The adulation of Liverpool fans was not enough to save “King Kenny.”
Kenny Dalglish’s lackluster second stint in charge of the fallen English giants was halted by the club’s American owners after fewer than 500 days in charge on Wednesday.
Displaying their ruthless streak, the owners terminated the club legend’s contract after realizing he was unlikely to be able to bring the good times back to Liverpool by replicating his trophy-laden first spell.
Dalglish produced the last of Liverpool’s 18 English league titles, before quitting a year later, in 1991. His expensively overhauled squad ended the season in eighth place, underperforming on the field and damaging the club’s reputation following a racism scandal involving striker Luis Suarez.
Winning the League Cup to end Liverpool’s six-year trophy drought and reaching the FA Cup final was not enough to convince the Fenway Sports Group that the club was on the right path under Dalglish.
“Results in the Premier League have been disappointing and we believe to build on the progress that has already been made we need to make a change,” chairman Tom Werner said. “We are committed to delivering success for our supporters and our ambition remains resolute to return this great club to the elite of England and Europe, where it belongs.”
Liverpool came within four points of winning the league in 2009 under Rafa Benitez, who delivered a fifth European Cup title to the club in 2005 and also led the team to the 2007 Champions League final.
Dalglish won eight league titles as a player and coach from 1977 to 1990. He returned to Anfield shortly after the Fenway takeover to replace Roy Hodgson in January last year, with the club hovering above the relegation zone.
After lifting Liverpool from their perilous position to sixth place, Dalglish was given a three-year contract at the end of the 2010-2011 season.
“Kenny came into the club as manager at our request at a time when Liverpool Football Club really needed him,” Werner said. “He didn’t ask to be manager — he was asked to assume the role. He did so because he knew the club needed him. He did more than anyone else to stabilize Liverpool over the past year and a half.”
There were moments of controversy, though.
Dalglish was widely condemned for initially backing Suarez, who served an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United fullback Patrice Evra. Dalglish and his players wore T-shirts featuring the Uruguayan’s picture in a show of solidarity that angered anti-racism groups.
Dalglish is the latest senior figure to leave Anfield during the Fenway overhaul, following the exit of director of football Damien Comolli, head of sports medicine Peter Brukner and communications chief Ian Cotton in the past month.
Despite about US$200 million being spent on players during Dalglish’s reign, the Reds ended the season with their lowest-ever Premier League points tally on Sunday.
Liverpool finished behind crosstown rivals Everton for the first time since 2005 and only the second time since 1987.
“Whilst I am obviously disappointed to be leaving the football club, I can say that the matter has been handled by the owners and all concerned in an honorable, respectful and dignified way, and reflects on the quality of the people involved,” Dalglish said. “I said when first approached about coming back as manager that I would always be of help if I can at any time and that offer remains the same.”