Liverpool FC: Kenny Dalglish Comes Face to Face with Memories of Hillsborough

Dan PattersonContributor IApril 19, 2011

Kenny Dalglish reacts to reports of trouble in the crowd at Hillsborough
Kenny Dalglish reacts to reports of trouble in the crowd at Hillsborough

In late February 1991, Kenny Dalglish called a meeting in the Liverpool dressing room to announce to his players that he would be leaving the club. After adding nine pieces of silverware to the trophy cabinet at Anfield as player-manager at first, followed by a permanent place in the dugout, King Kenny was leaving.

Dalglish would return to management soon after, leading Blackburn to a Premier League title in 1995, but his departure from Liverpool, the club where he had forged his name, still left unanswered questions.

Almost 20 years later Dalglish has returned to Liverpool and has guided them back up the table, delighting his players and fans alike.

But last Friday he was put face to face with what had driven him from the club in the first place, something that still gnaws at the man to this day. April 15th is a black day for Liverpool, as every year since 1989 a ceremony is held at Anfield to remember the 96 fans that lost their lives during the tragedy at Hillsborough.

As a player, Dalglish and his teammates had already come under the shadow of the Heysel Stadium Disaster, an event which saw Liverpool banned from European competition for six long years. As it happened, tragedy stuck the club a second time before the end of the decade. As a leader both on the pitch as a player and then off it as a manager, the weight on Kenny Dalglish's shoulders became harder and harder to bear.

It is often said that to be a supporter of Liverpool means to be a part of a family. The fans' favored anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" reflects this, and there are few who embody this spirit more than Dalglish.

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After the events at Hillsborough, it seemed that the Scot took the full burden upon himself, as he attended the funeral of almost every single fan that had lost their life that day. The entire club reached out and embraced the families who had lost a loved one, but Dalglish was ever at the forefront.

Many non-Liverpool supporters were critical of the outpouring of emotions after it had been confirmed that Dalglish was to succeed Roy Hodgson. He was a brilliant player and a very successful manager, but that was 20 years ago, and surely he would be well behind the modern game.

What they don't understand is that Dalglish is much more than a successful name from Liverpool's golden past. He is someone who gave more to the club than any human has a right to give.

Liverpool's manager is the last man to have brought the Premier League title to Anfield, and with his departure the fortunes of the club have fallen to be eclipsed by Manchester United. The spirited 1-1 draw on Sunday has made the title United's to lose, a title which will at long last bring the club above Liverpool's record tally of 18. Sir Alex Ferguson finally has been given the opportunity to fulfill his goal of "knocking Liverpool off their f&%king perch."

With Dalglish back at the helm, fans are more optimistic than ever of being able to challenge for the title. This may smack of nostalgic optimism, as the real threats of Arsenal, Chelsea and now Manchester City have made the Premier League more competitive than ever. Rafael Benitez came within a whisker in 2008-2009, but even considering the Miracle of Istanbul, the Spaniard never enjoyed the confidence of fans as Dalglish does today.

Last Friday Dalglish was joined at Anfield by thousands of fans, as well as the current squad (along with Ian Rush and Benitez to name a few), in paying their respects to the memory of Hillsborough. Next weekend Liverpool entertain Birmingham at home with a European place in their targets.

It remains to be seen whether the Scot will be reinstated as permanent manager of the club. But even if John Henry opts to go in another direction, Kenny Dalglish remains in the hearts and minds of Liverpool fans for giving his all to the club he manages, and then giving a little bit more.