The battered confidence Kenny Dalglish is seeking to repair at Anfield took another heavy blow last night as the first game the new manager has prepared Liverpool for ended in a defeat at Blackpool which leaves him contemplating whether, after 15 years out of the game, he is ready for a relegation battle.
Dalglish insisted that he knows the size of the task ahead. "It's obviously a big challenge. You very seldom walk into a job where there's no challenges," he said. But a defeat which sends Liverpool to 13th and only five points better off than bottom-placed West Ham intensifies the pressure on Dalglish ahead of Sunday's Anfield derby, with the visit to Wolves six days later.
Though Liverpool, who have ten defeats this season, were outplayed in midfield by Charlie Adam and David Vaughan, Dalglish maintained that his side needed luck to turn in their favour. "The harder you try, the luckier you get so we will try harder," he said. "Any football side that's losing needs that little bit of luck and at the moment that's turning against us a little bit. We've got a lot of work to do [beyond that]. But if the problems are within yourself you've got a chance of solving them. If the whole team is much better than you, you can't solve it. I was very pleased to see their commitment."
Dalglish ascribed Blackpool's 12th minute goal – which equalised the powerful second-minute Fernando Torres strike which sent Liverpool ahead – to bad luck. "We are on the verge of breaking clear and just misplaced the pass. At the opposite end they get a break off Daniel Agger. The concentration and desire of the players are quite pleasing."
But Blackpool, whose win leaves Liverpool with only one away win in 12 and two in the last 19, could have scored more and Ian Holloway followed the victory with a powerful message to Adam that he is not prepared to sell him, despite interest from Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Stoke City, Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers.
"They can all go and shove their bids where they like it, if they think he is worth three and a half million," Holloway said. "I think he should stay with us until the summer. If Manchester United are ringing me tomorrow to make a realistic offer I will have to consider it. Until then, dream on." He ridiculed the idea that Adam's wave to the fans was a farewell message – "Are you on jungle juice?" – though he knows the midfielder could find far higher wages elsewhere
Holloway had earlier expressed some sympathy with Roy Hodgson, describing Dalgish's presence at Anfield as "a skeleton." After a second 2-1 win over Liverpool, which takes his side above them to ninth, he said" "If you had told me I would take six points off Liverpool I would have said you are totally doolally and I would have got you my Harry Houdini suit to wear."
Liverpool have now lost 10 of their 21 league matches and eight out of 11 on the road. If Dalglish wants the job on a permanent basis he will have to find a way of eliminating results such as this.