Sunday 25 February 2018

'Permanent' Dalglish promises new golden era

Rory Smith

Kenny Dalglish yesterday promised to do all he can to build a second 'special' era at Liverpool after his permanent return to the Anfield managerial post he vacated more than 20 years ago was confirmed.

The 60-year-old, who was appointed as caretaker until the end of the current campaign back in January, has signed a three-year deal which will keep him at Anfield until 2014 after weeks of talks with Fenway Sports Group, the American consortium which owns the club.

The announcement -- coupled with a three-year contract for his first-team coach, Steve Clarke -- was heralded by managing director Ian Ayre as a "landmark" one for the club, while principal owner John W Henry lavished praise on the Scot, suggesting Dalglish "embodies all that is special" about Liverpool.

Neither, though, were as delighted by his full-time return as Dalglish himself, two decades after he quit Anfield for the sake of his health, a decision he has admitted he regretted inside seven days. Now, he insists, he is determined to make up for lost time and help Liverpool regain the primacy they last enjoyed in his first spell on Merseyside.

"This is a unique football club and I am delighted to have the opportunity to help build something special here again," he said. "To get the chance to come back and finish off the contract is very fortunate for myself.

"You feel very proud and very humbled to be asked to come back. It was pleasant when (Henry and chairman Tom Werner) asked me to come back this time, but it was understandable they wanted to take their time in case it did not suit me or I did not suit them.

"But I never had any doubt in my mind that once I got in (to the job), it would be something that I would enjoy again. We always said there was no rush. There has been nothing wrong with any discussions, it is just the way it was done. We only wanted to do it when it was right for everybody. Everyone is pointing in the same direction."

That the Scot has craved a return to the club where he won nine league titles, three FA Cups and three European Cups as player and manager in his first spell has been obvious for 20 years. Dalglish admitted in his autobiography that he would have happily returned to Liverpool the summer after he stood down, though by that stage Graeme Souness had been appointed.

He came close to that return on several occasions -- most recently last summer, when Roy Hodgson was preferred -- and his delight at finally being granted it has been evident since January. That the club reciprocate the feeling is now even more obvious.

Henry -- and Werner, Ayre and director of football Damien Comolli -- are all quick to emphasise quite how much of an impact Dalglish has had on the club.

"The atmosphere surrounding the club has been transformed by his presence," said Henry. "Nobody else could have produced such a response. We did not need or want to look elsewhere for the right man to manage the team."

Though that flies in the face of the insistence of Comolli when Dalglish was unveiled as the replacement for Hodgson in January that a thorough, worldwide search would be undertaken, the Frenchman yesterday acknowledged that his appointment to the permanent position was a "no-brainer".

That is testament to Dalglish's results: 10 wins, three draws, three defeats, more points in the Premier League than any side since his arrival, goals in every game, ascension from 13th place when he arrived to fifth today -- beating Tottenham on Sunday would guarantee a European place -- and what Werner believes is a personality strong enough to have "brought the club back together".

Quite how seismic and immediate his impact has been can be further judged by the fact that FSG had, initially, intended to appoint a young manager around whom to build the club.

The claims of Andre Villas Boas, of Porto, Borussia Dortmund's Jurgen Klopp and Marseille's Didier Deschamps were all examined when they first arrived in October.

Dalglish's emphasis on attacking football, his close contacts with the club's Academy and his unifying effect on a previously fractured dressing-room, though, overcame initial reservations over his age and his ability to work within FSG's preferred structure.

"We have a clear vision of the way the team should play and the club should be run," said Werner yesterday. "Kenny's inspirational effect on the senior squad and his keenness to involve younger players sits perfectly with that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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