Kenny Dalglish joined Bob Paisley’s Liverpool side from Celtic in 1977 for £440,000, a record fee at the time. The fee was so high because Dalglish, at 26, was already a household name after captaining Celtic as well as being a seasoned international for Scotland. It was difficult to see how Bob Paisley’s team could top the European Cup success of 1977 and with Dalglish being the direct replacement for the legendary Kevin Keegan, there was some doubts among Reds supporters that the Scot could fill his boots. Such fears were allayed to rest very quickly though as Dalglish proceeded to have a barnstorming first season at the club. He scored on his league debut against Middlesbrough in a 1-1 draw and also on his Anfield debut, scoring in the first minute of the second half in a 2-0 victory over Newcastle.
Such goals were a sign of things to come as he scored 31 goals in all competitions in his first season a the club, the most significant of which came in the European Cup final at Wembley against FC Bruges as he scored the only goal of the match with a superb chip over the goalkeeper after a great through ball from Graeme Souness. His second season at the club was to be his most successful in front of goal, scoring 21 league goals as he ended the season as the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year. He was more than a goalscorer though, and it would be his creativity that would make him the greatest player in Liverpool’s history and help him become known as ‘King Kenny.’ Dalglish had incredible vision and could pick out players with great, pin point passes. He could spot an opening a mile off and this saw him strike up fantastic partnerships with other strikers such as David Johnson but most significantly with Ian Rush.
Dalglish had scored his fair share of goals in his first few seasons at the club, helping Liverpool to another European Cup and more League championships, but it was his creative vision that made him look a class apart. He was a playmaker, and although he only scored 8 goals in the league as the Reds finished a disappointing fifth in the 1980/81 season, he helped the team to another European Cup as well as a League Cup success. He recovered his goalscoring ability in subsequent seasons and was named PFA Player of the Year and the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year in 1983 for his all round play and his 18 League goals.
Ian Rush had taken over Dalglish’s mantle as top goalscorer and the pair struck up a deadly partnership as the Scot assisted many of goal poacher Rush’s goals. Such an attacking threat gained the team more and more trophies, League Championships, League Cups and another European Cup victory under Joe Fagan in 1984. Dalglish was the finest Britsh player of his generation, scoring and assisting goals in the same measure, picking out superb balls and scoring some spectacular goals. A Kop idol who was worshipped by every Liverpool supporter.
After the Heysel disaster and Joe Fagan’s subsequent retirement in 1985, Dalglish was the surprise choice of the Liverpool board as player manager. It was a popular decision and although it could have been seen as somewhat of a risk of putting a 34 year old novice in charge of one of Europe’s top football teams, Dalglish justified the decision almost instantly. He achieved the club’s first league and FA Cup double in his first season in charge, scoring as a player to clinch the league title against Chelsea in a 1-0 victory on the final day of the season. He would achieve another FA Cup victory in 1989 as well securing another two league titles in his time as manager. European success was however prevented because of the ban on English Clubs in Europe after the Heysel disaster.
His playing time gradually decreased during the late 80s as he focused on management and after Ian Rush left for Juventus in 1987, he bought a new strike pairing of John Aldridge and Peter Beardsley who excelled in the role. Dalglish resigned as manager in February 1991 due to health reasons and stated he was retiring from football. The Hillsborough disaster which had occurred two years before had affected Dalglish deeply and he attended many of the funerals of the victims personally, much to the appreciation of Liverpool fans. He scored 172 goals in 515 appearances and won countless trophies as a player and manager, and King Kenny will always be remembered as probably the greatest player the club ever had.