Liverpool: The King is dead. Long live the Brand? 4

Phil Othman

Over the last ten days, football has delighted us with some of the most remarkable moments sport has to offer. Recent events have invoked the strongest of our emotions be it the euphoria of Manchester City’s astoundingly tense title victory, the heartbreaking travesty of a referee dictated relegation for Bolton or the disappointing removal of a king from his Anfield throne. We have been invigorated by football’s most enthralling aspects, its unpredictability and versatility to entertain, but our experiences have equally been marred by the game’s most deplorable of features and I fear the latter holds greater consequence. The dismissal of Kenny Dalglish is truly a travesty of the highest order, emphasising both the rapidity with which the core values of football can be thrown aside and the more demoralising revelation that fans have accepted this cycle as rational.

The sport currently operates in a climate of contradiction peddled by club spokesmen and media outlets alike. You will often hear phrases akin to, “building for the future” or “a complete rebuilding of the squad is needed” yet the actions of these institutions and the fickleness of mind shown by observers who bandy around such comments, undermine their own claims. The core principle of a long-term plan is an acknowledgement that time will be given for the process to develop. The interim period between start and completion, may produce varying results not always positive, that must be taken in light of a greater purpose. Stability is a necessity and it is unfortunately the sparsest resource in European football. The current system allots time to managers and staff while their team is winning and they are shown the door when results turn. It is a childish, thoughtless, reaction, founded upon a need for instant gratification that flies in the face of the concepts they so sincerely preach. Their behaviour revolves around a black and white perception of success that is not applicable in reality with every rival team setting equal expectations. Not everyone can win the league in the same season.

With Kenny Dalglish, the whole situation is heart-achingly demoralising. It has reached the point at which fans were criticised for their defence of Dalglish on-account of being too sentimental! This is when my hope for the future of the sport begins to wane, for is not the whole game founded upon the principle of sentimentality? Do we not diligently support our team through thick ‘n’ thin based upon such ideals of comradeship, town heritage and sense of community? Do we not spoil our players in affection and praise until that inevitable moment of their shift to a rival only to swathe them in scorn and vitriol? Caretakers strolling in and deciding what is “best for the club” while claiming a deep-rooted affiliation simply through the command of riches few others can match, shall never understand the ‘Liver Bird’ spirit embodied by Dalglish.

Unflinching corporate logic was the tool used to assess and accordingly dismiss Kenny Dalglish from office. This same logic would have had us believe that the appointment of a manager previously fired for struggling to stave off relegation, could never lead a team to an FA Cup victory and a Champions League final. It would have assured us both Messi and Ronaldo would have scored from the penalty spot in their respective semi-finals and that Manchester City would not have overturned a two goal deficit in injury time to give us the greatest climax to a Premier League season in history. Football follows its own brand of surreal logic and all that we can ask for is that our support is reciprocated through the commitment of those who represent our club.

Liverpool FC has always prided itself in keeping its matters ‘in house’, providing time for its managers and supporting their position until it became truly untenable. Kenny Dalglish is a paragon of these values and for a time, there was serenity in watching ‘The Reds’ play, whether in victory or defeat, knowing that the club was in the hands of one of us. This is no longer the case and in a matter of days the club has had its most cherished features, those traits that separated it from many of the modern era, stripped away and exposed to the onslaught of sports capitalism. I wish every success upon the new manager whoever he may be and will follow those ‘Red Men’ as avidly as I ever have, but no matter what success may lie in our future it will never be as sweet as it would have been with our King.

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