England: Kenny Dalglish sacked by Liverpool
It has been announced in the last hour that Kenny Dalglish has been sacked as Liverpool FC manager after just 18 months in charge. After taking over from Roy Hodgson in January 2011, Dalglish initially steadied the ship at Anfield towards the end of the 2010-11 season but has found it much more difficult in the 2011-12 season in which his club finished eighth in the English Premier League although he did take the club to two domestic cup finals.
Dalglish came back to the job due to popular demand following a wretched six month period in which his predecessor Roy Hodgson had been in charge. With Liverpool just six points off the relegation zone when he arrived, Dalglish made an impact towards the end of the 2010-11 season by taking the club up to a respectable sixth place. Hopes had been high for the 2011-12 season after the club signed core British talent such as Jordan Henderson, Stuart Downing and Charlie Adam to play alongside those that had been signed in the previous January transfer window such as Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Sadly for Dalglish his signings never really imposed themselves on the pitch with £35m recruit Carrol in particular coming in for lots of criticism until he started putting in a string of decent performances towards the end of this season. One thing is for sure, the likes of Downing and Henderson, who in my opinion have been every bit as poor as Carroll ever had been, should be thanking Carroll for keeping their mostly inept performances out of the headlines.
An argument that was bandied about throughout the campaign was that Liverpool were putting in some good performances but just not getting the luck but to use such arguments would be to pull the wool over one’s eyes. The fact that Liverpool hit the woodwork 33 times throughout the season should not be defended as a sign that the club were just unlucky, it is a sign that the players were not doing enough of what they are paid to do: score goals and win games. Liverpool had only lost three games in the Premier League at the half way stage and were lying in sixth place, eleven points behind both Manchester City and United. At the season’s end the club had lost fourteen league matches out of 38 and were a massive thirty seven points behind the top two, only qualifying for European football on the back of a hard-fought Carling Cup final victory against second-tier side Cardiff City.
But it wasn’t just on the pitch where Liverpool found life difficult. The Luis Suarez race row, in which he was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, saw the club involved in many a PR disaster and Dalglish’s handling of the situation saw him brandished as arrogant and out-of-touch with the modern game. The game against Wigan Athletic in December saw the Liverpool team warming up before the match in T-shirts supporting Suarez in a move which fanned the flames before Liverpool were involved in two crucial league and cup matches against United early in 2012. After winning the cup game without Suarez in January, Liverpool then went to Old Trafford for a Premier League game in early February. Before kick-off there was controversy when Suarez refused to shake hands with Evra before the game and the move was damaging not just to Suarez as an individual but to Dalglish and his club who were always on the back foot before the club issued a long-awaited apology a week later. Unfortunately for Dalglish, in an era when football is as obsessed with public relations as it is with money, his press conferences were usually tetchy affairs which left a lot to be desired in terms of presenting the right image of the club to the wider world.
It was a culmination of on-field performances and results – barring the Carling Cup victory – and off-the-field public relations disasters that have ended up with Dalglish losing his job. Amongst the fans “King Kenny” will always be a legend, and rightly so, but it seems that a significant number of Liverpool supporters had already begun to think the unthinkable and reason that the club would be better off appointing a new manager for the 2012-13 season, a rationale that owner John W. Henry and representatives of the Fenway Sports Group concurred with after a number of meetings with Dalglish over the last 24 hours. The signs had been there in recent weeks with the sackings of director of football Damien Comolli and director of communications Ian Cotton and rumours had already been circulating on social media regarding Dalglish’s position which were then confirmed in a statement by the club which read:
“Kenny Dalglish is to leave his post today as manager after having his contract terminated. After a careful and deliberative review of the season, the club came to the decision that a change was appropriate. It is not a decision that was reached lightly or hastily. The search for a new manager will begin immediately.”
Wigan Athletic coach Roberto Martinez has initially been installed as the favourite to take the job but a host of other names including current Swansea City boss Brendan Rodgers and former coach Rafael Benitez, who is currently without a club, are also in the frame.