Alan Hansen’s is a judgement I always gave weight to. Measured but steely when required his view always had a pulling power which could drag an opponent over the line as if in a tug of war competition. But this time he is wrong, hopelessly so. On the sacking of Kenny Dalglish as manager of Liverpool, a club once captained by Hansen, he said that he felt sadness that his fellow Scot ‘did not get the chance I believe he deserved.’
How many chances did he want for Dalglish? As coach he had available to him an expensive array of individuals many of whom he brought to the club. The task of making a team out of them fell to him and he failed. He failed every time his motley lot stepped out on the pitch and did everything but play good soccer.
Hansen argued that ‘I genuinely believe he had done enough to keep his job.’ How so when he produced the worst Liverpool team of six decades? Other managers walked the plank into the cold waters of the Mersey for better achievements than that.
Winning the Carling Cup is not what Liverpool needed to do. Whatever Hansen says it was small change. A team from a lower league can do that. It can even take the FA Cup. What such a team can’t do is take the Premiership. Making a good stab at that might have been enough to save the blushes, and the bacon, of Dalglish in a way that winning the Carling Cup could never do.
Hansen also said that when Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson he ‘quickly unified the club and got the team playing the sort of football the fans wanted.’ This is simply shading it the way of a close friend and can hardly constitute a detached appraisal of the way Liverpool played. The fans, unless they share a collective masochism, could not possibly have been pleased with those performances, particularly not at home where the team was consistently abysmal.
Nor is it a question of the Champions League and its lucrative pickings being the sole determining factor in the owners decision to bid Dalglish adieu despite the game being played by millionaires. Liverpool was banned from European tournaments after the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster. It had no European ambitions to realise but it still fought like lions to win the English championship. The very first season of its ban it took the championship and did the same the following year. The players are not merely expected to reach Europe or all is lost. They are expected to play in the tradition of Bill Shankly who famously said football is not a matter of life and death, it is much more serious than that.
On that question, following their team was a matter of life and death for the many fans who failed to emerge alive from Hillsborough Stadium in 1989. The supporters of no other Premiership team underwent a similar fate. If players want to pull the jerseys on for the team those fans followed they should at least do it as if it means something other than the pay cheque at the end of the week.
In his closing comments Hansen concluded that:
a club that used to make stability its watchword, this will be their fourth manager in two years. You are getting into the realms of Chelsea with all the chopping and changing, so it is a very big decision for them and they need to do it quickly.
As I sit down to watch Chelsea, not Liverpool, face Bayern Munich in Bavaria as they bid for the Champions League, the thought strikes me that the chop and the change should have hit Liverpool much earlier.