Kenny Dalglish: A day with the King
Kenny Dalglish took time off from Liverpool’s preparations for the new Premier League season for a flying visit to Northern Ireland and Niall Crozier was with him all the way
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish was in Northern Ireland yesterday to lend his support to the Happy Children charity and visit two of his club’s Soccer Schools at Ballynahinch and Jordanstown. It was a hectic schedule.
7.40am: Flies from Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport with Liverpool FC Academy Director, Frank McParland.
8.15am: arrives at Belfast’s George Best City Airport.
8 .28am: Driven to Ballynahinch.
9.00am: Arrives at Assumption Grammar School, where he is welcomed by principal Paul McBride and John Miskelly who set up Happy Children, a charity dedicated to improving the life of children and young people in need by offering a range of support services regardless of race, religion, gender or ability.
9.20am: Breakfast in school canteen alongside Happy Children youngsters and their parents.
9.42am: Goes to the superbly-equipped school gymnasium where he meets and is photographed with wheelchair football teams from Belfast and Dublin. Dalglish is at ease throughout, chatting freely and amicably with the youngsters who include Jason Browning. He is wearing a Manchester United jersey under his blue Belfast team top and a pair of the Old Trafford club’s tracksuit bottoms.
“I didn’t mention United to him, but he noticed the badge on my tracksuit,” the 16-year-old beamed afterwards. He didn’t notice that Dalglish overheard him and was beaming too!
9.48am-10am: Countless photographs and numerous autographs.
10am: Outside to the magnificent G3 pitch; here he spends 20 minutes with youngsters attending Liverpool’s international football academy soccer school where coaches from Melwood, the club’s training ground, are working with the hopefuls. More photographs, one with a group which includes another United shirt-wearer.
“Hi you, don’t be passing on any of our secrets to Fergie,” Dalglish tells him — again with a huge smile.
Everywhere his advice to the players is the same: “Enjoy yourselves, have fun.”
10.29am: Climbs into a silver-grey Range Rover and is driven to the University of Ulster’s Jordanstown Campus.
11.01am: Dalglish, who was awarded an honorary doctorate by UUJ earlier this summer, arrives at the sports complex and is taken indoors where he meets Belfast Lord Mayor councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile, sports department staff and a few lucky supporters.
11.47am: Carries out three television interviews, cleverly avoiding being led where he has no desire to go. They want to talk about the new season. He doesn’t; today instead he wants the spotlight to be on Happy Children and cross-community football featuring youngsters from the Newtownards Road-Short Strand interface. Asked about civil unrest on the streets of the UK, Dalglish suggests the question be directed to a politician. Asked if Liverpool will be signing any more players before the season starts he replies: “Not today.”
12.10pm: More photographs in the sports hall.
12.24pm: And still more on the brand new G3 pitch where he cuts a ribbon marking its formal opening.
12.31pm: Leaves for lunch at Ten Square, where two bids of £2,500 for a trip to Melwood for four, plus lunch with the Liverpool manager, mean two separate parties will be going and £5,000 for Happy Children has been raised.
2.37pm: Dalglish takes to the stage for a question and answer session chaired by funnyman John Linehan and promptly has the audience eating out of his hand by virtue of his equally sharp wit and humour.
3.15pm: Sits down to a standing ovation.
3.18pm: Leaves for airport.
5.10pm: Flies back to Liverpool to continue work ahead of Saturday’s start to the season.