How Kenny Dalglish’s Legend Transcends Football

EVERY club legend brings something unique to mark themselves out in the history book. For many, they mesmerise with their skill or prowess. At footballing superpowers, like Liverpool during its long glory days, talent isn’t enough to win hearts, hence why its Kenny Dalglish that owns so many of the hearts of the Anfield faithful over so many legendary players. Dalglish was a great player, perhaps the greatest ever to pull on the Red jersey, but, the Scotsman was more than talented. Left lacking for better words, Dalglish got Liverpool, not only as a football club, but as a community and a city.

Stein had initially planned to send Dalglish back out on loan, but after a heated discussion with the manager, Dalglish got his way and stayed put at Celtic and closed out the 1960s as a fringe player for the Scottish giants. It was during the 1971/72 season that Dalglish got his big break and spearheaded a legendary Hoops team that won four league titles, four Scottish cup and a Scottish league cup. After securing the domestic double with Celtic at the end of the 1976/77 season, Dalglish longed for European glory, something he had narrowly missed out on when he joined Celtic a decade before. His hunger for European silverware ultimately brought him to the home of the European champions. Liverpool had won their maiden crown the previous season and, according to Dalglish, were still as hungry as ever when he joined the dressing room that summer.

His transfer broke the British transfer record, something which was odd for Liverpool, but having lost the legendary Kevin Keegan, desperate times called for desperate measures. The Scot was given Keegan’s number seven shirt and slotted in up front. The fit was seamless, with Dalglish scoring 31 goals that season including a delicate chip against Club Brugge that won Liverpool’s second European Cup in a row.

Though he missed out on the league title in his first season, two in succession came the following seasons as the trophies continued to flow at Anfield. Dalglish won the player of the year award in 1979 as he and Ian Rush began their deadly duo that come to terrorize defences for years to come. Liverpool missed out on a third league title in a row in the 1980-81 season, but a Alan Kennedy goal in Paris secured a third European Cup in four years.

Sadly, for Dalglish, things weren’t as straight forward on the international stage. He had made his bow for the national side in 1971 and got his first goal a year later, helping Scotland reach the 1974 World Cup finals, only to get knocked out in the group stages. They qualified once again four years later but, pitted in a group containing Brazil and eventual finalists, Netherlands, Scotland couldn’t compete and were once again dumped out in the first round. Dalglish did have a moment to savour from his trip to Argentina, scoring the winner in a famous match against the Dutch. He would eventually finish his international career as joint top scorer with 30 goals and most capped player with 102.

Following their win over Real Madrid in Paris, Liverpool won three straight league titles with Dalglish sweeping all the individual honours in 1983. That summer Joe Fagan took over from the legendary Bob Paisley, but Liverpool experienced no drop off, securing another European Cup at the end of Fagan’s debut season. If his decision to leave Celtic was based on the hopes of further European success, then his decision was now well vindicated, it was Dalglish third success with the club.

Dalglish nearly helped Liverpool retain their title the following season, but the final against Juventus was marred by the horrors that took place in the stand. Just before kickoff, a fight broke out between the Liverpool and Juventus supporters with the resulting panic resulting in a crush and a wall collapsing killing 39 people. Despite the disaster, which would later result in English clubs being banned from European competitions for five years, the final went ahead, and Juventus won the game.  It hadn’t been the first time that Dalglish had witnessed such horrific seasons, he was present when a crush during an Old Firm game at the Ibrox, killed 66 people. Such incidents at football stadiums were becoming disturbingly common in the British game and the worse was yet to come.

Although commonly misconceived that he departed because of the Hysel disaster, Joe Fagan had planned to retire at the end of the 1984/85 season with Dalglish being chosen as his successor. Dalglish accepted the job, although he wasn’t quite ready to finish playing, signing a player-manager contract. The 34-year old guided Liverpool to that’s year league title, scoring the title clinching goal. It was the first piece of silverware in an unprecedented double as the Reds also secured the league cup against arch rivals Everton, just the third time an English team won a league and cup double.

The Scot ushered in a fresh era of dominance for Liverpool with a side containing John Barnes, Ray Houghton and Peter Beardsley. Won the 1988 league title at a gander, pocketing a second manager of the year award.

Following the Hysel disaster in 1985, Dalglish had stated that he felt that the authorities hadn’t done enough when checking fan’s tickets, a concern that fell on deaf ears. In April 1989, during a FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, Dalglish was pitch side when 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives in a crush due overcrowding and police negligence. It was the largest stadium disaster in British footballing history. It is hard to put words to how being present at such a horrific and dark moment could have affected a person, but there is little doubt that every Liverpool fan who were alive on that day have carried a mental scar with them ever since.

In that regard, it truly is both astonishing and inspiring to how Dalglish responded. . He opened Anfield’s doors to the mourning city and ensured that Liverpool football club was represented at all 96 funerals with Dalglish going to four funerals in one day.

Liverpool went on to secure the FA Cup that season with a 3-2 extra time win over Everton. After securing yet another league title the following season, Dalglish resigned as Liverpool boss. The news shocked the Reds faithful, but they could have asked little more from their number 7, he had given every ounce of what he had to give the to club and the city.

Dalglish did return for a short stint in 2011, which predictably ended in silverware, albeit just a league cup in what was a disappointing and turbulent season for the club. As a recent homage to the legendary player and manager, Liverpool’s new Centenary stand was named after Dalglish this season.

It might be impossible to put into words just how important and impactful Kenny Dalglish was on Liverpool football club and to try seems truly futile. What can be said is that every footballer who has put on the Red shirt since and ever player who will do in the future, does so knowing that there is only one King at Anfield.

By Kristofer Mc Cormack with artwork by cottodesign

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