Glasgow Rangers mad Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish from Dalmarnock, was signed as a youngster by Celtic after his boyhood club Rangers failed to spot his immeasurable talent.
Dalglish took time to develop his natural on field role, manning the nets as a pupil at Milton Bank, and at right half for Scotland schoolboys. It was the eagle eyed Jock Stein that saw potential in the mercurial teenager and dispatched his Lieutenant Sean Fallon to try persuade sixteen year old Dalglish’s Protestant parents to allow him to represent the Catholic Bhoys.
Fallon’s charms snared Mr & Mrs Dalglish and wee Kenny from was duly snapped up by the Scottish giants, joining a conveyor belt with the likes of McGrain and Macari.
At Parkhead, Dalglish found himself amongst a pantheon of stars. Earning a small wage as an apprentice joiner, he was farmed out to develop his precocious talent at Cumbernauld United, the Celtic nursery team. Dalglish progressed onto the reserves and debuted at
Douglas Park against Hamilton Accies in 1968. Breaking into a team that had been crowned Briatin’s first European cup winners in 1967 was no easy feat and it would be a further three years before Dalglish received his first team break in a benefit game against one of Scotland’s oldest clubs.
This game introduced Dalglish to the world of football and immediately thrust the lad from the Govan Docklands into the realms of football royalty. Dalglish was hypnotising, netting six in a 7-2 routing of Killie.
Dalglish’s first competitive goal came soon after – a spot kick against his beloved Rangers, and the first of 23 for that campaign. He beat that the following season by netting an entrancing 41. With 269 appearances, 167 goals, five Championships, four Scottish Cups, a League Cup-winners medal, and the club captaincy Dalglish needed a fresh challenge.
And so he crossed South of the border over Hadrian’s wall in a record fee to Liverpool. Not to add too much pressure, Dalglish was immediately handed the number 7 shirt worn by his famous predecessor – Hamburg bound Kevin Keegan.
It is at Liverpool that Dalglish cemented his legend, kick-started by a debut goal against the Boro and another against Newcastle.
Given full poetic license at Anfield, he was the perfect foil and supplier to the predatory Ian Rush – Liverpool’s record goal scorer. The spellbinding pair proved that it wasn’t necessary to play a little and large combination, to have a cavalier attack that scored bucket loads of goals on route to winning every major footballing honour in Europe.
The new Liverpool number seven immediately showed Anfield his worth by scoring on his league debut against Middlesbrough and on his home debut against Newcastle United.
Keegan’s Hamburg were on the menu for the Super Cup and the Red Warrior Poet orchestrated a 6-0 thrashing of the German giants. It was a hugely memorable season which culminated in a Red European Cup Final win. Dalglish dinked the winner against Belgian champions Bruges, securing an historic 1-0 victory at Wembley – one of his three European Cup wins.
After the tragedy of Heysel and losing the 1985 European Cup final to Juventus through a Platini penalty, Dalgish succeeded Joe Fagan in the Anfield hotseat. As player manager he secured Liverpool’s first domestic double, and narrowly missed out on a second in 1988 –
Wimbledon’s Lawrie Sanchez nodding past Grobbelaar and Dave Beasant saving the first Wembley penalty for one of the greatest FA Cup upsets. Under Dalglish’s tutelage, a Liverpool team boasting Barnes, Beardsley, Houghton, Aldridge and Rush secured a further two championships as well as an FA Cup in 1989.
The toll of managing Britain’s premier club, along with the stress of experiencing the Hillsbrough tragedy (Ibrox disaster in 1971 & Heysel in 1985) haunted Dalglish, and in 1991 he resigned with Liverpool sitting pretty at the top of the table.
Dalglish returned to Blackburn eight months later and secured the Premier League for Jack Walker’s team. In 1997, he again stepped into the void left by Kevin Keegan, taking the helm at St James Park. He guided the Magpies to the 1998 FA Cup Final, losing 2-0 to Arsene Wenger’s high charged Gunners at Wembley.
A year later King Kenny returned to Parkhead as Director of football, recruiting John Barnes as manager, a move which did not work out.
Dalglish is a global face and one of the greatest players to have stepped onto a British field. The caretaker manager’s appointment of Steve Clarke was very shrewd and it will be interesting to see Dalglish lock horns with Fergie, Wenger, Mancini, and Redknapp.
Dalglish was the obvious choice – one that has renewed vigour and enthusiasm. Anfield is buzzing again. Liverpool may not have Man
City’s spending power, but Dalglish’s football nous coupled with the right boardroom backing can at least achieve Red respectability.
Dalglish’s return to the Liverpool hot seat after 12 years away from frontline football has ignited a dimming spark amongst Liverpool fans. It may prove to be just the catalyst needed to revive this great sleeping giant.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.