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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
King Kenny's key moments

Robin Hackett

Having returned to the club as an ambassador during Rafael Benitez's reign in 2009, Kenny Dalglish has now taken up the position as manager 20 years after he walked away from the job. ESPNsoccernet selects a list of King Kenny's definitive moments.

The Rangers dream

Dalglish grew up a Rangers fan, and his father even moved the family to Govan to be closer to Ibrox. "At 15, everybody expected Rangers to ask me for a trial - even me," he wrote in Dalglish: My Autobiography. "Rangers were certainly aware of me. "It would have been an obvious step. Rangers chief scout, Jimmy Smith, apparently told people that he thought I would end up at Ibrox, but no one ever asked me. I never knew why." He attracted the attention of Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, but rejected the deal. "Signing for Liverpool would mean missing watching Rangers every week," he explained. He was then spotted by Sean Fallon, legendary Celtic manager Jock Stein's assistant, in 1967. Fallon arrived at the family home to negotiate a deal with Dalglish's father as the youngster ran to his bedroom to remove the Gers posters adorning the walls. "I certainly wasn't going to ignore Celtic's interest simply because I supported their rivals," Dalglish said. "My father understood the sort of footballing education I would receive under Jock Stein at Celtic."

Bhoy done good

Dalglish made his Celtic debut in September 1968 at the age of 17, two seasons on from the European Cup triumph, and would gradually establish himself at the club over the coming years. Under Jock Stein, Celtic were dominant in Scotland, and Dalglish was their rough diamond, brilliant but erratic. He netted 23 goals in all competitions in the 1971-72 season and 41 in 1972-73. "The young boy wants to do everything, to pick the ball up at left-back, run 40 or 50 yards, make the pass and then go for the return in the box," former Scotland international Jim Baxter said in 1975. "Even for someone as good as he is - and he's brilliant - that's not on, certainly not for the full 90 minutes. But Kenny is so special that he'll get his ideas sorted out soon enough and then it's hard to imagine a better player in Britain or anywhere else." He requested a transfer in the summer of 1975 as Celtic's most glorious period drew to a close, with Rangers having ended the run of nine successive league titles and Stein suffering serious injuries in a car accident. He stayed on, was made captain for the 1975-76 season, and became a more consistent player, but both Celtic and Stein had faded and, in 1977, he made the move to Anfield.

The king is dead, long live the king

Having received 500,000 from Kevin Keegan's sale to Hamburg, Liverpool had money to spend. The decision to spend 440,000 of it Dalglish, though, was met with dismay by those outside the club. Cliff Lloyd, secretary of the Professional Footballers Association, told the Daily Express: "It makes me shudder. It is unfair on the player and bad for the game generally." Derek Dougan, the PFA chairman, added: "It is totally unrealistic. How can the Minister of Sport ask the Treasury for money for football after this?" The deal was worth 100,000 more than the previous transfer record, but manager Bob Paisley told others to "concentrate on their own problems", while Dalglish did not seem affected by the weight of expectation. "Transfer fees and all that stuff are not my concern," he said. "My business is scoring a few goals. I know I'm quite good at it." The feeling was that Dalglish would take time to adapt to the English league and that the team would have to adapt to a different style of forward. Keegan, though, described Dalglish as a "readymade replacement" and added: "Kenny may prove a better player for Liverpool than I did." He was to prove an instant hero.

King of the continent

Dalglish made a positive impressive in the 1977 Charity Shield, a 0-0 draw with Manchester United, and United midfielder and Scotland colleague Lou Macari said after the game: "I only wish we had known at United that Kenny was available. Kenny will be fantastic down here." He opened his account a week later in a draw at Middlesbrough and, receiving a rapturous reception on his Anfield debut, he scored a spectacular goal in a 2-0 win over Newcastle. Having operated in a deeper role for Celtic, Dalglish became the focal point of the attack and his fine form continued. He scored 31 goals in 62 appearances in his debut season. The 31st came as Liverpool beat Club Brugge 1-0 to become the first British club to retain the European Cup.

A new role

Dalglish went on to cement his position as a club legend over the coming seasons, partnering Ian Rush in attack. After Joe Fagan's two-year stint came to an end in 1985 because he was, in his own words, "too old and too tired", Dalglish took charge as player-manager. The appointment followed the club's tradition of appointing from within and, while he was just 34, Liverpool chairman John Smith felt he was up to the task: "He has an old head on young shoulders." Dalglish also faced having to revive a club disgraced by the actions of the fans responsible for the Heysel Disaster at the 1985 European Cup final. He still had three years remaining on his contract as a player, and vowed to prolong his on-field career "as long as I'm worth a place in the first team". His work in the dual role exceeded even the loftiest expectations, with Dalglish's goal against Chelsea on the final day of the season securing the victory that gave them the title. As Hugh McIlvanney wrote in the Observer at the time: "No player-manager in the history of the game has ever taken more credit from a success." A week after the victory over Chelsea, Dalglish was part of the team that beat Everton 3-1 in the FA Cup final.

