Mar 24, 2011

Reds great Nicol urges Dalglish appointment

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Liverpool great Steve Nicol has urged the club's owners to make Kenny Dalglish's return to Anfield a permanent one.

Appearing on ESPNSoccernet Press Pass, Nicol gave unequivocal backing to his former teammate and manager, who has won six of ten league matches since replacing Roy Hodgson.

"It's a results business," said Nicol, who made 468 appearances for the Reds. "If you look at the results from when (Dalglish) has taken over to right now, you can't lay one argument against him getting the job. Ultimately, the players will love it, the fans will love it and I think the club will do the right thing and appoint him."

Although Liverpool's principal owner, John W Henry, has refused to be drawn publicly on the state of negotiations with Dalglish, Nicol admits he would be "shocked if they aren't talking to him right now".

Dalglish's return has been just one storyline in a tumultuous period for the 18-time English champions. A protracted takeover of the club was completed by the Henry-led New England Sports Ventures in October but results on the field failed to improve, setting the scene for Dalglish to return as caretaker manager after Hodgson was given his marching orders early in January.

Languishing four points above the relegation zone when Dalglish was appointed, Liverpool are now fifth and Nicol puts the credit for the return of the feelgood factor to Anfield firmly at the feet of the new man at the helm who, he believes, has restored a pride to the club which has boosted the form of previously underperforming players.

"Everybody wants to play for the jersey, everybody wants to play for the team so it has kind of taken the pressure off individuals who, maybe, had been struggling before that. Now they're beginning to flourish, everybody's playing together, they're actually playing as a unit."

One man who did not buy into the new era under Dalglish was Fernando Torres who, having submitted a transfer request, was sold to Chelsea. However, the Spaniard has made a slow start to life at Stamford Bridge and, while the £50million man continues to search for his first goal in a blue shirt, new Liverpool signing, Luis Suarez, is rapidly attaining hero status among Kopites.

Nicol, who has been in charge since 2002 at MLS club New England Revolution, is among those fans and the Scot believes Suarez and fellow new signing, Andy Carroll, have the capability to be better than one of Anfield's greatest forward lines.

"(John) Toshack and (Kevin) Keegan - what a partnership - but I think that this pairing has more potential than the two of those. I think Suarez is probably a better football player than Keegan and I think that Carroll has more weapons than Toshack. This, potentially, could be dynamite.

"I think it's staring you in the face. Now you've got two guys who you can play any way you want. If you want to bang the ball forward, Carroll's going to terrorise every centre-back in the country. If you want to pass the ball and get it in the box to Suarez's feet, he's going to terrorise every centre-back in the country on the ground. Liverpool, for me, really have got two great weapons which are totally different."

With games still to come against fellow top four aspirants Manchester City and Tottenham, there remains an outside chance that Liverpool could make a late push for a Champions League spot. However, Nicol believes that a season free of European distractions could be in the best interests of the club.

"I don't think they will make it and I think that, ultimately, it will help them because they won't be in the Europa League, they'll have time between Premier League games (and) they're not going to get carried away with the Carling or the FA Cup. Next year is a year where Liverpool are really going to concentrate on that Champions League spot, number one and, hopefully, trying to win the championship."

Despite the presence of director of football Damien Comolli, Nicol expects Dalglish to be the main decision-maker in all transfer dealings and suggests that, to challenge for the title, the club needs to improve the quality of its squad in several areas with wide midfield and central defence in need of particular attention.

"Six months ago I was thinking 'you get rid of Torres, this is just a rocky road'. All of a sudden, a great piece of business, they actually don't end up spending an awful lot of money because the money they get for Torres pays for two fantastic strikers. Now that frees up money to better the team elsewhere, which it desperately, desperately needs."

The years between Dalglish's reigns at Anfield have featured a number of false dawns and, though the early signs have been encouraging, Nicol concedes that much remains to be done before Liverpool return to English football's top table.

However, he is confident the club is moving in the right direction and has the right man in charge. Not even the latest flirtation of a certain Portuguese with the Premier League will sway him from that belief.

"Who do you want - Jose or King Kenny? It's easy!"



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