It was 1978 the 13th day of October, a cold evening and with this soon to be 12-year-old boy seated high up in the main stand at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground only adding to how incredibly cold I was. This was The European Cup first round, a knock-out competition in those days, excitement had filled my body for weeks after the draw was made Liverpool v Nottingham Forest, luckily my Uncle John had some close contacts within both clubs through his work, he had told me how we were to go to the game with tickets provided from an insider at Liverpool, it was as if he actually played for the Reds in my mind, in those days if you knew a player or even talked to one, its importance would have a copious meaning for a 11-year-old boy.
It has to be remembered that these games were not shown live on T.V. highlights would be the only avenue to viewing such occasions, Sky Sports would only be a twinkle in our eyes undelivered manna from a not yet produced footballing heaven. The previous season Forest had made me cry when firstly at Wembley in The League Cup Final they held us to a stalemate 0-0, winning the replay at Old Trafford 1-0.
In the first game I ended up with an elbow to the eye, Kenny Dalglish having a goal ruled off-side whilst all around me believing we had scored jumping up ending with one 11-year-old boy crying and with a black eye Henry Cooper would be proud of. It would not be my last black-eye at the hands of our latest combatants we were beginning to have quite a history with Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, mainly resulting in pain for me.
All my school friends were very envious of my trip to the City Ground to watch my heroes, we were European Champions so in my mind, unbeatable, peerless we had unparalleled success in our corner, the whole World knew we would not lose to Nottingham Forest, more importantly I knew, Uncle John had said we will meet the players after the game in The Jubilee Club next to the changing room exits, a renowned and famous place in Forest fans folklore, which was where all the players would meet and drink after all Forest’s games, I am not sure I can explain exactly what the feeling inside me was, knowing I would meet my heroes, and in particular Dalglish.
From the game itself I remember very little, I do however remember how a hot chocolate would warm my frozen fingers and a steak & kidney pie would have a similar effect on my stomach, it was a foggy and freezing evening. How a certain Gary Birtles would open the scoring with his first ever senior goal for Forest, this would be followed by a second goal toward the end of the match at a point when I no longer cared as frost bite had set in, my feet immobile and hands motionless, my sleeves covered by the constant wiping of a dribbling nose. Yes I was disappointed but this paled in to an insignificance compared to my ensuing death due to hypothermia.
The difficulty I had walking around the ground with feet and digits I could no longer feel, momentarily forgetting about my heroes who would be waiting with open arms, and hopefully signing my now screwed up match programme, it would seem like the longest walk, fans rushing everywhere similarly wanting to get out of the cold. On eventually making our way to the players’ lounge I would have to wait what seemed like an eternity until Dalglish turned up, as we approached him to get his autograph, he swept past us almost knocking Uncle John over, which was a job in itself as he was twice the size of Dalglish, and with that the yet to be crowned Dalglish was gone.
That was my first introduction to the greatest Liverpool player I ever had the gratification to see play, and my first moment I was brought down to earth with a bang by my assumed Gods, an ordinary man, ignoring me in a way my Father did when I wanted to play rush goalies in the park, and all he wanted was to sit down after a heavy days labour. Was I hurt? No I was devastated. Luckily at home I had a poster from Shoot magazine with his signature on it, and with a piece of tracing paper I would have my signature, and proof I had met Kenny Dalglish and shook his hand, and how he had spoken to me, jealousy is a terrible thing, and so are lies.
When Dalglish in 1991 was to resign his managerial position after suffering from stress and physical illness post Hillsborough, in under six years as Manager we won 3 League Titles and 2 F.A. Cups, including the illusive Double in 1986, but the day when Dalglish quit can go down as one of the saddest days in my life. What Dalglish did for this club, for this City should never be forgotten.
Somebody said the other day we were “stuck in a time-warp of greatness” how somehow we have not progressed under Dalglish part deux, yet after being trophyless for six years, we can now shake the dust from our cabinet with the incoming League Cup, leaving it slightly ajar in case its cousin The F.A.Cup turns up in May.
My biggest fear is that Dalglish will walk away from the project in the summer, maybe going back upstairs, some suggesting arrogance, and a stance where he is bigger than the club he has always stated is more important than individuals. Well this is being said of a man who I will always remember with his head in his hands, tears in his eyes, after attending his FOURTH funeral of the day for other innocent victims of Hillsborough, only for two days later him and Marina attending another THREE in a day. How many funerals have those people asking for his head been to? I like Rafa Benitez but younger fans and some who should know better go on about £96,000 being donated to HJC as a game of comparison, who is more worthy, it is disgusting and repulsive, those fans know nothing about Hillsborough or our Manager for if they did surely the treatment he receives would be very different.
They say why should Dalglish be treated any differently to Roy Hodgson, or Rafa Benitez, lets deal with Roy a man who had won precisely nothing of note as a manager, and unfortunately was the wrong man at an even worst time. Rafa Benitez however was an excellent proven manager who had won Trophies in Spain and then at Liverpool, and he was rightly given SIX years at Liverpool, but again with owners that did not support Rafa he was on a hiding to nothing, and those same fans shouting “Bring Rafa Back” were the same asking for his head on a waiter’s tray!!
Kenny Dalglish should certainly be treated differently, we are a club at the start of something, a blueprint for a trophy haul, and it has begun. Liverpool Football Club do not want to go down a Chelsea road, hiring and firing every season, you have a manager with proven pedigree, a man who has won four titles with two different teams, has he made mistakes, of course he has, but the players have let us down also, the Suarez incidents have cost us in concentration and made it difficult to prepare properly, focus has been lost by not only our team, but its supporters.
I did not want Dalglish to return as Liverpool Football Club manager, because as is being proved, our fickle fantasist fans are turning on him, and somewhat changing his status within this club, I did not care for these people re-writing Dalglish’s history, twisting and turning what is written in stone, for some of us, we will never be deceived by such clueless individuals, but others less educated jump on board.
I never ever got a Kenny Dalglish autograph, although I have been lucky enough to meet him on a few occasions, but he has more than made up for the lack of his scribble on my bedroom wall, I can’t remember the man who barged past me in 1978 but I do remember Eight League Titles, Two F.A. Cups, Five League Cups not forgetting Three European Cups, if you are looking for man and a manager who wins trophies; look no further than Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish.
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