Kenny Dalglish is not a man to mince his words. However, after three games back in charge of the club he led to so much success in the late 1980s, the former Scotland international might be forgiven for worrying about the scale of the task he has been left with.
Some of the concerns that the new Liverpool boss had about his latest assignment appeared to surface in the run-up to the Merseyside derby yesterday, in which his new charges supplied a far stronger performance than has been witnessed in recent weeks to record a 2-2 draw with rivals Everton.
Dalglish had suggested that the Reds need to stop dining out on the success of the club during the 1970s and ’80s – often an accusation directed at Liverpool fans by rival supporters, but never by a manager.
“I don’t think the history and tradition should ever be forgotten and it certainly should never be seen as a problem or an excuse for how we’re doing now,” said Dalglish.
“Showing that this club have enjoyed success in the past provides a target for everyone. But there is a generation of fans who are fed up with hearing about the European Cup victories from my time.
“I would really like this generation to share the times that the previous ones have done, as they did when they got a bit of glory in 2005. It is a huge ask to get back to where we were in the Seventies and Eighties, but you always have to aim as high as you can, while at the same time being totally realistic.” (Daily Mail)
Undoubtedly a statement of this nature made by any other Liverpool coach over the last ten years may have automatically resulted in a mutiny on the Kop, and in fact would be something more likely to come out of Gary Neville’s mouth in a pre-match tirade at Liverpool fans than a current Reds boss.
However, Dalglish is clearly not just any Liverpool manager. His comments are the reflections of a concerned fan rather than a cynical opponent, but is he right to be so harsh on a team that won the European Cup as recently as five years ago? King Kenny would argue that the excellence he nurtured during the 1980’s required a winning mentality that simply no longer exists at Anfield.
It may be hard for some fans to hear Liverpool supporters going on about being a ‘big’ club when in the near 20-year history of the Premier League, the Reds have only had one serious title challenge. It is because of the extraordinary level of success during King Kenny’s period at Anfield that Liverpool remain such a revered name in English football. Surely it is time to forge some more domestic success to preserve their status within the English game.
Nevertheless, is this statement going to actually improve Dalglish’s chances of returning his beloved club to something near their former glory? One might argue that only a major personnel overhaul is likely to enable the Merseyside giants to compete with the greater squad strength of the Premier League’s current top five.
Much is often made of how top class managers are able to push mediocre players to play far better than was ever believed possible in the past. There is no doubt that when John W Henry called upon the experience of Dalglish to steer the Liverpool ship for the remainder of the season, he would have wanted the former Reds legend to inspire the current squad to a top half finish, without any major expenditure in the transfer market.
Whether Dalglish’s statement will instil confidence in players that have previously shown to be very short of self-belief in recent months is very much up for debate. In his previous incarnation as Liverpool head honcho, twenty years ago, the culture of the Anfield ‘boot room’ was ingrained in the minds of the players, and a statement like this would only go to push under performing players into action. With the 2011 Liverpool vintage hanging perilously above the relegation zone, King Kenny must hope that his words can fire a similar camaraderie before the unthinkable happens.