The King who became a Knight

Arise Sir Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish. And it’s about bloody time.

Our very own King Kenny was born in Dalmarnock in the east end of Glasgow, raised in Milton in the north of the city before moving to a very harsh, tough part of the city called Govan, which is by the docks near Ibrox, where Rangers play.

A-young-Kenny-Dalglish

Kenny grew up a Rangers fan and there is a story of him running up to his bedroom and ripping all the Rangers scarves and posters off his wall one day when club officials from Celtic had come to his home to discuss signing him. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know but what is true is Celtic signed him in May 1967. The King spent his first season on loan at Cumbernauld United (where he scored 37 goals) and then spent the next few years in the Celtic reserves and working as an apprentice joiner.

Kenny would eventually establish himself as a Celtic regular in 1971 but in January 1971 before his career at Celtic really started, Kenny was in the stands when the Ibrox disaster occurred. There was a crush in an exit stairway during the Old Firm derby which left 66 Rangers fans dead and over 200 injured. It was Britain’s worst football stadium disaster until that fateful day at Hillsborough. How cruel that Kenny should have been at both.

He put it behind him however and went on to make 320 appearances for Celtic, scoring 167 goals and winning four League titles, four Scottish cups and the league cup. It was this impressive form that led to Bob Paisley forking out a then British record transfer fee of £440,000. And so a king was born...

Kenny was signed with the unenviable task of replacing Kevin Keegan but he took it in his stride. He scored 31 goals in 62 games in his first season, including the winning goal in the 1978 European cup final. Not a bad debut season. In a playing career that spanned  the most successful period in the club’s history, Kenny went on to win 6 League titles, an Fa cup, four league cups, five Charity Shields, three European Cups and a UEFA Super Cup. 1983 also saw him win the Balon D’or silver award and he was also named PFA player of the year.

Kenny also represented Scotland 102 times, scoring 30 goals. He became our most capped player and joint leading goal scorer with Denis Law. We’re very proud of Kenny north of the border however I don’t think he’s ever been viewed as solely for us to be proud of, as I believe we all know that Kenny Dalglish belongs to Liverpool.

After such an illustrious playing career, it’s difficult to believe his Liverpool story has only really just begun but that proved the case. Kenny became player manager in 1985 following the resignation of Joe Fagan and went on to win a further three League titles, an FA Cup and four Charity Shields. As a manager Kenny also won the league with Blackburn and finished runners-up during his first season at Newcastle. He also returned for a second stint at LFC, winning the League cup in 2011. He remains the last manager to deliver us a trophy. An incredible career in the game.

As a man however, I don’t believe anything shaped his life more than that tragic day on the 15th April 1989, when 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed at the Hillsborough disaster. A city devastated in their loss and grief, made worse by the subsequent cover up and abhorrent allegations made against the fans and city of Liverpool in general, Liverpool needed a figurehead, someone to look to for strength and support. Kenny Dalglish was that man. And then some...

Kenny’s actions in the aftermath of Hillsborough alone should have been enough to see him knighted.  He shouldered so much of the responsibility for it personally and his attempts to attend as many funerals as he could, including four in one day, is testament to how much personal responsibility he felt towards the families. It was a super-human effort and inevitably it took its toll. Kenny tearfully resigned as Liverpool manager in 1991. A man damaged by events, who needed time to recover.

Recover he did however, and was back in the game eight months later and went on to further success as a manager with Blackburn but he never strayed far from Anfield and was always welcomed back with open arms by the people of Liverpool who know the man and know all he’s done.

The powers that be have not been so quick to recognise such an extraordinary career in the game however, as well as his actions off the field which were truly above and beyond what could be expected. Fergie and Bobby Robson both had fantastic careers in their own right but had they really done more on and off the pitch than Kenny? Never.

I firmly believe that had the Hillsborough families not fought so bravely for so long to get justice for the 96, eventually winning the ruling that the fans were unlawfully killed and exposing the subsequent cover up, that Kenny would never have received his knighthood. The whole thing seems like tokenism now because their hands are tied, although I don’t wish to detract in any way from the honour he has received, as nobody deserves it more.

He’s finally a knight and its long overdue but to Liverpool, he will always be The King. Walk on Sir Kenny Dalglish

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