Victory huge springboard for Dalglish
Published 27/02/2012 | 05:00
It might seem a strong statement to some, but Liverpool's Carling Cup success could prove to be a defining moment in the club's history.
As Arsenal discovered when they lost to Birmingham City in last year's final, the difference between winning and losing at Wembley, at this stage of the season, can be monumental.
This time last year, Arsenal were chasing four trophies and ended up with nothing after losing to Birmingham. The malaise has extended into this season, with Arsene Wenger's team now battling just to qualify for the Champions League.
In contrast, Liverpool's penalty shoot-out victory against Cardiff will have given Kenny Dalglish's team an incredible injection of confidence and belief and crucial momentum at what is approaching crunch time in the season.
For a club of Liverpool's stature, the priority this season has to be qualification for the Champions League and they simply had to win at Wembley in order to sustain that ambition.
If things had gone the other way and Cardiff had emerged with the trophy, who knows how Liverpool would have reacted? But what happened to Arsenal last year only proves the damaging effects of failure on the big stage.
By winning, Liverpool now have the opportunity to go from strength to strength and capitalise on the cathartic effect of ending the club's six-year wait for a trophy. Six years without a trophy is a barren run for Liverpool, there can be no escaping that reality.
When Steven Gerrard lifted the FA Cup in 2006, neither he nor the club's fans could have imagined they would have to wait so long to enjoy success again.
Just over 12 months ago, when Roy Hodgson was struggling to turn things around, there was a real sense of doom and gloom about the place, with people beginning to worry that the club might never make it back.
But while winning the Carling Cup is a fantastic moment for Liverpool, nobody at Anfield will be truly content until the club is back in the Champions League and that is what the remainder of this season is all about.
I would take fourth place ahead of the Carling Cup and FA Cup every time, but Liverpool now have to be greedy and aim to win both cups and ensure they return to Europe's elite.
Success in the Carling Cup can be the first step towards Champions League qualification and the uplifting effect that it would have on Liverpool, however.
The club's American owners are pragmatic people and they are not going to pump money into the team unless they believe there will be some return in terms of success and silverware.
When you get a trophy on the board, however, everybody at the club acquires the taste for more, from the owners, through to the players and on to the supporters.
But for Liverpool to really make strides towards competing for the Champions League and Premier League titles once again, they have to finish in the top four this season.
Only when that happens will the club be in a position to attract the very best players by offering them the platform on which they all want to perform.
Liverpool has great history and tradition, but when you are trying to sign top players, what they all want is Champions League football.
If clubs can offer that and be willing to pay big wages, then those teams that benefit from the history and tradition that the likes of Liverpool possess are suddenly able to attract the top talent. That is why Liverpool have to get themselves back into the Champions League.
If they want to win the Premier League, they must first qualify for the Champions League in order to make Anfield an attractive destination once again for the best players.
Winning the Carling Cup can be the first step in the road to achieving those aims, however, because the momentum it will provide can be a big, big thing.
Success generates success. It lifts you onwards and upwards and, straightaway, will give Liverpool a real boost as they prepare to face Arsenal at Anfield in a crucial game for both clubs' Champions League aspirations on Saturday.
Dalglish, while delighted to win a trophy, is a realist and he knows that Liverpool remain a work in progress.
But he will also be thinking that, if the team can qualify for the Champions League and then attract two or three top quality players to Anfield, they will have a chance next season. That's why the Carling Cup could be so important. It has given Liverpool the sensation of winning again. (© Daily Telegraph)