Taking into consideration the possible recently discussed departure of Stewart Downing from Liverpool, and the loan deal that saw Andy Carroll make a season long switch to Upton Park, many commentators in the game are beginning to question the wisdom of King Kenny Dalglish in bringing such players to Anfield.
Here we cast a retrospective perusal over some of Kenny’s transfer dealings during his second spell in the Anfield hot-seat, and pose the question. Did he invest wisely using all his years of footballing nous and intuition, only to fall victim to a particularly uncompromising incarnation of Lady Luck. Or, did he haplessly fritter away the budget of a small country on a ramshackle medley of misfits with the same kind of blase approach that you would usually associate with a drunken gambler on a stag night in Vegas?
When Kenny was appointed for his second spell in January 2011, ‘The Return Of The King’ was heralded by many on Merseyside as the start of a possible new era with the chance to hopefully challenge old rivals Manchester United, Chelsea and nouveau riche Manchester City.
The sale of star striker Fernando Torres couldn’t fail to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of every upstanding Kopite, but the swelling of the previously diminishing coffers gave slight consolation and hope for the future, providing it was invested well.
The arrival of Andy Carroll from his beloved Newcastle, and Luis Suarez from Ajax were seen by many as great replacements. Carroll, a typical targetman in the style that Liverpool hadn’t seen for some time, had had a great season with Newcastle, with goals never in short supply. Suarez, with his clever footballing brain,quick feet,movement, and none too shabby goal record was seen as the ideal foil for the Geordie hitman. On the surface it seemed like a match made in heaven, and even the rather astronomical transfer fees of £35million and £23million respectively didnt seem to stand out too much in the modern financial age. After all,can we really put a price on goals?
Suarez in his time at the club has gone from strength to strength. Naturally there is something in the British psyche that will never allow us to accept the darker side of his game such as the racism, diving and penchant for the late challenge, but as a footballer he has few rivals, and his goalscoring record speaks for itself. He already has thirteen from seventeen appearances this term. King Kenny we salute you on an excellent piece of business!
In stark contrast the predicament that Andy Carroll now finds himself in will possibly provide the keystone to the legacy of Kenny Dalglish’s second coming at Anfield. A sample of rocking horse excrement seemed more likely to be discovered in Stanley Park than of Andy Carroll hitting a run of form for Liverpool. He seemed a shadow of the player he was at Newcastle. No doubt burdened by a different style of play, further problems in his personal life, and the sheer weight of that transfer fee, he was shipped out to West Ham on loan, where he continues to struggle.
Of course the transfer fee in question only really becomes an issue when players fail to produce the goods. For example, it is difficult to imagine many questioning the rationality of Messrs Ferguson, Di Matteo and Mancini when spending similar amounts on players such as Van Persie, Hazard, Toure and Aguero.
The fact that Carroll in his first full season with Liverpool only managed to find the net as many times in the league as such goal-scoring heavyweights as Nigel Reo-Coker, Leighton Baines and Andrew Surman, and even less than the likes of John Terry, Nathan Dyer and James Morrison mean that he can only be viewed as a momentous flop, giving rise to the argument that the denunciation of King Kenny in this affair is not without its merits.
The protracted signing of Charlie Adam from Blackpool had been the games worst kept secret, with only the haggling capabilities and old fashioned determination of Ian Holloway preventing the transfer happening sooner. Adam had done very well at Blackpool and was clearly capable of stepping up to another level.
His standing as a creative play maker that would chip in with the odd few goals catapulted him to the forefront of kenny’s thoughts, eventually leading to a £7million deal. Despite a promising start and one or two highlights, Adam never really stamped his authority or enjoyed the kind of freedom that made him such a potent threat for The Seasiders. He was deemed surplus to requirements and farmed off to Stoke very early on during the tenure of Brendan Rodgers: probably more a victim of Rodgers overall vision than of a lack of form or talent. I don’t think Kenny can be held accountable here and the 7million paid for his services seemed a reasonable exchange at the time.
The signing of Jose Enrique from Newcastle would have raised few eyebrows from anyone connected with Liverpool. He had long been and continues to be a consistent Premiership performer. In fact Liverpool can count themselves lucky for beating a host of top clubs to his signature. The 6/7 million pound price tag(depending on what you believe) is also a great advert for the concept of value for money. We can say that Kenny got this one right, and with the recent transition to being played in a more advanced role, the club may go on to reap even greater rewards than first anticipated. The Spaniard will have to improve on his dreadful goalscoring record though!
Liverpool’s needs may have been served with greater efficiency should they have gone on to the trail in search of Bigfoot rather than concentrating their efforts on one of The Hendersons. The fee of £16million pounds paid for Jordan (the over inflation of which, is only eclipsed by that of his namesake’s breasts) meant that he would start his Anfield career at a disadvantage, with many forecasters expecting more than he was able to give. Despite the International caps and obvious potential, he is not the shining light that Kenny possibly envisaged: a viewpoint highlighted by his stop-start appearances this season. Kenny has to shoulder some responsibility for further footballing financial malfeasance in this case.
The arrival of Uruguayan International Sebastian Coates during Kenny’s incumbency will have been seen by most as a good, forward thinking transfer. The idea of developing youth should be central to any long term blueprint, and the fact that he was already an established International player should mean he was a safe bet for Kenny. Its only when you start to compare the price tag paid for an experienced Premiership player such as Jose Enrique to that of the greenhorn Coates do you start to question the logic behind Kenny’s motives.
We are led to believe that both price tags are not too dissimilar, but yet while Enrique is currently a regular starter, Coates is finding the step up a little more challenging with only two appearances in The Premiership this year. For me the jury is still in session on this one!
So at face value it seems Kenny was responsible for not just a couple of solid signings but also of paying way over the odds for what have been clearly second rate players. Given the fact that he assisted in helping Liverpool to their lowest ever Premiership finish with fifty two points, and contributing to their then, and possible current demise, it is surprising that further blame is not attributed to him. The League Cup victory and FA Cup Final appearance will no doubt have helped in the papering over of several cracks but the evidence is clear.
However, before we are seen to be advocating the metaphorical regicide of King Kenny, it may be worth adding a little perspective and comparison to this equation. The archives of football history are littered with flops and failures in equal measure to heroic achievers and success stories. Ultimately fans and people in general prefer to remember the success stories.
When Liverpool fans talk about former boss Rafa Benitez for instance they will tend to cast their thoughts towards one of their many European victories and to that famous night in Istanbul. The fact that during his stewardship the transfer conveyer belt had more traffic than the M25 on a Man United home match day will be forgotten, as will the fact that he was responsible for signing more has beens, chancers, and C-list stars than you’re ever likely to find in the celebrity jungle.
This is why King Kenny, whether guilty of any financial crimes against football or slight mismanagement in any form, will always be remembered in the hearts of Liverpool fans for the goals he scored,trophies he won and the Liverpool philosophy with which he will always be associated. Who says football fans are fickle?