The Number Five

Last updated : 17 June 2011 By Karl Davies

...the pride in winning five European Cups, the frustration of five successive managers failing to win the league title and the anguish felt during the five year period of takeovers and mounting debt.

I have emotion to add to the list: the belief generated by a mere five seconds of the press conference announcing the appointment of Kenny Dalglish as the permanent manager of Liverpool Football Club.

At the press conference, Dalglish managed to show the world why he is the best man for the job and at the same time instill confidence in all Liverpool fans that he can take the club back to the summit of football, although admittedly you have to look closely to detect it.

During the press conference Dalglish was asked: "Do you think that you have shown at the back end of this season that you don't need to spend massively this summer to compete with the top four?" To the neutral, the question was an innocuous opportunity for Dalglish to praise his players after a league run of 10 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses since he took over as caretaker manager in January. To Dalglish, the question was fraught with danger: to agree that massive investment was not necessary may limit the amount of funds available for transfers whereas to disagree may serve to undermine the confidence of the squad.

Within five seconds of the question being asked, Dalglish had understood the dilemma posed, formulated a suitable response and articulated his answer. If you watch the footage you can almost see the neurons in Dalglish's brain spark as he calculates his reply. Dalglish said: "Well, whether it's massively or whether it's cheaply it doesn't make any difference as long as you spend well."

His answer was perfectly judged: on the one hand it allowed Dalglish to argue for maximum spending power during summer whereas, on the other, it ensured that the spirit of his team was not dampened ahead of the Premier League run in.

The interesting aspect of Dalglish's answer is not that it is important for Liverpool to spend well, that much is obvious, it is what it says about Dalglish himself.

In the first instance, the answer tells us that Dalglish is still a canny operator. In a world of 24 hour multi-media exposure Dalglish knows that when he is asked a question he has an opportunity not only to address the media but also to indirectly speak to the owners, staff, players and fans. On this occasion he chose to tell his players that he believes in their ability, thereby instilling confidence in the team. At the same time Dalglish allowed himself room to seek major financial backing.

Second, the answer suggests that Dalglish actually believes that massive investment is required: Dalglish did not say as much but equally he was careful not to rule it out. Arguably, Liverpool need a centre half, left back, centre midfielder, two wingers and a centre foward. If incoming players are expected to play in the first team and improve the current squad, the bill for such a recruitment drive will not be cheap. Even if Dalglish signs average players, given the number of acquisitions required, the collective cost is bound to be substantial. However Dalglish looks at it, for Liverpool to compete successfully in the transfer market wholescale funds will be required. The fact that Dalglish decided to stay silent on the extent of funds needed tells us exactly what his true feelings are. Whether such funds will be made available is another question.

Third, the answer reassures all supporters of the club that the Liverpool Way has been reinstated after its temporary disappearance during the disastourous reign of Hicks and Gillett. What actually constitutes the Liverpool Way is open to debate but it is not unreasonable to conclude that it embodies the principles of respect, privacy, teamwork and integrity. By declining to reveal his plans for the summer transfer window Dalglish embodied all of those principles in one go.

In the final analysis, Dalglish's thoughts on whether massive funds are required serves to demonstrate that above all he has the interests of his players, and therefore the spirit of the team, at the forefront of his mind. As a former player himself, Dalglish knows that the confidence of his players is directly related to securing results on the pitch. Had Dalglish either expressly or implicitly declared that his players were not good enough, confidence would have quickly evaporated. This tells us that Dalglish's man management skills will be a key factor in the success of the club going forward.

It matters little that FSG took five months to appoint Dalglish on a permanent basis. What matters is that it took Dalglish five seconds to show us that he is the right man for the job.