Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kenny: The story so far

Liverpool Football Club have confirmed the appointment of Kenny Dalglish as the club's manager until the end of the season.
The Kop legend returns to the Anfield helm in a temporary capacity following the departure of Roy Hodgson.
Dalglish is revered on the Kop having represented the club as both a player and manager with great distinction.
With a delicate touch and the ultimate football brain, King Kenny is regarded by the majority of Liverpudlians as the club's greatest ever player.
When he joined in August 1977, it was hard to see how Bob Paisley's side could top their first European Cup triumph of the previous season. But, with the highly influential Dalglish in the team, the next 13 years brought untold riches.
Unlike many Liverpool signings of the era, the Scotland international was already a household name when he made the switch from Parkhead to Anfield. His deeds in the green and white hoops of Celtic had made him one of the most sought-after figures in British football and it required a record £440,000 fee to secure his services.
Dalglish was brought in to replace Kop idol Kevin Keegan, who'd moved to Hamburg earlier that summer, though any fears he couldn't fill those illustrious boots were quickly laid to rest.
The Glasgow-born forward found the net seven minutes into his league debut against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park, and followed that with a goal on his first appearance in front of the Kop as Newcastle were beaten 2-0.
Dalglish slipped seamlessly into Paisley's all-conquering red machine and the new King of the Kop crowned his first season by topping the club's goalscoring charts. The most memorable of his 31 strikes came in the 1978 European Cup final against FC Bruges at Wembley, a delicate dink over the 'keeper that clinched a 1-0 victory.
The move south increased his profile dramatically, though Dalglish was never one to seek the limelight and remained typically modest despite his new found superstar status.
In 1979, his talent was recognised by the football writers of England, who voted the canny Scotsman their Footballer of the Year. The award was just desserts for a player whose every touch made Kopites purr with delight.
A selfless team player who brought others into play, Dalglish was an on-the-field visionary who could spot openings that few, if any, of his contemporaries could see.
David Johnson was the first grateful recipient of this in the late Seventies but it was the King's strike partnership with Ian Rush that was to fire the Reds to greater glory during the Eighties.
The club may have had a new chief goalscorer, but Dalglish remained the man pulling all the strings. If assists were recorded back then, he'd have been the first name on everyone's Fantasy Football teamsheet.
A double Footballer of the Year in 1983, he was without doubt the finest British-born player of his generation and was rightly spoken about in the same breath as Maradona, Zico, Platini and Rummenigge.
With the ball at his feet, he was a pure genius - a contention backed up by footage of just about every one of his 172 Liverpool goals. There's the aforementioned European Cup winner, his sublime curlers at Highbury, Portman Road and Goodison, a mazy dribble through the Man United defence at Maine Road, his stretching volley in the League Cup final versus West Ham and title clinchers against Tottenham and Chelsea.
Everyone has their own particular favourite but the one common denominator in all the above was the famous Kenny celebration: a quick turn with arms aloft and a beaming smile that would have lit up even the murkiest Mersey sky.
The Kop hero-worshipped him like no other. Dalglish was the first name they sang and many a bed sheet was converted into a homemade banner paying homage.
In the aftermath of the Heysel Stadium disaster, the playmaker was a surprising but popular appointment as player/manager.
Fears his new role would result in more time on the touchline and less on the pitch were initially unfounded. It was on his return to the side during the 1985-86 run-in that Liverpool embarked on a winning streak that would see them clinch a coveted league and FA Cup double. How fitting it was at Stamford Bridge when Dalglish 'the player' scored the goal that secured the title.
Inevitably, his appearances became fewer and fewer over the next couple of years but there was still the odd flash of brilliance as the master sought to teach his apprentices.
What Dalglish went on to achieve as Liverpool manager cemented his legendary status.
His double in 1986 was followed by league titles in 1988 and 1990, with another all-Merseyside Cup triumph in 1989.
Who knows how many European trophies would have found their way back to Anfield during this period had English clubs not been barred from continental competition.
It could be argued that it took a decade for the club to fully recover from his shock resignation in February 1991, but more than 18 years later, The King was emotionally reunited with the Reds when he accepted a role at the Academy in 2009.
As well as aiding the development of Liverpool's stars of the future, Dalglish also worked in an ambassadorial role helping develop the commercial side of the business around the globe.
A year later, the 59-year-old was back in the Anfield hot seat almost two decades after his resignation, assuming an interim position as Reds boss.



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