Kenny Dalglish – The First Interview

8 01 2011
Ronnie Moran (left), manager Kenny Dalglish an...

Image by wekkuzipp via Flickr

Kenny Dalglish was unveiled as Roy Hodgson’s successor earlier today. The Liverpool legend will take charge of the team until the end of the season. Paul Eaton interviews Kenny.

Shortly after arriving at the team hotel in Manchester ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup showdown with Manchester United, Kenny Dalglish sat down with Liverpoolfc.tv to give his first in-depth interview after being named Reds boss for the second time.

Firstly, Kenny, another dramatic day at Liverpool Football Club?

Obviously it’s a great honour for me to be back in charge of a football club which means so much to so many people. When somebody gets a bit of pleasure there’s always the disappointment of someone else, and it’s Roy. Roy is a very honourable guy with loads of integrity and I feel really sad for him. He came in at the start of the season when Rafa left, he tried his best but it just didn’t happen for him and the disappointing thing for me is that this opportunity has come along and he has lost out. If you ask any manager if they want to manage Liverpool Football Club there’s no way in the world they’re going to say no, so he came in and unfortunately for himself and everyone else it didn’t work out as we all hoped and I don’t think there’s anybody who supports the football club who will get any pleasure out of seeing it not work.

How does it feel to once again be the manager of Liverpool Football Club?

I’m a very lucky person. That’s twice I’ve been very fortunate. I came here as a 15-year-old boy when Shanks asked me to sign and I was a wee bit homesick thinking I was too young to leave home. Then I got back as a player and left the club in February 1991. I’m fortunate to come back, even if it’s only to the end of the season it makes no difference to me, this place is very special and all we can do is try our best to move the club forward a bit and try to win some more games.

What was your immediate reaction when you were asked to step in and help the club out?

Marina and I were away for a break, but I said at the start of the season that if they wanted me to help in any way, shape or form then I would do. My situation never changed. I was there to be of help to the football club and if John and Tom and Ian Ayre and Damien were happy to offer me the position then there was no way I could be disrespectful and not take it. I’ve been a very lucky boy to be asked to do this. All I would say is I’m going to do the best I possibly can to try and help the club, but everybody has to pull in the same direction. There’s no point not being a unified unit. If we pull in different directions we won’t get anywhere. I’m really looking forward to it and it’ll be a real pleasure for me to be in that dressing room again and on the bench.

What’s the reaction been like so far from your family, friends, ex-players and fans you’ve seen?

I was on the plane to come back from Dubai and it went out to take off and the news hadn’t broken. Then it came back in to repair something and everybody’s phone was going and people were coming up to me to say ‘Congratulations, all the best’. My family have been brought up here and know what the football club stands for and what it means to a lot of people, so they’re delighted. The excitement has to calm down a wee bit, we have to make sure we turn the excitement into some positivity for everybody and make sure we win games. That’s the most important thing we have to do and the best way for us to do it is to support each other and we’re very good at that. As someone once said, the closer we are and the harder we work then the luckier we’ll get. So we’ll work hard to get the luck we need.

You’ve spoken in the past about your desire to manage the club again, how confident are you that you can turn Liverpool’s fortunes around this season?

I always said I’d help but I also made it perfectly clear I wasn’t going to stand on anyone’s toes to help. I was happy to help in any way I could, the football club and Roy. I think people know what they’re getting and what’s in the package with Kenny Dalglish, they know they’ll get honesty and a great deal of commitment. I’ll take my chances and hopefully we’ll get more positive results than negative ones.

It has been a disappointing campaign so far but why do you think the results haven’t been what we’d like and will a big part of your job now be trying to lift the confidence of the players?

Some people may find it strange that you’re talking about some great players – Steven, Fernando, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Raul Meireles – and you mention confidence. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you’re not confident in what you’re doing and not believing that it’s going to turn for you then you’re not going to play as well. You can point them in the right direction and tell them how good they are, but they’ve got to believe in it. Our lads will admit themselves that they’ve not achieved this season and not maintained the standards that they’re very capable of reaching. I might be fortunate and I might come in and get the luck that Roy missed out on. I’m sure Roy will be sitting and watching and hoping that we do well, because when you read the statement he made when he left the club then that tells you how dignified the man is.

