King Kenny’s managerial career is about so much more than one fateful incident that occurred in south Yorkshire on 15 April 1989.
Dalglish was a forward. He played as a forward when he fired Celtic to nine major trophies in the 1970s, he played as a forward when he came second in the 1983 Ballon d’Or and he played as a forward even after being handed the reins at Anfield.
There was plenty of concern and intrigue when an inexperienced 34-year-old took over from Joe Fagan in the ?Liverpool dugout while also continuing in a playing capacity. The latter had delivered a splendid treble in his debut campaign at the helm; no pressure, Kenny.
It proved to be one of the best decisions the club had ever made. Yes, the vast amounts of silverware tell the tale of an insightful, intellectual winner. However, it was his stoic demeanour following the death of those 96 supporters that makes his appointment so significant.
Dalglish was the lighthouse that prevented the Liverpool ship from crashing on the rocks. The whole team – from groundsmen and fans to the chairman and first XI – was in disarray and disbelief after such a horrific tragedy. They desperately needed someone to unify and galvanise them.
|Football League First Division (1986, 1988, 1990)?|
|?FA Cup (1986, 1989)|
|?FA Charity Shield (1986, 1988, 1989, 1990)|
|?Football League Super Cup (1987)|
|?FWA Tribute Award (1987)|
|?Football League Second Division Playoffs (1992)|
|?Premier League (1995)|
|?Premier League Manager of the Season (1995)|
|?Scottish League Cup (2000)|
|?Football League Cup (2012)|
By the time of the catastrophe, the centre-forward had won a pair of league titles, ome FA Cup and a couple of minor trophies in three full seasons as the darling of the Kop; he’d earned his stripes as a coach.
Nothing can truly prepare someone for the turmoil and strife that came Dalglish’s way, but he would have learned a lot given the circumstances under which he became Liverpool manager.
The deaths of 39 crowd-members in the Heysel disaster had just triggered Fagan’s resignation and the banishment of English teams from European competition. From day one, the Glasgow native had to show poise, grace and empathy.
Dalglish coaxed a marvellous performance out of his squad in the year immediately following that infamous night in Brussels, leading the club to the double. In fitting fashion, both league and the cup were secured at the expense of eternal foes ?Everton.
The side finished the next campaign empty-handed, though they were unfortunate to lose the League Cup final 2-1 at the hands of ?Arsenal. It was a bad omen for their rivals, a disappointment that fuelled their mighty charge the year after.
John Barnes had been signed from ?Watford in the summer, along with several other talents from across the country. The new-look Liverpool were formidable, shredding opponents at will and topping the league for almost the entirety of the campaign. Oh, and they also went on a 37-game unbeaten streak; it was a rather good year at Anfield.
Then one of the greatest shocks in FA Cup history befell Dalglish’s Goliath. Their David was Wimbledon, or ‘The Crazy Gang’ led by Vinnie Jones. The latter emerged victorious, a first-half Lawrie Sanchez header sealing the unlikeliest of wins.
Cue the earth-shattering year of 1989. The Merseysiders could have collapsed following ‘Hillsborough’ that April, but their manager showed incredible strength and resilience, shouldering all the emotion and stress the incident inflicted.
|?Blackburn Rovers (1991-95)|
|?Newcastle United (1997-98)|
He unified supporters and the club, attended countless funerals of victims and offered a shred of light in Liverpool’s darkest hour. They won the rearranged semi final against ?Nottingham Forest to setup another Wembley showdown with Everton.
In a remarkable encounter, Ian Rush’s double helped the Reds to a 3-2 triumph after extra-time. It was a cathartic moment for everyone even remotely related to the team, a perfect tribute to those they lost mere months before.
The final trophy of his first stint as Liverpool boss was the 1990 league title, the Scot resigning on 22 February 1991, eventually revealing ‘Hillsborough’ as the reasoning for it.
He returned to management that October with second-division ?Blackburn Rovers, leading them to promotion in his first season via the playoffs. They celebrated by splashing out a British-record £3.5m on Alan Shearer.
The hitman would fire them to top spot in 1995, making the Lancashire outfit only the second team to ever win the recently-rebranded ?Premier League.
In 1994, Rovers eclipsed the fee they had paid for Shearer by signing fellow striker Chris Sutton for £5m from ?Norwich City. The duo gelled wonderfully well and forging a partnership that would bring Ewood Park its first top-flight title since before the First World War.
Dalglish’s role changed after that glorious season as he moved upstairs to become Blackburn’s Director of Football, the side finishing seventh the next year in King Kenny’s
He and Shearer left the club at the end of the season, taking on the ?Newcastle United job the following winter after his counterpart had joined the Magpies for £15m. Mixed fortunes characterised Dalglish’s time in the north-east.
In the closing four months of 1997/98, his arrival propelled the team from fourth-position to second, meaning they secured ?Champions League qualification.
The Toon would famously beat ?Barcelona 3-2 during their adventure in Europe, but Dalglish’s first full year at the helm would also be his last.
– Tim Rich, ?the Independent
He erroneously chose to remould the squad over the off-season, bringing in acclaimed-yet-ageing personnel, like Barnes and Rush. Unimpressed by Dalglish’s performance, Freddie Shepherd gave him his marching orders.
A brief hiatus from the sport ended when the ex-striker took up a position on the Celtic board. He once again linked up with Barnes, though the England international’s dismissal saw his old coach return to management on an interim basis.
Though Dalglish led the Bhoys to Scottish League Cup success and wanted to stay in charge, he was replaced by Martin O’Neill in June 2000, taking an extended break from the game thereafter.
Having begun coaching Liverpool’s youth teams during Rafa Benitez’s reign, Dalglish became caretaker manager in early 2011 when the Spaniard’s replacement – Roy Hodgson – oversaw a nightmare six months for the Reds.
The King turned things around despite unwisely sanctioning the £35m purchase of Andy Carroll. Fortunately, the Geordie was brought in as part of a double-signing on deadline day that also included the mercurial Luis Suarez.
Utilising the aura he holds on Merseyside, he steadied the ship and breathed new life into a Reds outfit that had been all at sea, eventually being handed the job on a full-time basis at the close of the campaign.
The following term, Dalglish guided the side to their first silverware in six years, downing ?Cardiff City in the League Cup final after a tense penalty-shootout. They also reached the final of the FA Cup, though were unable to overcome ?Chelsea.
Despite Liverpool’s displays in the cups, Dalglish was sacked that May due to their league showing, the team placing eighth in their worst performance since 1994. Little over a year later, he was again reintegrated into the club, this time as a non-executive director.
He is yet to coach on the big stage since vacating the Anfield hot-seat and will likely never do so again. Instead, he can now enjoy a peaceful existence and look back on an unbelievable life in football, watching on from the Kenny Dalglish Stand as his beloved Reds reestablish themselves as a superpower.
It was named after an individual who made a unique contribution to Liverpool Football Club, a man who showed what bravery truly means and a genuine legend of the beautiful game.
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