In what was simultaneously both the most shocking, and least surprising news of the season, yesterday saw Kenny Dalglish dethroned from his lofty perch at Anfield. Despite spending just shy of the £200million mark on new players, achieving a top half finish, hitting the post a lot, securing a kit deal, and beating a Championship side on penalites in the final of that cup competition the fans never used to care about, FSG decided it was time for a change.
Brought in on a wave of hope and expectation, it wasn't supposed to end like this. Bringing in a squad of players full of national pride and youthful zeal, Liverpool's season was supposed to be like the last 5 minutes of The Lion King. In the end, though, it was more like the first 5 minutes of Bambi. Surely nobody could have seen this coming?
Well, actually, us Newcastle United fans did, and we even tried to warn you about your king.
We'd seen it all before, in fact. The departure of key players in the name of ‘moving forward,’ the acquisition of talent that proved to be as disastrous to us as it was amusing to the rest of the league, throwing money around like drunken rappers trying to out-extravaganza each other at 'who's got the biggest rims' party, the needless hostility and contempt he would show those in the press asking him the most civilised and straightforward questions, the initial optimism inducing boost in form when taking over, followed by the stark mundane reality of a full season at the helm.
That Steptoe gin, those stupid jumpers, always cheated – never defeated, the post-match interview face that looked like a harshly curried ulcer. The shifting of blame onto opponents, officials, and otherworldly beings who were all clearly conspiring against him, followed swiftly by the refusal of his pals on TV to level any real criticism at his door.
Have you ever seen a Liverpool fan's face contort at the mere mention of Roy Hodgson? The image of Christian Poulson pivoting on his axis and finding no team-mate as deserving of a pass than his goalkeeper, or Paul Konchesky puffing his cheeks out as three fat men on a shop-mobility scooter strip him for pace down the flank, still keeps them up at night. That's the level of romance Newcastle fans harbour for Dalglish.
The man jettisoned Les Ferdinand, David Ginola, and Peter Beardsley, and replaced them with Ian Rush, John Barnes, and Stéphane Guivarc'h. The latter later being voted the worst signing in Premier League history, and the former two still covered in soil from where they had been dug up and brought back to life by Dalglish, the lazy mad professor.
Worst of all, we saw him take a team that was allegedly on the cusp of winning the Premier League, and reduce them to a mid-table, middle of the road, 'that-appertif-you-get-between-starter-and-main-course' rabble of disinterested and under-performing wasters. Spared only by an inspirational local hero for a captain, and quick trip down to Wembley to get roundly outplayed in the FA Cup final. Sound familiar?
If Liverpool fans thought watching the whole Suarez debacle was painful, at least he didn't go on Newsnight this time and get his pants pulled down by Paxman.
We did try to tell you Liverpool. We tried to point out that you should never go back, that you should leave your exhaulted icons on the shelf and never bring them down to scuff their polish. We tried pointing out the mess it had left us in as first Keegan, then Shearer, presided over what was the most average Newcastle side I've ever seen. We did warn you that “bleeding the red of Liverpool” and “understanding the club's rich and glorious past” doesn't actually translate to anything in terms of transfers, team selection, and tactics. It's just tabloid hyperbole, romanticised fairytales, and grown-ups should know better.
It's all well and good to think he should be given more time, but the stark reality is any other manager would have been sacked three times during Kenny's second stint at the club, and the fans would have gladly packed their bags for them. Whoever comes in now, does so in a puddle of underachievement, disappointment, and imposed frugality. But that doesn’t make it an impossible job. What it won’t be is an instant fix.
After Kenny, It took Newcastle 5 years to get back to where the fans thought they should be, so patience (or at least diminished expectation) is a virtue Liverpool fans may finally have to acquire.
Mind you, while we're on the subject of scary comparisons, what about FSG and Mike Ashley. Having taken a supposed “massive club” out of the clutches of big spending former owners, they fired a highly-rated, but completely uninspiring, English manager who'd been given a shot at the big time by their predecessors. With no real idea what they were doing, handing the reigns over to a man who'd brought success to the club both on and off the field previously seemed like a good way to go. The fans rejoiced at the return of their King, but soon found his royal touch wasn't what it once was etc etc etc...
I hear Joe Kinnear's still available.