On May 16 1957, Eliot Ness, died from a massive heart attack, possibly brought on by a body weakened by years of massive drinking that resulted in massive boasting about his career as one of the Untouchables. On May 18, 2012, Kenny Dalglish’s managerial career perished from a massive lack of heart by the American owners of Liverpool Football Club. The man who was king was no longer untouchable.
The news, when it began sneaking through on Twitter on Wednesday, was not a massive shock. Dalglish was on edge before he went to see the Liverpool club owners – Fenway Sports Group – in Boston. He mounted a defence of his team’s campaign in the English media that had an air of desperation about it. He knew that a Carling Cup win and a place in the Europa Cup was not a good return for a R1.5-billion investment in playing staff.
It could be argued that if Andy Carroll’s header been awarded against Chelsea in the FA Cup, Liverpool, who were in the ascendancy, might have gone on to win. It would have been hard to fire a manager with two trophies to his name, but even that might not have saved Dalglish. John W Henry of FSG said that the aim was “winning”, although tempered that by saying fourth place in the premiership and a place the Champions League was the next best thing, possibly better. Eighth place? It didn’t quite cut it.
Dalglish’s handling of the the Suarez-Evra racism saga was poor, verging on delinquent, and that, as much as the eighth place, may have persuaded Henry that the king should go. Why, then, does it feel like a mistake, a premature ejection of a man with such a rich playing and coaching pedigree? It feels almost too American a reaction to a British problem. Last season the Boston Red Sox, FSG’s crown jewel club, failed to make the major league playoffs for the first time. Terry Francona, the coach, got the bullet, but his replacement, Bobby Valentine, isn’t doing much better. Who knows what Francona could have done given a little more time? Who knows whether Dalglish could have turned Liverpool around given another season?
Today back in 1980, on may 18, Ian Curtis of Joy Division, hung himself in the kitchen of his house in Maccelsfield, about 10km from Liverpool, his demons having over come him. His legacy includes the bitter-sweetness of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and the genius of “Atmosphere”, with the lyrics “don’t walk away in silence”, sung in that inimitable, heart-wrenching bass-baritone. Dalglish’s love for Liverpool, however, inevitably tore him apart. It was a job he wanted because he felt he owed the club a debt. He leaves knowing he will never walk alone in the hearts of the fans of Liverpool, he will never walk in silence should he pass through the Shankly Gates again for they will continue to sing his name. Long live King Kenny.