On Sunday you’ll walk out at Old Trafford to the sight and sound of 9,000 Liverpool fans singing your name – how do you think you’ll feel when you make that walk along the touchline?

I’ll feel very humble and probably a bit emotional. They know that they’re equally as important as what we are, not just for Sunday’s game but for every game. We might lose a game – not necessarily on Sunday – or we might not play too well and that’s when we’ll need their support. We also as a squad of players and as a management have to give them something to cheer about as well. I’m sure our people will respond if we go out there and they see that our lads are proud to play and that they’ll do their best for Liverpool Football Club. We’ll do our best to get the results that they all want, we won’t always be successful, and to be perfectly realistic I think we have to say ‘Let’s just start walking before we run’. Let’s not go crazy here and think the season changes and we’re going to sweep everything aside now and go undefeated from now to the end of the season. We’re perfectly capable of doing it but let’s be realistic, let’s just go out there and try our best and take things one game at a time.

Manchester United away in your first game back – exciting or daunting?

It’s the same for both clubs I think. I’m sure Fergie would have picked an easier game if he could have picked one. Old Trafford is a fantastic stage to go and play your football, it’s an FA Cup tie and the FA Cup has been devalued of late with people fielding weakened teams. United lost to Leeds last year after putting out a weakened side and I can’t see him doing that tomorrow. All we’ve got to do is concern ourselves with us. Sammy, Mike, Damien and Roy up to today have been getting the boys ready for the game so they’ll be the ones who are bigger players than me, but I’ll be there beside them on the bench and we’ll all be singing from the same hymn-sheet.

And have you thought about what you’ll say to the players in your first team talk?

Yes, but it’s changed 25 times on the flight home, so I’m sure it’ll change again before the morning.

Do you think you’ll feel nervous before kick off?

I felt nervous last night after I got the phone call, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling that anticipation. I also feel a great sense of pride to try and help everybody get what they want, which is results.

You’ll be renewing past rivalries with Alex Ferguson as well, of course….

Yes, I don’t have a problem with that. You have to respect what Alex has done in the game and you don’t do it through gritted teeth. It’s a fantastic achievement what he’s done, his track record is fantastic, we respect him as a person and a football manager. It’s all well and good people disliking him or disliking Manchester United, but it doesn’t mean you don’t respect what other people have done in football.

Away from matters on the pitch, will you be having conversations with Damien Comolli and the owners with a view to bringing in new players during this transfer window?

I’m just in the door. I’m sure there will be conversations but honestly, I have had minimal conversations about what’s happening. I need to sit down and be told. I’ve got straight off the plane to do this interview and to try and get a message to the supporters and hope that I can repay the trust that John, Tom and the other footballing people, Ian and Damien, have put in me.

How excited are you by the challenge which lies ahead this season?

I’m really looking forward to it. You get nervous with anticipation but I’m looking forward to it. The games come up thick and fast, Sunday and then Wednesday at Blackpool and then the derby next Sunday. We’ve got to get on with it. It’s really exciting and something I’m looking forward to. There’s no fear, just a nervous anticipation about what’s going to happen.

What is your target for the rest of this season?

To get as many wins as we can muster and then take it from there.

And finally, what’s your message to Liverpool supporters as we all look forward to your second term as manager?

I’d just say if there’s excitement among the supporters then I can share in that excitement. I think we’ve got to be realistic and a little bit patient. It’s not going to turn overnight. I know there are lots of times when a manager leaves a football club and a new guy comes in and gives everyone a lift, well if the players get a bit of a lift then it has to last for more than one game. We’ve got to get it right between now and the end of the season and as I said earlier, there might be some disappointments but the biggest disappointment for me is if everyone who is involved in this football club doesn’t give everything they have to give. If we do that then we have a good chance of finishing the season well.

I’m sure everybody is right behind you Kenny and we all wish you the best of luck…

It’s a great pleasure to be back. We’re working for people we know we can trust and working for people who only want the best for us as well. Let’s just hope we can take this journey over the next five or six months together and have a successful time.

