Dalglish may step in - again


THE great irony of Kevin Keegan's departure from Newcastle Utd is that he may well be replaced by Kenny Dalglish, a man whose professional career has followed an eerily similar path.

In the summer of 1977 after Keegan had left Liverpool to join SV Hamburg Dalglish was lured to Anfield from Celtic to replace him.

Almost two decades after filling a void created by the loss of Keegan the player, Dalglish is likely to find himself asked to fill a similar vacuum created by the loss of Keegan the manager.

The sense of symmetry is uncanny. As ever, Dalglish was saying nothing yesterday. As ever he was content to allow football's rumour mill go about its business. As ever he will have taken mischievous pleasure from being the focal point of speculation.

It could well be that Dalglish, currently believed to be in Spain seeking to reduce his golf handicap, is already Newcastle United's manager in everything but title. It may not be negotiations we await but merely the announcement.

Dalglish won't come cheap but as Newcastle chairman, Sir John Hall said after sanctioning the purchase of Alan Shearer, "you only get what you pay for".

Earlier this season, shortly after he had parted company with Blackburn Rovers, Dalglish told a confidant that there were only three clubs who might - just might - be able to tempt him back into management.

They were, in no particular order, Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle United.

After underlining the point by showing absolutely no interest whatsoever in the now filled vacancies at Leeds United and Manchester City, Dalglish recently poked one toe back in to football's murky waters by accepting the post of talent scout with Glasgow Rangers.

In his own sweet way, he may simply have been announcing that his latest sabbatical was nearing its end.

Keegan and Dalglish are very much peas pulled from the same pod - dedicated, professional men who chose to divide their passion equally between family and football. Brilliant, inspirational players who boasted the gentlemanly ethics of a bygone era, they were destined to be successful managers but, sadly also destined to be undone by those very qualities which so endeared them to successive generations of football fans.

Fragile and sensitive, far from immune to criticism - superstars but with human frailties and human failings. In February, 1991, after he had led Liverpool to three League Championships in just five seasons, Dalglish resigned as manager. He was, eight months later, to go on to Blackburn and win the Premiership title with them in 1995, before finally parting with them in August last year.

At the time of his retirement from the Liverpool manager's job Dalglish cited pressure as the salient reason behind his decision. Only late last year with the publication of his autobiography did he reveal how the demands of running a top football club had threatened to reduce his life to rubble.

"In truth, I had wanted to leave Anfield in 1990, a year before I eventually resigned. I had become unpleasant company at home. I was shouting at the kids. I didn't want to be this tetchy father who kept bawling his kids out. It became pretty obvious that I had to get out."

I Keegan may well echo those very sentiments this morning.