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HENRY WINTER ON KENNY DALGLISH Henry Winter 14 August 2007
It's 30 years since Kenny Dalglish brought that wonderful touch, vision and hunger to Liverpool, and it seems like yesterday.
Kenny Dalglish Week
I remember well sitting in my London school-room looking at the newspaper pictures of Dalglish arriving at Anfield and marvelling at the fee - £440,000! It seemed a fortune, but of course it's three weeks' wages for some modern players. Before some Liverpool games in London, Dalglish and his team-mates would use our school playing fields to loosen up, and we would watch enthralled. Their training was classic "jumpers for goalposts'' football, the game at its most simple and beautiful, pass and move, technique and teamwork. This is the essence of Dalglish: he turned football's basics into an art-form. Dalglish never simply passed the ball; he guided it sweetly and accurately to grateful colleagues. The ball seemed to smile in Dalglish's company, knowing it would be appreciated and never wasted. Dalglish never simply backed into centre-halves and held the ball up; many strikers can do that but few possess both the physical strength to withstand the buffeting and the awareness of exactly when to release it. Dalglish had balance, timing, and tenacity. People enthuse about the beauty in Dalglish's game, but he was as hard as nails too. Talk to centre-halves from his era, and they confirm how this tough Scot could look after himself. Footballers do not come much more competitive. Ask anyone who has played golf with him. I once casually challenged Kenny to a game of table tennis and he blew me away with his forehand smashes and unbelievable will to win. A relaxed game of ping pong? No chance. Kenny seemed to think Olympic gold was at stake! Dalglish was a natural born winner - and he won in style. Any talk of Dalglish will always return to how King Kenny could entrance crowds. Seizing on many of Graeme Souness' inviting passes, Dalglish was brilliant at beating keepers in one-on-one situations, whether through a shot curled around the hapless keeper or through a dinked finish. That 1978 goal against Bruges was a classic, thrilling testament to Dalglish's composure in a pressure situation. Dalglish famously slid the ball through Ray Clemence's legs once when Scotland played England; people wondered whether Dalglish was deliberately trying to embarrass a club-mate, yet the nutmeg was simply the best way to place the ball into the back of the net. Probably only Jimmy Greaves could place a ball into the goal as well as Dalglish, and the great Scot offered far more outside the box, dovetailed superbly with Ian Rush. Kenny could play the creator and the executioner. Liverpool and Dalglish were a match made in heaven - and they joined forces at the perfect time. Kevin Keegan had moved on, and Dalglish was ready to leave Celtic. He was already an established Scottish international, with 47 caps to his name, so it was no surprise that he slotted in so easily. Within a year, Dalglish was a European champion. Dalglish is obsessed by "family'', whether flesh and blood or footballing. Outside those secure circles, Dalglish is careful about who he opens up to, but the "dour'' image is nonsense. Ask any of the many who have been on the receiving end of one of his wind-ups. Players who become managers often produce teams in direct contrast to their own playing style: think Alex Ferguson and George Graham. Dalglish was different; on becoming manager, his Liverpool sides embodied his love of the Beautiful Game. That 1987-88 side was arguably the most exciting in history, containing the pace and grace of John Barnes, the clever runs of Peter Beardsley and the goals of John Aldridge; no wonder they ran away with the title. A genius as a player, Dalglish proved a hugely successful manager - and he has never lost that touch of humility that makes him such a special person.



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