The last king of Scotland

Dalglish, having made 29 appearances for Liverpool in the 1985-86 season, remained part of Scotland manager Alex Ferguson's plans for the 1986 World Cup. He had to miss games due to his club commitments, but he earned his 100th cap in March that year. Ferguson dropped David Speedie to accommodate Dalglish for the tournament, while Alan Hansen and Steve Archibald were also cut from his plans. Speedie, unhappy at the news, refused to stay on as a back-up and booked his holidays. In Dalglish, though, Ferguson felt he had the man for the job. "He's 35 now," he said, "but he is all class and presence." Unfortunately for Ferguson, Dalglish pulled out of the squad the day before he was due to travel to Mexico, having finally realised the severity of a knee injury picked up three weeks earlier. Ferguson was said to have been furious about the whole affair. Dalglish, who featured in the 1978 and 1982 World Cups, made his final two appearances for Scotland shortly after the 1986 tournament, under new manager Andy Roxburgh, and remains the country's record cap-holder.

The ambassador

Dalglish, having confirmed his managerial nous with the 1988 league title and the signings of the likes of Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge and John Barnes, was to be deeply affected by the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 that claimed 96 lives. On the day of that FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, Dalglish had taken to the stadium's loudspeaker to urge the fans to co-operate and follow instruction. His efforts could not avert tragedy, and he was left to make amends in whatever way he could. He offered to cancel the club's remaining fixtures for the season, and he was at the forefront of the efforts to attend the supporters' funerals. He said he had never realised how much football had meant to the city, and the common consensus was that the show must go on. However, although he oversaw further success at Anfield, Dalglish was unable to move on.

'My head is exploding'

"Dealing with Hillsborough took a toll on me, mentally and physically," Dalglish wrote in My Liverpool Home. "I can never say definitively the tragedy was the reason for my resignation, but it played a part. Strains and stresses dogged me, tensing me up so much that my body blew up in blotches." The conclusion to the 1988-89 season did little to assuage the effects of the disaster on the Liverpool manager. An FA Cup win over Everton, and the fact that they were unbeaten in the league since New Year's Day, had created a mood of optimism going into the league decider, but Arsenal famously beat Liverpool 2-0 in the final game of the season to take the title on goal difference. Gunners midfielder Michael Thomas had scored the decisive goal two minutes into injury time. A comfortable title success the following season did nothing to arrest the malaise and, in February of the 1990-91 season, a dramatic Everton equaliser in a 4-4 Merseyside derby proved the tipping point. John Barnes spoke of the "screaming" in the dressing room afterwards and Dalglish could take no more. He told the club: "I've had enough. I need a break. I just feel as if my head is exploding."

Rovers return

If Dalglish's resignation had been perceived to be a retirement, he was to confound the Liverpool fans by turning up at Second Division side Blackburn in October 1991. Questions were left unanswered over whether he was able to rebuild an ageing Liverpool side; at Blackburn, owner Jack Walker was to provide him with every opportunity to show his nous in the market. He spent 5.5 million on building a squad capable of reaching the Premiership and, despite a run of six successive defeats in March and April, he guided the club to promotion via the play-offs in that first season. In the summer of 1992, he broke the British transfer record with the 3.5 million deal to take Alan Shearer from Southampton. Blackburn established themselves among the English elite swiftly, finishing fourth in the 1992-93 season and second in 1993-94. More heavy spending ahead of the 1994-95 season, including the 5 million deal for Chris Sutton, ensured Rovers finished a point ahead of Manchester United to take the title. Dalglish was named Manager of the Year but, only five weeks after that success, he took a role as director of football, saying he "simply wanted to ease off from what has been almost a seven-day-a-week job". He parted company with the club a year later.

Toon time

In January 1997, Dalglish returned to management with Newcastle, again finding himself as Kevin Keegan's successor. "I left Liverpool because I was unable to do the job because of two disasters in 14 years' service," he said. "At Blackburn I left for footballing reasons, reasons I couldn't make public because I was protecting [manager] Ray Harford. I've only ever not finished one contract in football and that was with Liverpool." He was, however, to last less than two years at Newcastle. The team finished second in 1996-97 and 13th in 1997-98. Two games and two draws into the 1998-99 campaign, he was dismissed. Dalglish said he thought someone was "winding [him] up" when he first heard news of his apparent resignation, but a phone call from chairman Freddie Shepherd confirmed the news. He had entered the club in Keegan's sizeable shadow, and his decision to offload David Ginola, Faustino Asprilla, Les Ferdinand and Peter Beardsley, as well as a public falling out with a board member, proved costly.

Celtic are atrocious

Dalglish returned to Celtic in June 1999 as director of football, saying he felt it was "like coming home". He appointed John Barnes as manager, having worked with the player at Liverpool and Newcastle. "This is all about communicating with players," Barnes said. "It's not rocket-scientist stuff." Unfortunately, a fine start - eight wins and one defeat - began to fall apart. In November that year, Dalglish said: "John has made the best start of any manager at Celtic other than Jock Stein. Unfortunately the defeats at Ibrox and against Motherwell and Kilmarnock came close together." A 3-1 Scottish Cup defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in February brought angry protests from thousands of fans, as well as the famous Sun headline 'Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious'. Barnes was dismissed, and Dalglish was under pressure to start justifying his lucrative salary. Dalglish agreed to take the reins on an interim basis, and urged the players to "look at themselves and realise Celtic demands passion and commitment". A brief upturn in fortunes soon gave way to another slump and, after a 4-0 defeat to Rangers in March, they trailed their arch-rivals by 15 points. Despite winning the Scottish League Cup, Dalglish's return to Celtic was to be viewed as an abject failure. He reverted briefly to his director of football role but, with new manager Martin O'Neill insisting on "full control of all football matters", he was sacked and accepted a severance package of 612,522.


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