He has swept back into Anfield so imperiously that it is hard to believe Kenny Dalglish ever had a moment's painful introspection in his life, though that impression is seriously deceptive. "One of my weaknesses as a footballer was a shortage of self-belief," Dalglish reflected at the height of his first career in management. "If I had more self-confidence, I would have been a better player, and perhaps a better manager as well. Confidence, or rather the lack of it, was still an issue even when I felt well established at Liverpool. It's the way I am; a chink in my armoury."
Those words hint at the appreciation Dalglish will have of the biggest crisis in Fernando Torres's football life and a determination to help resolve it. The two men share a lot – the pressure attached to being Liverpool's most expensive player, time spent as a goalkeeper in their footballing schooldays, even a Piscean star sign – but the mental torture of being a striker is the most significant connection.
"I went through a worse spell than [his current one]," Dalglish reflected ahead of his first real game back at the Liverpool helm – at Blackpool tonight. "I can pass on advice and I will try and help him in any way, shape or form."
Dalglish, who is convinced confidence is Torres's problem, was probably recalling the 1980-1 season, when he scored eight times in 34 games – his lowest league total in his first six seasons at Anfield. He went 16 games without a league goal in that campaign, from late November until the end of the season. It was the season Liverpool signed Ian Rush from Chester City and watched him start his own prolific career. All of which makes Torres's eight goals in 18 starts positively prolific, though Dalglish has also felt for some time that Torres has been overworked for three years which Dalglish, who missed the 1986 World Cup, was not.
"He has gone three years without a break and he has suffered a few injuries as well but he is still the person everyone would want to play number nine for them," Dalglish said of Torres back in November. "We should be grateful he is here at Liverpool." But against a side whose 2-1 win at Anfield in October was the low-tide mark of Liverpool's season – the first-half display was far worse than any part of the home defeat to Wolves which presaged Hodgson's exit – Dalglish will be looking for evidence that his mercurial powers have been restorative for an individual who has said he looks up to Dalglish. "If he bangs a couple in I'll be looking up to him," said Dalglish, whose willingness to remove Torres on 77 minutes at Old Trafford on Sunday revealed some confidence in the management of the player that Roy Hodgson lacked. "It's all about relationships between players and staff, and what they can get out of each other."
The task will be harder without Steven Gerrard, tonight beginning the three-match ban which also sees him miss Sunday's Merseyside derby at Anfield and the visit to Wolves a week later. "Of course [the ban's] a blow," Dalglish said. "Any team is a much better team with Stevie in it than out of it."
Tonight is also yet another with potential echoes of Liverpool's 1953-4 relegation season – the last time they lost at Bloomfield Road being the 3-0 defeat of April 1954. The visitors have won just one of the past 11 away games in the league and two in the past 19. But there is a belief within the Liverpool management that one good Torres performance early in the Dalglish era could kick-start the season both for him and for the club, who sit ninth from bottom and four points above the relegation zone. "I've got fantastic respect for Fernando, not only as a footballer but also as a person as well," Dalglish concluded. "When he signed for the club he really threw himself into learning about the history and the tradition of the club, he really soaked it all up. I hope I can help him and I will help him in whatever way I possibly can."
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