Robin Scott-Elliot: Of boyhood heroes, herring and the bottom line in footballing excellence
View From The Sofa: Kenny Dalglish, BBC Alba
Monday 02 January 2012
For a reason that escapes me, I listened to Kenny Dalglish score his record 30th goal for Scotland sitting in a cupboard. It was against Spain and my favourite Dalglish moment, a shimmy and shuffle in from the right and then a curling shot to cue that unchanging celebration, two arms thrust in the air and the waddle of a man who really should have gone before kick-off. As for the cupboard, all I can suggest was that it came during that difficult teenage phase of being a football fan where you believe that if you shift position when things aren't going well then it might bring an upturn in fortune. Or I'm agoraphobic and don't know it.
There's no history that gets rewritten so quickly as that of sport, and football in particular ,where the next golden generation speed-dates with the nation seemingly every year, which is why Gary Lineker is now better known for gurning over fried potato snacks and scripted quips on Match of the Day than for being one of England's great strikers. Dalglish lays an even stronger claim north of the border and as the new year, with all its sporting intent, barges forward there are moments when it is comforting to look back and remember when hair was big, moustaches bold and Dalglish amazed to witness his room-mate Graeme Souness use a hairdryer.
For anyone with an interest in Liverpool, Celtic and Scotland there was ample such indulgement on offer via BBC Alba. It was not the greatest documentary but it was a pleasant hour-long ramble through Dalglish's career, and at times a revealing one.
The Gaelic hook was Dalglish and his wife, Marina, heading to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to raise funds for a hospice for cancer patients. Dalglish has supported the hospice for the last seven years, having had no previous connection with the island. Relaxed, chatty and smiling are not words usually associated with Dalglish, as much of our awareness of him comes through a media he does not care for, so it was instructive to see the King, as he was called at 30-second intervals throughout, move among his people at ease. And it gave the chance for someone to say in Gaelic that Dalglish and Liverpool went together like "herring and potatoes", which is an instant winner of my footballing phrase of 2011.
Somebody else put Dalglish's playing success in part down to having "a big backside", which runs the herring close because the contribution of a big arse, as they say in Dalglish's native city, to sporting excellence is an area this column, with its thirst for investigative journalism and bad puns, has previously sought to get to the bottom of.
Souness is another possessed with an appealing turn of phrase. "If you've got a secret to be kept," said Souness of Dalglish, "he's your man." Souness deserves a prize too while we're here. Despite the rush to praise Gary Neville's switch to pressing all the right buttons for Sky, Souness was the best pundit on TV in 2011, with Lee Dixon in hot pursuit. Special mention has to go to Ray Wilkins for being the politest pundit, even if he does increasingly sound as if he's Michael Caine playing Ray Wilkins.
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