Monday, 7 February 2011

A fairytale ending to a rollercoaster week

What a week in the life of Liverpool Football Club. It is hard to know where to begin!

It is Monday, 7 February 2011. Seven days ago, Fernando Torres was still a Liverpool player and Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez had not yet joined the Red revolution occurring under the canny management of Kenny Dalglish. The visit to Chelsea loomed large with all the speculation surrounding Torres' future (with no disrespect to Stoke, who the Reds were due to face first), and even the most optimistic fan might have thought "Champions League, you're having a laugh".

That was then. This is now. Sixth in the table and only six points behind Chelsea in that coveted final Champions League spot has Reds all over the land dreaming that we might see the return of Champions League nights to Anfield sooner than anyone had any right to expect following the disastrous first four months of the campaign. A 1-0 victory over Chelsea, including a fourth clean sheet in succession, was achieved through a combination of tactical astuteness from Dalglish (ably assisted by Steve Clarke and Sammy Lee) and passion, desire and fight for the jersey from the lads on the field....and all that without fielding either of our new strikeforce.

"The most important players at this football club are those who want to be here".

So said Kenny Dalglish when quizzed last Monday morning about the future of one Fernando Torres. Of course, Torres would go on to leave the Reds and make his debut in Chelsea blue against his old team yesterday afternoon, a debut which, I think I can say without fear of contradiction, did not go well. A forearm smash from Agger into his face probably just about summed up Torres' afternoon, during a match in which the Reds crushed the life out of their opponents, with exemplary performances from Carragher (despite having been out for two months), Kelly, Agger, Lucas and Kuyt, and an acrobatic winner from Raul Meireles, notching his fourth goal in five games under Dalglish. Fernando who?

Opting for a three at the back, 3-4-2-1 formation has to be seen as something of a risk from Kenny, but his players were incredibly well disciplined and committed to the task at hand, running our deserving winners.

The result put a welcome seal on a rollercoaster of a week, the look on Torres' face after he was given the hook with a hour gone perhaps going some way to draw the sting out of some fairly tactless comments made in the wake of his transfer, comments which have gone some way to ensuring that he leaves with his reputation significantly tarnished amongst those who used to adore him. After all, we have new heroes to look forward to lauding now.

Luis Suarez has already written himself into the Anfield record books, a goal in front of the Kop on his debut helping to put the seal on a 2-0 victory over Stoke City, and his infectious display brimming with energy and vigour contrasted sharply with what we've been used to seeing from our now departed number 9. The number 9 now resides on the back of man-mountain Andy Carroll, currently sidelined through injury but undoubtedly one of the hottest prospects in English football after 11 goals so far this term for Newcastle. A £35m transfer fee is a colossal sum to pay for a player with only half a season under his belt at the top level, but with £50m swelling the coffers FSG have shown that they can ally grand sporting ambition to financial prudence, spending barely more than was received for Torres and Ryan Babel on Carroll and Suarez. The future looks bright once those two can be assimilated into the Liverpool team, if they can get in the side!

As for Dalglish, his welcome return has brought Liverpool's old values flooding back. Pass-and-move, one game at a time, do your talking on the pitch, everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, no one is bigger than the club, all of these feature regularly whenever he talks to the media, and by extension, to the fans. Dalglish derives his authority from the highest possible source, the supporters, and when he speaks, the club as a whole speaks through him. I don't think there can be a Liverpool fan in the world who hasn't revelled in the return of these values to the club. Even before talking about results it has to be said that the appointment has been a masterstroke, but combining the humility and dignity with which he conducts himself to the best record of any Premier League manager since his return had made Liverpool fans dare to dream. The calls for him to be given the permanent manager's job are only going to grow louder on the evidence so far, and so they should. I, for one, would dearly love to see him remain in the dugout for the opening game of next season. The man himself won't be drawn on the subject of his future, putting the club before the individual is a clear priority for Dalglish, and that extends to his own position. Woe betide anyone who might come in to replace him come the summer though, his are some mighty big shoes to fill.

What a week it's been.

Friday, 21 January 2011

What do we want? Transfers! When do we want them? NOW!!!

