Anybody who read My Liverpool Home recently could have predicted what was coming.
PARIS and Helen. Scarlett and Rhett. Charles and Kitty. Kenny and Liverpool.
The book is a stab at telling one of the great love stories. Nudged along in a hands-off role by Henry Winter, King Kenny spills affection for city and club onto every page of a journey from sought-after boy wonder who turns down a contract from Bill Shankly because he is too young to leave Scotland to Academy Ambassador who craves one more shot at the job he had so much success in.
Kenny’s account of the eventual divorce in February 1991 is as interesting as the fourteen years of memory bliss that precedes it. It wasn’t really the 4-4. Two months earlier, he’d come out in red blotches all over his body. “It was your Jimmy Carter rash,” quipped Alan Hansen.
He’d started snapping at the wife, bickering with the kids. He was being pumped with Piriton every other day, every second buttock. They are not presented in the book as reasons for his meltdown but two, almost throwaway, remarks stand out.
It’s easily forgotten that Dalglish had retired from playing just the previous May, coming on as sub the day Liverpool reclaimed the league trophy.
“Having stopped playing, there wasn’t the professional necessity to stay in and stay fit. I wouldn’t have said I was an alcoholic but a few glasses of wine took the edge off me.”
And another conversation jars a little. New Liverpool chairman Noel White had called Kenny in to discuss a new contract that summer. Dalglish had reservations, felt he needed a break.
“Don’t give me money,” he said. “Give me shares in the club.” “We can’t give you shares.” “That was that. I found the club’s intransigence disappointing.” Kenny wanted to be more than an employee.
In truth Dalglish became more than an employee after Hillsborough. After the awful carnage as Pen 3 at the Leppings Lane end of the ground “turned into a slaughterhouse”, Dalglish shrugged off his natural reticence with the media to speak to and on behalf of “the people of Liverpool who were, and always will be, part of my family.”
There were rewards. Sean Luckett lay in a coma when Dalglish arrived at Sheffield North General Hospital. “Sean, here’s Kenny Dalglish to see you.” Suddenly, his eyes opened. Sean made it.
There was a phone call with Kelvin MacKenzie, editor of the Sun, who telephoned Anfield, panicked at the reaction his paper’s story had sparked in the city. “See the headline you put in, \’THE TRUTH? Just have another one as big; \’WE LIED. SORRY’. “Kenny, we can’t do that.” “I can’t help you then.” Phone down.
This book has its mean lines. The Heysel passages are a study in blame deflection, some of it ugly. “Did any of the 39 who so tragically died have convictions for violence?” It crossed his mind in 1989 that Arsenal’s flowers “could have been a psychological ploy.”
Kenny also goes out of his way to point out that on Kevin Keegan’s return to Anfield with Hamburg, the “Kop’s reaction was reserved rather than raucous.” And there is a curious insecurity in his insistence that “I never gauged my value on the 172 goals in 515 appearances for Liverpool.”
But mostly there is love. For the boot room and old Tom Saunders’ hidden whiskey. For Bob Paisley, “the greatest manager in the history of British football.” For Souness and his full-length, monogrammed wolfskin coat. The Scouse perms that baffled a no-nonsense Glasgow Protestant. Alan Kennedy’s own take on Phil Collins; “You Can’t Hurry Up.” The unrelenting demand for the next trophy. The conveyor belt. Joe Fagan in ’84; “Forget Souness!”
It hurt him desperately in 1994, when he’d decided to leave Blackburn and go home but Peter Robinson decided “We don’t think the time’s right for you to come back.”
He was rejected again this June when he put his name forward to replace Rafa Benitez. “We don’t want you, Kenny,” Christian Purslow and Martin Broughton informed him. “Fine. That’s their prerogative.”
In the book he backs Roy Hodgson and calls him a friend but surely he must have considered the difficulties Bob Paisley had early in his reign. He tells us that Shankly kept turning up at Melwood until Paisley gently took him aside one day. “Look Bill, I can’t do my job because you’re still here. The boys still think you’re the boss.”
Kenny insists “Roy has no problem with me being here. I’ve never undermined a manager.”
It’s no surprise that this love affair has blossomed one more time.