grandmother died last spring and in the car on the way to the funeral I noticed my sister still had her King Kenny keychain dangling from her purse. My sister isn't exactly a Liverpool fan, although she tries to keep up with the team news via Twitter, but she did manage to become a Kenny fan during his short second go at managing the club. I asked why she still had it and she said "You can fire him from the team, but you can't fire him from my heart."
Even someone who marginally follows Liverpool knows how important he is to the club. Despite winning the League Cup, Kenny's second tenure at Liverpool is perceived as unsuccessful, and that's perhaps the most disappointing part of King's long relationship with the club. The season Liverpool are having under Brendan Rodgers is reminiscent of the kind of season the team had with Dalglish, both as a player and a manager in the 1980s, and it's the kind of season most had hoped Liverpool could have mustered for the man in the aftermath of the Hodgepocalypse.
Everyone's got the warm and fuzzies, and in an excellent interview with The Guardian, Dalglish sat down with his former colleagues Ian Rush and Roy Evans to talk about their own title runs as well as Liverpool's current tilt for the top prize. The whole interview is worth reading if only for the clearly unromantic Ronnie Moran's take on league winners' medals, but Kenny had a lot to say on the work Brendan Rodgers has done with this team this year.
"The results and the performances have been brilliant, the league table shows that," Dalglish said on Rodgers's accomplishments. "Brendan is the one who leads the club and the players. The players are the disciples. They have believed in what he has told them. What has been great for me is that individuals are not getting carried away and aside from some great individual performances, they are a team. They believe in the team ethic and I think that is really important.
"When you do get a bit of success it is important to maintain that, and Liverpool have always been very humble winners. We have been good winners. It is difficult being a good winner, but we did that during the successful period and this year I am sure they will do the same thing. They don't go shouting their mouths off. The way they have conducted themselves has been fantastic. That's what the people want. "
It's an important point. There have been times throughout the season when Liverpool have been labelled "flat track bullies", but with Liverpool experiencing a swell of neutral support that's been unprecedented in the last twenty years, it's clear that it's not just Reds who are happy with how Liverpool are making their run. There are teams who win the title in a way that doesn't necessarily make for good headlines or movie scripts — and that's perfectly fine — but the narrative around Liverpool's ascendency has been largely positive. This is a team that's likeable and that you can't help but want to see succeed.
The unbelievable quickness with which Liverpool have improved their table place since last season still causes heart palpitations amongst even the most fervent supporters. This might be known locally as ETW, but it's an approach that the King himself doesn't quite understand.
"[Liverpool] get to the top of the league and then people start to doubt it," Dalglish said. "Why? Why would you doubt it? Rather than ask for a reason why they will do it, give me a reason why they won't. You don't know what will be needed [to win] but they will be feeling a lot better than the other two [Chelsea and Manchester City], I can tell you that."
The King has spoken. Long live the King.