The past week has been dominated with rumours of ongoing negotiations for the transfer of Ajax's Luis Suarez to the Reds. The response to the rumours from fans, whilst generally positive about the prospects of the player joining, has seen a surprising number of demands for the club to pay whatever it takes, seemingly with little or no regard to the value placed upon the player by the club or any potential alternatives which may exist but of which we are not aware.

"Just pay the extra £Xm, that's what you have to do to get top quality"

Ok, so I'm paraphrasing, but I have lost count of the number of times I've read that sentence, or a similar one from Liverpool fans this week. Following various Reds on Twitter, contributing and reading various forums it is not difficult to get a sense of how the fanbase is feeling (well, the online fanbase at least). Whilst there are always calm voices amid the general hubbud, the worrying conclusion seems to be that many fans don't seem too concerned with value for money, negotiation or the like. They want their transfer fix and they want it now.

The Suarez deal has been widely rumoured for little more than a week, if that, and yet a sizeable contingent appear to be expecting the owners simply to bow down to whatever is demanded by the selling club, in this case Ajax. Twitter rumours abound of offers from Liverpool of €12.5m, and the owners are accused of 'not understanding how the transfer market works' and of making offers which are 'disgracefully low'. The spectre of Rick Parry is mentioned at every turn and Liverpool's record of being poor negotiators is lamented time and time again. As I myself tweeted earlier this week, the self-flagellation from some fans this week has been nothing short of ridiculous. Having seen a pair of asset-stripping, penny-pinching owners run out of town to be replaced by owners who, whisper it, appear to actually understand that Liverpool has a history of keeping its dealings in house and of only making announcements when there is something to announce, and who appear to be going about their business in exactly the right fashion, it seems the patience of some of our fanbase over new signings lasted for about a week before the demands to pay whatever it takes begin to be aired.

In my opinion, Suarez looks to be a promising target, his goal record is good, he has international experience and is a good age to make the transition from big fish in a smaller pond (with no disrespect intended to Ajax) to smaller fish in the Liverpool ocean. Granted, doubts arise concerning his disciplinary record, the biting incident is unsavoury and if he arrives he will have to quickly appreciate that Liverpool fans won't accept that sort of behaviour from their players (see Diouf, E). However, looking around the transfer market at present and it is hard to see many better options for the sort of money being talked about. He is capable of playing numerous roles and it is not hard to imagine him replicating the sort of partnership he has formed with Forlan at international level with Torres at Liverpool. Any transfer is a risk but the signs for me are good that this one might work out, if FSG can pull it off.

For me, the last thing I want is for FSG to turn us into Man City-lite. You can name numerous players signed in the early days of the ADUG reign who were grossly overvalued and yet Man City paid the price regardless. Santa Cruz, Lescott, Barry, the list goes on and on. With the Financial Fair Play Rules imminent (and FSG having specifically referenced said rules as a key driver behind their decision to become involved in football) it is no great surprise that value for money figures prominently in the transfer strategy at the club. Some fans would argue that as this is the last transfer window before transfer spend counts towards turnover for the purposes of the FFPR we should be going all out to secure our targets whatever the cost. Whilst that view might have some merit, setting a precedent early in their reign for being a light touch in negotiations and for overpaying for talent will have repercussions further down the line when the rules are not so forgiving.

To my mind, under no circumstances should FSG start their transfer dealings as Liverpool owners by paying more than they think he is worth. The January transfer market tends to be inflated (although in this instance it may fairly be said that there might be greater competition for Suarez's signature come the summer), and it would send the wrong signals across the market if Liverpool roll over and pay over the odds. As Birmingham found to their cost after their takeover, advertising that you have money to spend is a surefire way to increase the asking price for all of your targets. Pay £2-3m more than you want for every target you buy, and very shortly you've overpaid to the tune of another quality addition. Fans crying out for a short term fix by FSG paying whatever is demanded often ignore the longer term implications of employing that sort of policy. FSG, sensibly, appear to be being a great deal more cautious about their transfer dealings, and that is to be welcomed. Not only does it suggest that the club is in good hands in a fiscal management sense, it is also in keeping with how things should be done at Liverpool. I for one have no desire to see the club embark on a spending spree designing to appease supporters and generate headlines by overpaying for mediocre talent. Darren Bent at £24m stands out to me as the sort of move made by a club desperate for a lift, rather than one strategically preparing for a better future. Interesting, Damien Commoli has been quoted as saying that Liverpool looked at Bent and decided that he wouldn't work well with Torres. If that is indeed the case, it suggests that value, and not price alone, is impacting on the Suarez deal. After all, Bent was hardly going cheap. Work quietly, work effectivey, but work intelligently is the way the owners appear to want to do things, and that can only be a good thing.
Finally, it is also worth considering that we are not talking about owners who have no experience of high value sports transfers. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Curt Schilling and Alex Rodriguez are just three examples of high profile difficult negotations which the owners have been involved in as owners of the Red Sox. Two of those ended with the deal being done, albeit close to the deadline available for the respective trade. I would not be at all surprised to find that if Suarez is to become a Liverpool player, some fans might have to find a little more patience before the window shuts.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Blackpool 2 - 1 Liverpool

