After an absence of over 25 years, Kenny Dalglish makes a return to European competition tomorrow night away, against AC Sparta Praha. It’s a pity that Dalglish’s first reign as Liverpool manager coincided with a lengthy period of absence from European competition (via a UEFA ban which followed the tragic deaths of Juventus fans in the 1985 European Cup Final in Heysel) as it would have been interesting to see how Dalglish’s Liverpool matched- up against the football giants of the era, the likes of Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan or a Maradona-led Napoli. But, that’s in the past and on Thursday night, Liverpool face an opponent it has yet to meet in European competition. Strange, considering the domestic success both clubs have had in the past.
Speaking of the past, if the initial, main worry about Dalglish’s apointment was his more recent management experience, taking into account his lengthy absence from the game, the secondary worry has to be his lack of experience in Europe. Of course, as a player he has been involved in Liverpool's achievements in Europe but as a manager, he has none. It goes without saying that I’d be hoping for the best possible outcome and that like in the League, Dalglish once again proves his doubters wrong with a strong performance against Sparta Praha, as a start.
Then again, if there is anything lacking from Dalglish during these first few matches on the continent, I’m sure the coaching staff, especially Steve Clarke would have some very good input for Dalglish. And, if we do get to go further and further into the competition, I’d like to think that Dalglish’s relationship with Rafa Benitez is good enough that Dalglish could always pick up the phone and get some tips off our old European master tactician. Some managerial Galactico set-up that would be, wouldn’t it?
Oddly enough, that’s what Benitez had in mind when he brought Dalglish back to the club (get the video of his recent interview with BBC’s Dan walker here). It’s a shame that it’s obviously too late now (maybe not?), but it’s still pleasing to know that Benitez knew that he lacked the patience and softer skills like PR, politicking or diplomacy to deal with the more horrible members of the press, the FA, the owners, etc. so, he sought to remedy that aspect by bringing Dalglish back in. Ah well, even the best laid out plans can go wrong, eh?
Anyway, this blog was recently featured in Ian-ything Goes as part of an interview with Liverpool legend, John Barnes. Ian was kind enough to include a question I had for "Digger" relating to the recent managerial merry-go-round at Liverpool. Maybe Barnes should have a word with some of the club's senior players and sort them out. Hmmm...You can read the full interview here.
Pic: Taken by Phillip Chambers and edited by Alistair Hart. An original version can be seen at flickr