Belfast Telegraph

Kenny Dalglish still has much to prove at Liverpool

By Russell Kempson at the Britannia Stadium

Stoke City 1 Liverpool 0: Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool legend. He rescued us from Roy Hodgson and will return us to the promised land of a top-four finish in the League and a natural resumption of Champions League hostilities in 2011-12. Our rightful place, where we belong.

That is how it looked to the bewildered fans at Anfield in January this year after the car-crash reign of Hodgson had mercifully ended. And that is how it felt on the Kop when Dalglish's temporary role became permanent in May. "King Kenny" was back. What could go wrong?

But the facts – as yet – do not back up the blinkered idolatry. The defeat against Stoke City here on Saturday was Liverpool's eighth loss in 28 matches since Dalglish sifted through the Hodgson debris and embarked on his emergency salvage operation.

Perhaps 14 wins and six draws are the better stats to view but do not forget, either, the tame exit from the Europa League last season against Sporting Braga, of Portugal, and the 2-0 home defeat against Spurs that threw away qualification for the same competition this season. Champions League it ain't but, it's Europe, Liverpool's previously perennial playground.

And did not Dalglish spend £55.5m this summer to revamp his squad? Which, so far, has produced a 1-1 home draw with Sunderland, a 2-0 win over an imploding Arsenal, a 3-1 stroll at Exeter City in the Carling Cup, the same scoreline at home to Bolton ... and a put-me-down in the Potteries.

Reputable names may ripple through the Liverpool ranks but it is very much a work in progress. Restoring former glories can take years and perhaps Dalglish needs to infuse just a smidgeon of the Stoke spirit into the genetic make-up. "That's the DNA of the club," said Stoke's manager, Tony Pulis. Without that stirring DNA, an ingrained defiance of all supposedly superior beings, Stoke would not have survived. But once Jamie Carragher had clumsily felled Jonathan Walters, and Walters had thundered in the penalty, Dalglish's best-laid plans hung by a thread. "It was a bit harsh," said Carragher. "We have had one [penalty] go against us and a couple not go for us."

Dalglish simply demeaned himself by claiming a kind of conspiracy against Liverpool from match officials in each of their opening four League matches. Get real, Kenny. Once upon a time, was it not the "big four" clubs that had all the big decisions go in their favour? Of course it was.

But, of course, once upon a time, Liverpool were a "big four" club. On Thursday, in Champions League week, Stoke go to Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League. The Liverpool players, er, have the evening off. As the Second Coming of Dalglish, the legend, takes shape, he still has much to prove.

Scorer: Stoke City Walters pen 21.

Substitutes: Stoke Wilkinson 6 (Huth, 65), Jones 6 (Etherington, 67), Palacios (Delap, 71),. Liverpool Bellamy 5 (Henderson, 67), Carroll 5 (Kuyt 67), Johnson (Skrtel, 82).

Booked: Liverpool Suarez.

Man of the match Shawcross. Match rating 8/10.

Possession: Stoke 41% Liverpool 59%.

Attempts on target: Stoke 1 Liverpool 11.

Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

Attendance 27,592.

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