I’m not sure if it’s the medium-term effects of ‘lockdown’ kicking in, or being ‘exiled’ overseas, but in recent weeks I’ve found the levels of my usual good grace and patience on the wane. When this happens, I find it therapeutic to make a list of things that are bugging me. With that in mind, I thought a quick trawl through the annals of football history seeking out particular bugbears might be appropriate.

Thus, what follows herewith are a few bones of contention that have got to me at one time or another.

Stuart Pearce annoys me. Well, to tell the truth not so much the man himself, but more the revisionist hero-worship of the legend that is ‘Psycho’.

Late to full-time professional football after serving an apprenticeship as an electrician, Pearce made his name firstly at Coventry City and then more famously under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest.

Twelve years of moderate-to-little success were intermixed with a couple of relegations before Pearce left the City Ground for an extended Indian Summer swansong at Newcastle, West Ham and Manchester City before finally moving into coaching and management.

So, what is it I find particularly irksome about SP, then? I guess it’s just the lionising of his reputation as a so-called hardman. 

Declaring a penchant for the 1970s punk scene combined with the ability to shout a lot and pull a variety of grimacing faces does not particularly make one ‘hard’ in my book.

The advance of years may be doing me a disservice but memory does not recall many particular instances of Pearce’s battles. I do recall him getting headbutted by France’s Boli in the 1992 European Championships, but as far as I am aware of no retribution was sought nor gained.

In my opinion, Pearce was if anything a bit of a flat-track bully who was able to intimidate smaller, nippy wingers and forwards but steered clear of the real tough guys at the time such as Bryan Robson, Peter Reid, Norman Whiteside and even the wannabes such as Steve McMahon and Vinnie Jones.

As for the ridiculous moniker, ‘Pyscho’ – where did that come from? On what basis was he ‘crazy’?

I think the only ones not in full control of all their facilities were perhaps the ones who bought into the nonsense in the first place

Brian Clough achieved amazing things with Peter Taylor by his side at both Derby County and Nottingham Forest and forty-odd years ago could well have become England manager. The fact is, he didn’t and, again, decades later his portrait has been somewhat redrawn. This disturbs me.

Let’s be clear about a few things.

Firstly, Clough was not ever, during any time when it was a reasonable possibility that it might actually happen, ‘The People’s Choice’ to be England manager. He was not well-liked by the footballing public at large, and nobody outside the clubs he took to success really had much time for him at all.

Next, when exactly should he have become England manager? Conventional wisdom has it he should have been appointed instead of Ron Greenwood but even a rudimentary look at the time span involved casts doubt on the validity of that claim.

In 1977 there was a vacancy at the top of English football due to Don Revie bailing out before the FA bigwigs could get round to sacking him. Thus, the autumn of that year saw Greenwood appointed temporarily with a full interview process for invited candidates taking place at the end of the year.

Now, at this point, other than promotions with Derby and Forest, Clough had won the total of one league title. This had been 5 years previously and in the interim, he had been largely responsible for his own messy departure from the Baseball Ground, had experienced a disastrous few months in the third division with Brighton and Hove Albion, been sacked after 44 days with league champions, Leeds United, and had scrambled his way out of the second division in third place the previous season with Nottingham Forest.

Added to the mix was the fact that Clough just couldn’t keep quiet and courted controversy at every turn, and is it any surprise he was overlooked?

When he was interviewed for the job in 1977, the one vote he thought he could count on was that of Sir Matt Busby, who was on the selection committee. 

Quite why he felt Busby would support him after the stroke he attempted to pull as manager of Derby County regarding Manchester United transfer target Ian Storey-Moore is beyond me. 

Manchester United had secured Storey-Moore’s transfer from Nottingham Forest in 1972 only for Clough to attempt to hijack it at the last and bring him to Derby instead. “Hilariously” Clough went as far as to parade the player on the pitch at the Baseball Ground in an attempt to force the issue.

Needless to say, the Football League was not amused and the player’s transfer to Old Trafford was ordered through.

1977 was Clough’s one real shot at the England job, as the next time there was a vacancy, in 1982, Clough’s star had begun to slip at Nottingham Forest and he had also lost his right-hand man; Peter Taylor.

