Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Kingdom of Kenny

It is said that the first, and most difficult, responsibility of a king is to convey his royal vision to the populace. A king must be a great orator, willing his subjects to not only believe in this vision, but to work toward its fulfillment. At times, however, the king himself must be the greatest example, using not words but deeds.

And always, there is the need to contain the doubt and, it must be said, the treachery of that part of the citizenry who believe him to be a false king, unduly appointed to his throne not on grounds of ability, but on lineage alone.

In this light, Kenny Dalglish, the once and future King of Merseyside, has performed his duties most seriously and most successfully.

Appointed caretaker manager after Roy Hodgson’s sacking, King Kenny has used a mix of airy proclamations and peasant-like resolve to transform Liverpool’s season, and, one might say, their future. His permanent appointment to the position only goes to reinforce that feeling.

Struggling to retain their traditional Top Four status during the end of Rafael Benitez’ reign in 2009, the men in Liverpool jerseys had in 2010 turned to Roy Hodgson to lead their revival. Hodgson himself was a bit of a kingly figure, delivering his former club Fulham out of impending relegation and eventually into a spot in European football in the span of 2 seasons. Tapped to do the same with Liverpool, Hodgson perplexingly could not find the same touch.

Step in Kenny Dalglish, the former Scouse legend. Dalglish had previously played for the Merseysiders between 1977 and 1990.

Beginning in the late 80’s, he had assumed the role of player-manager, leaving the club in 1991 only after being unable, as so many were, to shake the unfortunate grip of the Hillsborough disaster. Dalglish’s dignity during those trying times earned him great respect, building on a reputation first gained through his play and management abilities.His return to the club in 2011, therefore, was seen by many as a return of the rightful heir to the Liverpool throne. Sport is well-known for an almost knee-jerk reaction to the replacement of leadership, suggesting an attitude that “anyone is better than the last guy.” But Dalglish’s appointment was greeted with nothing less than courtly fanfare, and the results have proven why.

The club have steadily climbed the table since the move was made, rising from the bottom third to their current position of 6th, with a return to European football a strong possibility. Dalglish himself treats the success with typical nobility. Asked recently whether he was disappointed at having only earned a late draw with Arsenal after a stunning 3-0 win in their prior fixture over Manchester City, Dalglish mused: “Sadness? In my eyes we are still the best club in English football, if not world football, so I am not very sad at that.” He added, "It will be fantastic to get back (to the top), but you need to hit the standards other teams have set.”

Two statements that sum up the people’s King: one of inspiration, the other of determination. When combined with the support of the masses, who know his legacy is based not on arcane lineage but on service, there appears to be no heights to which King Kenny cannot lead his people.

By Ken Sweda ©