By Danny Hall
It’s never easy for Scots to take the managerial post at Liverpool and still be heralded in the same regard from your playing days, just ask Graeme Souness. However, it was something than Kenneth Dalglish managed to do, and revered even more for it.
Arguably the greatest ever player to play for the Merseyside club, Dalglish was the lynchpin of the best English side in the 1980’s, creating the most dangerous partnership around with club record goalscorer, Ian Rush. Signed as a replacement for the departing Kevin Keegan back in 1977, the Kop faithful questioned the Reds’ willingness to splash a British record fee of £440,000 on him. Those questions didn’t last long…
A maestro in attack who out-thought near enough all of his direct opponents, Dalglish operated in his own world on the field. A playmaker ahead of his time who possessed the vision of a hawk, ‘King Kenny’ played 515 games for the Reds, scoring 172 goals in a spell that lasted 13 years. But none were more memorable than his delicious dink against Club Brugge in his debut season, to secure the 1978 European Cup at Wembley.
As the ball was half cleared, it fell to the aforementioned Souness, who slid a perfectly-weighted pass into the right-hand channel of the penalty area. The movement from Dalglish to get back onside was just one of many examples of the telepathy between the two Scots that night. As the Liverpool number 7 angled his body to face the goal, he was charged down by Brugge stopper Birger Jensen, but Dalglish showed his poise, lifting the ball over his adversary for the evening to secure back-to-back European Cup successes.
Cue the trademark hands clenched over head celebration.
It was the perfect start to a glittering relationship that lasts up until this day, but that relationship, like many, has experienced periods of turbulence. For how great he was on the field, Dalglish’s conduct in the aftermath of the tragic Hillsborough disaster was a key factor in endearing him to the Anfield faithful. For many in the city, both red and blue, Dalglish represented the people of Liverpool with dignity and compassion and has dedicated time, money and support to the victims of Hillsborough, all whilst bearing the brunt of a city in mourning.
“They supported Liverpool. So now it’s the turn of Liverpool Football Club to support them.”
In his first spell as Liverpool boss, Dalglish recorded the highest ever win percentage of 60.91% across 307 games, which drew to an end in 1991. A man who believed he could no longer give his all, receiving daily medication for Shingles and spending every last second in and around Melwood, Dalglish resigned. It left Anfield downbeat.
For all his achievements at the club as a player and manager, as well as a spell combining those roles, ranging from his wonderful volley at Stamford Bridge in 1986 to bringing in the last trophy the club won back in 2011, many regard his handling of the Hillsborough disaster as his greatest achievement at the club.
Icon, hero and legend are only a few words that could begin to describe King Kenny. He will go down in history as a man of passion, a man of principle but most of all – a man of the people.
Liverpool renamed the Centenary stand to The Kenny Dalglish Stand for the 2018/19 season, to ensure he is omnipresent at Anfield.