Kenny Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish

         Runners up for Balloon D’Or 1983
         PFA Player of the Year 1983
         FWA Player of the Year 1979, 1983
         #1 Position in the “100 Players who shook the Kop”
         Greatest striker of the post world war British Football
         Inducted into the British and Scottish Hall of Fame


         That's King Kenny for you.


         Kenny Dalglish had an exceptional career, winning so many individual accolades to compliment the insane number of trophies that he helped his team win. His peak coincided with the golden period of Liverpool FC.


         Born in Glasgow, Kenny moved to Govan, the home of Rangers at the age of 15. He thus grew up supporting Rangers. Dalglish was renowned for being one of the most successful player, both in terms of individual and team honours, and this was evident from a very young age. He won every tournament he player in, right from the Primary school level. His team, Scottish Schoolboys, even went undefeated in a Home Nations Victory Shield tournament.


         His achievements did not go unnoticed as he earned his first call up and first cap for the Scottish under-15 team, debuting and scoring two goals against Northern Ireland. He tried to kickstart his professional club career in England trying his luck at West Ham, but failed to bag a contract. He was also turned down by Liverpool, although, he did make his debut for the Liverpool B team, playing just one game against Southport during the week long trials. After disappointments in England, Kenny return to Scotland where he was given a provisional contract by Celtic at the age of 16. The story behind his first contract is quite interesting and comic.


         After going for trials with Celtic, Kenny was sent back home with instructions of hearing back soon. Celtic and their then manager, Jock Stein decided to offer him a contract. So he sent Sean Fallon to go get signature in the presence of his father, as he was still a minor. When Dalglish heard the knocking on the door and realised that it was Sean Fallon, he rushed upstairs to his room and ripped off all the boyhood fan posters of Rangers. His professional career had changed his heart to support and play for the arch rivals, Celtic, such was the comic twist of fate.


Young Kenny Dalglish as a Celtic player


         Dalglish was immediately loaned out to Cumbernauld in 1967, where he banged in 37 goals, including four in his debut game. Stein wanted him to continue his loan spell at Cumbernauld, but Dalglish wanted to stay. After talks with his father, Stein budged and Dalglish was not loaned out. He became a regular started for the Celtic reserve team and made his much awaited debut against Hamilton Academical in the quarterfinals of the Scottish league cup. He came on as a second half substitute as Celtic beat them 4-2.


         Dalglish could not reach the heights of his loan spell with only four goals from 17 games for the reserves. The following season, the boss of the reserves team decided to move him to the midfield. This turned out to be a master stroke as Dalglish was back to his best and started putting in eye catching performances, game after game. On 4th October 1969, Kenny Dalglish made his League debut. Nervousness is natural when you make your league debut at the age of 18, but Kenny Dalglish tried to play coy, and he failed miserably. This is how he described his experience just before kick off:


“Bobby Murdoch sat down next to me while I was getting ready. He asked me whether I was nervous. 'No', I said, 'I am all right, Bobby, thanks.' 'Well,' he replied, 'you are putting your boots on the wrong feet.' I looked down and it was true. I had been tugging my right boot on my left foot. I sorted myself out and we won 7-1.”


         Dalglish helped his team to a 7-1 win although he did not score. he started the next three games as well, but failed to get on the scoresheet. Thus, his league debut was not flattering, to say the least. The Quality Street Gang, a.k.a, the Reserve sides benefitted from his talent and form as they won League and Cup double, with dalglish scoring 19 goals from 31 games played as a midfielder.


         The 1970/71 season was the season Dalglish announced himself to the people of Scotland. He continued his impressive form for the reserves by scoring 23 goals from midfield. The biggest moment of the season was the two legged Reserves cup finals against his boyhood favourite club, Rangers. The Quality Street Gang won the encounter 10-2 on aggregate, with Dalglish scoring a hattrick in the second leg and four goals in total in the finals. This forced Stein to start him in the testimonial match against Kilmarnock, in which he scored an insane 6 goals as Celtic won 7-2. The whole nation knew about the boy turned man Kenny Dalglish.


