In conversation, football legend Kenny Dalglish is a man of few words, but he’s put plenty on paper in his autobiography. He reminisces with Tom Gorham about past glories and the lure of his homeland.
enny Dalglish is in a reﬂective mood. He sits back in his seat, looks up at the ceiling and chews on his thoughts for a moment. ‘Jock Stein,’ he says ﬁnally, ‘was a genius’.
Plenty of football followers would agree with this concise summary ofthe late Celtic manager. Coming from a footballing icon of Dalglish’s stature, the compliment gains twice its resonance. Dalglish doesn’t bandy praise about much, nor is he given to brooding about the past.
Over the past two months. Dalglish has enjoyed quite a few moments of such uncharacteristic contemplation. He’s had plenty oftime to think about former glories: in August he relinquished his post of Blackburn Rovers’ director of football, a position he’d held since giving up the managerial reins of the club twelve months before. Two years before that, he resigned from Liverpool for reasons unrelated to football. He is now, in football parlance. taking stock of the situation. He’s unemployed.
Typically, he’s reluctant to be drawn on his future: ‘I don’t know what sort of job would interest me. it might even be outside of football. l’m pretty easy going. I’ve not Mn got any route map — I’m just plodding <" on with things.’ ‘
It’s unlikely that this statement of unintent will deter suitors. His opinions are still in demand. and he’s confident that. should he desire it, he will be welcomed back to the game. ‘After all.’ he reasons . with unanswerable logic, ‘people get r sacked all the time and they still get jobs. And I didn’t get sacked.’
Dalglish’s desire to keep quiet about his future should surprise few. if the word taciturn hadn’t existed before Dalglish’s monosyllabic post- match press conferences became part of football folklore. it would now. His parsimonious use of language is legendary — he’s never used two words when one might possibly do the job.
His natural reticence, some would say, is typically Scottish. and even ignoring the clinging dialect. it’s still easy to spot the imprint of a West Coast upbringing on a man who has spent most of his adulthood south of the border. His footballing education under Stein formed the template that still guides his professional life.
‘Big Jock was brilliant.’ he says of the man who shaped a raw talent that was to ﬂourish for another twenty seasons. ‘He was a guiding light and he made me the player i was. i disagreed with him at times, but he was right far more often than he was wrong.’
Celtic fans would argue that Dalglish’s period in green and white was his ﬁnest. Ask any Parkhead regular who the King is. and they won’t say Elvis Presley. Presley might have held
a tune better, but he could have learnt a lot from the Dalglish shimmy; and as for records, can anyone from Memphis match 102 international caps, twelve domestic League championships and three European Cups as player and manager? Dalglish retains fond memories of Glasgow, although for a person of his implacable nature, it was always going to be difﬁcult growing up in an environment heavy with bigotry between /' Scotland’s two biggest sides. He recalls travelling on the Celtic team bus to an Old Firm reserve match when he spotted his Rangers-supporting friends shouting abuse at his _ , . team-mates. ‘They saw me,’ 1" W I he remembers. ‘waved, and then continued screaming.’ it was inevitable — even without the intimidating atmosphere he admits he ‘hated’ — that he would travel south eventually. He wanted a larger stage to parade his skills, and Celtic’s lack of European success at the time wasn’t giving him the platform he needed. His move to Liverpool supplied him with the European success he craved, and his managerial stints there and at free- .'1.;»Mi"-=.x spending Blackburn brought a
a trio of English League ‘ championships. For all his success in
England, Dalglish remains doggedly patriotic, which would surprise those who
say he never looked comfortable in a Scotland jersey. He claims the only
political party he ever voted for was
the SNP. So you put two and two together. This reminiscing, this clearly stated romantic
attachment to Scotland and you conclude that maybe Dalglish’s next step will be back here. Naturally he won‘t rule it out -— he still takes a keen interest in the Scottish game — but allegiances have waned over time. ‘Celtic were always good to me. so I always like to see them doing well. But to be honest it doesn’t really .bother me if they win the Premier League. It could be Aberdeen for all I care.’
But if the pull of the memories of his old club won’t tempt him back. is there a future for Dalglish in international management? In time. could we see him in the Scotland dugout in place of Craig Brown, tartan scarf around his neck?
‘Ah.’ he smiles. and pauses. ‘Only if they opened the transfer market.’
Dalglish. My Autobiography by K etmy Dal glish with Henry Winter is published by Hodder & Stung/Hon. priced £16. 99.
The List 4-l7 Oct 1996 13