Fair to say that the result last night burst our bubble somewhat after the joys of seeing Kenny back in the job over the past few days!
From a Liverpool perspective it is a hard one to judge. Of course it is far too early to start drawing any conclusions about how the team will fare under Dalglish. He can't have had much more than two days to work with the players since the cup game at the weekend and with a new management team, a new first team coach, suspended captain, an injured defensive talisman and the Merseyside derby approaching on Sunday only those dwelling in fantasy land expected the team to start playing like 1970's Brazil simply because Dalglish has replaced Hodgson.

Firstly, it must be said that Blackpool are a credit to the division and played some lovely stuff. Holloway is always good for a quote and to see someone obviously enjoying himself  when all too often football is taken far too seriously is a breath of fresh air. "I'm as chuffed as a badger" he said afterwards. Great stuff.
In terms of team selection Kenny sprung a few surprises, recalls for Jovanovic and Poulsen along with Johnson returning in an unfamiliar left back role. The shape appeared to be a 4-3-3 when attacking but a 4-5-1 defensively. It was a world away from the rigid 4-4-2 seen away from home under Hodgson, and that is a blessing, but the blend of individuals did not work particularly well.
A quick look at the Guardian Chalkboards this morning reveals that 46% of the play took place in the middle third of the pitch, which reveals why the team struggled. With Lucas, Meireles and Poulsen all operating in that central area, it was essential that they have some understanding of each others roles and that there was some sort of shape to the midfield. Unfortunately that understanding seemed to be lacking. Poulsen's positioning particularly went awry alarmingly often which left Lucas trying to compensate defensively. As for Meireles, he appeared a little lost, unsure of whether he was supposed to be anchoring the midfield with Lucas (as he did under Hodgson in the 4-4-2), or pushing forward into the 'Gerrard' role behind Fernando Torres.

The second failing in the midfield was our failure to win the ball back effectively. Lucas is the only one of the three that can hold his head up this morning, winning 10 of the 14 tackles he made during the game. Meireles won 75% of his tackles, but unfortunately he only attempted 4 tackles throughout the game, which to my mind is not nearly enough in a match in which Blackpool had 52% of possession. As for Poulsen, he only attempted 5 tackles in his 85 minutes on the pitch, winning only 1 of them. It stands to reason that when your midfield is struggling to win the ball back in a game in which that was the primary area of the contest, the team will struggle to generate much momentum going forward. A knock on effect of our failure to get and retain possession was that Torres became increasingly isolated, and his frustration became evident as the game progressed, culimating in a booking for dissent. He did, however, open the scoring with a cracking strike and looked a little more like the Fernando Torres we have come to expect than the sulking imposter of the past few months. If Kenny can crack this particular enigma we will be a lot better off and there were encouraging signs last night that he might be able to do so. After all, if playing for one of your heroes and Liverpool's greatest ever forward doesn't get Torres going, what will?
It will be very interesting to see what team is put out on Sunday. A recall for Aurelio would be expected, and despite his excellent showing against United and decent showing last night I would expect Kelly to make way for Johnson to move over to his more natural side. As for the midfield, I would expect Maxi to return in place of Jovanovic and Kuyt to retain his place despite a poor individual performance last night. Whether Poulsen can surive and be expected to handle the pace of a derby is another matter, and I would expect him to take his place on the bench, with Joe Cole replacing him in the midfield if fit.
Kenny is clearly trying to get the team playing football and believing in themselves again but after the last few months confidence is at rock bottom. The first task must be to try and get the players enjoying themselves. That might sound cliched, but for far too long the players have worn hangdog expressions and seem to have played with fear. Liberating them from that will be no easy task, and a win in the derby would be a great way to start. The atmosphere is sure to be bouncing despite last night's setback and it has to be hoped that the players will be motivated by that support.
It is going to be a long road to get the team playing something like the football Dalglish wants from them, but he will have learnt one or two things about some of his players last night. Whether he is minded to give some of the young lads a go, particularly Pacheco after his starring role for the Reserves remains to be seen, but it has to be said that youth, pace and desire are three things which Blackpool seemed to have in abundance last night, whilst we looked a weak slow side in comparison.
But for all that, the war is over and the clean up operation has barely begun. John W Henry's visit is well timed and will hopefully see some progress in the CEO search and perhaps the green light for one or two reinforcements. Relegation fears remain for some but I have seen enough in Kenny's first two matches to suggest that we needn't be too concerned.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Time for the King to show them how it's done

