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Happy Birthday King Kenny!

Born in Dalmarnock in the east of Scotland, his supreme football talent was soon obvious in the YMCA boys team he played in. Dalglish was only 15 when he played in his first Liverpool shirt after being given a trial playing one game with B-team against Southport in a 1-0 win on 20th August 1966. Although he was interested in playing for his favourite team, Rangers, he accepted an offer from Celtic in July 1967.

Dalglish went out on loan to Cumbernauld United and scored four goals in his first game and had scored 37 goals by the end of the season. He played his first senior game for Celtic on 25th September 1968, he played with the reserves for the whole of 1968/69 but only managed four goals in 17 games. He was moved into midfield the following season and his performances improved and scored 19 goals from 31 appearances.

He started the following season the same way and scored 23 goals when Celtic reserves crushed all of their opponents. The highlight of his season came when the two Glasgow teams met in the reserve cup final where Dalglish scored 1 goal in the 4-1 win in the first leg and a hat-trick in the second leg. After impressing the manager, Dalglish got his opportunity and played in a beneficiary game against Kilmarnock, Celtic ended up winning 7-2 with Dalglish scoring six of the goals.

Dalglish was voted Player of the Season after Celtic won their seventh consecutive league title and also winning the Scottish cup. He scored 23 goals in 49 games. He played his first senior game for Scotland on 10th November 1971. Dalglish had his best ever season at Celtic as he scored 41 goals in 53 games.

After being a driving force for Celtic in his three years at the club and in order for him to evolve as a player, he had to move to another club. In his Celtic career Dalglish plyed 322 games and scored 167 goals.

Liverpool had just won the European cup and where looking for a replacement for Kevin Keegan who was leaving for Hamburg. Manchester United offered Dalglish more money than Liverpool but he preffered to come to Merseyside. Liverpool initially offered £300,000 for him but Celtic held out and managed to bag £440,000 for the Scotsman which became a record transfer fee between two British clubs.

Dalglish played his first game on 13th August 1977 against Manchester United in the Charity shield. Fans were excited by his arrival and couldn’t wait for him to start playing. His league debut was against Middlesbrough and Keny scored his first goal for the club. He scored in his first four games and seven wins from 11 in the league meant that Liverpool were second after 12 rounds. The European cup final was a dream for Kenny and half way through the second half Souness through-ball let in Dalglish who chipped the ball expertly into the net past the keeper. In his first season for the Reds he scored 31 goals in 62 matches.

Liverpool started the 1978/79 season by scoring 35 goals and conceding only four in ten wins out of eleven League games. Dalglish had scored ten including a brace when Liverpool beat Tottenham 7-0 at Anfield which is still today considered one of the greatest games in the club’s history. But, only two weeks later they lost 2-0 to the English champions, Nottingham Forest, in the first round of the European Cup followed by a goalless draw in the second leg at Anfield. An early exit for the double European champions. Dalglish wore the captain’s armband briefly during the season as Emlyn Hughes was no longer a regular. The Scot, however, didn’t feel comfortable as captain and Paisley appointed Phil Thompson in his place. Liverpool gained a record total of 68 points (two points for a win) and only conceded 16 goals, which was also a League record. Liverpool won the title with eight more points than the runners-up, Nottingham Forest. Dalglish scored 21 League goals.

Bob Paisley’s judgement of players didn’t fail him and Dalglish scored 56 goals in 116 games in his first two seasons at Liverpool and he won over the media who voted him Player of the Year in 1979.

Remarkably Dalglish had played 180 games in a row since joining Liverpool in August 1977 until he was out injured against Bradford City in the League Cup on 27 August 1980. Dalglish went 16 games without a League goal from late November to the end of the season. Liverpool did on the other hand reach the finals in the League Cup and the European Cup. Dalglish netted the first of two in the replayed League Cup final against West Ham. He started the European Cup final against Real Madrid even though he had been out injured since the second leg of the semi-final against Bayern in Munich. Alan Kennedy’s goal secured another European Cup.

Dalglish failed to score in the first nine League games of the 1981/82 season but finally ended an 11 months’ draught in the League against Brighton on 17 October 1981. Dalglish ended up with 13 goals in 42 matches, being ever-present in the League for the fourth time in five seasons. His new strike-partner, Ian Rush, scored 17 goals in 32 League matches as Liverpool recaptured the Championship. Dalglish was the architect of Liverpool’s League win in 1982/83. Rushie benefited from playing upfront with him since many of his goals came after a brilliant pass from the Scot. Dalglish was voted Player of the Year by both the press and players.

The 1982/83 season saw Bob Paisley leave with Joe Fagan in charge. Dalglish reached a milestone in his Liverpool career on 26th November 1983 when he scored his hundredth League goal for the club with a fantastic shot into the top corner against Ipswich. The enigmatic Scot was busy smashing European records. Dalglish surpassed Denis Law’s scoring record when he scored his fifteenth goal in the European Cup against Odense Boldklub in the second leg of the first round. He had now played more games, 54 in total, and scored more goals in Europe’s premier competition than any other British player. Dalglish played in his third European Cup final, this time against Roma at their own turf where Liverpool came out on top.