With Taylor by his side, Cloughie was unstoppable. Without him, he was nowhere near the same force. Working together at first Derby and then Forest, the two men performed miracles in taking each side from the second division to league champions. In the case of Forest, of course, further success in the shape of two European Cups was secured.

Without Taylor to assist him, however, Clough struggled. He was like a fish out of water at Leeds, and eighteen months of working solo at Forest before Taylor linked up with him were uneventful.

Once Taylor retired, Clough never again threatened to dominate English football. His Forest sides played attractive football and enjoyed some decent seasons in which European qualification was achieved, but other than two League Cup successes in 1989 and 1990, no further major silverware was forthcoming.

When Clough finally bowed out of football in 1993, he cut a sorry state as Forest were relegated back to the second flight. Since his retirement, and particularly since his premature death in 2005, he has had his portrait redrawn to the degree that he has been lionised as one of the greatest managers of all time.

While nobody could argue with the black and white details of his achievements, I contend that half the credit was due to Peter Taylor and that alone Clough would stand no higher in the pantheon of ‘all-time greats’ than, say, Ron Atkinson or Howard Wilkinson.

Sir Kenny Dalglish is, without doubt, one of the best three players to have ever pulled on the red shirt of Liverpool, and together with his wife, Marina, has been instrumental in raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity. His conduct, bearing and work in the community at the time of Hillsborough and its aftermath was exemplary and will quite rightly never be forgotten on Merseyside.

He is quite rightly regarded as a legend throughout football and beyond and his 2017 knighthood was both overdue and well-deserved.

Now, what’s that we see on the horizon, homing into view and getting closer and closer? Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a hilarious set of false ‘Gazza-type’ breasts? 

Nope, it’s the word ‘however’ party-pooping its way along the track and into this article.

He’s not really a very nice man.

He’s rude; he’s arrogant; he’s curt; and he treats people with disdain. Not a popular opinion, I know, especially for a Liverpool fan, but there you go.

Over the years Dalglish pretty much cultivated an image of being dour and uncommunicative. It was as if this was his ‘schtick’ – his stock in trade and how he wanted to be regarded. 

Well, it worked. Even as a player back in the 1970s and 80s he deliberately allowed himself to be perceived as the dour Scotsman who was doing anyone, especially the press, a favour by being in the same room as them.

This offhandedness accelerated once he moved into management and the manner in which Dalglish conducted himself in interviews and press conferences bordered not just on rudeness, but on downright embarrassment.

Sure, the media can be a pain; sure they can, collectively and individually, ask the most ridiculous of questions; and sure they can test the patience of a saint. They do, however, represent the public to a degree and thus every time Dalglish treated the media with contempt, he was de-facto doing the same to the paying public and Liverpool supporters in general.

Having read a wide range of footballer’s autobiographies and other publications and articles, I have been exposed to a myriad of views and anecdotes regarding Sir Kenny from a wide range of sources. A significant number have regaled tales of Dalglish’s prickliness and unapproachability.

Although by no means the barometer of general etiquette and airs and graces, Roy Keane tells the story of how Dalglish railed at him after Keane had gone back on his word to sign for Blackburn in 1993.

“Don’t you know who I am?” Dalglish is said to have screamed at Keane: “I am Kenny Dalglish. Nobody does this to Kenny Dalglish”.

Hmmmm.

Although a bonafide Anfield legend, there still remains (in my mouth, anyway) a slight distaste regarding the way he left the club in 1991.

The official line, and it is not one I really dispute, is that the pressure had simply got too much for him and he needed a break. While that is totally understandable, and I can only imagine the grief he had to deal with and help others deal with following Hillsborough, it still doesn’t sit easily with me.

In the first half of the 1990-91 season, despite not playing particularly well, Liverpool were flying at the top of the table with Arsenal in close pursuit. Dalglish thus found himself in the unique position of being criticised while leading the table. It was the first time in 13 years at Anfield that he had come in for criticism and he didn’t handle it well.

His team selections were being both criticised and questioned, and Dalglish was becoming tetchier than ever. By his own admission, he was becoming an unpleasant person, and it was showing.