Time for the King to show them how it's done

It has been a great week to be a Liverpool fan.

I have lost count of the number of times I've heard someone say "It feels like we've got our club back" this week. I've said it myself. But it does. It really does. The announcement that Roy had gone to be replaced by Kenny has had such an immediate effect on the club and on the fans it is like someone has flicked a switch.
There has been a swirling cloud of negativity and division engulfing the club for the past two seasons, since the credit crunch bit and Hicks and Gillett's true colours were exposed, through to the desperate performances on and off the pitch by Roy Hodgson and his team. For as long as decisions have been made by those with an eye on the balance sheet and not the team sheet, wrong decision after wrong decision has been made at Anfield. Until this week. Until the owners took responsibility and made the decision which should have been made in the Summer. The club has been crying out for leadership for some time, and returning the club into the hands of Kenny Dalglish was the only sensible route to be taken out of the 'crisis' in which we found ourselves. The tedious comparisons with Kevin Keegan's return to Newcastle have been made, but they ignore the fact that Dalglish has a far superior record as a manager. But more than that, if this appointment had only been made with an eye on giving the fans what they want (which it wasn't), and on providing a uniquely popular figurehead around whom the club can unite, then for the time being it is hard to see anything wrong in that.  

For the first time in what feels like a long time I cannot wait for the match. The last few months of the Benitez Years were tortuous, and that's coming from someone who was a huge supporter of his. It felt like the end of an era, and with Hicks and Gillett hovering over the club like a cloud of noxious gas it seemed like it would be a long long time before Liverpool fans had anything to smile about.

And then came the Age of Roy. I don't think I enjoyed a single Liverpool game whilst Roy was manager. It felt like support out of duty, out of obligation, not out of love. It felt like you were witnessing the slow decline of the once mighty Reds, death by a thousand cuts, however you want to put it. Roy didn't look like a Liverpool manager, he didn't sound like a Liverpool manager and his team didn't play like a Liverpool team. How Roy's reign will be remembered is a subject for another day, but I reckon it will be remembered slightly differently in the pubs around Anfield and in the stands to how it will be recalled in the editing suites of the mass media. Paul Hayward of the Guardian reckons he leaves without a stain on his record. Show me a football fan who agrees with that and I'll show you an Evertonian! Apparently Roy was turfed out by a popular revolt, let down by the fans who should have backed him as they always used to. The common thread which runs through analyses which feature this line of argument is a failure to consider why the support for Roy (which was never at a high level to begin with), ebbed away so quickly. Even his most ardent cheerleaders in the media (Patrick Barclay, I'm looking at you) would struggle to deny that Roy never appeared to grasp the size of the job he had been given, and never appeared to even attempt to understand the mentality of the club or its fans. All too often his words sounded hollow and contrived when speaking of the club he purported to lead. It is a sad state of affairs when the appearance of the Liverpool manager before the cameras makes you cringe, but that is what it had come to. Allied to football which played to the strengths of the manager and not to the strengths of the team, to a craven tactical approach (especially away from home) and to a record which will always remain anchored at the wrong end of Liverpool's record books, it was only a matter of time before the fans turned. To many it was clear as early as the defeat at Manchester City in the second week of the season that something was desperately wrong, and it is a blessed relief that he has been put out of his misery as early as he has.