The week before the European final against Juventus at the Heysel stadium Kenny received a phone call from Peter Robinson, Liverpool’s Chief Executive, who asked if he and John Smith could pay him a visit. ‘Yes, no problem,’ was Dalglish’s reply. Dalglish describes the rest of the conversation in his autobiography: “I thought the conversation was going to finish then but Peter added: ‘Don’t you want to know what we want to see you for?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘if you want to tell me.’ ‘Well, we’d like to offer you the manager’s job.’ ‘That’s no problem, Peter, you can still come to the house.'”

Dalglish accepted the offer on the condition that Bob Paisley would be by his side for the first two years. Liverpool returned to England in the middle of a media frenzy after 39 people died at the Heysel stadium. Liverpool held a press conference later that day presenting Dalglish as the new boss. Dalglish took over a successful team in the 1985/86 season, but in the first part of the season he had to replace the victorious full-backs of the Paisley era, Neal and Kennedy, with Steve Nicol and Jim Beglin. Dalglish made Jan Mølby his playmaker and signed midfield enforcer Steve McMahon from Aston Villa for £350,000 in September.

From 19 December 1987 to 16 March 1988 Liverpool conceded one goal and scored 31 in 15 games in all competitions!  Liverpool beat Forest 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-final and then annihilated Brian Clough’s men at Anfield 5-0 in a showcase of all the talent on offer at Liverpool. Nine points separated Liverpool and second-placed Manchester United at the end of this dazzling campaign. A surprising 1-0 defeat to Wimbledon in the FA Cup final prevented a second double in just two years.

In the semi-finals of the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest football got a whole new meaning for Dalglish. This was the third time Dalglish had witnessed a tragedy in a football stadium. When he was in the Celtic squad at the age of nineteen, 66 died at Ibrox, 39 died at Heysel and 96 Liverpool supporters died from injuries received at Hillsborough. The press and the supporters saw a new side to Dalglish as he united the club and city in their grief. The harrowing scenes Dalglish witnessed at Hillsborough and in its aftermath and the care he showed to the victims’ families will forever be remembered. Liverpool were rushed to action by the Football Association for the replay. Symbolically the Reds faced the Blues in the final on an emotional day. Kenny’s old mate, Rush, proved to be worth it and ensured a 3-2 win.

Liverpool broke the record for the most goals scored by one team in a match in the top league. Liverpool’s form proved to be far less convincing for the rest of the season. Liverpool had a one-point lead when the Israeli Ronny Rosenthal came on loan from Standard Liege in Belgium. He scored seven goals in eight games and the Reds won their eighteenth League title and Dalglish was Manager of the Year for the third time in five years.

Having not played for the Reds regularly since October 1986, he made his last-ever appearance when he came on against Derby in the penultimate game of the season. One of the greatest players in the history of football had retired after playing a total of 837 games and as the most successful player in the history of the British Isles.

Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley both consider King Kenny to be the best player who has ever worn the Liverpool shirt. Paisley said: “Of all the players I have played alongside, managed and coached in more than forty years at Anfield, he is the most talented.

Fans were heartbroken when the club’s biggest legend left the club in February 1991 after leading Liverpool to three League titles and two FA Cups in five years. Before the end of the calendar year in which he had left Liverpool, Dalglish was back in football as the manager of Blackburn Rovers and he took the Lancashire club not only to The Promised Land of the Premier League but to its very summit, achieved on a memorable afternoon back at Anfield in the middle of May 1995 when, despite losing 2-1 to Liverpool on the day, Rovers were crowned English champions.

On the 3rd of July, 2009 the club officially announced Kenny’s return to Anfield, where he was said to “assume a senior role at the Liverpool Academy and will also act as a Club ambassador working with the commercial side of the business around the world”. Dalglish was asked to help the club find a replacement for Rafael Benítez as manager. Despite wanting the post himself, the job eventually went to Roy Hodgson. But a wretched start to the Premier League season saw the Reds in the unfamiliar territory of the relegation-zone after losing at home to Blackpool in October. When results failed to improve, Hodgson left the club ‘by mutual consent’ and Kenny was appointed on the 8th of January 2011 to replace him until the end of the 2010-11 season. After successfully leading Liverpool from the bottom half of the table to challenging for a spot in the Europa League Dalglish was appointed long-term manager on the 12th of May, signing a three-year contract. Coach Steve Clarke, who arrived not long after Dalglish also signed a three-year contract. John Henry, Liverpool’s new principal owner thankfully recognised Dalglish’s importance to the club: “Kenny is a legendary Liverpool figure both as a supremely gifted footballer and successful manager.

Despite winning Liverpool’s first trophy for six years, the League Cup, and coming close to a cup double in the FA Cup Dalglish was sacked following his first full season after Liverpool’s worst League campaign since the start of the Premier League.

Kenny Dalglish is a Liverppol legend and will forever be remembered for his contribution to the club. At the beginning of the season, Liverpool’s centenary stand was renamed ??The Kenny Dalglish stand’.

Article by Lauren Black



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