Kenny Dalglish’s win ratio of 47.3% was hardly the worst of any Premier League manager, but finishing behind city rivals Everton may have brought about his sacking. (Image | The Tactician Blog)

It was hard not to feel a tremendous sense of schadenfreude when the news came through that Liverpool Football Club had sacked manager Kenny Dalglish. After a year and a half at the helm, owner John Henry clearly decided that winning the Carling Cup wasn’t enough to make up for an eighth place finish in the Premier League. For weeks now, Liverpool-friendly pundits have been talking up the value of success in this competition, widely derided by most observers. The purpose of this aggrandisement is clear: Dalglish stands as one of the Merseyside club’s great heroes, and it is always difficult to acknowledge faults in an individual you hold in high esteem.

Acknowledge they must though. The Reds have spent big in an attempt to assert themselves as genuine top four and possibly title contenders, and they have fallen far short. In modern football it is the manager who perennially takes the blame for failure, and there can be no denying the fact that Liverpool have failed this season.

On the same day former boss Roy Hodgson, who will command England in the European Championships next month, announced his first 23 man squad, the club’s board decided it didn’t believe in the Dalglish myth any more. Rather like a child begins to doubt the existence of Father Christmas, the “King Kenny” legend has been exposed as lacking any substance. Dalglish is a Liverpool great, and during the 1980s he led the team to glory year on year. However, the principle of returning to the “safe” option is one that really ought to be done away with in modern football. Sentiment no longer exists anywhere else in modern football, other than on Merseyside, and there is a very good reason for this.

Spot the difference: Two managers, one club, almost identical win percentages. One is a hero and the other apparently a misguided appointment. (Image | The Independent)

Many pundits are speculating that Rafael Benitez may return to the Merseyside club, which would truly be sensational. It must be said that the Reds are by no means a club in crisis, and making this change now is a wise decision. Dalglish has been given time, and in that time his record has been mixed. Cup glory cannot, and should not, absolve any manager of a sub-standard league finish. It is only right that a CEO who leads a company to a deficit should be dismissed, if the target was to make a multi-million pound surplus. The same principle can be applied to the 61-year-old. While Hodgson went for sentiment and nostalgia by appointing Steven Gerrard as captain of the national side, a year of stagnation at Anfield has been met with a complete abandonment of both of these formerly core principles.

A quick mention ought to be made of Hodgson, who was widely panned by Liverpool supporters after he accrued a win ratio of 41.94%. Dalglish’s is little better than this, but at least the board saw fit to back the latter with more than £100m of investment in new players. All of these, bar Luis Suarez, have had difficult first years, and some of the blame for this needs to be attributed to the man employed to nurture their talents and coach them to success. Whoever Liverpool appoint next, they must be selected solely on the basis of ability, not historical circumstance. Should it be Rafa, so be it. He is qualified after all. Perhaps though, it ought to be someone who can bring a fresh perspective. Many Reds will pour scorn on this suggestion, but Andre Villas Boas would be a rather astute choice as a manager with many years left in the game, as opposed to one playing out his final chapter.

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