West Bromwich Albion
Game Details
Real Betis
Game Details

Only Kenny can restore Liverpool way

When Luis Suarez scored his fourth goal for Liverpool on Monday night at Fulham, there were fans typically beside themselves.

They now had "the best player in the world". Now obviously this is nonsense, and Suarez himself probably can't believe his start. In the past, such form certainly wouldn't have lasted. One thing you could set your watch by - almost without exception - is that whatever happened in the first year or two for a player signed by Liverpool, he'd end up devoid of spark and a lesser player.

It's the reason that, with the exception of Istanbul in 2005, Liverpool have been headed nowhere for decades. Except that this time it could be different. Kenny Dalglish seems the only man associated with the club to have any notion of respect for what were once its proud traditions, what it has been lacking. For 20 years, if you've been a manager or a player, Liverpool has been a place to kill a career.

It started with Graeme Souness. A recurring theme started; players and their manager had their mediocrity indulged without question. Some might describe it as loyalty, the more reasonable would call it blind faith.

How did Torben Piechnik get away with turning up at Anfield? It wasn't just that Souness bought many duds, it's that he managed to fall out with them every five minutes in the same way he has with most players at his many other clubs.

You'd expect that to have been the nadir, but it got worse. More than one man was needed to dismantle Dalglish's team. Roy Evans, the last bootroom boy, finished the job. The same faults were there - far too much indulgence from the spectators of the man in charge and the dross he brought to the club.

Would Alex Ferguson or George Graham, in a trophyless lull, have signed John Scales, Phil Babb and Jason McAteer? Those players were so chummy and laidback that they'd pay fines in advance for turning up late to training.

Jamie Redknapp was tipped to have more caps for England than David Beckham, yet has shown off his best work in tight slacks on M&S billboards. The only memorable thing Babb and Scales achieved was a truly stellar telling-off from Roy Keane in a nightclub, with Redknapp cowering alongside them.

Any other group of supporters or board would remove a demonstrably unsuitable manager. It's not that Liverpool were a bad side back then but with a better manager they might just have had the mindset to win something of worth. Maybe Alex Ferguson could have worked with Stan Collymore at his peak. At Liverpool he was left to implode. This was the side that lost to Ferguson's in the FA Cup final of 1996. Ten years before, Dalglish was the man who led Liverpool to an FA Cup and League Double. Under him, Collymore and his colleagues wouldn't have been afforded the chance to squander their talent in being 'Spice Boys'.

The weaknesses didn't end with the fans, players and manager though. It went all the way at the top, the board ultimately humiliating Roy Evans by appointing Gerard Houllier as his joint manager. That was like divorcing your wife, but making her sleep in the same bed as you and your new girlfriend.

The rot still did not stop. Gerard Houllier bought perhaps the most motley bunch of underachievers that the Premiership ever saw. When a team was crying out for discipline and vigour after 'the Spice Boys', he bought El Hadji Diouf and Titi Camara. To show the kind of player that the Kop now had to put up with, Djimi Traore was signed, destined to become the worst Champions League winner of all time, worse even than David May and Jonathan Greening.

The Champions League was won in '05, but it's fair to say that if Rafael Benitez hadn't got the gig, then Liverpool wouldn't have been in such a state when Roy Hodgson took over. Istanbul was Benitez's only success of worth.

No other club would have tolerated the spectacle of 'Rafa', A5 cribsheet in hand and goatee on face, describing the "facts" that had assisted Manchester United. The shakes and trembling voice let United know that Benitez didn't fancy a real go at the title. Benitez led the fans in a merry dance away from the board, and alienated their best player, Xabi Alonso, while indulging a far less effective one in self-defence's Steven Gerrard.

Dalglish, on the other hand, knows how to act in the face of criticism, just look at his perfectly-delivered sweary dismissal of Arsene Wenger at the end of their recent contretemps.

Of course, it could all go terribly wrong yet. Andy Carroll and Suarez are likely to get themselves in plenty of scrapes, and maybe one day Carragher will finally be caught out. Younger players are prone to burn-out and the squad currently looks short on quality.

However, while in the past moving to Liverpool was usually a silly choice, one which Fernando Torres is still suffering from, there is every reason to think that Dalglish is the one man with a chance to bring back a winning culture to Liverpool.

• Alexander Netherton is editor of Surreal Football


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.