Kenny Dalglish will always be welcome at Liverpool

Thumb_steve-scott
Kenny Dalglish's second managerial stint at Liverpool lasted 495 days. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

It is perhaps a unique moment in football. A manager, in charge of an expensively put together, under-achieving team is sacked - but then you can't find a single fan with a single bad word to say against him.

That's because the manager in question is Kenny Dalglish.

Dalglish is one of the funniest men I've ever spent time with. He is sharp witted, great company, thoughtful, down-to-earth and generous.

Don't get me wrong, he doesn't suffer fools. He is incredibly competitive and knows football and footballers better than probably anyone - it is just there are many more layers to him than you might expect. Especially if your only points of reference are his performances in front of the TV cameras this season.

Liverpool's American owner John W Henry ran out of patience with Kenny Dalglish. Credit: REUTERS/Darren Staples

At times he has been defensive and on other occasions he has appeared inappropriately combative, especially during the Luis Suarez affair.

However unfairly he believed he, Suarez or the club were being treated he should have accepted the FA's punishment and apologised.

But Dalglish is not a man to stand aside if he believes there's a principle to defend. That characteristic, and his loyalty, are admirable traits - it's just this was the wrong cause.

He was never going to win the argument and someone should have helped him come to that conclusion very early on.

I suspect that person, with the strength to tell Dalglish he is wrong and make him change his mind, did not exist on the Liverpool payroll.

It was an episode that more than irritated the Fenway Group and Liverpool’s sponsors. The protracted aftermath damaged the club’s reputation and its brand worldwide.

Dalglish during the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989 which claimed 96 lives. Credit: ITV News

Dalglish's other misfortune has been the stuttering performances of the signings he put his trust in.

It is an incredible irony that the three most often labelled as failures - Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson (as a standby) - were all included in Roy Hodgson's England squad, announced just hours before Dalglish got the sack.

But they, along with others contributed to Liverpool’s dismal league season.

Dalglish will always be cherished at Anfield. He was the club's best ever player and as a manager he won three league titles. Most importantly, he was the epitome of strength and integrity in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

His response to that tragedy will never be forgotten and has cemented his place at the heart of the club and in the hearts of those who follow it.

For what it's worth I think the American owners have got it very wrong. Dalglish should have been given another year. With Carroll finally coming into form, with a fit Gerrard and a trouble-free Luis Suarez at his disposal for a full season, Liverpool's fortunes could so easily turn around.

But American sports club owners are notoriously ruthless and the truth is, if Kenny hadn't been Kenny, he may well have got the boot earlier.

They clearly are convinced Dalglish has taken them as far as he can and for £100 million that simply isn't far enough.

Kenny Dalglish (right) and Jamie Carragher (left) celebrate winning the Carling Cup. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

But in the end he got them to two prestigious Wembley finals and led the club to its first trophy in six years, despite inheriting the wreckage Roy Hodgson left behind not long before. They will also play in Europe next year, just not the type of Europe the owners want.

Managers who win silverware, reach finals and are then disposed of are thin on the ground because most employers don't have such exacting demands.

Liverpool owner John W Henry better get his next appointment right.

Dalglish will hurt today. He's a proud man and will be more than frustrated at not having more time to make a success of the Anfield project he was masterminding. Now he, and we, will never know if he could have pulled it off.

I hope it is of some comfort to him that he will always be loved and always be welcome at Liverpool. There are very few managers who can claim that after being judged a failure and shown the door.