Dalglish vows to do all he can to help Torres regain his confidence
HE HAS swept back into Anfield so imperiously that it is hard to believe Kenny Dalglish ever had a moment's painful introspection in his life, though that impression is seriously deceptive.
"One of my weaknesses as a footballer was a shortage of self-belief," Dalglish reflected at the height of his first career in management. "If I had more self-confidence, I would have been a better player, and perhaps a better manager as well.
"Confidence, or rather the lack of it, was still an issue, even when I felt well established at Liverpool. It's the way I am; a chink in my armoury."
Those words hint at the appreciation Dalglish will have of the biggest crisis in Fernando Torres' football life and a determination to help resolve it.
The two men share a lot -- the pressure attached to being Liverpool's most expensive player, time spent as a goalkeeper in their footballing school days, even a Piscean star sign -- but the mental torture of being a striker is the most significant connection.
"I went through a worse spell (than Torres' current one)," Dalglish reflected ahead of his first real game back at the Liverpool helm -- at Blackpool tonight. "I can pass on advice and I will try and help him in any way, shape or form."
Dalglish, who is convinced a lack of confidence is Torres' problem, was probably recalling the 1980-81 season, when he scored eight times in 34 games -- his lowest league total in his first six seasons at Anfield. He went 16 games without a league goal in that campaign, from late November until the end of the season.
It was the season Liverpool signed Ian Rush from Chester City and watched him start his own stellar career.
All of which makes Torres' eight goals in 18 starts positively prolific, though Dalglish has also felt for some time that Torres has been overworked for three years which Dalglish, who missed the 1986 World Cup, was not.
"He has gone three years without a break and he has suffered a few injuries as well but he is still the person everyone would want to play No 9 for them," Dalglish said of Torres back in November. "We should be grateful he is here at Liverpool."
But against a side whose 2-1 win at Anfield in October was the low-tide mark of Liverpool's season -- the first-half display was far worse than any part of the home defeat to Wolves which presaged Hodgson's exit -- Dalglish will be looking for evidence that his mercurial powers have been restorative for an individual who has said he looks up to Liverpool's new manager.
"If he bangs a couple in I'll be looking up to him," said Dalglish, whose willingness to remove Torres on 77 minutes at Old Trafford last Sunday revealed some confidence in the management of the player that Roy Hodgson lacked.
"It's all about relationships between players and staff, and what they can get out of each other."
The task will be harder without Steven Gerrard, tonight beginning the three-match ban which also sees him miss Sunday's Merseyside derby at Anfield and the visit to Wolves a week later. "Of course (the ban is) a blow," Dalglish said. "Any team is a much better team with Stevie in it than out of it."
Tonight is also yet another with potential echoes of Liverpool's 1953-54 relegation season -- the last time they lost at Bloomfield Road being the 3-0 defeat of April 1954.
The visitors have won just one of the past 11 away games in the league and two in the past 19. But there is a belief within the Liverpool management that one good Torres performance early in the Dalglish era could kick-start the season both for him and for the club, who sit ninth from bottom and four points above the relegation zone.
"I've got fantastic respect for Fernando, not only as a footballer but also as a person as well," Dalglish said. "When he signed for the club he really threw himself into learning about the history and the tradition of the club, he really soaked it all up. I hope I can help him and I will help him in whatever way I possibly can."
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway believes that Dalglish has risked damaging his Liverpool legacy after returning to manage his struggling former club.
Tonight, Holloway's team provide the opposition for Dalglish's first league game in charge of Liverpool since resigning 19 years and 11 months ago, having masterminded three title triumphs and two FA Cup successes.
Much has changed in that time. Liverpool are no longer the dominant force they were under Dalglish, while Blackpool have climbed from the old Fourth Division to the Premier League.
While delighted to see Dalglish (right) back in management, Holloway is determined to spoil his big return to the top-flight stage and is worried Dalglish's attempt to revive Liverpool could backfire -- citing Alan Shearer's devastating failure to save Newcastle from relegation in 2009.
"If he was young enough to play he'd make a huge difference on the park," Holloway said. "But when you're on the line, sometimes no matter what you say it doesn't always have the same effect.
"Look at Alan Shearer at Newcastle. That's the best example here. Luckily the fans still like him. When I was growing up, Liverpool dominated and I hope they get it right because Kenny deserves to not ruin what he's got with the fans, and football fans can be fickle."
Dalglish featured in three European Cup triumphs as a Liverpool player, yet Holloway doubts whether that will spare the Scot from fans' criticism should he fail to halt Liverpool's current slide.
Liverpool have suffered five defeats from their last eight league games, and Holloway believes the key to Dalglish succeeding rests with the patience of the Anfield supporters.
"Liverpool will come back again because of the passion of their fans," Holloway said. "But my worry is that they are too passionate at times.
"They need to chill out, they've got their man now, they need to get behind him and get behind the team. I felt they had three or four world-class players there -- and lost Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano. Have they replaced them? I don't think they have. Kenny isn't replacing them. So you can't expect too much."
Blackpool represent an awkward challenge for Dalglish and his players, particularly as Holloway is targeting the Lancashire club's first league double over Liverpool since 1947.
Their shock 2-1 win at Anfield in October announced their arrival in the Premier League. Since then Blackpool have secured victories over West Brom, Wolves, Stoke and Sunderland, although they go into this game looking to halt a three-match losing run.
"It was a fantastic result at Anfield," recalled Holloway, whose side start level on points with 12th-placed Liverpool. "The way we played pleased me as much as the result. We passed it so well, held our nerve and scored two goals at the Kop end." (© Independent News Service)