 

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The Race for Fourth

24 03 2010

As the race for fourth place hots up, it is looking increasingly unlikely that Liverpool will finish in the coveted fourth Champions League qualifying spot. Currently lying in sixth place in the Premier League and having played one game more than fourth placed Tottenham and two games more than Manchester City and Aston Villa, it looks an increasingly uphill battle. That said, a look into the remaining fixtures perhaps suggests that Liverpool’s run-in is more favourable than that of our rivals.

The Champions League Trophy: The Race for Fourth.

Manchester City are for me favourites to clinch fourth place, largely due to them having nothing else to compete for and they have six of their remaining nine league games at home where they are yet to be beaten. They have two games in hand on Liverpool and one on Tottenham and despite the saying that you would rather have the points on the board, I fancy City to win their games in hand. This said, they still have to play Everton tonight, as well as their last five games being against Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Tottenham and West Ham on the final day of the season, who themselves will be scrapping for their Premier League status. By no means are these easy games for City but if they have genuine aspirations of finishing fourth and even higher next season, these are the type of games they must find a way of winning.

Number One: Mancini's side are in pole position to challenge Europe's elite.

Moving on to Tottenham who have today announced the signing of Brazilian midfielder Sandro from Internacional. They face Fulham in the FA Cup replay at White Hart Lane tonight with the winner facing crisis-club Portsmouth in the semi final. Their Premier League race for fourth run-in is as difficult as Manchester City’s. Trips to Sunderland, Burnley and Manchester City, in what could essentially be a Champions League play-off, are tough enough yet they also have to face Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal in consecutive matches. Their record against the ‘big three’ is not too impressive and I struggle to see them picking up more than three points against the sides currently above them. When this is considered with their recent spell of injuries to key players such as Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon, I think their most realistic chance of having a successful season is to win the FA Cup and qualify for the Europa League after a year without European football.

Defoe, with 17 Premier League goals, is out for three weeks.

This leads me on to Aston Villa who have already booked their place in the FA Cup semi final. I struggle to see them finishing fourth as for one reason, I don’t think their squad is big enough and they are suffering from a loss of form, particularly at home where they have won just once in their last six. Their squad is thin in the sense that when Gabriel Agbonlahor gets injured, they often resort to long balls for John Carew or Emile Heskey despite on their day playing attractive football. Their run-in is more favourable than Tottenham’s and Manchester City’s but they must still face City away, the only side yet to be beaten at home this season, as well as a trip to Chelsea and the Midlands derby with surprise package Birmingham City. Much like Liverpool last season, defeats haven’t been their downfall but they are picking up too many draws with the latest at home to local rivals Wolves proving this point. Villa have lost half as many games as Liverpool yet they have won two less. Their inability to turn these draws into wins could prove costly and I can only see them finishing seventh. The return of key players at Everton could even see them push for a top seven finish. As a result, like Tottenham, I see their best chance of having a successful season being an FA Cup win and Europa League football again next season.

The strain begins to show: O'Neill looks on as Villa drop two points against Wolves.

This leaves me with Liverpool. A season that offered so much hope after last season’s second place finish saw us crash out of the Champions League early and lose to Arsenal and Reading in the Carling and FA Cups respectively. The two-legged Europa League clash with Portuguese side Benfica is fast approaching and this is the last remaining trophy to aim for. However, given our current financial situation, a fourth placed finish would be received as warmly as a trophy itself. Our run-in is perhaps on paper the easiest out of the four sides battling for fourth with Chelsea the only side left to play above us. Yet our away form this season is woeful; we have only won four games away from Anfield so far. Four draws and eight defeats tells the rest of the story and proves this is where our weakness lies. Birmingham away will be a tough game after they came close to beating us at Anfield and will surely want revenge for David Ngog’s late dive that cost them all three points. However, the trip to St. Andrews aside, our only other two away games are Hull City and Burnley. No disrespect to either side but if we do not take six points from those two games then we simply do not deserve to finish fourth. Our remaining home games see us entertain Sunderland next before three visits from London sides Fulham, Chelsea and West Ham United. On paper, it looks like five or six wins from the final seven fixtures is not unrealistic. Football, as I’m sure you’re aware, is not played on paper.

