Tuesday 24 October 2017

James Lawton: Stubborn Kenny should listen to those speaking words of wisdom -- Let It Be

James Lawton

James Lawton

It is a simple, healing phrase and when the Beatles voiced it, much of a generation was touched. But if Kenny Dalglish wasn't listening then, he certainly isn't now.

Let it be. They are not the hardest words, certainly not as tough to utter as 'sorry,' but they are plainly beyond the manager of Liverpool.

Dalglish has always been an obdurate character, but what he said of the return of Luis Suarez after his eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra brought a new edge of corrosion to his contribution to an affair which in a few days' time will give us fresh evidence of a football culture saddled with hate.

There was some hope -- though admittedly it was not high -- that Dalglish might draw some kind of line under the case when Suarez reappeared against Spurs on Monday, especially with his player and Evra coming face to face again at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Instead, the Liverpool manager declared: "It was fantastic for Suarez to be back -- but he should never have been out in the first place."

So, it is not enough that he approved the wearing of the Suarez T-shirts that scandalised so much of football outside the Liverpool enclave or expressed disbelief when asked if in any way he regretted that Evra was jeered and booed every time he touched the ball when he returned to Anfield.

Now Dalglish refuses to close the door on the issue. Indeed, he provokes a new sense of injustice, a new certainty that the dispute remains a raw, untreated sore on the face of football.

This would be a lot easier to accept if Dalglish and the ownership of Liverpool had shown the courage of their belief that Suarez was innocent and fought his conviction.

They had that option, but they compromised. They chose the role not of fighters for truth, but victims of injustice. You cannot have it both ways, and especially not if you have the kind of resources that enable you to pay £35m for Andy Carroll.

Why weren't the finest legal brains thrown into the battle for restored justice? If it was a failure of nerve, it certainly wasn't matched by any shortfall in public posturing.

The result is the certainty of new levels of open-ended hostility between the followers of the two most successful teams in the history of English football.

Wayne Rooney's almost instant message that Suarez should have received a red card for the wild kick which landed on Scott Parker's midriff is not likely to improve the kick-off mood at Old Trafford, but then what was? Most obviously, some calming words from King Kenny.


They didn't have to represent surrender -- only an acceptance that, by Liverpool's own decision, the matter was closed effectively when the club refrained from appealing the ban.

Dalglish, as we have seen so vividly since his reappointment as manager at a club where he won three titles when in charge first time around, has the Liverpool following in the palm of his hand.

It was once said of his predecessor Bill Shankly that he could have ordered his people to storm the Mersey tunnel and take Birkenhead. This may or not be true of Dalglish's influence, but there is no argument that few football men have ever come to enjoy so much sway among the supporters of their clubs.

It is certainly no mystery. Apart from being Liverpool's greatest player and a highly successful manager at the first time of asking, no one embraced the tragedy of Hillsborough more profoundly.

He was required to deal with the unavoidable pain of a wider world and he responded with notable compassion and care. This is what makes his narrow stance on Suarez so dismaying to many of his most ardent admirers. Suarez is playing again and with all that instinctive brilliance which so quickly made him one of the most arresting sights in English football.

That should have been Dalglish's emphasis on the night of his return. He should have stifled the fire, not provoked it.

He should have said it was time to move on, with or without a platitude or two about racism never being condoned in one of the great institutions of English football. Best of all, he would have said, 'let it be'.

Irish Independent

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