Saturday 24 February 2018

Dalglish lets rip at players over lack of 'respect'


KENNY DALGLISH was not overtly emotional as he sat in the press room at the Reebok Stadium, but his words were like lead.

They were the words that he had carried with him since he first took the 64 bus from Argyle Street to Parkhead -- "respect", "tradition", "history".

He accused his players of betraying the lot.

Dalglish would have thought long about what he was going to say. His public position is one of narrow loyalty to the men around him and a determination not to give those outside Anfield any ammunition to use against his club.

When it comes to creating a siege mentality, Dalglish has a character that would have endured in Mafeking or Stalingrad.

This, however, was not an evening where he could possibly have held back and retained any kind of credibility. It was time for some truth.

Dalglish said it was the worst performance he had seen since his return to Anfield as manager just over a year ago, and was founded on layer after layer of complacency.

"Do we think we just can turn up and get a result?" he said.

"Liverpool Football Club has never been built on that foundation.

"They have always been respectful to people and we have always had to work hard to get what we have got.

"It doesn't just come to you and, if they don't want to do it, then fine. If you have pride in yourself and your football club, that reflects in the effort you have put in. I don't know where it comes from but it had better go quickly."

John W Henry and Tom Werner plan to fly into Merseyside today, expecting to see their club progress to their first major final in five years. A glance at the Premier League table suggests Carling Cup progress will do little more than apply a sticking plaster to yet another sickly campaign.

When Dalglish returned as Liverpool manager, he endangered the infallibility he enjoyed as a club ambassador.

Such historical, unconditional devotion will be tested if performances and signings continue to fail to match expectations.

There's no Hicks, no Gillett, no Parry, no Purslow, no Benitez and no Hodgson to blame any more, so for now alternative targets are being located. The most expensive Liverpool players fit the bill, although, if the club continues to play like this, the politically vulnerable director of football, Damien Comolli, would be well advised to stock up on tin hats.

Dalglish has accumulated over three decades of credit at Anfield, so it will take longer than 12 months for his reign to be subject to the same scrutiny within Merseyside's boundaries as it necessitates beyond them.

His break with tradition with a full-frontal rebuke of his players in the aftermath of the defeat surprised many, but there was a flaw in his argument.

Dalglish bought at least six of those players and, in some cases, the dip into the abyss of abominable badness was not an especially severe drop.

Luis Suarez, absent for three more games, stands alone as the unqualified success of Liverpool's recent investment.

Anyone who thinks he'll hang around for more than another 18 months if Liverpool are not back in the Champions League has learned nothing from the final chapters of Fernando Torres' Anfield story.

In Suarez's absence, Liverpool have played four league games and taken four points. However, it would be wrong to suggest that everything will start to accelerate smoothly once the striker returns.

This sort of result had been coming. This season Liverpool have been unusually poor at overcoming the Premier League's also-rans.

They have dropped seven points against the three Lancashire teams who have spent most of the season in the relegation zone, while beating Chelsea and Arsenal in London and outplaying Manchester United. It suggests that complacency has not been confined to the bus taking them to the Reebok Stadium.

Liverpool's scorer and sole contributor here, Craig Bellamy, also underlined why he was the most sensible of all last summer's purchases.

Herein lies another irony: Liverpool have been sucked into a world where players are judged on flip charts, statistical data and youthfulness.

Bellamy does not fit the profile. He is 32, he cost no transfer fee and he will be worth nothing once his contract is up.

But try telling anyone on The Kop that those in their early twenties purchased for in excess of £20m represent forward thinking while the pursuit of ageing, experienced, proven talent is a retrograde step.

Liverpool have been seduced and sabotaged by the most dangerous word in football -- 'potential'.

Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing were signed at huge cost, not for anything extraordinary they had done, but for what they might eventually do. And they are not doing it.

Carroll, who cost £35m, is the most striking case.

There are various theories about why he has been so abysmal, but the most simple is surely the most convincing -- he is not a particularly good footballer. There is nothing there. No first touch, no burst of pace, no physical presence.

Milk turns quicker than Carroll.

The contrast with David Ngog was devastating. Ngog, a former emergency Liverpool striker of limited means, was sold to Bolton for £4m last summer.

As a lone striker, he was everything Carroll was not, his delicate flick in the build-up to the excellent Mark Davies' fourth-minute goal setting the tone for a comfortable evening for Owen Coyle's side.

Nigel Reo-Coker and Gretar Steinsson made Bellamy's first-half strike irrelevant and lifted Bolton out of the bottom three.

When Dalglish returned, there were those who predicted that Henry and Fenway Sports Group faced two risks.

One was that, like Alan Shearer at Newcastle, he would relegate the club he loved.

Because the sharpness had never left him during his exile from management, this was never remotely a possibility.

The other was that Dalglish would steer Liverpool away from the rocks, mount a recovery but be unable to push the club into the Champions League or towards a title. Then, what would the Americans do?

When Newcastle's then chairman, Freddy Shepherd, fired Bobby Robson, he likened it to "shooting Bambi". For Henry, it would be like firing Walt Disney from his own studio.

Perhaps that is why Dalglish needed to speak after Saturday's flop. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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