The fitness of Gerrard and Torres is vital if Liverpool can maintain their push for fourth.

In a season of ups and (considerably more) downs and despite remaining optimistic it appears that the “Top Four’s” stranglehold over the Premier League is about to be broken for the first time since Everton finished fourth in the 2004-2005 season. The current squad have of course been there and done it before on club football’s biggest stage and this experience could prove vital. If we stay injury free and move on from “Rieragate” then who would bet against the masters of the comeback? Istanbul alone proves that anything in football is possible. I think it will almost likely go down to the wire but despite Rafa’s promise of a fourth placed finish; it is no longer in our hands.

Mark Jepson





So Long Rafa

15 01 2010

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Twelve points adrift in the Premier League, out of the Carling Cup, failure to progress in the Champions League and now out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle after an embarrassing defeat to Reading at Anfield. We should take nothing away from Reading as they deserved their win, but where does this leave us now? Shane Long’s extra time winner leaves us looking at the long road ahead.
 
In the space of nine months we have gone from title challengers, and almost winners, to scrapping for fourth place with Aston Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham Hostpur. Furthermore, Birmingham, Sunderland and Stoke are all cranking the pressure on us. In these nine months, not too much has changed. Alvaro Arbeloa and Xabi Alonso have left but they have been replaced by Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani. Whilst the off-field troubles are not helping, it’s Rafa Benitez’s tactics and team selection that are coming under scrutiny once again. His insistence on playing out of form players such as Emiliano Insua, Lucas Leiva and Dirk Kuyt week in, week out is not helping. Insua for one not only looks out of form, but looks rock bottom for confidence. In fact I would go as far as saying that Gordon Brown will be more confident of delivering Labour a fourth consecutive election win than Insua will be of delivering a good performance for Liverpool. His positional sense, heading ability and lack of pace all leave a lot to be desired but the squad is too thin for changes. Players are leaving so that the wage bill can be trimmed but replacements are not forth coming. Our owners insistence on selling players before we can buy is having a harmful effect on the club. In January Andrea Dossena has gone back to Italy for a small loss, and Andrey Voronin has also finally left for Dynamo with Ryan Babel and Philipp Degen also open to moves. Yet just Argentina winger Maxi Rodriguez looks like arriving in this window and after last nights toothless performance, he must be wondering what on Earth he has signed up for. An already thin squad is getting thinner. Take into account the injuries we’ve had and things do not look like getting any better. Once Fernando Torres gets injured, it’s left to David N’Gog or Dirk Kuyt to fill the void and provide the goals and quite frankly, they’re just not up to task. Performances like last nights will also leave Marouane Chamakh wondering whether a Bosman move to us is in the summer really is a good idea.
 
At least Rodriguez has signed to give us some much needed width as once again we are looking desperate in the wide areas. I don’t wish to keep singling out Kuyt as I think he is a good player, but creative right winger he is not. The same goes for wide left as Babel doesn’t look interested anymore and Riera keeps picking up injuries. Aside from Jose Reina, Gerrard and Torres we look distinctly average. Failure to qualify for next season’s Champions League means offers may have to be considered for our last remaining top players which is why qualification is imperative. Each loss that we suffer tightens the rope that is hanging around Rafa’s neck.
 
Yet as mentioned, the financial situation at the club means that sacking Rafa is almost impossible at this time as he has not long started a new five-year deal. As well as this, who could do a better job with the limited resources he would have? Whilst I am not suggesting that Rafa has not had money to spend, when you compare it to what our Champions League rivals are spending it looks an unenviable job guiding us to next season’s competition. Apart from Guus Hiddink, there isn’t really an abundance of managerial talent waiting for jobs although I assume Gary Megson is looking for an immediate return to management. He might be in our price range too. Although we all dream of the Jose Mourinho’s of this world managing our club it seems that managing Liverpool in this day and age is not as desireable as it once was. 
 
So after Shane Long’s winner last night, our FA Cup exit leaves me saying ‘So Long Rafa’, we will never forget Istanbul 2005 and Cardiff 2006 but perhaps you have taken us as far as you can.
 
Mark Jepson







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