Tuesday 21 November 2017

King Kenny defies the doubters

Dalglish reaction showed what semi win meant

DOES Kenny Dalglish ever deal in self-doubt? It's hard to imagine such a man of steel and so few words ever looking in the mirror and wondering whether he still has his mojo.

But the look of relief and pure joy on his face after Liverpool had won the right to go to Wembley, by beating Manchester City by dint of hard graft and teamwork, suggests that the great man does indeed have moments when he wonders whether it would have been better to leave Anfield to a younger man and continue with his life.

Dalglish's face never looks less than pinched and it has been so probably since the day he was born.

But the realisation that Liverpool would once again grace Wembley was enough to light him up.

He defied the ageing process and looked a t least 20 years younger at the final whistle than he did when his brow knotted with anxiety while the fourth official signalled four minutes injury time at the death.

It would have been impossible to fake the boyish enthusiasm Dalglish displayed while he applauded his players off the pitch.

It was almost as if they had saved his job.

But there's no question of that at Anfield now, and despite some very poor home results in the last few months and the certainty that Dalglish must spend a major wedge of cash for Liverpool to be truly competitive in a title race, he has the full backing of the Kop.

He also has the full backing of John Henry, who watched from on high with a big grin on his face.

Here was tangible evidence of the potential contained in the institution he bought into and fortification of his backbone against the time ahead when he must sign several foolishly large cheques.

Dalglish is as hard on himself as he surely was on his players during training this week and after the Bolton performance.

He broke with his usual practice and took his players to task publicly, helped in the effort by his skipper Steven Gerrard, and the result was an excellent response from the same men who could hardly kick the ball out of their way at the weekend.

They worked and worked and played with the kind of efficiency which used to win titles for Liverpool when they had better players.

Had Liverpool lost to Manchester City, next weekend's FA Cup clash with Manchester United would have taken on an extra significance.

But this way, Dalglish has a Wembley final in the bank and something of a free pass against the old enemy.

Why wouldn't he be pleased?

Not so Roberto Mancini. If pressure lifted from the shoulders of Dalglish once Craig Bellamy popped up to make it 2-2 and open the gates to Wembley, it landed squarely on the Italian's back.

Three competitions now fallen by the wayside and in each one, Manchester City would have been reckoned as possible winners.

For all the money spent, Mancini still finds himself short at this crucial time and he hasn't been able to shake off the weakest Manchester United squad seen in a decade.

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