Kenny Dalglish in the National colours


         Dalglish’s performance for the reserves and the first team, whenever given the opportunity, didn’t go unnoticed as he was called up to the National team in 1971 for the Euro 1972 qualifiers. Tommy Docherty gave Dalglish his debut against Belgium as Scotland won 1-0. Dalglish had to wait 1 year and 5 days to score his first International goal, which was against Denmark in the World Cup qualifiers in 1972. Scotland qualified for the World Cup and Dalglish was selected in the 1974 World Cup squad. He would eventually go on to play in both the 1974 and 1978 World Cup, scoring 30 International goals and making 102 International appearances.


         Meanwhile, Dalglish had a solid first full season in the first team in 1972/73, playing more than 50 games and scoring 23 goals along with winning the League and Cup double. But it was the second season in which he shot to fame. Dalglish scored 41 goals in all competition, including 10 in the Scottish League Cup as Celtic won the Scottish League. His prolific form made him a fan favourite and Celtic used to pass the ball to him to look for inspiration when things weren’t going their way.


         The next season, Dalglish and his side were knocked out of the European Cup in the famous Semifinals against a very physical Atletico Madrid. Dalglish again enjoyed a solid season, scoring 24 goals in all competition. He later classified that game as “without a doubt” the worst game of he had ever played in as far as the violence was concerned. In 1975, Dalglish was made the captain and after enjoying two seasons as the captain, Liverpool stepped in to buy him for a then record 440k pounds. Kenny Dalglish, at the age of 26, was going to start his adventure in the English Premiership.


         The biggest driving factor for this change was the increasing disparity between the salaries in English football and Scottish football along with the increasing dependency of Celtic on Dalglish. Dalglish was the star of the team and everything good happening on the pitch almost always involved Dalglish. A change in scenery and the thrill of moving to a new country and new league finally got the better of his love for Celtic as he moved to Liverpool.


         The story of his move to Liverpool is also very interesting. Paisley wanted Dalglish to partner and fight for the strikers positions with Kevin Keegan a year earlier, but Stein had refused on a transfer. But when Kevin Keegan departed to Hamburger the following year, Liverpool upped the ante for the acquisition of Dalglish. Even though, Manchester United was offering more money to Dalglish, he only wanted a move to the European powerhouse, Liverpool. Celtic and Stein rejected the initial 300k pound, 330k pound and the 360k pound bid. When Liverpool’s last bid of 400k was also rejected, Stein confided that a 10% increase would convince him to let go of his star striker. After much debate, that is what Liverpool did as their bid of 440k pound was accepted and Dalglish officially became the replacement of Kevin Keegan, getting his Number 7 shirt.


Kenny Dalglish donning the Liverpool reds


The work-horse Dalglish played 62 games in total for the Anfield side, playing in every competition Liverpool participated in. He won the UEFA Super Cup as well as the European Cup, scoring 31 goals in his first season. The next season saw Dalglish take his personal game to the next level, scoring 21 league goals and winning the Football Writer’s Association Player of the Year. Such was his fitness and consistency that he did not miss a single League game till the 1980/81 season, i.e, from 1977 to 1980, Kenny Dalglish played in each and every League match. In the 1980/81 season, Kenny’s form dipped as he only scored eight league goals. Liverpool finished fifth in the league even though they won the Football League Cup and the European Cup. He slowly started recovering his form as the team started performing well as a whole.


         Liverpool dominated the league in the next two season as Dalglish scored 13 and 18 goals respectively, while Liverpool won the Premiership back to back. He formed a very potent strike partnership with Ian Rush, playing as a second striker behind Rush. All those years playing as a midfielder for both the Reserves and the first team in Celtic were paying off as Dalglish created as well as scored lots of goals. He was the Lionel Messi of his team. In the 1982/83 season, Rush and Dalglish combined to score 51 goals.


