Regal Infallibility

Posted by Degs on March 10, 2012, 10:28:40 PM

If you were born after 1985 it can be strange being a Liverpool fan.  On the one hand we have witnessed such a plethora of success, winning more than the majority of football league clubs will ever win in their entire lifespan, that to grumble upon any footballing issue can seem the lamentations of a spoiled brat, yet on the other hand no other set of fans have to deal with the weight of the past like us, we live with the ghosts of yesteryear.

I was 4 when we last won the league, while there are some blurry pictures of me being held on the old Kop and hazy memories of me standing on Park Road to see an open-top bus it could well have been for any of the litany of late 80s successes that seemed an annual occurrence rather than the final homecoming of our last league triumph.  Truth be told although we were there these successes don't belong to me or my generation, we were within an arm's grasp of riding the coat-tails of 3 decades of success, instead we got Sean Dundee, Phil Babb, John Scales, Bjorn Tore Kvarme, etc. (believe me I can go on).

With one League Cup win against Division One opponents in my youth aside it was not until the old guard was finally ousted that I saw real Liverpool success.  The famed boot room was not there, success was brought in by a Frenchman and expanded on by a Spaniard.  While we revelled in the success with the people who had seen it all before, and felt genuine joy for our Dads, Uncles, older cousins, etc., the people who thought this had gone forever, this still felt like Our time.  This was the rebirth of Liverpool success, we had more silver than the Antiques Roadshow and it felt like we were now part of the rich tapestry that is Liverpool Football Club. We had our story, it was ours, it was special.

Then came the rough times.  Marches, protests, and almost civil war behaviour breaking out in the Kop on more than one occasion, there was a collective effort to remove a cancer that was killing our club.  When it came time for a new start one name stood out to lead Liverpool and when it happened what it felt like for me can only be described as being infused with a sensation of absolute unadulterated joy.  I remember where I was when I heard Kenny Dalglish would be Liverpool manager, it was a Saturday morning and I was in the shower.  When there was an announcement on 5Live that The King was back I jumped up, let out a shriek akin to a dying Chimpanzee, and nearly broke my neck. I grabbed my phone and got to texting because for us youngsters having Kenny Dalglish back at Liverpool filled a void that was still there, that link to the past we longed to be part of.

If you were born red into a red match-going family, like me, you heard every story.  Your history of Liverpool FC may have been given credence by videos your Dad gave you, having a bluenose Mum "Beating the Blues" was always my favourite, but your knowledge came from an aural source.  You didn't just hear about how Brucie's legs won the European Cup you also heard about the 3 days of travelling in a minibus it took to get there, the sneaking through border control and twats on scooters slashing people's legs.  You grew up in awe of these stories, maybe even envy, but in the glory days of Gerard and Rafa you got your own. Still there was a reverence of the times of Kenny that you wished you could be part of and in 2011 that opportunity presented itself.

While I was jumping for joy at the return of Kenny there was still a nagging doubt that he was not a "modern" manager.  While Kenny brought with him the grandeur of past success the game had changed.  While we may not remember Kenny bringing success to Liverpool most of us remember him winning the league at Blackburn, with that though we also remember his fall from grace at Celtic and Newcastle.  I was delighted Kenny was here, but nervous that he may not be able to adapt. Almost instantly my fears were dismissed, Kenny wasn't just up to speed but he was playing all sorts of styles and formations to outfox those around him.  The greatest of these came against Chelsea when Kenny played 5 at the back, negating their 3 up top, and outclassing one of modern football's most tactically astute managers. Kenny had taken on a manager who personified modern footballing success and beaten him.  We would go on to finish the season with the pass and move football against Wolves and Fulham that we thought were the embellishment's of former glories, not to mention an absolute destruction of the Mancs.

We were winning, we were playing great football, we had money to spend, we had our link to the past, we had the new start we fought for and the world was good. Like those before us we were watching Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool, a resurgent Liverpool rampant and with an arrogant swagger.

Nobody expected Kenny to transform a team overnight and we all recognised that a hard slog, several season's in length, was about to begin. Nobody batted an eyelid when Kenny spent big and spent British, this was the man who had forged our greatest ever side with the money from Ian Rush's transfer, the man who had taken Alex Ferguson on at the cheque writing game and triumphed, while there may have been some doubts it didn't matter, we trust Kenny.

Then the wheels started falling off, and again only 2 weeks after winning a trophy we're moaning.  We're spoilt, I'm sat here watching my bluenose mates gloat on Twitter and Facebook that they're now only 2 points behind us, these poor bastards have seen 1 trophy in 24 years but now we're the ones having that horrible feeling.  There's that feeling after 2 wins in 11 League matches, after seeing £20 million Stewart Downing, and £35 million Andy Carroll, both start on the bench while £20 million Jordan Henderson is played in what appears to be a totally unnatural position and Charlie Adam puts in a man of the match performance for Sunderland.

With 3 days until the derby now is the worst possible time to be asking this question, can Kenny Dalglish do the job?  If Roy Hodgson had the same run of form that Kenny is now having there would be an outpouring of anger but with Kenny at the helm there is an unfamiliar feeling, while we collectively all want Kenny to triumph, for him to be the one to reignite another generation's success story, to tie our own loose ends we're shifting uncomfortably on top of a horrible subject - when it comes to League matches Kenny might not be doing the right things.

I'll leave the ins and outs of this for another time.  I could write tomes about how Charlie Adam has only ever looked comfortable in a midfield 3, how at Blackpool David Vaughan picked up his slack and in his first half season here Lucas gave the Herculean effort of 2 men to allow Adam to be accommodated, how our plan seems to be nothing more than get it out wide and get it crossed in as soon as possible, how ball retention has all but disappeared, how Kenny was once a man experimenting with fluid forward lines and 5 at the back yet now seems to have 4-4-2 cemented in place, how against Sunderland (the team in the league with the highest amount of headed goals conceded) we leave our 6 foot 3 inch striker on the bench for 70 minutes, how Maxi Rodriguez has become the forgotten man despite being Kenny's best player last season, and how midfielders seem immune to forward runs. Worst of all how we seem to have a dedicated plan in place for important games yet turn up to "lesser" opposition expecting to win because we're Liverpool.

All of these are genuine concerns yet when criticism is raised there is still a group of hardcore monarchists that believe in regal infallibility. That if Kenny says a bad result was down to bad luck, poor refereeing, or any other reason he delivers in a post-match press conference then that's why we lost. What's more if you dare question what Kenny is doing you're attacking him and the very fabric of Liverpool.

We're in a strange time, we have a myth of a man at the helm of a ship in a storm.  As much as I love Kenny and want him to succeed we must allow ourselves the opportunity to analyse, and when necessary criticise, the man at the top.  It's easy to say nobody is bigger than the club when a flash in the pan like Fernando Torres has 1 foot out of the door yet when that man is the living embodiment of the club it becomes complicated.

When Kenny took on the role of Liverpool manager for the second time he took on the pressure that comes with it and while we must all support him to the very end, we must not be made to fear voicing an opinion that is contrary to the almost religious dogma that Kenny is King and the King is infallible.

I'm in Kenny's corner, I want him to stay. If Kenny was manager of Man City he'd have won the league by now but that does not mean that he is invulnerable to criticism or that anybody should be fearful of speaking out simply because of the weight of history that he brings.

I'll be on here fighting for the King because I believe in him and when he gets it right his football is beyond compare but if you don't feel the same way don't be afraid to say why.

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