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Gone but certainly not forgotten at Anfield

And so it’s happened. King Kenny has left has his throne for the second – and final – time.

After being parachuted in to rescue the side from previously unthinkable lows, Kenny Dalglish has been jettisoned out by the very same men who first sought his fire-fighting services.

A legend in the truest sense of the word has been left to walk alone as the latest, and most tragic sacrificial scapegoat of Liverpool’s indifferent 2011/12 campaign.

The impact he had upon his return to Liverpool in January 2011 – both tangibly and intangibly – cannot be understated. Prior to his arrival, Liverpool were five points off the bottom of the Premier League, mired in a disharmonious state of unrest and instability.

Within weeks Dalglish had effortlessly brought unity to Liverpool, restored its fading identity, and proved himself to be the catalyst for a dramatic change in fortunes in the league – one which nearly culminated in qualification for the following season’s Europa League.

With a full summer transfer window and the issuing of a full-time contract, optimism and expectations were high prior to the start of the 2011/12 campaign.

Despite leading Liverpool to glory in the Carling Cup (ending the club’s six-year trophy drought) and to the FA Cup final, Liverpool’s season was ultimately tarnished by results in the league.

The charges on Dalglish’s indictment sheet – guiding Liverpool to their lowest league position in 18 years, the accruement of the club’s lowest points tally in the post-Bill Shankly era and finishing 37 points off top spot – were inevitably – and rightly – going to lead to questions over his vision for the club and his ability to take the club forward, especially after rubber-stamping the acquisition of over £100m worth of players over the past 18 months.

Financial outlay – no matter how great – never guarantees success. And managers are so frequently judged on the success of their signings.

While Dalglish may have been responsible for identifying and demanding the likes of Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll, a range of factors, including the somewhat inept negotiating skills of former director of football Damien Comolli, inevitably lead to the mammoth fees dished out for those recruits.

The stats and the league table will tell you that Liverpool had a bad season, but performances, including those at Anfield, where the club won just six league games, were generally positive and indicative of a work in progress.

Liverpool’s oft-stated profligacy woes – they hit the woodwork 33 times in the league – indicated that the margins were fine, but nowhere near as gargantuan as the ones that existed under Roy Hodgson.

Many outside the club criticised the loyalty afforded to Dalglish by the supporters, contrasting it with the comparative apathy and dismay aimed at Roy Hodgson during his short tenure at Anfield, but the fans were always going to give Dalglish more time and patience.

One of the few true icons in British football, the man in tune with the heartbeat and fabric of the club, the city and the fanbase, Dalglish was always going to receive an unusually generous leeway, in a sport increasingly pervaded by unsavoury elements of knee-jerkism and clamour for instant gratification.

The sight of Dalglish celebrating a Liverpool goal, arms aloft, with a smile wider than the Mersey, in perfect unity with the Kop, was one virtually incomparable to any other in the country.

Having ruthlessly dispensed with franchise legend Terry Francona at Boston Red Sox, it is patently clear that the club’s owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) operate without the shackles of sentimentality.

However, eschewing the element of emotion, the dismissal of Dalglish has provided another illustration of a worrying trend at Anfield.

For a club that has long been synonymous with stability and loyalty, Liverpool is rapidly descending into a one perpetually in a state of flux and upheaval. Four different managers (including Dalglish’s yet-to-be-unveiled successor) and two changes of ownership in the past five years do not paint a picture of harmony.

Former Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow alluded to the fact that Liverpool were ‘one day away’ from administration prior to John Henry’s purchase of the club in 2010, but despite the fact the club is now sound financially, the state of disarray that engulfs it now is equally as disturbing.

No director of football, no director of communications, no chief executive, and now no manager. And monumental decisions about to be taken by people with less than two years’ involvement in the sport. Good luck FSG – you’re going to need it.

Thanks for everything Kenny Dalglish.

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Article title: Gone but certainly not forgotten at Anfield

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