Mercifully Roy's reign was over before it had really begun and now Kenny has returned. Barring a win at Old Trafford (which was always unlikely, however much that pains me to say), he couldn't have done much more with his first few days back in the hotseat. The twinkle in his eye as he strode out of the Old Trafford tunnel; the wit in his words as he faced the media for the first time on Monday; the humility with which he pledged to serve once again the institution which, in his own words, has given him so much. All of these and more have lifted a club which has seemed adrift for so long. His return has moved grown men (and women too no doubt) to tears, has put a smile back on every Liverpool fan's face. I know I had a grin as wide as the Mersey when he took his place in the dugout on Sunday, and I know it'll be there tonight as well. Unlike Roy, he looks and sounds like a Liverpool manager. He doesn't have to try to understand the club because the club is part of him. That instinctive understanding of the club has been obvious throughout his media appearances and interviews this week, and it will be there in the team's performance tonight.

There is no doubt that Kenny has a long road ahead, even to the end of the season, but for the first time in a long time tonight's match feels like a beginning, not an end. I don't think many people who don't follow a club closely will know what it has been like to be a Liverpool fan for the past few years. Not many will have followed a live blog of High Court proceedings which felt far more climactic than (nearly) any match. Not many will have felt the pain of watching the club you love treated with such disdain. To know beyond doubt that the club is in the hands of a man who will understand that and much much more is better than any victory.
Welcome back King Kenny, now show them how it's done.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Howard Webb proves that cheats do prosper...

Manchester United 1 - 0 Liverpool 

And so Kenny Dalglish's first game back in charge of Liverpool resulted in a defeat which ended our interest in the FA Cup at the Third Round stage for the second consecutive year. However, it is a rare defeat to Manchester United which ends with fans feeling more optimistic about the future than they had at the start. That is certainly the feeling I have, and looking around some of the reaction from around the web it would appear that I'm not alone.

Kenny sent the Reds out with a familiar shape, and it wasn't Roy Hodgson's 4-4-2. With Lucas anchoring the midfield and Kuyt coming inside from the right flank it appeared to be a 4-1-4-1 from Liverpool at the outset, with Torres back in his more familiar role as lone spearhead.

The worst possible start of course. As the title of this post illustrates, there is no doubt in my mind that the penalty decision was incorrect. Dimitar Berbatov cheated. It really is that simple. For me, there is a huge problem with football in this country when we are not prepared to criticise cheating when we see it. And Berbatov (just to repeat myself) cheated. Howard Webb overruled his linesman (who didn't flag) despite being in a worse position and decided to hand United the perfect start to the game.

The fact that it is not the first time that Webb has 'distinguished' himself in United v Liverpool encounters (and always, it feels, in favour of United) only adds to the sense of burning injustice. Now I am not suggesting that Webb is, in fact, biased (although his record makes that allegation less implausible than it might otherwise be), but there must be a case for the FA and the Premier League to start appointing a different referee to take charge of these encounters. The list of marginal (and in today's case, not so marginal) decisions which Webb has given in favour of United in recent years is long, and yet when this most intense of fixtures appears on the calendar, as sure as night follows days Webb is assigned to referee. Neutral fans will no doubt accuse Liverpool supporters of sour grapes, being bad losers etc etc, but quite frankly the repeated blunders made by Webb in the past season makes his position as England's supposedly elite referee look increasingly ridiculous.

As for Berbatov, he even had the gumption to appear before the post match cameras to state how 'everyone knows I don't go to ground easily'. Really Dimitar? ITV's studio guests (consisting of Sam Allardyce and Gareth 'cliche' Southgate) then decided that it would be appropriate to reward Berbatov for cheating by giving him the Man of the Match award. I bet that sent a great message to any young footballers watching. Not only is cheating now accepted in our national game, we're rapidly approaching a situation in which it is actively encouraged. The FA should take steps to stamp it out (retrospective bans would achieve this in about a week), but we all know they won't.

So 1-0 down inside 2 minutes. The response was very encouraging, with the Reds playing from the back and Agger in particular looking in good nick. The route one approach away from home seen so often under Hodgson was absent, replaced by some slick passing which was easy on the eye even if we failed to carve out too many clear chances.  The game seemed set fair for a decent cup tie until Webb intervened once again.

