Liverpool fans woke this morning to a piece of news that could see an extremely difficult week end on a high note.
The Liverpool Echo have reported that Kenny Dalglish could be about to make a return to Anfield as part of the team Rafael Benítez is setting up in his quest to turn the football side of operations around at the club.
According to Tony Barrett, Rafa has already raised the idea with the club’s owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and is desperate to see the move sealed as soon as possible. Informal talks are said to have taken place between the two and it seems that in principle the legend will be happy to come back.
The report says Rafa sees Kenny in a role where he would concentrate in particular on providing advice on youth development, but that as well as spending time at the Academy he’d also be involved at Melwood and Anfield. This news comes after the appointment of Frank McParland to investigate the Academy set-up with a view to improving its value to the club.
Kenny’s status at Liverpool Football Club is such that only those with something to hide would have any concerns about his appointment. He’s never been known to make knee-jerk comments on situations the rest of us might have blown our tops over; when he has been critical he’s always been constructive, he has always stood by that criticism.
Kenny left Anfield in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, needing a break from the pressure that had long-since passed the levels any other football manager is likely to ever face. He’d already gone from a legend on the field to a legend as manager; in 1989 he became a legend as a man.
The Hillsborough disaster saw Liverpool lose 96 fans, with many more injured and permanently traumatised. Kenny went to funerals, visited patients in hospital, spoke with families and helped organise his players to ensure nobody missed out on support from the club.
When Kelvin McKenzie pleaded for help after printing lies, headlined “The Truth”, that would lead to an ongoing 20-year boycott of ‘newspaper’ The Sun, Kenny’s advice was simple: Print the real truth, under a headline, “We Lied” in the same size font. McKenzie said he couldn’t do that – Kenny told him that he couldn’t help him then.
Liverpool won the FA Cup after Hillsborough, and the following season “King Kenny” steered Liverpool to their 18th title. That was the last time the club won it.
He left the following season after struggling with all that pressure, two days after a 4-4 FA Cup draw with Everton. But with hindsight it is clear the club failed to recognise what had happened, as Kenny later said: “I needed the break, I needed the rest. After two weeks I got what I needed and I’d have been ready to go back, but the phone never rang. No one ever asked me how I was doing or whether I’d reconsider and the club went on and appointed Graeme.”
He’s referring of course to Graeme Souness, once a hero on the field but something far from it as manager. Fans blame Souness for the Liverpool downturn, and even if that was forgivable his decision to sell his heart-surgery story to The Sun will never be forgiven.
So now the club’s owners have a chance to make amends for the huge errors of judgement made 18 years ago by their predecessors. If – as reported – Rafa’s happy to bring Kenny back and Kenny’s happy to come back on the terms Rafa has in mind, then it’s the easiest decision Tom Hicks or George Gillett could ever make as owners of this club.
We look forward to his return.