Dalglish struggling to justify costly gap year

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Last season Newcastle trailed Liverpool; now they are ahead despite selling them their best players. Steve Tongue on today's eagerly awaited clash

Great expectations; what a curse they can be for football teams. Last May a Liverpool side whose form had been bad enough for five months to get Roy Hodgson the sack finished 12 points ahead of Newcastle United. Spending another £35m net in the close-season as opposed to Newcastle's £2m net might reasonably have been expected to push the clubs further apart. Yet going into today's meeting on Tyneside, and even after beating them 3-1 at Anfield just after Christmas, Kenny Dalglish's team trail Alan Pardew's by eight points.

Dalglish suggested recently that anyone judging his beloved club on League positions alone required "an intelligence check". Perhaps a belief that there is more to it than that stemmed from his one full season in charge of Newcastle, when he finished 13th in the Premier League, preferring to remember reaching the FA Cup final and beating Barcelona in the Champions' League.

This time it is again to the cups that he is looking, although even with the Carling Cup tucked away – a real struggle in the final but after some good away wins in earlier rounds – the season will look underwhelming if the FA Cup does not join it in the once overcrowded Anfield trophy room.

Dalglish has made much of bad luck – although Manchester City have now struck the bar or post more often – affecting the home form, although away from Anfield they have lost eight times and still have fewer away points than anyone above them, including Newcastle.

A more significant factor is surely the quality of signings made in what he calls "a huge turnaround of players" and how they have performed. As our panel shows, Newcastle's have done markedly better for less than one quarter the cost.

"If someone comes in, they have to be a lot better than what we've got," Dalglish reiterated on Friday. His purchases, on the face of it, should have been, but have not turned out so, as even members of the extended Liverpool family admit.

Phil Thompson, a former club captain and then assistant manager under Gérard Houllier, stills calls the club "we" but admits: "The team is average, a lot of players have not done it. When we signed Andy Carroll, never mind the fee, I and other fans thought 'what a great signing'. I'd have been gutted if he went to another club. I'm hoping it's a transitional season but you can't hide behind the fact that it's not really worked. If you look at all the signings, so many of them haven't hit the ground running."

John Barnes, who joined the club in 1987 just as Thompson was finishing, makes a perceptive point about the newcomers: "When I went to Liverpool I'd had six years at Watford and 30 England caps, consistently playing well for six years to get a move to a big club. Peter Beardsley had five years at Newcastle, 15 or 20 caps; John Aldridge, Ray Houghton similarly.

"But because of the demands now, Andy Carroll had one year at Newcastle, Jordan Henderson one year at Sunderland, then they get big-money moves through no fault of their own and Liverpool have to pay the going rate. And even when Peter and I went there, it's in the lap of the gods whether it works straightaway."

It certainly did for those two. Liverpool won the League by a street, somehow contrived to lose the Cup final to Wimbledon, and the following year should have done the Double for the second time in four seasons. That was the level the club operated at for the best part of 25 years and the sort of standard that subsequent teams have been judged against.

Both Barnes and Thompson, who were speaking after appearing at the SoccerEx European Forum in Manchester, agree that expectations play a part in all that and while Liverpool have failed to live up to theirs, Newcastle have done the opposite.

Barnes nevertheless expected less than some people: "I never thought with the squad Liverpool had that they would challenge for the title. I feel they have a distinct lack of quality. They relied on [Steven] Gerrard and [Fernando] Torres too heavily and now they're relying on Gerrard and Suarez. Kenny wanted it to have worked in the first year but he is looking for the long term, hoping these are going to be Liverpool's heroes for the next 10 years.

"While Liverpool have been disappointing, Newcastle are a surprise," Barnes added. "They've done it differently. What they've done is bought good players from abroad like [Yohan] Cabaye and [Cheick] Tioté, knowing they're not going to be at Newcastle for ever, but to get immediate success. Maybe to sell them next year for a profit and then they'll bring some more in for four or five million. So the two clubs' philosophy has been different."

Having played under Dalglish at both clubs, Barnes still believes in him and suggests that, crucially, the Liverpool players do. Thompson will not have many words said against the manager either, and he sums up: "Everybody [at Newcastle] has played to their potential, whereas ours haven't. But Liverpool's vastly different because of all the expectations."

Ah, those great expectations. And at what some of us still call St James' Park, Liverpool will expect again this afternoon.

Transfer hits and misses

Newcastle United

Hit Hatem Ben Arfa, Jan 2011 (£4m after loan): Gifted midfielder who has proved inspirational despite missing several months with a broken leg.

Hit Demba Ba, June 2011 (free): 16 goals in 24 starts, one of bargains of summer after relegation at West Ham.

Hit Yohan Cabaye, July 2011 (£4.8m): The steel to match his compatriot Ben Arfa's silk in midfield.

Hit Papiss Cissé, Jan 2012 (£9m): The fee showed the club's increasing confidence – already looks justified.

Miss Gabriel Obertan, Aug 2011 (£3m): Initial good impression by the Manchester United signing faded.

Miss Davide Santon, Aug 2011 (£5m): More was expected from an Italian defender who has now lost his place.

Liverpool

Hit Luis Suarez, Jan 2011 (£22.8m): On pure footballing grounds, proved the main attacker Anfield hoped for.

Hit Jose Enrique, Aug 2011 (£5m): Has made left-back position his own, Newcastle failed to replace him.

Miss Andy Carroll, Jan 2011 (£35m): Fee wasn't his fault but would have looked expensive at half the price.

Miss Jordan Henderson, June 2011 (£20m): Struggled from his first game against former club Sunderland.

Miss Charlie Adam, July 2011 (£9m): Has had his moments but mainly from set pieces. Looks much smaller fish in a bigger pond.

Miss Stewart Downing, July 2011 (£20m): Man of match in League Cup final but frequently exasperating and without a League goal.

Steve Tongue

Newcastle United v Liverpool is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 1.30pm

Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?