As a loose ball broke on the left hand side Rafael and Meireles contested a 50/50 ball, Rafael left the floor with both feet studs showing, and Meireles decided that discretion was the better part of valour and got out of the way. As play was recycled another 50/50 broke loose and Gerrard and Carrick both ploughed in. Webb, if you watch the replay from the reverse angle, was not in fact even watching the initial contact, nor the angle of Gerrard's challenge, but nevertheless decided that he had seen enough to warrant a red card, which he duly delivered. It is tempting to lay the blame at the feet of the referee, and it was certainly a decision which could have gone either way, but the real culprit was Gerrard himself. The challenge was two footed and out of control and Webb was probably justified in holding that Gerrard had used 'excessive force' and had endangered his opponent.

Sadly for the neutrals the red card effectively ended the game as a contest. Dalglish highlighted in his post match comments the courage and commitment shown by his players, and that is something which was very encouraging. It was certainly a world away from the limp defeat at Blackburn last week. If Kenny's arrival results in a similar level of commitment for the remainder of the season it is difficult not to see us moving quickly up the table. As for Gerrard, no one will surely feel worse than he will, and missing the derby next week (when the atmosphere is surely going to be fantastic) will ram home how foolish he has been.

A few final thoughts...

1. It was great to see Kenny substitute Torres. I don't agree with some of the criticism Torres appears to be taking for his effort. I felt he could have been stronger on a few occasions, but he had a lonely role to play up front alone once we went down to ten. Nevertheless, Hodgson always appeared too afraid to take him off even when he was struggling, and it stamped Kenny's authority on the side immediately that he was not afraid to do so.

2. What a performance from the fans - they never let the noise level drop despite the situation on the pitch, and I for one salute all those who played their part.

3. Martin Kelly was outstanding. For a young lad thrust into the side as a late replacement for Glen Johnson (whose wife went into labour) up against Giggs and Evra he more than held his own, and also showed some excellent forays forwards. It is great to see a local lad with real promise coming through the ranks, and in his appearances to date he really has shown the potential to go on and cement a place in the side.

4. It feels like we have our club back again - the pre-match nerves arrived this morning, when they have been sadly absent of late. It may be seen as melodramatic, but after living through the last days of Hicks and Gillett, and then suffering through the reign of Roy, to see a team led out by Dalglish and perform with pride and passion was a real pleasure, even despite the result.

It is clear that there is no overnight fix to the problems at the club, the squad remains thin and results are still desperately required to remedy the dreadful league position, but it feels like the storm has passed. Whether Kenny can lead us to the golden sky in the short term remains to be seen.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The king is dead...long live the King!

Well, what a day to start a Liverpool blog! I've just spent an hour writing my first post asking Roy to give us a treat to remember him by by beating Manchester United in the FA Cup, and the bleeding owners decide that now is time to dispense with his services! Ho hum!

So my first substantive post on this blog will be a few thoughts on the second coming of the King...

Managerial record

I think the first thing to be said is that Kenny Dalglish was a truly outstanding manager at Liverpool in his first stint in charge, and later added the Premier League title with Blackburn to his CV. Even his much maligned reign at Newcastle started well, with a second place finish and an FA Cup Final in his first season in charge. He remains one of only three managers to win the First Division/Premier League title with two different clubs. The others are Herbert Chapman and Brian Clough. Pretty exalted company by any standards. The point made against Kenny taking over was always the fact that he has apparently been 'out of the game' for a considerable period of time. Only time will tell whether he will succeed in his time in charge, whether that is simply until the summer or on a longer term basis, but Liverpool do have a man in charge with the pedigree to do the job (which Hodgson never had). The fact that he just so happens to be a club legend, our greatest ever player is something of a bonus!

United fanbase

Secondly, this appointment might represent the first time that Liverpool's fans can unite behind manager and team for at least the past two seasons. For all his qualities (and I'm a huge fan of his) Rafa Benitez was a divisive manager for the supporters. By the end, the strength of feeling on both sides of the pro/anti Rafa divide  reached surprising levels. Worshipped by some, hated by others, he displayed an almost unique ability to absolutely polarise opinion. Similarly, Roy's reign was (until very recently when practically the whole fanbase united AGAINST the manager) characterised by a division between those (like me) who felt he was never good enough and should never have been appointed, and those who always felt that the 'Liverpool Way' dictated that he deserved time and money to make his mark.

