Liverpool is expected to confirm Kenny Dalglish’s appointment as permanent manager in the next 10 days.
That will allow the club’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, to begin to clarify their plans for this summer’s transfer market. Liverpool have emerged as favourites to sign the Aston Villa winger Ashley Young for around £12 million and are also believed to be tracking his club and international team-mate Stewart Downing.
By the time Liverpool face both players at Villa Park on the final day of the campaign, the long-running and increasingly baffling saga concerning Dalglish is likely to be at an end.
Sam Kennedy, FSG’s president, confirmed as long ago as April 9 that talks with the Scot over making the temporary post he took over in January permanent were already under way, reward for the remarkable turnaround in Liverpool’s performances under his tenure.
Despite the dire warnings of Jose Mourinho at the start of the season that Liverpool were getting “worse, worse and worse” and the assertion by his predecessor Roy Hodgson that “95 per cent” of observers would agree with the Portuguese in November, Dalglish has taken the club from the obscurity of 13th place in the Premier League on Jan 8 to within touching distance of a place in the Europa League following Monday night’s 5-2 demolition of Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Though his record of 10 wins, three draws and three defeats in the Premier League is hardly flawless, that he has garnered more points than any team other than Chelsea since taking charge of a side mired in mid-table shows the scale of his achievement.
Such an impressive record only makes the delay in announcing his inevitable ascension to the permanent manager’s post he vacated in February 1991 more inexplicable.
FSG promised upon Dalglish’s appointment that they would conduct a thorough search for the best man to lead the club forward on a permanent basis; though director of football Damien Comolli insisted then that the Scot’s claims would be considered, Dalglish hardly fits the profile FSG had in mind for their first managerial appointment when they took over at Anfield.
They were keen on a young, ambitious manager used to working in the sort of structure they were quick to implement at Liverpool, alongside a director of football, and examined the credentials of the likes of André Villas Boas, at Porto, Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp and Marseille manager Didier Deschamps.
Dalglish, though, has enjoyed such success that all debate has been rendered irrelevant. Even Liverpool’s fans have proved as much: since Dalglish took charge, their volume has increased by 40 per cent to 97 decibels, according to the site fanchants.com.
In an ideal world, the Scot, cast from management’s old school, would probably like a longer contract with greater power over recruitment than the club’s owners would willingly afford him, but his results are unarguable.
“We have been flying since Christmas,” said defender Jamie Carragher. “The manager has come in and made a big difference.
"Whatever he has done has worked. But the players coming in have made a huge difference too. [Luis] Suárez is superb. If he keeps playing like that he will be a bigger legend than I will ever be.”
The Uruguayan – now on five goals for his new club – will be joined in the summer by more than half a dozen players, once Dalglish’s appointment is confirmed, with the Aston Villa duo, as well as Bolton’s Gary Cahill, Newcastle’s José Enrique and Sylvain Marveaux, of Rennes, believed to be high on Comolli and Dalglish’s agenda.