Dalglish deflects ‘what if’ talk

Sunday’s 3-0 win over Newcastle lifted the Reds up to fifth – ahead

of Tottenham on goal difference – and their highest place of the

current campaign. Since Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson in early

January with the club in 12th place the transformation has been

nothing short of remarkable. The Scot has taken 30 points from 15

matches, with his unbeaten home record showing six wins and two

draws in the Premier League. Such results point to the folly,

albeit with hindsight, of overlooking the former player for a

second stint as manager when Rafael Benitez departed last summer.

Hodgson was, of course, the choice of the deposed regime of Tom

Hicks and George Gillett even though Dalglish had made himself

available and some may argue even his six months in charge was too

long. But the current incumbent was keen to avoid getting into a

debate about potential scenarios had he ridden to the club’s rescue

sooner than he did. “I would rather the ‘What if?’ was if I had

never taken charge,” he said. “Because it would have meant they

(the players) were doing a lot better than what we were, still have

had the same run and the club would have been more successful than

what it is at this moment in time. “That’s the ‘What if?’ for me.”

Liverpool are seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City,

who like Tottenham have a match in hand, and the final Champions

League appears a step too far. But with performances like that

against Newcastle, which was more dogged than the fluid 5-0 win

over Birmingham the previous week, there is now a realistic chance

of Europa League football next season. Maxi Rodriguez added to his

hat-trick against Alex McLeish’s side with the opening goal in the

10th minute, courtesy of a deflection off Danny Simpson. However,

it was not until Dirk Kuyt stroked home a penalty for his eighth

goal in seven league matches and Luis Suarez scored his third for

the club since arriving in January midway through the second half

that the result was secured. Suarez was the catalyst for most of

Liverpool’s good play and took the focus away from Andy Carroll,

who made a 20-minute substitute appearance against his former club

to a torrent of abuse from the visiting fans. “Luis is always

getting in there and is always a threat. It is just reward for the

work he put in on the pitch,” said Dalglish of the Uruguay

international’s goal. On Carroll, returning from a knee injury, he

added: “I don’t think it (the abuse) will be put to bed. When he

goes to St James’ Park next season he will get it again. “He is a

young boy but he has broad shoulders.”