Godspeed, King Kenny.

This is my first post with Kenny Dalglish as a tag. This is also my first time referring to him as King Kenny.

It’s likely to be my last time for both.

As a child of the Steven Gerrard era, I will forever carry with me the notion that Steven Gerrard is the greatest player ever to have played for Liverpool. In that sense, perhaps I am cursed with not ever getting a chance to see Kenny Dalglish in his pomp.

I’ve read endless stories, from both online articles and on the Liverpool boards themselves, about Dalglish’s near-superhuman feats. About how his skills as a striker were second to none. About how he seamlessly took up the managerial reins way back in the late 1980s to oversee a smooth transition. About how Liverpool suddenly found themselves in disarray after he left.

As one of the most successful clubs in history, Liverpool rightly have a fascination and obsession with the past.

Kenny Dalglish came from that past. And what a glorious past it was.

The fairytale ending to the Return of the King would be that the club legend, parachuted from the past into the current hot-seat, would bring about such a change in fortunes that he would be in charge of Liverpool’s return to their glory years. That, having saved the Titanic from sinking, he would restabilize it so perfectly that it would have the momentum to charge on forever.

That was the dream. Of both Kenny Dalglish and the fans that grew up in his time, who learned to idolize Liverpool’s most famous #7.

And so, for merely having the conviction, the passion and the commitment to even contemplate stepping into the breach and steadying the sinking ship at Anfield, Kenny Dalglish must be commended.

The way that he has conducted his exit from the club has been in all the right ways that should have become a hallmark of his second reign, the class, the dignity and the manners. Looking back at the pictures of a fiendishly grinning Dalglish in celebration of a Liverpool goal, and reading Alan Hansen’s sharing of Dalglish’s love for Liverpool, makes one’s heart sink with heaviness.

Why must a club legend, so revered and adored by all Liverpudlians, make way? It just doesn’t seem right.

But therein lies the unfortunate advantages of being a child of the modern era.

The fact that I don’t have a sentimental bond with Kenny Dalglish, with his achievements as a player and then as a manager for Liverpool, gives me an almost alien sense of neutrality when it comes to Dalglish the Liverpool manager of 2011.

Because I’ve always judged him for what he’s supposed to do, and that is manage and bring the best out of Liverpool.

In that respect, Dalglish has sadly not delivered.

The context will always be important when looking back at this particular case, because he was never FSG’s first choice as manager. In fact, judging from their delays in making the announcement of his permanent deal last year, FSG might never have wanted him in more than a caretaker role, to stabilize the club and get everyone on the same side.

But when you have fans calling for his permanent employment in every game and through every possible venue, your ambitions of finding someone you really see fit will have to make way for just the time being.

That Dalglish has stayed in the Anfield hotseat for so long is a testament to his stature and iconic status at Liverpool. It wouldn’t be any exaggeration to say that sacking any other manager with his record this season would be no surprise.

So perhaps he outlived his stay. Perhaps he was only supposed to come in for those 6 months, reinforce his legendary status in Liverpool eyes by turning around a potentially disastrous season, and step down to oversee a transition to a new era.

Those who have been following my blog will know that I have not been a vocal supporter of Kenny Dalglish over the past few months,┬áthere was no schadenfreude on my part when I read about Dalglish’s sacking, just sadness that the fairytale didn’t end up happening.

But for all the doom and gloom that is likely to reverberate around the Red half of Liverpool in the coming few weeks, there is actually a huge potential for excitement underneath all the debris.

Liverpool have managed to secure record-breaking commercial ventures and partnerships despite not having been involved in high-profile European competitions for two seasons. And FSG have shown that they can back a manager with the funds needed to build a squad. The club might lack a central managerial spine right now, but the ingredients are there for the next manager to make a splash.

As for myself, while I’m awaiting FSG’s next move with apprehension, I still dream of a fairytale ending where the future is bright, European and silverware-shiny.

If that does happen, I’m willing to bet that Kenny Dalglish will be looking on with pride.


Thanks, Steven Gerrard.

The title of this piece seems a bit premature, given that Steven Gerrard hasn’t ended his career, and a bit inappropriate, given that Liverpool just lost the FA Cup to Chelsea last night.

