When the final whistle went at Stamford Bridge last Thursday night to seal Liverpool's 19th top-flight title, there was nobody prouder than the last man that led the Reds to the coveted crown.
Sir Kenny Dalglish had a beaming smile almost as wide as the River Mersey as he looked on in admiration for the job that Jürgen Klopp and his players did in winning the Premier League title.
The Scot, the last manager to lead the Reds to the championship back in 1990, could not hide his delight to see his beloved club back on top of English football again.
His admiration for Klopp runs deep and he admits Liverpool are proud to have the German as their manager.
"I think he’s a Scouser in disguise really," Dalglish told Liverpoolfc.com. "I don’t think he’s really German, he’s putting an act on there! Because he epitomises everything that the Liverpool people want, that the football club want and the city."
Read on as Sir Kenny talks about what the title means to the club and the supporters 30 years after he led Liverpool to their last league championship...
Sir Kenny, let’s take you back to last Thursday night. Can you describe your emotions that you felt when that final whistle went at Stamford Bridge?
It was more elation. It wasn’t a relief or anything like that because you knew they were going to win it. Their attitude in the game against Crystal Palace, that would have persuaded anybody watching the game that they really wanted to win the league championship and they thoroughly deserved it. But their application in that game was superb, every single one of them. It’s just a realisation, 30 years since the one they won before it. It’s not just happened overnight either. When you see since Jürgen's come in, the improvement and progress – at the moment they are [still] European Champions League winners as well, they are World Club Champions, they got beat by a point last year with an unbelievable 97 points. So it’s not just a flash in the pan. It was something that they’ve been heading towards and something that they thoroughly deserve. The great thing for me is the way that they’ve encompassed everybody into enjoying what we’ve done, what they’ve done and I think that’s a sign of people that are thoroughly good people but also very good at their sport and who appreciate everything that has been done for them. Some people just take it for granted but this group of players and the manager, they appreciate every single thing that the people at Liverpool have done for them.
You obviously played in title-winning sides and managed title-winning sides as well. Can you put it into context just how big an achievement this is?
I think the emotion of this one is probably greater, although I’ve not been involved in it, than the ones I was involved in. Because fortunately we won it quite regularly, not every year but nearly every year. So, you never get fed up with winning. You never get blasé that you are going to win and every time you won it, it made you hungrier to win the next one. But to win it for the first time in over 30 years, even for the fans, for them, you see the enjoyment and the pleasure in their faces they’ve had through the victory. I think that would probably be a little bit better than when we won it. But by the way, when you win it and you don’t enjoy it then you’ve got a big problem.
Liverpool, of course, has a long, illustrious history full of success. It’s a tough question but where does this achievement rank amongst the club’s great triumphs of the past?
The most recent one is always the best. It’s a good way to avoid an answer! When they’ve done it, they can enjoy all the plaudits, they can enjoy the celebrations and they’ve got the best bit to come yet which will be the tour of the city. But they themselves won’t let it go and they will want to go on and push on for an improvement if possible or certainly exactly the same as if possible for next year because they are just that type of group of players and management and staff. It just looks a fantastic setup and they are a great credit to Liverpool Football Club. I think also the owners have come in and it’s nearly 10 years nearly now in October, so they’ve not been shy in supporting people – myself included when I was manager and giving money if it was available. They want to strengthen the team, they want to improve the facilities at the ground and also they’ve built the massive training ground as well. So they have been a huge influence as well as the people they’ve brought in and been excellent at their job.
In terms of the team itself, we’re biased I suppose when we talk about how enjoyable it is to watch Liverpool. But even for the neutral they’ve been spellbinding at times this season. How much have you enjoyed watching the football they’ve played this campaign?
The stats don’t lie, do they? They’ve gone for a record number of points, everybody is banging in goals, you’ve got two full-backs who are very high up in their stats list for making goals – I think Andy has scored one but Trent has scored a few more. It’s the contribution from everybody within the team. Joe Gomez hasn’t played that often but often enough you are thinking that next year he’s going to be a real asset to the club. Although he’s not scored the goals, it’s at the other end where he is very important because I’m sure a lot of teams look up and say, ‘They can’t go down the side that Virgil is on because we’ll never get past him, so we’ll try hitting Joe Gomez.’ By the way, Crystal Palace never got near a shot at goal the other night and Joe was brilliant and I think he will continue to go that way. I think he’ll be top drawer and him and Virgil look a very sound partnership.
