Friday 24 November 2017

Dalglish eager to make Reds 'good winners'

Chris Bascombe

It is 16 years since Liverpool made an appearance at Wembley Stadium, but for Kenny Dalglish it will feel like business as usual when he leads his team out on Sunday.

Spring has sprung and the Liverpool manager is booking an appointment for a suit measurement.

Dalglish has never known it any other way at Anfield. He will be making his 21st appearance at Wembley as either a Liverpool player, manager or both.

Aside from the last half of last season when he was only a caretaker, there is just one year during his association with the club -- 1985 -- when Dalglish has not appeared in the arena.

Six League Cup finals, three FA Cup appearances, a European Cup final and 10 Charity and Community Shields complete the formidable Dalglish collection, and that is before you mention Scottish internationals or a couple of appearances as Blackburn and Newcastle manager.

You could describe it as the rekindling of a love affair, but Dalglish finds the scent of sentiment only in the smell of success. He says he wants to make the club famous for being "good winners" again.

Liverpool need to be well-known for being a club that wins trophies, not a team that used to win them.

"I don't have any real definitive memory of the games other than the 1989 FA Cup final (in the immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster) because of what it meant to so many other people in the city, but Wembley is a special place for anyone who goes there, even if it is not for a cup final," sayd Dalglish.

"Obviously, for ourselves it was a place which we visited pretty regularly and everybody at the club is trying to get back a bit closer to those days.

"Somebody once described Liverpool to me as very good winners. It is really difficult when you're a winner to be friendly, amiably and respectful, but I think that is the greatest compliment anyone has ever paid this club. When they were flying, they were good winners.

"The club wants to be challenging more often than it has been in the past.

"Just to get there is a fantastic reward and endorsement in the way the club has moved on. To see the improvement and advancement at the club over the past two years for myself and everybody else who has an affiliation for the club must be quite refreshing."

Dalglish's eagerness to suggest Liverpool are "moving on" is persistent, but only trophies will justify the claim they are heading onwards rather than sideways.

Perhaps it is too easily forgotten the club to which he returned as manager 14 months ago was vastly different to the one into which he walked in 1977, or took over in 1985. Liverpool used to be obsessed with winning the Premier League, but now any trophy will be cherished given the six-year absence of silverware.

He said that when he arrived, in 1977, "I walked into a very successful club that had won the league and won the European Cup. Everything was set, everything was there. It was still a work in progress, but where they were coming from was a really high standard".

He said Liverpool "weren't at that standard" last year, "so we have to try and get there. The nine players who have come in have all made a contribution. Aside from two or three blips, I think they have done particularly well in their first season.

"If they continue making the same progress there should be more happy than sad times here.


"We hope that there is still room for improvement and we never stop trying to improve. Everybody wants to make it more successful and making being contenders for trophies more permanent than what it has been.

"We have still got a huge opportunity in front of us to make the season relatively successful. We've got the Carling Cup final, the FA Cup sixth round at home to Stoke and some really important league matches coming up. This could be a decent season for everybody."

It was the club's former chairman, David Moores, who once issued the mantra: "Liverpool Football Club exists to win trophies".

In recent years, it seems to have been amended to accept finishing fourth or even accumulating a decent number of league points.

Dalglish himself is not entirely comfortable with the philosophy. "I don't think it's right to go back 30 years. The priorities for a lot of clubs then were totally different," he said.

However, he accepts that, if the global status of Liverpool is to be preserved and enhanced, they cannot keep dining out on the feasts of former glory.

After the traumas of takeovers and boardroom and managerial upheavals, the reassuring familiarity of winning a major trophy will replenish a club still reviving itself.

"There is more to the club than winning trophies," says Dalglish. "But we did win a lot of trophies and every club that wins a trophy is making a bigger name for itself." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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