But rather than putting out a match reaction on the final itself, I thought a tribute to Steven Gerrard should be in order.

After all, he is the main reason I started following Liverpool in the first place, and the main reason I’ve stayed with the Reds all these years.

I’ll spare all the unnecessary obsessive touting of his skills, experience and superhuman feats, because everyone who knows football will know what a force of nature Gerrard has been for Liverpool, in the Premier League and in the Champions League.

I’d rather comment on the issue of loyalty.

Perhaps Gerrard is a soft-spoken guy. His interviews are normally quite bland, and while he affords a smile once in a while if an interviewer mentions the 2005 Champions League or a great goal he scored in a man-of-the-match performance, he often puts on a poker face in interviews even after the best of celebrations.

But seeing the unbridled joy he exhibits when he celebrates a win on the pitch, and having read his perhaps-too-hastily-published autobiography, we see that this guy is Liverpool through and through.

Set aside that public flirtation with Chelsea in 2005 that is still often reminisced upon (usually by supporters of other teams). To think that a young captain of 24, barely approaching his prime and with the world at his feet, shouldn’t be tempted by untold riches on offer and an ambitious team in the country’s capital is to be naive and utterly unrealistic about being a professional athlete. (In that respect, although my heart tells me to think otherwise, Fernando Torres’ departure for Chelsea made sense, especially considering the circumstances then. And the circumstances now.)

No, the fact that he chose to stay (where Michael Owen once left, remember) should speak volumes about this man’s integrity, commitment and loyalty.

And the fact that he still puts on the Liverpool shirt week in, week out (when his fitness allows) as often the only fighter on the pitch says everything we need to know about this man.

As a mere spectator (and one from an overseas armchair at that), I can’t even begin to count how many rebuilt teams he’s had to work through. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to win a Treble, then having to play with the likes of Salif Diao and El-Hadji Diouf. Then to win the European Cup and the FA Cup, and then to return to reality alongside Nabil El Zhar and Jermaine Pennant. And then to hit heady heights with Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres, only to wake up year after year to see their departures.

Then to wake up with the prospect of playing alongside Paul Konchesky, Christian Poulsen. And now Jay Spearing and Jordan Henderson.

For years, I tried to mirror that sort of unwavering loyalty by putting on my own #8 shirt whenever Liverpool had a game to play that day. And for an extended period of time, this coincided with a run of Champions League games in which Liverpool went unbeaten whenever I watched them live with my Gerrard top on.

Then that run finally came to an end – and when you’re working a full-time job like I am now, it’s hard to sport a Gerrard shirt on match-days. Times have changed.

Yesterday, I set aside all the presupposed characteristics of a working man and retrieved my Gerrard shirt from my shelves. And for a brief two hours last night, I returned to my heart-on-sleeve instincts, shouting my voice coarse for a team that has become part of my life, courtesy of a man who has made that much impact on it.

But the hard fact is that Liverpool are no longer what they used to be, and Gerrard is no longer what he used to be.

Still, until Andy Carroll came on and changed the game, Gerrard was the only person on the pitch to not be overawed by the occasion, to still put on the fight he’s done so often in his illustrious career.

Maybe, when he hit a Carroll knock-down into the stands, it was all too reflective of an erstwhile powerhouse whose finishing prowess have deteriorated to that extent.

But for the last 20 minutes of the game – even towards the last 5 – I was hoping, yearning, straining for that loose ball to fall to his feet outside the area, so he could, much like he did 6 years ago, be the hero again. So that Stevie G could once again save the day. So that his smile would be plastered across the front pages with the familiar Roy of the Rovers, Captain Fantastic, Super Stevie G headlines again.

Alas, it wasn’t to be.

And so, rather than the outright anger at Kenny Dalglish for his time-and-again incompetent tactical approach and personnel selection, rather than the outright depression that Liverpool couldn’t cap a terrible season with the scant consolation of a Cup Double, the overriding emotion I felt was the heartbrokenness that Liverpool have not done justice to the loyalty of their captain all these years.

I was told after I left the bar that the cameras showed a Steven Gerrard in tears.

I’m glad I didn’t witness it.

It might’ve been too much.