Then he resigned. It was a shock, to say the least. In a haunting TV press conference, an ashen-faced Dalglish announced that he had had enough.

This is where things get confusing, though. In his first autobiography, released in 1996, he explained he had been offered a sabbatical to the end of the season by the Liverpool board with the understanding that he would be back in place in time for the 1991-92 season kick-off. This proposal was rejected by Dalglish because it wouldn’t have allowed him to have a real break; he would have still been worrying about results and games being played, and wouldn’t have been able to truly relax.

However……just a couple of pages later in his book he states that had Liverpool left the position vacant and then approached him again in the summer, he would have gone back ‘in a shot’.

To me, the two viewpoints are almost contradictory and make no sense.

Then, despite being supposedly ‘exhausted’ and ‘in need of a total break’, Dalglish promptly resurfaced at Blackburn a couple of months into the new season. Ok, I understand that having recharged his batteries and gotten the break he needed, the guy wanted to get back into football, but seeing him dancing around Anfield a few years later with the Premier League trophy with Rovers didn’t sit well in some quarters. 

Well, in mine, anyway.

Also in his first autobiography Dalglish addresses the rumours that he came close to going back to Liverpool as manager in the spring of 1993. It was a time when Liverpool were struggling under Dalglish’s former teammate and roommate, Graeme Souness, and it looked like Souness was on his way out.

Dalglish was said to have held talks with the Liverpool board regarding a return at the time, and in his book he took the time to categorically refute these claims.

‘There was nothing in at all, and the whole episode was a big insult to me, Graeme, and the Liverpool board,’ he stated.

All well and dandy, one might think. Fast forward another fifteen years or so and in 2011 he released his second autobiography in which he stated that the story was, in fact, true and that he had indeed been all set to come back until Liverpool pulled the plug at the last.

Eventually and somewhat inevitably, of course, Dalglish did return to Liverpool as manager. Following the short-lived-and-so-bad-it-was-almost-amusing Roy Hodgson tenure, Dalglish took over as caretaker until the end of the 2010-11 season, with the appointment being made permanent at the season’s end.

It didn’t go well. Those who felt that Dalglish had been away from the sharp end of football for too long were vindicated as despite winning the League Cup and reaching the FA Cup Final, Dalglish struggled in the modern era.

His spikey nature in front of the cameras hadn’t abated and, if anything, Dalglish’s prickliness had increased over the years. Never the most gregarious of chaps in the first place, Sir Kenny now came over as the grouchy uncle that everyone avoided at parties – not particularly because they were scared of him, but just because he wasn’t a very nice person.

The Suarez- Evra incident was a particularly low point in Dalglish’s second spell at the club and ultimately went a long way to Dalglish being sacked in the summer of 2012.

After being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra of Manchester United, Luis Suarez was fined and banned by the FA.

Liverpool, and Dalglish, refused to accept the situation. Somebody felt it would be a good idea for the club to print t-shirts showing support for Suarez and for the players to wear them in the warm-up to the first game, following the verdict and announcement of the Uruguayan’s suspension. Indeed, Dalglish took it upon himself to wear one such shirt for a press conference.

Later on, an on-air argument with SKY’s Geoff Shreeves led to Dalglish being ordered by the club’s owners to make a humiliating public apology and from that time on, he was a dead man walking.

Despite reaching two cup finals in 2012, Dalglish was summarily sacked at the season’s end. It was an unedifying climax to the career of a footballing great.

However, a quick point about Kenny and something that annoys me on his behalf concerns his managerial legacy.

His record as a manager has been somewhat underrated over the years. With four league titles to his name, he lies seventh in the all-time, and fourth on the post-war, managerial lists, ahead of Bill Shankly, Brian Clough, Arsene Wenger, Don Revie, et al.

Finally, it should be noted that with his bestowment of a knighthood and the naming of a stand at Anfield after him, his love for Liverpool remains undiminished and his legacy is now back on unshakable ground.

Despite all of this, I still don’t particularly like him.

……

I was right. This was therapeutic. With that in mind, stay tuned for some more grouches next time.