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King Kenny dragging Anfield back to rosy future

Manchester City and Stoke City should not fret for a moment that their place on the English football stage on Saturday may be overshadowed by Manchester United claiming their record 19th league title shortly before the FA Cup final kicks-off at Wembley.

Nor should Liverpool agonise over the loss of their share of a distinction that not so long ago looked like their property for as long as the game was played in England.

This is so for several reasons, and not the least of them is that all three clubs -- in their different ways -- have fulfilled the great imperative of not only fighting for today, but of also providing evidence of a promising future.

The greatest, hardest working word in the language of football is not history but potential; it is the water that irrigates the deserts of despair occupied by the supporters of all three clubs at different points in their recent history.

This doesn't mean you have to be an unfettered fan of all that has happened at City over the last few years; only to acknowledge that if certain aspects of Roberto Mancini's strategy are not exactly your glass of prosecco, it's certainly in place and with the bonus of a place in the FA Cup final taken, fair and square, from United.

Another one in that semi-final was the impressive evidence that Yaya Toure may indeed prove a dynasty worker, City's Vieira of Arsenal and Keane of United, around whom the most serious team-building ambitions can develop with growing confidence.

Maybe City's first trophy in 35 years will be caught in a fresh splurge of United headlines, but so what? It happened in 1968, when City won the title, brilliantly, and then watched United win their first European Cup at Wembley. However, this didn't prevent them becoming the most arresting team in town by some distance for some unforgettable years.

Stoke may find admiration of their style of football a rare commodity outside of the Potteries, but that need not affect their own sense of achievement. If there was any doubt about this, it was brilliantly dispelled by the fans' reaction to the rugby jibes of Arsene Wenger after the third goal against broken Arsenal. "Swing low, Sweet Chariot," they sang. Smug detractors have rarely been slaughtered so pithily.

In the league table of superior responses, however, nothing is likely to better Liverpool's after surely being kicked off their historic pedestal. The evisceration of Fulham on Monday was not so much a statement of next season's potential as today's reality.

It is that Kenny Dalglish has not only checked years of drift, of eroding belief on the field and the terraces, but achieved a full-blown reinstatement of what the best of Liverpool football has always been about.

Managers perturbed by the heat of the kitchen talk about long-term plans and tortuous reconstruction. Those who believe in their capacity to influence a team day by day, week by week, work with what they have and what they can pick up as quickly as possible.

Dalglish, predictably, has done this superbly well. His promise went no further than that he would try to remind Liverpool players of what the club had so long represented: real, passing football filled with aggressive instinct and players reminded of the talent they first carried into the game.

Dalglish lost his first match, at Old Trafford, but he also had his first success there. There were flashes of conviction -- and a sense that a line had been drawn.

Liverpool's US ownership should recognise that those scuffmarks in the sand can now be converted into something more permanent. Like Manchester City and Stoke, they should seize a moment of high promise. They should, quite unequivocally, confirm the appointment of Dalglish. Not before time they should accept that he has taken them back to what could be the future. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent