By James Crump – @TheJamesCrump
Today we jump back to May 16, 2012 at the end of Liverpool legend Sir Kenny Dalglish’s second reign as Liverpool manager. The King returned to help stabilise Liverpool after Fenway Sports Group took control of the club away from the disastrous ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Although it only lasted one and a half seasons, the fans were delighted to see the King back in charge.
Dalglish’s first stint managing Liverpool came in 1985, when he took over from Joe Fagan to become a rare player-manager in the top flight. Kenny became the manager of Liverpool Football Club for the second time on January 8, 2011. At the time of his takeover, Liverpool were languishing in a currently unfathomable 12th place. Dalglish had with a big task on his hands.
Dalglish’s start was not the fairytale many had hoped for, with his first game in charge ending in a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in the third round of the FA cup. This was followed three days later with a 2-1 defeat to struggling Blackburn Rovers, prompting Dalglish to publicly state the degree of challenge the club faced.
In order to turn fortunes around, Dalglish oversaw a chaotic final day of the January transfer window. Star striker Fernando Torres was sold to Chelsea for a then eye-watering £50m, with Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll joining the club for a combined £58m.
The match most remembered during Dalglish’s second spell is the 3-1 victory over Manchester United on 6th March 2011. Dirk Kuyt scored a hat-trick that day, and Suarez started to show the form to justify his transfer fee with a great performance and an impossibly tricky run to set up Kuyt’s first goal of the game.
Thankfully, Dalglish was able to turn the season around leading Liverpool to sixth place, a vast improvement on the 12th he found the club in when he took over as manager. This was not enough to qualify for the Champions League, but it cultivated renewed belief among the fanbase.
Despite a turnaround in from in the league, Liverpool struggled in the UEFA Europa League that season, being knocked out by Portuguese club and that season’s runners up Braga. Dalglish was unable to call upon the cup-tied Suarez, and the misfiring Carroll struggled to inspire a win. This was the first time Liverpool hadn’t reached the quarter final of a European competition since 2006, making Dalglish’s European return a disappointment.
The 2011/2012 league campaign was poor, but Kenny fared better when it came to the cup competitions. Liverpool beat Cardiff City 3-2 on penalties in February to win the Carling Cup, and made it to the FA Cup final in May, sadly losing 2-1 to Chelsea. The cup runs typified Dalglish’s management, with Kenny always finding a way to bring passion and commitment to his squad.
Dalglish’s managerial return with Liverpool was far from controversy free. In 2011 Luis Suarez was accused of racial abuse by Man United’s Patrice Evra. Suarez was eventually handed an eight match ban, but controversy sprung when Dalglish and the rest of the club defended Suarez publicly.
They wore T-shirts during their warm up for the match against Wigan on December 20, 2011, showing solidarity with Suarez. Coming after the guilty verdict, this act tainted Dalglish’s second reign as manager.
Liverpool finished their mixed 2011/12 season with one trophy, but a lost final and an 8th placed finish in the league. This was Liverpool’s worst league campaign since 1994, and the board made the decision to relieve Dalglish of his managerial duties.
It was always going to be hard for the fans to see Kenny leave again, but Dalglish himself recognised the club was ready to move forward. He was replaced by Brendan Rodgers, who would lead Liverpool to a second placed finish after a couple of years of good football and David Brentesque quotes.
In his stint as Liverpool manager from 1985 to 1991 Dalglish had a win record of 60.9%, but his second time as Liverpool manager ended with a win percentage of just 47.3%, the lowest of any club he managed.
Dalglish returned to the club in 2013 as non-executive director. King Kenny finally got the recognition he deserved in 2017 when the club renamed the Centenary stand as The Kenny Dalglish stand. Although Dalglish will never manage Liverpool again, the stand serves as a reminder to future generations of his extraordinary commitment and contribution to Liverpool.