Steven Gerrard has never made any secret of the fact that he has one of Kenny Dalglish's shirts up on a wall in the trophy room of his home in Formby. Only yesterday did Liverpool's new manager reveal that he has returned the compliment.
"Yes, I've got [one of his] up in my house. We'll have to stop this society," Dalglish said as he contemplated his captain's return after a three-match suspension against Fulham at Anfield tonight. Gerrard, who has a huge picture of Dalglish which was presented to him as a boy by his father, has been limited to the 32 minutes before his dismissal in the FA Cup at Manchester United since the return of the manager – "the best player who ever played for Liverpool," his father once told him.
Gerrard has already indicated that he wants Dalglish to retain the job permanently this summer and the only challenge the Scot seems to have is to maintain the proper manager-player distance between the pair.
"He won't get around me that easy, [by having one of my shirts] but I might sign it for him," said Dalglish, who has indicated Glen Johnson will continue at left-back tonight. "This football club's been here a long, long time and if I played a small part in someone's feelings for this club, then so be it. But certainly since I have been coming to watch this club, Stevie's played a huge role in its history. We all know the games: the most memorable and important ones [he's played in] come easy to mind."
Dalglish will maintain that distance. When he suddenly found himself manager the first time around, in 1985, he asked the players to call him "boss" and put Phil Neal in his place when he failed to do so. It seems inconceivable that Dalglish's presence will not lift Gerrard to new heights, with the manner of Saturday's 3-0 win at Wolves – including a 30-pass move for the third goal – restoring some of Liverpool's old values. One of those is making Anfield a fortress in a season when Wolves, Blackpool and Northampton Town have found it anything but that.
"[The stadium] is just as it was," said Dalglish, who expects midfielder Lucas Leiva to have recovered from a slight thigh strain. "We're very proud of and privileged by what's happened at Anfield and want to be part of the [future] history now. We want to continue with the same principles and philosophies about the club, whether it's the atmosphere within or what we do on the pitch."
The manager's impact on Fernando Torres, whose two goals at Wolves put him into his club's 20 top all-time goalscorers, has also been profound, with Dalglish hinting that his training regime needed altering. "We have done training the way we think it should be done. Fernando is doing better than before."
Liverpool could go seventh in the table if they beat Fulham tonight and there will an immediate reminder of happier days. The last time Dalglish managed a Liverpool team against Fulham at Anfield, in 1986, they won 10-0.