King Kenny needs a reality check
Build ‘em up, knock ‘em down.
That’s the way of the British Press. Whoever the soap celebrity on TV or stellar performer in whatever sport, everyone is fair game as they rise to the top amid a blaze of sycophantic publicity and then sink to the bottom amid wave after wave of derision. It can get seriously ugly.
In many other countries around the world, especially in the United States, serial winners are lauded for their consistent brilliance. And when their standards fall, when their crown slips, they are mostly treated sympathetically and still regaled for their previous magnificence.
Not in Britain. As soon as the star/player/manager/team reaches the summit, that’s it. Continued success has holes picked in it and any deviation from the norm, any slight deficiency in their armour, is seized upon and readily ridiculed. And woe betide a former legend who fails to pass muster second or third time around.
Enter Kenny Dalglish, the ex-Liverpool player and manager of some repute who now again presides at Anfield. Dalglish was and is an icon but the utter mess that he has become entangled in on his Third Coming has invited scrutiny of his credentials of unprecedented proportions. And much of it is of his own making.
That he has spent £133 million on players since he took over from Roy Hodgson and that Liverpool languish in seventh place in the Premier League, 13 points off a Champions League qualification place, says it all. “King Kenny” has long since lost his allure and the knives of the Fourth Estate are out.
Not even a double of Carling Cup, won fortuitously on penalties against Cardiff City, and FA Cup, in which they play Merseyside rivals Everton in the semi-finals, will satisfy Dalglish’s many detractors. As Alan Hansen, the former Liverpool defender, observed sagely: “We are not cup team.”
And so Dalglish is being ripped apart by the salivating scribes – apart from his increasingly few Scouse loyalists and apologists – who like nothing better than the scent of blood. A giant is toppling … let’s go for him. It is an unedifying sight but the Scot does not endear himself to his inquisitors with his snide and sneering responses to the most innocuous of questioning.
“People should taken an intelligence check,” Dalglish chided recently. “Judging our performance by league position alone is disrespectful. There’s a bigger picture. In 30 years’ time, it will be recorded that Liverpool won the Carling Cup – and maybe the FA Cup – in 2012. If that happens, the league position will be overlooked.”
Sorry, it is Dalglish who needs an intelligence check. For insulting Liverpool fans everywhere, the Kop faithful and John W Henry, the principal owner of the club and head of the Fenway Sports Group. An American Henry may be but even he will see through the ludicrous claim that a possible cup double makes up for the ills of a miserable league campaign. To Liverpool, the domestic title is – always has been and always will be – everything.
And don’t even get me going about Dalglish’s lamentable conduct during the Luis Suarez case of racial abuse against Patrice Evra. He was in denial throughout, and possibly still is, that Suarez did any wrong. That Dalglish is absolutely old school, a dyed-in-the-wool dinosaur, is no longer in doubt. He is totally divorced from – almost cast adrift of – the harsh realities of the real world that is the Premier League and the intense media coverage that goes with it.
As it stands, Liverpool have gained only eight points since the turn of the New Year – the same as QPR and only three more than Wolves. How pitiful, in 2012, is eight points from a maximum of 33? And what about the late 3-2 defeat at QPR, after holding a two-goal lead, and the 2-1 surrender against Wigan at Anfield? That a running-out-of-excuses Dalglish claimed that his players were tired against Wigan, after three matches in six days, served only to add to his fast-diminishing reputation.
Once a legend, always a legend. But unless Dalglish gets a grip of what is really going on at Anfield, displays a touch of humility and treats the Press with a smidgeon of respect – we are not all unintelligent inbreds! – his heroic status will be tarnished for ever.
Build ‘em up, knock ‘em down. We’re already on Kenny’s case …