To become Premier League champions means you need different qualities all over the pitch. What aspects of Liverpool’s game do you admire the most?
I think the effort and commitment that they put into it, the tempo that they play at and the closing down. They work just as hard when they don’t have the ball as well as they do when they do have it. I think their attitude and their application has been absolutely brilliant and that comes from what they do on the training ground. Obviously we know how good the backroom staff are, but the players have been fantastic as well.
As we said, you played in some of the great title-winning Liverpool sides. How much would you have loved to be a part of Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool side?
I think I’d have been sub! I wouldn’t get a game in that team.
Do you miss it though in a way when you watch them, you obviously must still get that buzz?
Aye, but you can’t wish your life away, can you? We were fortunate that we inherited the fantastic work that Shanks, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Ronnie Moran, Roy Evans. The work that all these people did, the do’s and don'ts that they applied to the football club and to the dressing room, the desire to be successful, the ability to be successful. We got all their attributes built into us. So it lapsed for a wee while but I think that’s come back again now and it’s fantastic. The success of the football club goes way back to Shanks and I think that’s who we should always be grateful for – Shanks and the people that he employed. There was another guy in Reuben Bennett, there was another boy behind the scenes in Tom Saunders and every one of them made a fantastic contribution.
The game has changed in so many ways since then and it’s evolving all the time, but do you see any similarities between this Liverpool side and the ones you played in and managed as well?
The similarities you would think would come about from the preparation, from the knowledge and the intelligence of the people working there and the ability of the players to transmit it from the training ground onto the pitch. The supporters have always been hugely influential and hugely important to any Liverpool side that I’ve been involved in and certainly this one as well. It’s just a whole package that everybody makes a contribution towards the football club is appreciated. When we were playing, people kept saying, ‘What’s the secret of Liverpool?’ By the way, I don’t know if we had one, but if we did it wouldn’t have been told anyway! For me, I always say the people who are employed by the football club, whatever walk of life they are involved in, we had the best administrator in football in my knowledge anyway in Peter Robinson. Old Bob was manager when I was there, everybody right through the club were the best they could get at their job. And they did their best and they tried their best. And they never did it for themselves, they did it for the benefit of everyone and that’s the sign of being a successful football club and a successful team as well.
One player you obviously know more than most is the captain, Jordan Henderson. You signed him back in 2011, so how much pride does it give you to see the leader he’s developed into today?
Listen, I’m not trying to claim any credit for what I’ve done but Jordan Henderson is a credit to himself. When he came as a young boy, he came to speak to us with his dad and you could tell there and then. Apart from having the opportunity to be a fantastic footballer, he’s also a really good person, he came from a really good home and he’s turned out exactly the way you thought he would have turned out. For me, he’s epitomised everything that a Liverpool captain should be on and off the pitch. I’m sure that dressing room is a really strong dressing room and that’s another reason why they are successful because a strong dressing room is needed if you want to be successful. The work that he’s done throughout this COVID-19 in certain things being helpful, not just him but the rest of the players with him, they’ve been exemplary and they are a great credit to themselves and the football club. So as a person, I’m sure a lot of fathers would have been happy for him to be their son-in-law.
What about the man at the helm, Jürgen Klopp? Is it possible to even put into words just what a job he’s done since arriving at the football club?
Not with a lack of education, no. I’ve not got too many words in my vocabulary but, as I say, it has not just happened overnight. It has happened over five years coming up in October. The success has been there – the World Club Championship, the Champions League. Alright, we lost in a couple of finals but there’s been progress all the time. I think he’s a Scouser in disguise really. I don’t think he’s really German, he’s putting an act on there! Because he epitomises everything that the Liverpool people want, that the football club want and the city. I think the great thing about him is he’s really comfortable in his own skin. That’s not an arrogant comfort. That’s a comfort that he knows, ‘This is how I’m going to do it, this is what I want to do, I’ll do it this way. If it’s right we’ll all have a great time and if it’s wrong, I’m sorry but I tried my best, that’s all I could have done for you.’ I think he’s been unbelievable in the way that he’s come in and become part and parcel of the football club and part and parcel of the city of Liverpool. It’s not as if he gloats on the success he’s had either. He put the letter out on Monday in the Liverpool Echo. Not many people would have done that. He cares about, not just the football, but he cares about the people, the community and everything else. So the love for Jürgen Klopp goes much further than the football club, as a person and everything else.
