When Liverpool Football Club announced the departure of former manager Rafael Benítez “by mutual consent” they added the name of club legend Kenny Dalglish to the statement. Kenny was to help Christian Purslow in the search for a new manager.
It’s believed Kenny didn’t know his name would appear on the statement, it’s also believed the club hadn’t even discussed the idea with him to help out in the search for a replacement. They assumed he’d help, and they clearly needed his name to appear on the statement. It not only gave an impression he would be heavily involved in selecting the new manager, it also implied he approved of the decision to part company with Benítez, a decision that had been far from universally accepted.
Kenny would later put his own name forward as a candidate for the job, but the club showed him further disrespect by choosing to snub his offer for reasons yet to be explained. Despite this lack of respect, Kenny went ahead and helped the board out with the process. Not that he was actually helping in a search – a list of names was handed to him rather than him being involved in drawing up that list.
Why Kenny wasn’t asked to provide input on some potential candidates remains as unclear as the reasons why the board felt they could ignore his request to be considered for the job.
Kenny’s first full interview since Hodgson’s appointment went out on BBC Five Live yesterday. It began with him being asked on his views on the Bosman signing of Joe Cole. Kenny said: “I think it just gave everybody a lift. Joe’s a really talented footballer. For Liverpool to get hold of him and strengthen the squad they had was very important, it’s very important for Joe Cole as well that he’s gone somewhere where he knows he’s got a very good chance of playing. If he plays well he’ll stay in if he doesn’t, it’s his fault, nobody else’s.”
Kenny was determined to put a positive slant on the events at the club this summer, and spoke about what Steven Gerrard had said earlier in the week: “Signing Joe Cole and Steven coming out with a statement just afterwards that he was staying, it wasn’t a bad week for the club really.”
Did Gerrard actually say he was staying? He was looking forward to playing alongside Joe Cole: “It will be fantastic to play alongside him in a red shirt for Liverpool.” He’d needed time to think: “I made it clear that I simply needed to concentrate on the World Cup and then have a decent holiday with my family.” He’d spoken to the new manager and liked what he had to say: “I wanted the chance to meet Roy Hodgson privately and having done so, I’m very impressed with his plans for the future.” But he stopped short of saying that speculation about his future was nonsense or that he’d reject any offers that came in as the summer went on.
Kenny knows that Gerrard isn’t as certain about staying as he would be if the club was being run the way it should be. He also knows that Fernando Torres would be moving to end all speculation about his future if there was no doubt he wanted to stay. Kenny said he didn’t know what Torres was planning: “I hope he stays. There’s only Fernando knows really what he’s going to do. Unfortunately for him he’s injured, but Fernando’s a fantastic player and he’s very happy in and around Liverpool the football club and the city.”
Sticking with the positive theme about issues at the football level Kenny added more reasons that might persuade Torres to stay: “So the fact that Steven’s staying I think will be a great help to Fernando, the fact that Joe Cole’s signed, Jovanovich is coming in, they signed young Danny Wilson from Rangers, they’ve signed Jonjo Shelvey from Charlton, so a wee bit of buying for present and buying for the future there. So I’m sure Fernando will look at what’s gone on and when he gets chance to sit down and talk to Roy I’m sure he’ll give everybody good news.”
Kenny was also asked about Mascherano, one player who’s made it clear he wants to leave: “As far as I know he’s a Liverpool player isn’t he? I don’t know if he’s gone anywhere but Mascherano’s a top class player, if he stays at Liverpool as well that gives them a real strong base because obviously the stronger the squad is the better chance you have of success.”
Dalglish spoke about the new manager too: “Obviously Roy’s going to stamp his own authority on the job. It’s a wee bit difficult for Roy at the moment to get into the job, because most of the players are just coming back after being at world cups and they’re coming in in dribs and drabs, it’s a difficult start when you don’t have everybody in at the very beginning. Certainly Roy will put his own authority on the job and I’m sure he’ll do a very good job.”
There was also an explanation, a diplomatic version at least, of how Kenny saw the events that followed the departure of Benítez: “Unfortunately when Rafa went I only offered to help as best I possibly could, in any way shape or form I could help.”
Kenny revealed that his part in the process was relatively minor. He spoke to people on a list already drawn up and the board made the actual decision on who to appoint: “Myself and Christian Purslow: there was a list drawn up, we spoke to a few people and then, after initial conversations, I stepped aside and the board made the decision who was going to be the new manager. So basically that was it.”
On his offer to be the manager he didn’t go into details about why he was refused the job: “I said I would help in any way I possibly could with Liverpool and I would have been prepared to be the manager if they wanted it, but obviously they didn’t want that to happen, which is their prerogative and it’s not a problem for me.
“If you say you’re wanting to help and if you don’t offer to help in any way shape or form then you’re not sticking to your word and that’s what I did. But whether I get to be a manager anywhere else remains to be seen, I don’t know.” Asked if he’d ruled out managing anywhere else he said: “I’ve not ruled it in either.”
There’s a feeling that Kenny’s desire to be a manager again only relates to the Liverpool job. Asked if he missed the “buzz” of managing at the top level he had mixed feelings: “Sometimes you do, other times you don’t. The times you don’t miss it is when you’ve lost a game. It’s a lonely feeling when you’ve lost a game and you’re a manager.”
Asked whether he’d been offered a new role at the club, as suggested in the wake of the Hodgson appointment, he suggested that nothing had been said to him yet: “I was very happy at the club last year when Rafa brought us back in, to look after the academy, or be an ambassador for the academy and obviously for the board’s point of view to attend the home games, it was very enjoyable doing what I was doing. And if there’s some other role that the club want me to do there we’ll look at that and see what happens.”
He also had chance to hint at his opinion on the departure of Rafa, the man who he credits for bringing him back to the club: “I think obviously it’s a huge disappointment that Rafa left. At the end of the day if the academy turns out to produce two or three players then he’s left a fantastic legacy there.”
Asked again what his role at the club was from here onwards, he said: “The same as it was when Rafa was there I think. At the moment there’s nothing else. I was just to be an ambassador and work in and around the academy for a couple of days a week and go to the home games.”
Last season began with many expecting – almost demanding – another title challenge. Roy Hodgson has inherited the same squad (with some improvements) that carried those expectations on its shoulders last summer. But nobody seems to be talking about title challenges this summer, which Kenny suggests isn’t a bad thing: “I think all you set yourself out to do is as well as you possibly can in every game you playing in and see where that takes you. Liverpool have never ever gone into a season in my knowledge shouting their mouth off about what they’re going to do so I don’t see why they need to start now.”
Was a Champions League place a minimum requirement? “No, the minimum is to give everything you’ve got in every game. The best players want to play in the best competition and the Champions League is the best competition so I’m sure the players will be striving for that.”
As Kenny pointed out, it’s no longer a case of four clubs fighting for the top four places: “There’s a lot of very good clubs out there, I mean apart from your Chelsea, United and Arsenal you’ve got Man City; Harry had a great season last year at Tottenham so the competition’s getting stiffer, but as I say, as long as you give everything you’ve got then nobody can ask for any more.”
What the Liverpool hierarchy now need to watch out for is the consequences of Kenny Dalglish doing his best for the club. He’s now got a better idea of what’s been going on over the past 12 months; don’t be surprised if we hear more interviews from him away from the club’s official outlets.