Dalglish's days were numbered

BLACKBURN IN TURMOIL: Rovers realised appointing a director of football had not worked. Phil Shaw reports
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Kenny Dalglish was a gaunt, gloomy figure at the time of the leaving of Liverpool, haunted by Hillsborough and complaining that his head felt as if it was about to explode. Five and a half years on, the end of his extraordinary affair with Blackburn Rovers was, if anything, precipitated by a lack of pressure.

Midway through the opening week of a new season, barely 16 months after taking the club to their first championship in 81 years, Blackburn's director of football was nowhere to be seen at Aston Villa. Instead, as the chairman, Robert Coar, announced a parting of ways in the wake of Rovers' second successive defeat, Dalglish was relaxing at an altogether different villa in Spain.

In his version of events yesterday, the 45-year-old Dalglish reiterated the party line about a "mutual agreement" to end his sojourn in east Lancashire. But he also talked about feeling unfulfilled in the year since he handed the managerial baton to Ray Harford, and admitted that the impetus for the latest change had come from the club rather than himself.

"It's the first time I've been unemployed since I left school - by someone else's choice," Dalglish said. "We came to the same opinion, albeit that that they came to it a little earlier than me. I rang the chairman on Wednesday and told him my thoughts. He said the club had already come to the same conclusion. My reasoning was that I just could not get job satisfaction."

Dalglish recalled that he informed Blackburn that he no longer wanted "the demanding day-to-day involvement" of the manager's post in the wake of their title triumph. "I told the club then that I'd go if they wanted me to or stay in some capacity if they wished," he said.

"When they asked me to stay on, with the title of director of football, I saw the job as speaking when I was spoken to, and to help if asked. I think there's a void in football for a position like that, and that's why I was prepared to take it.

"A year on, the club obviously felt there was not a great need for that facility and decided to call it a day. It's their prerogative and my feelings were on similar lines. It just didn't work out."

Doubts about the lack of definition of Dalglish's role surfaced last autumn. It was thought he would come into his own when scouting Blackburn's Champions' League opponents. Yet he appeared conspicuously uninvolved in a calamitous campaign, and was criticised for watching his son, Paul, play for Celtic reserves on the night of one European match. Dalglish explained yesterday that he had been anxious not to impugn Harford's authority, preferring to offer advice when asked.

As for his own state of mind, Dalglish said: "I certainly feel a million times better than when I last left a club. I'm not finished with football, but football might be finished with me. There's going to be a lot of speculation, though to my knowledge there's nothing imminent."

There will be no shortage of prospective employers, although they will want to be assured of his willingness to immerse himself in the daily grind he escaped last summer. The game is in his blood, as he acknowledged on arriving at Blackburn in 1991. "If you're to make yourself a life you have to do it in the industry to which you're best equipped. Football is the one best suited to me. And anyway the wife wanted me out of the house."

Garry Flitcroft, the last major signing of the Dalglish-Harford era, said at Villa Park that the players had not seen Dalglish for two months. But Dalglish's golf partner and Southport neighbour, Alan Hansen, claimed his former colleague and manager at Liverpool was "disappointed" not to have been more involved at Ewood Park. "Director of football wasn't a great role for him," Hansen said. "He needs to be in the dressing-room, to be No 1.

"It's an absolute certainty that he'll be back in some capacity. If I was a chairman looking for a manager, I know who I'd go for. He's got a terrific record." Told of Hansen's testimonial, Dalglish laughed and said: "Big Al might be a bit biased." Blackburn, meanwhile, have no plans to advertise for a new director of football.