Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Return Of The King

When Hodgson was sacked, all the way back in January or whenever it was now, I had somewhat mixed opinions. I thought perhaps it would have been fairer to give him more time, but at the same time I didn't particularly like the direction of football he was taking. I'd still somewhat stand by my opinions that Benitez was a good manager, and I feel that his demise was largely down to his inability to work under Hicks & Gillett than it was his lack of ability to run the team.

I was also in mixed opinions on Kenny's appointment, which is largely why this post is being written now, seven or eight months later, rather than at the time. Dalglish is generally considered to be the most talented player to ever play for Liverpool, and probably only has the unfashionable trait of having Scotland as his national side to thank for not being more renowned outside of Merseyside and the UK. That said, as various players-turned-managers have proven (Souness and Barnes, to name a few) being a great Liverpool player does necessarily lead into being a great manager. Dalglish did well in his first stint as a manager, but that was well over a decade ago. There's also the questionable video game, "Kenny Dalglish Soccer Manager".

And then there's his voice. I'd say the gift of the gab is a somewhat vital quality for managers. Benitez gave a legendary speech to his players at half-time in Istanbul to rouse his players into making a comeback. Does Dalglish really have the ability to rally his troops with his indecipherable Scottish mumblings? I'm not so sure.

With the ownership saga long put to bed, and Dalglish now solidly into his tenure, there isn't really much room left for doubts. A fairly princely amount of money has been spent, but the squad has now been bolstered over the summer, some real quality players brought in, and some less quality players cut from the wage bill. It's a ridiculous turnaround given the state of the club only a year ago.

Dalglish seems to have rejuvenated the squad, and the fans, and suddenly from the upper echelons of management to the fans the whole club is moving in the same direction again. He's been given money, and he's invested heavily in young British talent. I think some of the signings (Carroll, Henderson and to a lesser extent Charlie Adam) are gambles given how much we've paid and the age of the players, but at least currently those signings look to be pretty positive. Suarez looks absolutely fantastic, and I'd be astonished if his total goals plus assists wasn't over thirty by the end of the season, injuries aside.

I managed to scab a ticket for the Bolton game last weekend, and there were flashes in there of the sort of team under the high-point of Benitez that beat Manchester United 4-1 at Old Trafford, or Real Madrid 4-0. There were long periods of play where we were creating chance after chance, and were it not for a few close misses and some suspect refereeing decisions we could have easily scored five or six goals. Not to mention this was without Gerrard, someone who, if critics and rival fans are to be believed, Liverpool have been completely dependent on over the past few years.

The crowd as well was a lot louder than I can remember it ever being for a relatively no-name league game. You get the big atmospheres for the derby games, and really important fixtures, but I was surprised at how vocal the Kop was considering it was only Bolton.

Dalglish has done a fantastic job turning the club around, and whilst I wouldn't want to start getting overly optimistic at this stage of the season, I think he's solidly put the team back up into contention for the Champions League places, and with a bit of luck we'll still be in the hunt for the title as the season draws to a close. He's created a strong squad which should stay strong for next three or four seasons at least, and a squad that plays exciting, attacking football that is genuinely entertaining to watch.

The King will almost certainly remain a legend regardless of what he does or does not achieve in his second stint as a manager, but he's definitely not hurting himself at the moment. If anything, he seems like he's just genuinely enjoying his role back at the club.

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