American Owners Fire a Liverpool Legend
By JACK BELL
Published: May 16, 2012
It took a group of Colonial Americans to depose King Kenny, the resident regent of the Liverpool Football Club.
Kenny Dalglish, the former Liverpool star who returned to manage the club last year after two decades away from the team, was dismissed on Wednesday after traveling to Boston to meet with the team’s owners — John Henry and Tom Werner, who also own the Boston Red Sox.
Long revered in Liverpool, where he is known as King Kenny, Dalglish was unable to propel Liverpool back toward the top of the English Premier League, although the club did capture the second-tier Carling Cup, its first trophy of any kind in eight years.
Dalglish had replaced Roy Hodgson (now the coach of England’s national team) in January 2011 and was given a three-year contract. But Dalglish didn’t get to fulfill it, taking the fall for helping oversee the investment of about $175 million in player investments that produced little in return.
Just last month, Henry and Werner dismissed Damien Comolli, Liverpool’s director of soccer. Now Dalglish is gone, too, mirroring what occurred in Boston last fall, when, in the wake of a September collapse by the Red Sox, the team’s general manager, Theo Epstein, and the manager, Terry Francona, departed the team.
In a statement on Wednesday, Henry lauded Dalglish, saying: “Kenny will always be more than a championship-winning manager, more than a championship-winning star player. He is in many ways the heart and soul of the club. He personifies everything that is good about Liverpool football club.”
There was a perception that Dalglish, a star in his playing days for Liverpool and his native Scotland, did not cast a wide-enough net in investing in new players, limiting himself for the most part to players with British roots.
In particular, his judgment was questioned for his role in the club’s record signing — the $56 million transfer fee paid to Newcastle United to acquire Andy Carroll, who then scored only four goals in Premier League play this past season.
Dalglish’s image also suffered from the way he and the team handled a widely publicized incident involving the team’s best player, Luis Suarez of Uruguay. Suarez was accused of directing racial taunts at Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, who is black, and was later suspended for eight games.
Dalglish and his players initially backed Suarez, even wearing T-shirts with Suarez’s image in a show of solidarity. But that support drew criticism in the world of soccer, and there was more consternation after Suarez later refused to shake Ezra’s hand in a pregame ritual.
Suarez later apologized for the handshake snub, an act of contrition that Henry and Werner — and not Dalglish — were credited with orchestrating.
Werner said Wednesday that the next task was finding a replacement for Dalglish.