“You’re going to get sacked in the morning!” were the chants that were so audibly clear, you felt as if the screaming fans were sitting next to you in the room. After watching my beloved Reds lose 3-1 at Ewood Park to a rather laughable Blackburn side, I had no choice but to join in their jeers. “You’re going to get sacked in the morning!” I screamed at my television set. It was January 5th, 2011.
Under Roy Hodgson, losing had become uncomfortably frequent. Was it the beginning of the end for Liverpool? At the time, one would have thought so. But just three days after the embarrassing Blackburn defeat, as a massive Manchester United F.A. Cup tie loomed on the horizon, hope was restored with the return of The King to his rightful throne. Kenny Dalglish, at 59 years young, was charged with returning Liverpool to the upper echelons of world football.
The appointment was a much-needed feel-good factor for a fan base completely exhausted from the Hicks and Gillette era. Dalgish was back to steady our sinking ship. However, even his ardent supporters could not help but ask: Can he do it? His greatness in the seventies and eighties is irrefutable, but his decade-long absence from the game raised concerns. Players, tactics, and tempo have all changed dramatically over the years. It was unclear whether Dalglish would hit the ground running.
Fast-forward 11 months, and Dalglish has improved Liverpool dramatically since the Hodgson administration. We can now win on the road, with seven away wins this season versus only two at this point last season. Our bench is stronger, with the likes of Maxi and Bellamy capable of changing any game. Dalglish also proved that he still has an eye for quality players. Suarez, Enrique, and Adam have all proved fruitful purchases, while the young blood of Henderson and Carroll show signs of promise.
Players and tactics aside, Dalglish returned to his throne with a specific plan in mind. Similar to a physician diagnosing a patient, Dalglish identified the numerous problems restricting progress. First and foremost, he brought back a way of life conceived by the great Bill Shankly and subsequently echoed by every manager thereafter: The Liverpool Way. A simple yet significant school of thought, The Liverpool Way demands respect for the highest of football values. No more washing the team’s dirty laundry in public. No more running from solvable problems. No more ‘abandon ship’ mentality. It was The Liverpool Way that provided a framework for the successful teams of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. By returning belief and respect to the current squad, Dalglish has single-handedly raised the bar for a team that has never fully recovered from finishing second to Manchester United in 2008/09.
It is important to keep in mind that blindly following a Bill Shankly mantra will not guarantee three points week in week out. However, The Liverpool Way of life has managed to lift the squad to new heights. Even towards the end of last season, with Cole, Poulsen, and Jovanovic still gracing our presence, Dalglish managed to rack up the points tally. If the season had started when he took the managerial position in January, Liverpool would have finished second. This is quite the statement, considering the deadwood brought in by Hodgson is now out the door.
Dalglish is a firm believer in protecting his players and thus protecting the overall idea of team unity – The Liverpool Way. Even in the face of racism and obscene gestures, Dalglish did not even blink during his defense of Luis Suarez. Not to mention his broken record updates of the injured Steven Gerrard every week by describing his recovery as “progressing fantastically.” Dalglish understands his role as manager and the significance of Liverpool’s image. He has even demonstrated an uncanny ability to protect himself in times of adversity. After drawing at Arsenal last April with Dirk Kuyt scoring in the 102nd minute, Dalgish and Wenger appeared to briefly lock horns. When pressed by the media about the incident, Dalglish insisted “I don’t want to repeat what was said. I don’t know why a conversation between managers on the bench is of any relevance after a game like that.” Classic Kenny.
That is The Liverpool Way and it will soon be coined The Dalglish Way. He has brought belief back to England’s most successful team, and continues to demonstrate progress on the pitch. The goal this season is to challenge for a top four spot and win any silverware we can get our hands on. Only a few points off the pace for fourth, and a Carling Cup semi-final appearance approaching, King Dalglish has answered our cries for help. He has given the fans a lift and has our team playing positive football. I may have been screaming “You’ll get sacked in the morning!” less than a year ago, but that memory is quickly being erased.