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Top 10 Managers of the Season #4: Kenny Dalglish

In Sportskeeda’s exclusive “Top 10 European Managers of the Season”, let’s take a look at the Number 4 on the list.

Read #5 in the Managers’ Series  here (Stay tuned on www.Sportskeeda.com, Each day a new manager)

#4: Kenny Dalglish

Not often would you find a manager of a team finishing 6th in a league and just being in charge for 5 months, getting in a top 10 managers list. But then again, Kenny Dalglish is not a mere manager to Liverpool FC.

There is nothing that has not been written about the affable Scot and yet there is so much more. We will just stick to this season, which is another of Kenny Dalglish’s beautifully crafted stories.

Kenny Dalglish has ushered in the era of renaissance at Liverpool

Middle aged Liverpool fans waking up on the 7th of January 2011 would have been forgiven for thinking they were in 1986. Liverpool were 12th in the league, with an embarrassing negative goal difference. Come May, Liverpool have only three points fewer than United and Chelsea (top 2 in the league) since Kenny took over.

Dalglish took over at a critical time. It was a classic case of SOS, you can argue. Ever since it was made public that Kenny Dalglish put his name forward for the managers’ job after his efforts to find Rafa’s replacement did not throw up a suitable name, it had to be Kenny’s post. The fans sang his name in every game, you just knew Roy Hodgson’s time was up. In Liverpool, the fans play a more important role than most others, and primarily coupled by Hodgson’s poor season (and poorer connect with fans and press), Dalglish’s return call was staring in the face of new owners.

The statistics above help in conveying how Liverpool have revived under their own King. However, apart from statistics, it is the way they have taken to the field that delights a Liverpool fan. Roy Hodgson after his promise to pass and move, followed up by defensive and fearful play. Under Roy, we looked like a team set up to merely avoid relegation, and not fight near the top.

Daniel Agger, one of the finest defenders to get the ball out of your own defense said one month into the season, “Our play has changed, so I’ll have to adjust a bit. But to be honest, I’m not going to adjust 100%. I’m a footballer who keeps the ball on the floor. I’m here to play, not to unload”. Evidence of Roy’s footballing philosophy which included pumping the ball forward and leaving the rest to the forwards. You wouldn’t blame Fernando Torres’ if he said he wanted to quit at the time.

Kenny Dalglish had a masterstroke right after coming back from his Dubai holiday and taking charge of Liverpool, by appointing Steve Clarke. Together, they have got back the Liverpool way of playing football. Keeping the ball on the ground, and moving about. Not being rigid. Or scared. The team has been attack minded since January and that shows when we have a look at the number of goals scored. Liverpool scored 24 goals under Roy at an average of 1.2 while Kenny’s lads have scored 35 at an average of a notch below 2. The goal difference which read -3 back in January, now reads a comparatively healthy +15. Liverpool were unbeaten against the top 4 in the league under him, and would have sneaked into Europe had they won their last two games. A situation that seemed impossible when the club spent a long couple of weeks at 19th in the table.

How one leads a team out of near-crisis says a lot about him. Inside a month of his fairytale comeback, Dalglish dealt with his superstar striker Torres wanting to leave with merely couple of days to find replacements.

Players leave the club and players come in, though more have come into this club than gone. The most important thing is the club. I will never forget that and anyone who does is being a wee bit stupid and irresponsible.

- Kenny on Torres’ exit

Cliched lines one may say, but it just lifted the entire place. He had already Suarez’s deal in place, and Damien Commoli put the foot on the gas and went for Andy Carrol for an astoundingly unbelievable fee. In hindsight, they haven’t done poorly. I haven’t seen fans of a club so relaxed and content after the exit of their superstar. That is the Kenny effect, the trust in Kenny.

The fan favourite

Suarez has been a revelation. Maxi Rodrigues, Dirk Kuyt, Raul Meireles and Lucas Leiva have re-invented themselves after the change of manager. The togetherness in the players, that reflects in the results since January shows the impact that Dalglish has had.

Dalglish was involved with the Liverpool youth Academy before taking charge as manager and often spoke about exciting prospects after years of stagnation. He has stayed true to his word. A feature of this season has been the valuable experience the youngsters got. John Flanagan , Jack Robinson, Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing have featured heavily under him. Glen Johnson had to play left back in the absence of Aurelio, so assured Flanagan seemed on the right.

One crucial difference next season will be the expectations. Kenny enjoyed his football, made the team enjoy the game. The dismal start under Roy threw all expectations out of the window, so Kenny to be honest apart from the need to get the season on track, did not have the additional pressures that next season promises. If he takes care of that, Liverpool will be good.

The club looks in safe hands under Kenny, and that’s the biggest thing fans take away from this season. The transfer activity has already begun and Kenny Dalglish’s priorities look clear. Youth! And you wouldn’t want anyone else to mould them into great players, just Kenny Dalglish. Getting the job permanently was a no brainer, if ever there was one. The older generation fans are happy to see one of their boys back in the mix. For the young ones, it their first chance to see what someone whom their elders have been raving about all life. Kenny’s proved his mettle managerially since the 80’s, so all the hope and expectations under him is not just sentimental, quite logical too.

But Dalglish for Liverpool goes much beyond football. The connect between the fans and the King is incredible. Here’s to my moment of the season. Anfield singing Happy Birthday to their King  Kenny Dalglish. Moment of the season

Also read  #6, #7, #8, #9 and #10 in the Sportskeeda Managers’ Series

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