Thursday 19 October 2017

Dalglish in 'back me or sack me' talks

Kenny Dalglish
Kenny Dalglish

Chris Bascombe

KENNY DALGLISH'S future as Liverpool manager remains in doubt after a summit meeting held in the United States.

Dalglish travelled to Boston after Sunday's final Premier League fixture at Swansea in an attempt to end speculation surrounding his position.

The darling of the Kop, who was accompanied across the Atlantic by assistant Steve Clarke, decided himself to make the trip -- he was not summoned by the club's hierarchy.

Confirmation as to whether Dalglish will pay the price for Liverpool's failure to challenge for a Champions League place is expected before his return to Merseyside.

There has been silence from the club's owners since Liverpool lost the FA Cup final as they assess whether their vision can ever be realised under Dalglish's management.

Principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner are understood to harbour serious reservations about whether Dalglish is capable of using the club's resources in an effective manner.

Their doubts follow a spending spree of £110m on seven new players prior to the club's worst league performance for more than 50 years.

Suggestions that FSG have already begun the search for a successor prompted a furious reaction from Dalglish after defeat at the Liberty Stadium.

Following a series of high-profile dismissals, including director of football Damien Comolli, made without the manager's knowledge or consultation, Dalglish decided to grasp the nettle and head to Boston to establish what the Americans' intentions are.

Dalglish needs to know if he retains the owners' faith as he looks to put plans in place ahead of next season. Negotiations with agents for potential signings and existing contract extensions have been on hold since Comolli's departure.

Star performers such as Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel are frustrated with facing a third consecutive season without Champions League football and, although there have been no indications players will ask to leave, they will undoubtedly attract interest from top European teams.

"I don't know what the Champions League clubs are going to do but we are looking to bring people in," Dalglish said. "I would say that's the natural cause of events -- there are very few seasons that any club hasn't moved someone in. If we get away with not doing that, we will be all right.

"If they don't want to stay, it's more difficult to keep them. If someone doesn't want to stay, how can you keep them? Our intention is to add to what we have got."

Dalglish was concerned enough about the void left by Comolli to request the Boston meeting rather than wait for the owners' next visit to Merseyside.

Henry and Werner now have a major decision to make: they must either back Dalglish's vision or part company. Their face-to-face meeting is sure to be detailed as a poor league season is assessed and Dalglish tries to convince his bosses to give him one more chance.

He is in a perilous position because FSG are known to be unhappy at the failure to go close to the top four, and finishing eighth, four points behind Everton in the league, has also undermined the manager's claims that progress is being made.

Dalglish won the Carling Cup and reached the FA Cup final. He also retains the support of the majority of Liverpool supporters, but FSG are not likely to be swayed by sentiment as they restructure the Merseyside club.

They dismissed Comolli for wasting transfer funds. That made Dalglish even more vulnerable because he willingly accepted responsibility for identifying last summer's purchases.

Dalglish will argue that the foundations are in place for a much improved performance next season, but he will need to be at his most charismatic to convince his bosses.

OVERDRIVE

Though the rumour mill has been in overdrive, there seems to be no prospect of Wigan manager Roberto Martinez working alongside the club's former manager Rafael Benitez if Liverpool decide to replace Dalglish.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa want Norwich's Paul Lambert to become their new manager after sacking Alex McLeish yesterday.

Explaining the decision to axe McLeish after just 11 months, Villa chairman and owner Randy Lerner admitted that he had been disappointed with the club's lack of direction in recent years.

"We need to be clear and candid with ourselves and with supporters about what we have lacked in recent years," said Lerner. "Compelling play and results that instill a sense of confidence that Villa is on the right track have been plainly absent.

"The most immediate action that we can take is to look carefully at our options in terms of bringing in a new manager who sees the club's potential and embraces our collective expectations."

Villa managed just seven league victories this season -- the lowest recorded by the club since the 1890-91 campaign, when there were just 12 teams in England's top division.

That Aston Villa are now searching for their fourth manager in less than two years is telling. In June last year they were turned down by Martinez, who elected to remain with Wigan.

As a result, Villa were forced to look elsewhere and decided the risk of giving the job to McLeish was worth it. This time they are expected to fight harder to land their No 1 choice.

Lambert's record has been phenomenal since he took over at Carrow Road in 2009.

He led the club to the League One title in his first season in charge and followed that up with a second successive promotion to reach the top flight.

This season has similarly been a success story, with Norwich's Premier League status never in doubt, despite the fact they did not spend massively in the transfer market.

Lambert has a win ratio of almost 50pc since he took over at the club nearly three years ago. Villa have been managed by Martin O'Neill, Gerard Houllier and McLeish in that period.

Villa goalkeeper Shay Given, who was signed by McLeish last summer from Manchester City, tweeted: "Sorry to see McLeish go as he is a good man but the fans wishes have been granted so we need to respect them as they are the soul of the club." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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