News

Carling Cup Final Preview: If Liverpool Defeat Cardiff City, Kenny Dalglish Remains The Wrong Man For The Job

In May 2006, England were one of the favourites for an impending major tournament, Fathers 4 Justice invaded the National Lottery TV recording when it still had an audience and Gnarls Barkley was still top of the charts.

Liverpool also won a trophy. And during summer came many a declaration that the arrival of Craig Bellamy, Mark Gonzalez, Jermaine Pennant and Dirk Kuyt would deliver a first title in 17 years under Rafael Benitez.

And yet they're still waiting not just for a league title, but for silverware.

Sunday offers an opportunity to end the wait, when the Reds travel to Wembley for the first time in nearly 16 years to take on Cardiff City in the League Cup final.

Under "King" Kenny Dalglish, the Anfield club have jettisoned the two Manchester teams from the domestic cups, yet in the league they have played out an impotent campaign.

For Bellamy, Gonzalez, Pennant and Kuyt, read Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll. Arguably a more undesirable foursome than their predecessors bought five years beforehand, they cost over £80m together and have faced catcalls from the home followers.

It is that sort of bad business which highlights why Dalglish's return to the dugout after almost 13 years was destined to fail. Irrespective of Sunday's result and his legendary status, he is not the man to lead one of Europe's greatest clubs to the holy grail of a league title.

Craig Bellamy's affinity with Cardiff ensures he will show restraint on Sunday:

Dalglish's absence from within the game has seen him become detached from the reality of 21st century football. He has displayed confusion over what constitutes a dangerous tackle, seemingly believes home-grown talent trumps foreign verve and adopts 3-5-2 in an era of 4-2-3-1.

He can be heard during matches yelling "Come on!", "Go on!", "Hit it!" and other Sunday league managerial variations. Rafael Benitez was lampooned for his domestic failings, but he at least displayed composure amid such nerve-shredding climates as a European tie.

Against Stoke City at Anfield last month, Dalglish fielded five defenders. They have drawn two-thirds of their home league games and scored just 14 goals in the process. Three of the Premier League's bottom ten clubs have yielded draws, whilst Sunderland and Norwich City have also gained a point in L4. This form has prompted esteemed writers such as Patrick Barclay to question the credibility of a Carling Cup triumph.

The Luis Suarez race row has even been used by the Scot to mask his own ineptitude and his squad's failings. By borderline advocating racial tolerance and getting into slanging matches with reporters who are perched on the moral ground, he continues to nestle in the web of a time-warp.

Supporters will be eager to end the trophy drought and clinch an eighth League Cup, even if England's biggest clubs look upon it as the $50 hooker compared to the supermodels of the Premier and Champions League. But the Fenway Sports Group, who own the club, may seek to capitalise on Dalglish's bizarre behaviour either way - or maybe he'll just walk away from the pressure.

And if he goes, it would at least enable the club to appoint a coach who could send the club on the path to real success again.