It seems like the perfect match, the club and Jürgen. They’ve found each other really…
It is, aye. He’s a perfect fit for the club. He’s just everything that the club has stood for since Shanks. So he really deserves the contribution. You look at the backroom staff who have done brilliantly for him as well, but they all work with Jürgen and he appreciates everything that they do. It’s not as if they are dismissed but they like to be under the radar and everything has just gone particularly well. Everybody has played a part for the success that Jürgen has had, but he’s played the biggest role of all.
The last time Liverpool won the league back in 1990 it was yourself as manager. Could you ever have envisaged that it would be another three decades before the title would come back to Anfield?
No, I don’t think we ever would have predicted that. I’d have been sectioned, I think, had I said something like that then! It happened not because the people who had the success took it for granted, it was just one of those things in life. But the progression they’ve made has been fantastic. They went close once under Brendan [Rodgers] and then obviously with Jürgen last year they went really close, losing out by a point and getting 97 points. This year they just exceeded all expectations. The fantastic thing for me is many clubs would have just bitten their bottom lip and started moaning about how unlucky they were last year and how successful they were. You are not successful unless you win it. You are making progress but you are not successful. They came out this year and they just rolled over everybody and it was just before the football was closed down that they lost a league game when they lost 3-0 at Watford. Their attitude, their commitment and everything else has been absolutely superb and they thoroughly deserve the plaudits, they thoroughly deserve the recognition and, more importantly, they deserve the Premier League trophy as well. They’ve been brilliant in what they’ve done. But to have waited 30 years is a long time. Maybe people will dig deep and find some answers as to why it happened. But just basically for me, the reason why it happened is because we weren’t good enough. But there are a lot of teams who have got a long way to come to be as good as us now.
It’s been such a long wait for the fans and for everyone connected to the club but for you personally, how proud does it make you to see the club that you love so much back on top?
I loved it. But for me, I’ve got older now and you had your own kids when you were winning things and now you’ve got your grandkids and you know what it means to them. I mean, they are only young but they know what it means and they love it and they’ve really enjoyed it. I think it’s fantastic that generations pass on to their sons the stories of their success, Wembley trips, the European Cup finals, the league championship successes. Now this generation is going to have an opportunity to tell their kids. For me, that’s hugely important to the culture at Liverpool Football Club because that’s what the football club is all about – passing on the stories and success, the humour and the enjoyment and the disappointment also if you are not winning.
Finally, what does the future hold for this side? Because so many of the players you would say are not hitting their peak yet. But is this team capable of dominating like those great Liverpool sides we’ve seen in the past?
The only reason teams stop being successful is because they lose a bit of hunger and desire for what they have to do, the dedication they need to prepare themselves for games to win games. This game against Crystal Palace last week, not a crowd in and after coming back off the first game 0-0 at Goodison Park, that showed you how much the players want to play. That shows you how much Liverpool means to them and how much the success of Liverpool Football Club means to them as well. So I don’t have any reservations about them being blasé, having won that this year. They will go into next season as hungry and maybe they’ve had a wee taste of winning the Premier League now and say, ‘Let’s repeat it next year.’ And I don’t see any reason why they won’t go about their job as diligently, thoroughly and professionally as what they did this year. Other teams will get better you would have thought, but I can’t see us getting any worse. So I look forward to a long and happy spell with the players and the staff in charge and the success and enjoyment it’s given the Liverpool fans this year. And I think it’s one of the few times that the other supporters have shown the respect that they have to a manager of a football team. Because I think most of them would agree that the football club have certainly deserved it with their performances on the pitch in what they did. It doesn’t happen too often, that, but it has this year and that’s a great compliment to everybody involved at Liverpool. I think winning the league has made a lot of people, myself included, very happy.