“As a Liverpool supporter of a vintage that fondly remembers Kenny Dalglish the player and not just the manager, I’d love to have seen the man being given more time to realise his plans,” writes Football365’s Paul Little, adding the qualifier: “but in the cold light of day, the reality is that Fenway Sports Group decision to sack him was clearly not without justification.”
True, the sacking of Dalglish was perhaps dismaying but not entirely surprising; an eighth-place finish in the league (below Everton—gasp!) does not meet the high (I would say fastidious) standards of the historic club and its supporters. While it’s true that Liverpool hit the woodwork more than any team this season, it could be argued that a better or more organized club could have overcome such unlucky bounces to at least mount a credible assault on that coveted fourth-place spot. Even I, after watching the FA Cup final, called this season a “nightmare.”
However, it could also be argued that finishing in the top half with some token silverware doesn’t constitute an emergency, and with fan support behind Dalglish, he should have been given at least one more season to improve the club’s compatibility and tactics. (Let it also be fully disclosed that I had a few pints during and after the aforementioned cup final.) His handling of the Suarez-Evra affair was probably his most egregious misstep, since it dampered morale and cast doubt about his ability to exercise appropriate judgment. It certainly made me question his character slightly, although Evra isn’t exactly a saint.
But given the lackluster year, and the dark cloud that was Suarez’s suspension, something just doesn’t sit right with me about his pink slip. A New York Times article distills my ire nicely with the simple headline, “American Owners Fire a Liverpool Legend.” That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?
If fans had called for a change in leadership, or the investment group controlling the club was a little closer to Merseyside (literally in location or figuratively in having their pulse on Liverpool’s sense of history and loyalty), then I would probably not even think this post would be worth writing. But the fact that Lebron James (Lebron James) has more say over what happens than a former Liverpool player highlights the rise of the worst kind of Steinbrennerism in English (and global) football.
Even John Henry, one of the Fenway Sports Group members who had a hand in firing Dalglish, said of him: “Kenny will always be more than a championship-winning manager, more than a championship-winning star player. He is in many ways the heart and soul of the club. He personifies everything that is good about Liverpool football club.”
I hope you’ll excuse my eye-roll at this insidiously trite consolation.
Should he have been sacked? There’s a good case for it. But there’s also a good case for giving him one more year, and the fact that he had the rug pulled out from under him by greedy hands all the way across the pond will just leave me feeling queasy for a while. If owners just sack coaches every time they don’t win the league, then what we’re left with is a merry-go-round of hired hands shuffling from one brief stint to the next. Where’s the meaning in that? Yes, the war is lost (all the clubs have huge corporate logos dominating their uniforms, for Christ’s sake), but some towns had managed to keep some kind of semblance of history and meaning. Liverpool is (was?) one of those towns.
Oh well, at least Liverpool isn’t sponsored by Emirates Airline… yet.