They came in their hundreds to see ‘King Kenny’.
Police escorted Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish into the new club store at Castle Lane in Belfast yesterday as football fans descended in their droves from all over Northern Ireland.
Dalglish was welcomed to the city as a guest of honour for the store opening while crowds of supporters excitedly formed a long queue that snaked through Belfast’s streets.
The Reds’ Academy Ambassador was overwhelmed as supporters flocked to the new 2,000 sq ft unit to catch a glimpse of their hero.
“They must have thought it was Steven (Gerrard) or Fernando (Torres) coming here!” joked Dalglish.
“But I do think it's an important thing for the club to get out and see as many people as they possibly can, especially the ones that can't come to us.
“It's nice that there has been such a big turnout here. The shop can be a fantastic success and is only going to benefit the football club.
“It gives the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity to feel a little bit closer to us.”
Dalglish won the European Cup with Liverpool in 1978, 1981 and 1984 and managed the club for six years.
He continues to be held in high regard with Kopites, alongside the likes of Ian Rush, John Barnes, Kevin Keegan, and in today’s game, captain Steven Gerrard.
Belfast Telegraph sports editor Steven Beacom was one of the lifelong Liverpool fans who spent some time with one of the Merseyside club’s greats
He said: “It is fantastic to see Liverpool Football Club opening a store in Belfast and it was wonderful that Kenny Dalglish took the time to come over and open the store.
“He is a legend and I know, having been there myself, that many, many people enjoyed meeting him.
“Having spoken to him, he was surprised and overjoyed by the magnificent turnout and said that this was a way of giving something back to Liverpool’s loyal fans here in Northern Ireland.”
However, due to the overwhelming demand for a moment with Dalglish, many fans left disappointed that they didn’t get to meet their idol.
Alex Irvine from Bangor, Co Down, queued with three-year-old son Luke from 9am to meet his football hero but the cut-off point in the queue was made where he stood.
“I was gutted and plenty of others were left standing too. Next time they should distribute tickets so people aren’t disappointed,” he said.
Dalglish left Belfast at lunchtime yesterday to catch a flight back to England for another engagement but at least hundreds of Northern Ireland Reds’ fans left satisfied they got their moment with King Kenny during his whistle-stop visit.