         Liverpool were absolutely dominant and made it look like other teams did not exist in the league as well as Europe in the 1983/84 season. They won the League Cup, the League title and the European Cup. It was their third successive League title, fourth successive League Cup and Dalglish’s third European Cup as a Liverpool player. Rush and dalglish again proved a lethal combination as they scored 59 goals together. Dalglish had adopted a more midfield role though, scoring only 12 of those.


         After 7 years in England, the 1984/85 was the first full season in which Dalglish failed to win a silverware. The goals tally went down as Dalglish had transitioned into the Liverpool midfield. Dalglish had also started to ponder over taking up a managerial role. After the disappointment of finishing second to Everton in the league, manager Joe Fagan left the managerial position at the end of the season. Liverpool’s managerial board decided to elevate Kenny Dalglish to the position of player-manager at the age of 34. This is how Kenny described his promotion news was broken to him:


         The week before the European final against Juventus at the Heysel stadium Kenny received a phone call from Peter Robinson, Liverpool's Chief Executive, who asked if he and John Smith could pay him a visit. 'Yes, no problem,' was Dalglish’s reply. Dalglish describes the rest of the conversation in his autobiography: "I thought the conversation was going to finish then but Peter added: 'Don't you want to know what we want to see you for?' 'Yes,' I replied, 'if you want to tell me.' 'Well, we'd like to offer you the manager's job.' 'That's no problem, Peter, you can still come to the house.'"


         Dalglish accepted the position, bringing Bob Paisley into his think tank. John Smith, the chairman of Liverpool FC, stated this in the press conference unveiling Dalglish for the second time in front of the press and fans,


“Kenny is entering the managerial side for the first time and we have every reason to believe he will have a successful period in office. We feel we have a man of great ability on the field who has got an old head on young shoulders.”


Goals, trophies, success. Kenny brought all of it to Liverpool


         Inevitably, he started lesser and lesser matches, although he scored the winner against Chelsea which clinched Liverpool’s 16th league title and Dalglish’s first as a manager. Dalglish had written his name into the history books of Liverpool by literally winning the title on his own, by scoring and managing. The first player-manager in the English first division ever had won the League title in his first season incharge. The second year saw Liverpool again finish second to Everton, twice in three years. This lead to whole sale changes in the team in the following summer. Dalglish had now left behind his playing career and focused solely on managing Liverpool, although he had not retired officially.


         The 1987/88 was one of the most dominant league season of the Dalglish era. Between December 19 to March 16, in 15 League games, Liverpool conceded just 1 goal. They had blown away Arsenal, Queens park Rangers and were clear favourites to win the League. A minor blip before the end of the season did not change the result as Liverpool finished 9 points above Manchester United, comfortably winning the league. Kenny Dalglish had become a Liverpool legend and was doing it for Liverpool, first as a potent striker, then as a majestic midfielder and now as a brilliant manager.


         The 1988/89 season was a quite one for Liverpool, whose manager, after winning two Manager of the Year awards in three years, was running out of ideas to reinvent his side in a quest to win the League again. But after the disappointment of 1988, the 1989/90 season was a fresh start. Liverpool had a clear dip in form at the start of the season, but brilliant tactical adjustments and fresh signings lead to an upturn in form as Liverpool won their third League title under the iconic Kenny Dalglish. He also won the Manager of the year award for the third time in five years. The 1989 season also turned out to be his last season as a player as Dalglish played against Derby County to officially bow out as a player.


         Thus, Kenny Dalglish, a player whose career was filled with individual accolades, had one of the most successful and trophy laden career, dominating both domestically as well as at the European level. One man who had given his all for the Liverpool cause and had sacrificed his playing career to steer the club out of the potential disaster. King Kenny will forever be etched into the memories of Liverpool faithfuls.

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