Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Liverpool in Crisis: Kenny Dalglish could bring more than nostalgia back to Anfield

Liverpool fans were chanting Kenny Dalglish's name during their humiliating defeat to Blackpool at Anfield
Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson and his backroom staff - and many disgruntled fans - watch in disbelief as Blackpool sweep to victory at Anfield. The result left them languishing in the bottom three
Liverpool 1 Blackpool 2

A glance up at the front row of the directors' box tells any manager at Anfield that the eyes of Liverpool's rich and historic past are upon him.

Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush looked on like a Greek chorus as Roy Hodgson's Merseyside career began unravelling a little more against Blackpool. Alan Hansen often completes a formidable triumvirate.

Ray Clemence, a less frequent visitor but still a deeply committed Liverpool fan, had to laugh when it was put to him yesterday that this is a more forbidding front row than any other manager has to contend with.

“Well, maybe they sit further back at Spurs,” he said of the side he left Liverpool for in 1981, his swan song being the Merseyside club's European Cup win over Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes in Paris.

Clemence fell in line behind Hodgson — as, for now, does the senior management at Anfield. Hodgson's future is not in immediate doubt and questions about the board's view on the issue were met with some derision yesterday.

But the England goalkeeping coach, an icon of those days when Liverpool swept all aside in the First Division, does not dismiss the idea that Dalglish, who so badly wanted to succeed Rafael Benitez, could return to front-line football, 10 long years after his brief period as caretaker at Celtic ended in acrimony.

Dalglish would certainly restore to Liverpool the rich sense of their own history which Hodgson has not allowed Liverpool's supporters to bask in during his brief tenure.

For a time, Hodgson's attempts to lower expectations were something to make light of, and it was a reasonable strategy up to a point.

Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have both made a top-four finish the only aim. But the lowered horizons seem to have permeated the club, from the public utterances to the unambitious outlook of the sides Hodgson has fielded.

Clemence argues that Liverpool's financial woes have put the club on the defensive. But the financial strictures which prevented them from luring Frank Rijkaard, now of Galatasaray, to replace Benitez this summer have not applied to the money made available to the new manager in the transfer market.

Raul Meireles (£11.5m), Paul Konchesky (£5m) and Christian Poulsen (£4.5m), plus the £90,000 per week which persuaded Joe Cole to come north, represent big investments.

Hodgson does have new players and a fair few of his predecessor's.

The new manager's prosaic style has allowed the impression to root that he is at Anfield as a stop-gap to keep the ship afloat until proprietors Tom Hicks and George Gillett can be pushed through the door.

But the frenetic competition of the Premier League does not allow for temporary managers.

Thus, Liverpool head into the Goodison derby a week on Sunday looking by far the weaker side and the one more likely to flirt with relegation.

Much more of this and Gerrard, initially convinced by ex-Liverpool team-mate Danny Murphy that Hodgson was a good appointment, may find motivation hard to come by.

Ironically, the defeat to Blackpool was followed by a more assured post-match performance than we have seen from Hodgson since the season began, a sign perhaps it is the result to break him and his team from their malaise.

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