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Wednesday 20 September 2017

Disappointed Dalglish lets frustrations boil over in rant at Reds

IN times of adversity, Kenny Dalglish usually resembles the tougher types that populate John le Carré novels. The sort the Circus would happily send to Moscow, safe in the knowledge that, under interrogation, he would not even divulge his shoe size.

It made his post-match interview on Saturday night all the more extraordinary. Dalglish is typically the master of evasion, one who turns questions back on the questioner. But after defeat to Bolton Wanderers he presented, unprompted, a comprehensive demolition of his own players' performance. "If anybody has aspirations of staying any length of time at this football club," he said, "they will not be here much longer if that's the way they are going to perform."

Most intriguing was his insight that, "it is all well and good saying they might have been distracted because there's another game on Wednesday and on Saturday." That sounded like the remnants of a conversation he had just had in the dressing room. Who, you had to wonder, had turned to Dalglish and told him that he was preoccupied with the Carling Cup semi-final second leg?

Dalglish's one-year anniversary as Liverpool manager passed earlier this month and it all feels a lot grimmer than it did on those sunny uplands of last season when, in March, the Kop sang "Happy Birthday" to their manager as his team defeated Manchester United, 3-1.

That was an afternoon when the club at last emerged from under a dark cloud, most of it brewed up by the previous owners and then the acrimony of Roy Hodgson's brief reign.

Recently, the results have been less consistent and the problems conspicuous. The mishandling of the Luis Suarez affair. The problems Suarez's subsequent absence has left. The never-ending wait for Andy Carroll to come good. Stewart Downing's failure to score. The nagging fear that a net spend of around £48.5million in the summer on the likes of Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson has not paid dividends.

It was always going to take at least £50m to transform what remained of the Liverpool squad one year ago into something resembling a team capable of competing for a finish in the top four. This is the team's first season together and, by Wednesday night, they could be in their first domestic final in almost six years. As for a top-four finish, that still looks unrealistic

Liverpool are not the first of the big dogs in the Premier League to teeter on the brink of some form of mini-crisis. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been there at some point this season. What changed on Saturday was that Dalglish was unwilling to lend anymore of the considerable well of goodwill that he has with the club's supporters to his underperforming players.

As Liverpool manager between 1985 and 1991, his patience with his team was rarely tested because, put simply, his team rarely lost. On Match Of The Day on Saturday night, Alan Hansen recalled a Dalglish team talk he had heard many times. "Effort, attitude and commitment was what he stressed," he said, but there was no mention of Dalglish having to remind his players in public what was expected of them.

The team beaten by Bolton included five players Dalglish brought to the club. This is, by and large, Dalglish's team and their league form has not been good enough. This is his credibility on the line. His reaction on Saturday told you that there is a limit to the lengths he will go to protect them.

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