The life of a Scottish footballing legend. A King's scrapbook.
THE last time Kenny Dalglish brought a book out about his life I was given it as a Christmas present and set about reading it over the holidays. I’d nearly reached the end when the news started coming through that he was coming back to Anfield, to take up the position of caretaker manager.
I couldn’t read the rest of the book after that. The ending wouldn’t be right now. This was a book about a man who was retired from the game – but Kenny wasn’t retired from the game now. I never did finish it.
A couple of years later and Kenny was definitely retired from the game when he brought another book out, “My Life (My Scrapbook)”. I’d only had time for a quick flick through it when the news started coming through that he was coming back to Anfield, to take up a position as a director.
Maybe he already had an idea that offer might be made when he was writing the book. In it he says:
“If I’d done this book five years ago I’d never have predicted that I would have returned to Anfield as Liverpool manager for a second time, so who knows what the future holds for me next?
“I’ve always said that I am happy to help Liverpool Football Club in whatever way I can and that hasn’t changed in any way, shape or form.”
For the fans who saw Kenny play – and could he play – there’s no need to explain why he means so much to their generation of fan. Likewise those who remember him for his efforts as his playing days came to an end and he concentrated more and more on the management of their club. And all of us remember why he left the club the first time and how much it must have hurt him to do so.
It must have hurt him the second time round too, but for different reasons. He’d walked back into a club in far more of a mess than many wanted to acknowledge and even his magic wasn’t enough to help the club meet the unrealistic target of getting straight back into the top four. He’ll have seen some of the abuse aimed at him online, from supporters who were entitled to think he wasn’t the man for the job this time but maybe should have shown more respect in their expression of those thoughts.
Perhaps that abuse was down in part to the mixed-up thinking of us all as fans these days. When Kenny was a player, when he was the manager the first time, the target in every competition Liverpool entered was to win it. Nobody expected the club to win everything it went in for but nobody boasted about going out in the semi-finals or even about being runners-up. Liverpool’s honours list only mentioned the times the club had actually won those competitions; there was no place, or room, for a mention of being runners-up.
There was no mention, when Kenny was at Anfield first time round, of prioritising one competition over another. In fact any smell of putting out a weakened side for any game, no matter how meaningless it might be, in favour of another was frowned upon and could lead to punishment from the authorities.
It’s hard to imagine managers like Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and, first time round for sure, Dalglish being comfortable in not giving the paying punter the best they possibly could for every game.
In his full season back as boss Kenny decided to put more importance on the domestic knock-out cups than we’d had at Anfield in many years. He won one and got to the final of the other but the league form wasn’t great. According to Kenny: “People will say we finished eighth in the league, but how many points would you swap for three Wembley trips?
“For Dirk Kuyt to have won his first medal at Liverpool Football Club after so long must have meant so much to him and to win a trophy at Wembley again clearly meant a lot to the fans.”
Acknowledging the focus on getting one of those top four finishes he says: “It might be more rewarding to qualify in Europe after finishing fourth, but who remembers that game when you finished fourth to get there?”
There’s also a hint in that section of the book that Kenny felt it was too early to judge his second time as boss, but judge it the owners did and that was the end of that.
The book isn’t an autobiography, it’s done in a different way to that. It is, as its title says, a scrapbook. Photos of different stages of Kenny’s life and career are accompanied by words from the great man himself.
It’s a bit like sitting in his living room, like he’s your favourite uncle or maybe your dad or granddad, as he goes through his scrapbook and tells you the tales of what went on. No doubt a lot of stuff has been held back but that’s how Kenny is – how often does the man slag someone off in public?
At the front it’s all about him growing up, where he lived, pictures of the child Kenny in his “street football days” and the stories to go with it. He gets into the time he ignored Bill Shankly, as a teenager, and his short-lived and unsuccessful spell as a joiner before football really became his trade.
From there he talks about his time at Celtic but the bulk of the book, like the bulk of his life, is about Liverpool. In one section he talks about how much he’d love to, just once, get on the Kop to watch a game. “I know Bill Shankly once stood on the Kop when he retired. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get there for a big game… but there might not be any tickets!”
Imagine Kenny on the Kop.
There’s another section, “The King’s Honours”, which as you can imagine is page after page of pictures of Kenny with trophies, medals and awards. Probably more than you realise.
In fact there’s a lot more to this man than maybe we realise and a lot of it is contained in this book.
It’s hard to fault the book, it’s an ideal way to remind yourself why we made him King or it’s a way of maybe helping those younger fans realise why we did.
Alex Ferguson brought out his own book today and by many accounts it seems to be filled with bitter anecdotes of a man blaming, ridiculing or criticising just about anyone who crossed his path, not to mention a full chapter of him discussing his one big obsession, Liverpool FC.
Kenny Dalglish’s book has none of that – but Kenny Dalglish himself has none of that. Even if I had no interest in football I know which of the two men I’d rather spend an afternoon listening to.
Few of us are going to ever get the chance to spend an idle afternoon reminiscing with Kenny about his life but this book isn’t a bad way of getting close to that. Leave it on the coffee table and keep dipping into it or just find somewhere quiet and read it front to back.
He’s back at Anfield again now, in a new role, but this time I will finish the book. It’s good to have him back. The place doesn’t feel the same without him.