Now though, the Roy days are over and the second age of Dalglish has begun. The atmosphere at Old Trafford tomorrow will redefine 'electric' and spares for the games (which under Roy might have been more easily available than ever before), will suddenly assume a quality not unlike gold dust. I cannot conceive of a genuine Liverpool fan who will not have a smile as wide as the Mersey when Kenny takes his place in the dugout for tomorrow's game, and the atmosphere at Anfield for the derby next weekend should be something to behold.

Tactics and approach

So how will Kenny approach matters? Initially, I would suggest having a read of this piece from the ever-excellent Paul Tomkins and his book 'Dynasty'.

I am slightly too young to clearly remember Kenny's last few years as Liverpool manager, but I've seen and heard enough about some of his teams to know that he created one of the greatest, in 1987/88. Of course, Liverpool are nowhere near as dominant now as they were during the 1980's, and the personnel are not of the same quality (although in my opinion they are vastly better than they have shown in recent months).

Initially, I would expect to see Kenny change little in terms of the starting XI, but I would be hoping to see a bolder approach, more prepared to take risks when attacking and far less reliant upon the 'thump it and lump it' approach favoured by Hodgson, particularly away from home.

Beyond Sunday, I will be fascinated to see how Kenny sets his side up going forward.

Egos of players

Another point often raised by those arguing against appointing Kenny is that he may not be equipped to manage the colossal egos of modern day footballers. It is clear that there are some big personalities inside the Anfield dressing room at the present time, something Roy always seemed a little in awe of. I have never believed that Kenny won't be equipped to control the dressing room. In fact, I would go the other way and suggest that there is no one better to get big personalities (including one or two bona fide Liverpool legends in their own right) pulling in the right direction than the biggest Liverpool legend of them all. Furthermore, if there is anyone better equipped in the short term to motivate those players, to instil in them the mentality required of a Liverpool player, to demand the commitment and dedication to that shirt that is required, than Kenny Dalglish, then I don't know of them.

the Future...

Once the initial headlines are tomorrow's chip paper and the United game has been and gone the pundits will no doubt turn their attention to Liverpool FC beyond 2010/11. It is too early to speculate whether this is a recovery act alone in preparation of a new face for the long term coming in in the summer, or the start of a longer second act to Kenny's Liverpool managerial career. However, for what it is worth in my view FSG would ideally have wanted to wait until the end of the season before appointed a younger, arguable more 'modern' manager to lead Liverpool long term. That idea has gone out of the window, and perhaps the best way to approach the next few months on both sides is an audition process. If Kenny is a 'success' (and that would see us top 7 by the end of the season for me, starting where we are), and FSG, Comolli and Dalglish find a working relationship which seems good for the club, the fans are happy and the future looks bright, then perhaps this might be the start of something more than a rescue act.

Whatever happens, today it feels wonderful to have Kenny back and it truly feels like we've got our club back. Roy (to me) was the last remnant of the era of Hicks and Gillett, a lingering reminder of the mediocrity which awaited us and the destruction of so much that makes Liverpool special. To have that swept away and to be returned to hope and optimism and to be able to wholehearted back the manager with no reservations is amazing.

Also, a nod to FSG, who kept their heads when all around them were losing theirs. I have been critical of them this week but they have made the right decision, they have listened to the fans without bowing to them, and they have shown again that we might, just might, have stumbled into the ownership of a group befitting of the club. So well done FSG, welcome back Kenny, and bring on Utd!!!

First post...Saturday 8 January 2011

I am mad about football. My mum once told me it was my religion.

Over the past few months I've been in equal measure inspired by the outstanding quality of journalism and writing available in the blogosphere (with nods to the likes of Paul Tomkins and the other contributors to The Tomkins Times, In Bed With Maradona and Zonal Marking) and depressed by the coverage of football provided by the mainstream press, not to mention the 'pander to the lowest common denominator', cliche ridden approach taken by the ubiquitous Sky Sports. I spend hours discussing, debating, watching, playing and reading about football and so it occurred to me that perhaps there is something more constructive to be done with all of that time.

So a New Year means a new start for my own football blog, although I reckon I'll throw up some posts about other things from time to time. 

First up is the subject currently occupying the thoughts of Liverpool fans the world over...yes, it's Roy!