Dalglish gives Crouch and Co a reason to believe

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The Independent Football

As Liverpool's grip on the Euro-pean Cup became weaker by the minute on Wednesday, what would Anfield not have given for Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush? Alas, at present-day prices, not even the £30 million Rafa Benitez is demanding for this summer's shopping would buy them.

They will be seen in action together, for any Liverpool fans who can bear the inevitable comparison with Djibril Cissé and Fernando Morientes, when the ESPN Classic channel launches tomorrow night with a rerun of the 1984 final against Roma in the Italians' own Olympic Stadium. Features in the next few weeks include Dalglish in his prime for the 1978 final against Bruges and the humbling of Tottenham by seven (count them, Djibril) goals to nil later that year.

Yet the Scot's unswerving loyalty to the club he played for and managed with such distinction means he is loath to offer anything resembling public criticism of his present-day predecessors, the non-striking strikers. "They had enough chances early on," was as far as he would go on the firing of those blankety-blanks. "Every one of them is good enough to score goals. They're just a wee bit lacking in confidence. [Peter] Crouch hits one, it's deflected on to a post. The next one he's just trying to make certain, whereas if they'd scored [beforehand] he'd have been more confident and rolled it in. They just need to believe they're capable of doing it."

Difficult as it is to believe, Dalglish even admits to having had as bad a spell himself: "It was a worse one than that. I remember scoring a header at Brighton to break the run. I've been there." He shares Benitez's faith in Crouch, although "Rafa's the one who decides and I think he picks and chooses according to the opposition. And he hasn't got too many decisions wrong, especially in Europe, has he, the last few years?"

After unhappy departures from Blackburn in 1996 and Newcastle two years later, Dalglish shows no sign at 55 of wanting the responsibility for those sort of decisions again. He plays golf, brings his parched-dry humour into play occasionally as a media pundit, helps with "a couple of businesses" and labours for his wife's cancer charity.

The football he watches is generally enjoyable, though the sight of players in all positions falling over their feet irritates him. "I think the foreigners have made a great contribution to the spectacle of the Premier League but there's one or two unsavoury things that would be best left outside. Diving is not exclusive to foreigners but it's chicken and egg; when they do it, others think if they don't, they'll be missing out. There was an instance years ago when Nayim came in at Tottenham and he started it and the Tottenham people pulled him up and corrected it.

"I think we need to look at it. Sometimes you go down without being kicked because you might be taking evasive action to prevent yourself being kicked. But it makes it more difficult for the referees, and they've got a difficult enough job as it is."

ESPN Classic, Sky Channel 442