There was a symmetry and an artistry about Kenny Dalglish being presented as Liverpool manager yesterday in the same Anfield trophy room where he resigned the position 20 years ago. But the legendary figure warned Liverpool fans that the six-month tenure he is ready to extend into permanent management if asked "isn't built on romance; it's built on hard facts".
The dilemma Liverpool's American owners might have stored up for the summer by turning to Dalglish was evident at his reintroduction when the club's director of football strategy, Damien Comolli, said the 59-year-old fitted all the recruitment criteria the club had set for a long-term manager and would be considered for the job. "What we're looking for is competence; someone who will fit into the club's philosophy and the playing philosophy, and he has to be huge on man-management," Comolli said. "The job is open to those people that I have described and, obviously, Kenny will come into that category because he is exactly what I have described. Will he be considered? The answer is 'Yes'. It will be a thorough search of where we want to go. But we will speak to Kenny about it and then see where it takes us."
Dalglish, who began work yesterday with the former Chelsea assistant manager Steve Clarke, whom he said would be one of "the workers" alongside Sammy Lee, insisted that he would not be "obtrusive or objective in any way, shape or form" if the Americans pursued their desire for a young manager. But the Liverpool faithful will demand Dalglish for the long term if he achieves even moderate success and he certainly did not dismiss the idea that the next six months, beginning with tomorrow night's visit to Blackpool, constitute an extended job interview of sorts.
"If they think I can help, then I will help any which way I can," Dalglish said. "If someone comes up to me and says, 'Kenny, we don't think you are right,' there's no way am I ever going to [stand in the way.] But if the club say 'Please, on you go,' it won't be a problem."
Dalglish insisted that it was "unfair" to compare the pressure he might feel in the remaining months of the season with that which caused him to quit after the 4-4 draw with Everton – Sunday's opponents – at Goodison Park in 1991, at which time he claimed he was "going mad". Bristling at the mention of pressure, he said there was "pressure with every job" and declared: "I'll tell you what the similarities are. I've still got the huge love and desire to get this club right. I don't think there's any difference there. My love for the club has neverfaltered. My gratitude and respect towards the club has never faulted."
Though the defender Ryan Babel was last night charged with improper conduct and faces an almost certain fine for the post-match tweet in which he claimed Howard Webb, the referee for Sunday's FA Cup third-round loss at Old Trafford, was biased towards Manchester United, Dalglish made light of the incident. "I think it's a bit of fun, isn't it? That's as far as I go." Babel must respond to the charge by Thursday. The Professional Footballers' Association is preparing Twitter guidelines for players.
The manager's levity was part of a command performance back in the seat he has always regretted giving up. He delivered a paean to teamwork, unity, respect, self-belief and perspective – quintessential Anfield qualities that the club had almost forgotten existed – and it was perspective for which he reserved the most eloquence.
"At the moment it is a wee bit romantic, to be honest," he said. "The romance is brilliant. It's romantic for me to be back, and it's a wee bit romantic for some of the supporters as well. But at the end of the day this game isn't built on romance; it's built on hard facts. And the hard fact of the matter is we have got to start winning games. Once we get the romantics out of the road we can get to work and see what happens from there."
The abiding question is whether, two decades on, Dalglish can restore even a hint of the glories which saw Liverpool to three league titles under his leadership, though age – as Harry Redknapp and Sir Alex Ferguson have revealed – need not be an impediment. "Redknapp, Fergie, [Fabio] Capello – I'm certainly younger than them so I may be YTS in comparison to them," Dalglish reflected. "I don't know if age is a help or a hindrance. You are what you are. You need to state your beliefs in football, you pick up the faults of your team and you try to rectify it. You just have to get on with it. It depends on the individual, and everybody's different. It's all very well having experience but sometimes it doesn't give you knowledge. If you have got some knowledge you can impart it to the players and they can respond to it. We just want to move it upwards and upwards. It is not a difficult bunch of players that are there."
Dalglish, who ruled out the idea of Jamie Carragher immediately being added to Liverpool's coaching staff, is quite specific about the qualities he wishes to engender: confidence with modesty. "Football is about confidence at all clubs," he reflected. "They have got to believe in a nice way that they are good players. We don't need them to walk around with the arrogance of some people with misplaced confidence. All they need is pointing in the right direction and a wee lift and a bit of belief, and a few goals won't go amiss. A couple of wins and I'm sure they will get a great lift from that.
"In football terms, I haven't changed. My philosophies haven't changed and if I wasn't being true to myself then I think I would be short of giving 100 per cent to the job. All I can do is bring the beliefs to the job that were given to me during my football career and try to pass them on to the people who are here now. Time will tell if it's going to be positive or negative."