Belfast Telegraph

Kenny Dalglish: Liverpool are back on track

Kenny Dalglish can still draw a crowd. Thousands turned up to see the Scottish legend open a new Liverpool FC store in Belfast yesterday.

The King has just about seen it all, but admitted that he was taken aback by the response to his appearance at the Castle Lane venue.

Young and old swarmed around the place like bees to a honeypot, though Dalglish joked that the kids didn’t know who he was.

“They were probably wishing Stevie G was here,” he said.

Like just about any other person with an affection for Liverpool, Dalglish glows when speaking about captain marvel Steven Gerrard, who donned his Superman cape again on Thursday night to steer the Reds away from trouble.

Trailing 1-0 at home to Napoli in the Europa League, Gerrard came off the bench for the second-half, inspiring a remarkable transformation, scoring a hat-trick in a 3-1 success.

Dalglish was suitably impressed.

“He was fantastic. If he’d played for 90 minutes he may have got six!” said the former Liverpool boss.

“He has done it so many times in the past, helped the club and turned things around when the side looked as though it was in a bit of trouble.”

From 1977 to 1990, before solely focusing on managing the club, Dalglish performed plenty of heroics for the Reds himself.

He was the brightest star in a team full of them, helping the Anfield outfit achieve unprecedented success.

For decades he has been considered the best Liverpool player of all time.

But with every stunning display delivered by Gerrard, that mantle is under threat, with many feeling the England midfielder deserves to be Anfield’s number one.

Dalglish is not one for making comparisons.

“Stevie G is Stevie G and he is entitled to his own identity just like everyone else,” he said.

“If anyone can emulate what he has done for the football club in years to come, we’ll be very fortunate to have a player with that sort of ability.

“You cannot take it for granted what he does for Liverpool — it really is fantastic. He’s been phenomenal for the football club for many years and we have benefited from it.”

Liverpool fans will look to Gerrard to lead the Reds to glory against Chelsea in the Premier League tomorrow.

Getting anything against the champions and league leaders, however, will be extremely difficult, with most predicting a comfortable away win. Dalglish wouldn’t agree.

“It’s a big match — for both teams,” says the Liverpool FC ambassador, who will be 60 next year.

“Carlo Ancelotti has done a fantastic job and they are a great side, but I don’t think Chelsea would ever be disrespectful to Liverpool. Chelsea will know they are coming for a game.”

Of course should Liverpool win for a fourth successive match, it would be considered a continued sign of progress under Roy Hodgson, following what was a pitiful start to the campaign which saw the Merseysiders slump into the relegation zone.

During that period some in the Kop, disenchanted with Hodgson, were chanting for Dalglish to take over.

The Scot prefers to speak about more positive points on and off the pitch in recent weeks.

“Things are positive at the moment, we’ve won the last three games, we have new owners which has settled the club down and there’s more stability,” says Dalglish.

“Roy has got to know the players a bit better, the players have got to know Roy a bit better. He’s had time to settle in and the club is moving in the right direction.”

With the LFC shop, the club has moved a little part of the empire to Belfast. Why?

“We’re very proud of the supporters we have here,” came the reply.

“It’s getting a wee bit more difficult for them to get over and see matches now so if they can’t come to us we’ll come to them.

“The fantastic turnout has shown how popular Liverpool is in Northern Ireland. There are a great deal of people here who have deep feelings for the club. We really do appreciate the support we get from places like Northern Ireland.”

Liverpool’s Ulster based fans would appreciate one of their own making it at Anfield. So would Dalglish, who states that his son Paul had a great time here when he played for Linfield a few years ago.

“To be fair there’s not too many players from Northern Ireland who have made it anywhere at a high level, so it’s not just Liverpool,” says the ex-Celtic hero.

“I don’t think there are many Northern Ireland players in the Premier League. You have the likes of Jonny Evans (Manchester United) and Aaron Hughes (Fulham) who was with me at Newcastle, but it’s not for the want of trying that we don’t have a Northern Ireland player at Liverpool.

“If they are good enough, they will make it, there is no doubt about that.

“We’d love to have someone from here come through, but the quality is more important than the nationality.”

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