Last week my article on Kenny Dalglish’s dealings with the media did not go down at all well with Reds fans across the world. It was believed that I was viciously attacking their manager and it led to a lot of angry remarks. My name became a symbol of hate in the red half of Merseyside as they proudly stood behind him and while I have huge respect for those fans for loyally defending their boss, I think my comments were heavily misconstrued.
It was not a self righteous abuse of the 60-year-old, it was nothing to do with Liverpool FC and neither was it to do with his managerial ability which, as I will explain, is monumental.
My article was merely a discussion about my distaste for managers that refuse to answer questions properly. Many of the comments I received said that Sir Alex Ferguson controls the media and accused me of being prejudice but that is also wrong. It angers me to see Ferguson’s disregard for the media, refusing to talk to the BBC, walking out of interviews when asked if his team is struggling and choosing which reporters can attend his press conferences are all acts of petulance. While they both have the interests of their respective clubs at heart it is the journalist’s job to ask questions that provoke a response or even a whole article and they are entitled to report their query.
Attending these conferences and answering questions is part of their job and they should answer questions regardless of who they are and who asks them, even if they only offer a dull response. Dalglish was the subject of my article because he was the most recent example, so it was newsworthy, not a mindless slur. While I dislike his manner with the media nobody can deny the immense impact King Kenny has had at Anfield since his return.
Probably the greatest player to turn out in front of the Kop and the last manager to win the league with the Reds, only he could have put a smile on fans faces when he replaced Roy Hodgson in January, with the team languishing in 12th place and looking terrible.
The team looked as though they had lost their way, their confidence and their spark, winning just seven out of the first 20 league games. It even took time for Kenny to work his magic, losing to Manchester United in the FA Cup the day after his appointment, albeit to an early penalty decision and followed that up with a defeat to Blackpool but the determination to succeed was reinstalled into the team and they haven’t looked back since.
What is being built at Anfield is perhaps the most astonishing story of 2011. The foundations of something special are being laid out and with a little more time, they could reach 19 as well.
In the final months of last season Liverpool were in sensational form, looking completely different to how they began the season and climbed the table at pace, putting them just 90 minutes away from claiming an unlikely spot in Europe, something that nobody would have considered possible at the New Year. In that run they defeated United, City and Chelsea as they picked up more points than their title winning rivals from those final 18 games, a true testament to the speed at which the Scot has been able to turn things around.
On the pitch, Dalglish has managed to get the best out of misfit Lucas Leiva and is starting to reap the rewards. The departure of Xabi Alonso left a huge void and the Brazilian never looked likely to live up to expectations at Anfield but the new season bought a new wave of life to his game and as the Kop began warming to him he has proved why Aquilani is not needed and has morphed into a Xabi 2.0.
The club’s confidence to back him in the transfer market despite only being caretaker manager last January shows how important he is at the club. Allowing him to spend nearly £60 million and Fernando Torres was a brave move by the new owners but they have reaped the rewards as the Spaniards form has completely deserted him while his replacement, Luis Suarez, has been a revelation in England, tormenting opposition defences every week and scoring a hat-full of goals in the process.
He appears to have a vision for the club and a style of play that he wants to embed at Anfield and although it will take time to move them away from the Rafa Benitez style of play it is paying dividends already. With the purchase of Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing it is clear he hopes to have an old-fashioned attacking option at his disposable, with a big man little man front pairing to get the best of both worlds. And although Carroll has not hit the heights everyone hoped he would these things often take time and like most things Dalglish touches on Merseyside it will undoubtedly turn to gold before long. The rest of the squad is also being pieced together, with Charlie Adam and Lucas forming a tough tackling and creative midfield pairing while Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson offer attack-minded full backs to give them a wealth of options going forward. The club has structure that it lacked under Roy Hodgson and with this direction they will continue to go from strength to strength.
They are becoming so powerful now that they can cope without Steven Gerrard in the line-up. He has hardly featured under Dalglish because of injury but that hasn’t stopped them winning and when he comes back to fitness they will be even stronger.
Liverpool is in his heart and everything he does is in their best interests. Whether it is protecting his players with an awkward interview or flogging their main striker, it is done because he feels that is the right thing to do and it is working. Since his return he has picked up four points against both Manchester clubs as well as beating Chelsea twice. He has not lost a Merseyside derby and has not had to rely on Steven Gerrard for results like managers before him.
Dalglish has taken the pressure off of the club because the fans quite rightly love and trust him. He brings confidence to everybody and has put Liverpool’s darkest days under Hodgson way behind them and has pushed them on towards a fight for the top four.
The turnaround is remarkable and it can only mean one thing. Kenny is no longer King, he is God.
Do you agree? What is the best thing Kenny has achieved since returning to the dugout? Comment below or follow me @jrobbins1991.