25 Aug 2011

Kenny Dalglish and the return of the 'Liverpool Way' - Part 1

Guest writer Ryan McCarthy explores the influence and ideological impact of club legend Kenny Dalglish since his return to the managerial hotseat at Liverpool Football Club.

“He didn’t just build great teams, he built up a club full of great people at every level. He was the people’s man, and he made Liverpool the people’s club which I still think it is today. He identified with the people who pay to come here, and the people who come have never lost that strong identity with the club”.

This assessment of the architect of the modern Liverpool FC and the clubs greatest manager Bill Shankly comes from the lips of one of the club's greatest players and eases us into the psyche created in a small room, the philosophy of Shankly, Bob Paisley, Ronnie Moran, Joe Fagan, Roy Evans and perhaps the last of the bootroom boys, Kenny Dalglish.

When Dalglish returned to the club last January it is possible that at no other time in English football was the role of ‘Caretaker Manager’ more aptly named. The club that had remained at Dalglish’s core throughout his adult life had been bruised by the worst battles of all, the battles from the inside, with each bruise leaving the club looking almost unrecognisable from the one that Shankly built.

Something jarred with seeing Liverpool FC giving SKY News their main on-going news story throughout October 2010 - the victory that was won in Room 16 and then celebrated on the steps of the High Court was a horrible beauty; the story’s ending was welcomed but the re-building process looked more the revival of a club that had long drifted into a coma.

At every corner there lay an obstacle: those loyal to former manager Rafa Benitez, the loving father of The Kop who perhaps never quite managed to master the art of natural affection to his favourite dressing room sons; those who could and would never accept the appointment of Roy Hodgson - the quintessential English gentlemen - to rule over people who were not English but Scouse, and the scars still open from the boardroom battle involving the roundly despised Hicks and Gillett.

Liverpool FC wasn’t just the search for a route to the top of the Premier League or away from the front pages of the nations daily newspapers, it was a club involved in the battle to regain its own soul.

The appointment of Dalglish gave Liverpool something that the club hadn’t the claim to since he left: a manager upon whom the mantle of Liverpool manager lay easy. The harder Souness tried the harder he failed; for all the soul that Evans gave, the job robbed the soul from him; Houllier’s final steps to glory went down the wrong path and for Rafa, the intensity of feeling of what he brought was only matched by watching it slowly and painfully being taken away from him.

Reasonably, there were those that feared Dalglish’s return to the job was an incalculable risk considering the time he had spent out of football, but it failed to acknowledge that football had never left him. The basic principles of good management; how to treat people, and how manage the club, had been gleaned by Shankly’s childhood in his Glenbuck home and passed from generation to generation in that bootroom. For anyone worrying what hand the age of modern football would deal Dalglish, they need not have worried - Dalglish did what all good managers do, he saw it coming and dealt with it first.

The shrewd appointment of Steve Clarke as first team coach was an immediate show of Dalglish’s strength, acknowledging a weakness and dealing with it efficiently gave an immediate sense of calm to Liverpool supporters. The message was clear: Liverpool’s manager was quietly going about his work.

It was in the unlikely setting of Molineux that Dalglish would give the clearest indication that things at Liverpool were returning to the ways they had always been done, i.e. the Liverpool Way. Following a 3-0 victory over Wolves, Sky’s matchday reporter Andy Burton - self styled ’on the edge of the game’ modern reporter - enquired about the progress of a transfer bid for Charlie Adam. Burton ended his enquiry by stating that “a lot of fans watching the show today would like to know that if that is getting closer”.

From the moment Burton’s mouth opened and the microphone dangled in front of Dalglish’s lips one could almost detect the predator in Dalglish; he could have been wearing the No 7 shirt hovering in the hole behind the front man, but here we was waiting for the chance to put this reporter in his place like a two yard tap-in. The question gave Dalglish his chance, and like so often on the Anfield turf, Dalglish’s reaction was instinctive, clinical and accurate:

“It’s a bit sad when you spin it on to the fans. We know more about our fans than what yourselves do, so we know how they want to be treated and they know what we want and they want to treat them with respect and they want us to treat them the way that Liverpool fans have always been treated by the club and that’s if we have business to do we’ll do it behind closed doors. Once we have a story to tell about anybody then we’ll let you know, but we have no stories to tell about anything but I know what’s going on and it doesn’t mean to say I have to tell you”.

If Shankly’s spirit had been disturbed by events of the previous three years then this was a moment for it to settle and to see it revived by man almost born to follow in his footsteps. Shanks built it, Dalglish was re-building it, but they both worked from the same plans.

Since then Liverpool FC has returned to the back pages and true to his word Dalglish has done Liverpool’s business behind closed doors. He has known what's going on, as evidenced by chauffeuring Adam to Melwood once the deal was finally agreed, but as Liverpool fans we have felt the respect of being the last to know.

Read part 2 HERE

Ryan McCarthy

If you would like to write for this site, please contact: editor@liverpool-kop.com


  1. Bekim Sejdija(kosova)12:55 pm, August 25, 2011

    Long live the KING. YNWA

  2. We actually won that Wolves game 0-3 ! 

  3. Dead right GC, well spotted! Should have read defeat 'of' Wolves instead of 'by' Wolves.  Thanks for reading the piece and commenting.  

  4. Thanks for the comment Bekim! YNWA

  5. Thanks for the comment M!