Bill Shankly rarely made mistakes. Yet when a fair-haired, 15-year-old schoolboy arrived at Anfield for a trial, he let a player who later was to turn Liverpool into a double-winning team slip through his fingers.
It was August, 1966. England had just won the World Cup and Shankly was cementing the dynasty that was to make Liverpool one of the most successful sides in British football history.
The youngster played one game, for the B team against Southport Reserves in the Lancashire League. Liverpool won 1-0, but the kid went home and heard nothing.
A few years later when Shankly saw the lad play he was furious, blaming others at the club for the astonishing miss. It was to be 11 years after that trial that the player joined Liverpool, but by then he was an established international and he cost Shankly's successor, Bob Paisley, a British record of £440,000.
The boy was Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish.
Dalglish grew up supporting Glasgow Rangers. Though born in Dalmarnock in the East End of Glasgow on March 4, 1951, he was brought up in the docklands of Govan, just a stone's thow from Ibrox.
He first made his mark at Milton Bank primary school - in goal! But by the time he was capped as an under-15 Scottish Schoolboy he had switched to right-half, scoring twice on his debut in a 4-3 victory over Northern Ireland Schoolboys.
His next schoolboy international appearance was in a 1-1 draw against England. The People newspaper covered the game, singling him out for praise as "a brilliant ball-player."
There was never any doubt that he was going to be a professional footballer. The question was for whom?
He wanted to join his idols at Rangers, but the call never came. He had another trial at West Ham, but that came to nothing, too. And so it was that Dalglish, the Protestant son of an engineer, found himself playing for the Catholic Glasgow Celtic.
His signing, on a provisional contract in July 1967, was not without amusement. Jock Stein, the legendary Celtic manager, had sent his assistant Sean Fallon to see Dalglish and his parents at their home.
Fallon drove there and left his wife Myra and their three children outside in the car while he went in, saying he wouldn't be long. It was three hours before Fallon emerged with Dalglish's signature and his wife was less than pleased. It wasn't just that the kids were hungry and restless after being couped up. It was the couple's wedding anniversary.
Dalglish was farmed out to a Celtic nursery side, Cumbernauld United, and he also worked as an apprentice joiner. By the following year he had turned professional and was a regular member of a Celtic reserve team so good it was known as the Quality Street Gang.
It took Dalglish three years to establish himself in the first team. At that time Celtic were not only top dogs in Glasgow, they had become the first British team to win the European Cup, beating the mighty Inter Milan.
Stein took a great interest in the lad, recognising his potentially outstanding talent. Eventually he gave him his chance in a benefit match. The result was Celtic 7 Kilmarnock 2. Nothing unusual about that in Scottish football - except that Dalglish scored six!
But 1971 was also the year that Dalglish witnessed the first of three tragedies which, ultimately, were to leave such a mark that he quit the game. It was the "Old Firm" match at Ibrox. Dalglish was not playing but was at the ground with the Celtic team.
Stairway 13 at the old stadium collapsed and 66 fans were killed.
By 1972-73 Dalglish, now playing up front, was Celtic's leading marksman with a seasonal tally of 41 goals in all competitions. And that Dalglish trademark of shielding the ball with his back to the goal had emerged.
Such was Dalglish's skill at holding on to the ball that, years later, the former Arsenal and Republic of Ireland defender David O'Leary would describe trying to rob him of possession as "impossible."
"He crouches over the ball, legs spread and elbows poking out," said O'Leary. "Whatever angle you come in from, you're liable to find his backside in your face."
Dalglish was made Celtic captain in 1975-76, but it was a miserable year. Stein was badly hurt in a car crash and missed most of the season. Celtic failed to win a trophy for the first time in 12 years.
The next season Stein was back and Celtic did the Cup and League double. Dalglish, however, had made up his mind to leave. Celtic had won the European Cup before he had arrived at the club and Dalglish wanted the chance not just to savour European football, but to be where there was a real chance of success.
"I had to know if I could make it somewhere else," he explained. "I did not want to go through the rest of my life wondering what might have been without putting myself to the test."
He had been a full Scotland international for six years, making his debut as a substitute in the 1-0 victory over Belgium in November 1971. He went to the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, but did not play well. Scotland were eliminated at the group stage, even though they were undefeated.
That spring of 1977 he had scored in Scotland's 2-1 victory over England at Wembley when the Tartan fans invaded the pitch and tore down the goalposts.
Dalglish had enjoyed an enviable run at Celtic. Five Scottish Championships, four Scottish Cup-winners' medals, one Scottish League Cup-winners' medal and a tally of 167 goals. But it wasn't enough for him. He was ambitious and needed a new challenge.
Liverpool had just won the European Cup, beating Borussia Moenchengladbach 3-1 in Rome. But their biggest star, Kevin Keegan, was leaving to play for Hamburg.
Dalglish was chosen to replace him, Bob Paisley making good that Anfield mistake of losing him as a boy. But the Kop wasn't so sure. To them, Keegan was a God. What's more, Dalglish was handed the No.7 shirt - Keegan's strip.
Dalglish immediately silenced the doubters, scoring after just seven minutes on his league debut away at Middlesbrough. For good measure, he also scored on his Anfield debut against Newcastle.
And when Liverpool met Hamburg in the European Super Cup, Dalglish totally exorcised the ghost of his predecessor, running the game as Keegan and his new team-mates were tormented with a 6-0 defeat.
That first season was a triumph for Dalglish. He scored 30 goals, including the only goal of the game as Liverpool retained the European Cup against Bruges at Wembley.
Dalglish had left Scotland looking for European glory and had found it inside one year.
Was Dalglish better than Keegan? Former Liverpool veteran Tommy Smith, who played with them both, has no doubts. "Dalglish WAS the better player," he said. "His talent was heaven-sent."
And Paisley said simply: "Of all the players I have played alongside, managed and coached in more than 40 years at Anfield, he is the most talented."
What Dalglish understood better than most was space. He could hold the ball, sometimes so long that it seemed the moment had gone, then he would see that something was on and deliver the inch-perfect pass.
Later, as his role developed from goalscorer to goalmaker, he was to form an almost telepathic understanding with Ian Rush. The Welshman, who holds both the FA Cup and League Cup scoring records, said of his team-mate: "I just made the runs knowing the ball would come to me."
But the paradox of Dalglish is that while he was without peer in midfield in the domestic game, he never quite produced the same level of performance on the international stage.
He was the hottest property in British football in 1978 when he went to the World Cup in Argentina. It was a nightmare for Scotland. They lost their opening match 3-1 to Peru and Willie Johnston was sent home after failing a drugs test.
It got worse. Scotland drew 1-1 with no-hopers Iran. Then, when all was lost, Scotland astonished everyone by beating the "total football" aristocrats of Holland 3-2, Dalglish getting his name on the scoresheet.
In the wake of World Cup failure, Scotland manager Ally McLeod was sacked and replaced by the legendary Stein - Dalglish's old mentor. Stein made Dalglish captain, but it was not a happy time.
Dalglish's reign lasted just four games, losing three, before he was replaced as captain by Archie Gemmill.
The 1982 World Cup in Spain was no better. Dalglish scored in the 5-2 defeat of New Zealand but, by his own admission, played badly. He came on as a substitute against Brazil, but only when Scotland were 3-1 down, and was left out for the 2-2 draw with the Soviet Union.
No-one, least of all Dalglish, has sufficiently explained why he failed to make more of an impact in international football. That he had the talent is beyond question, but his failure meant that he was never rated as highly abroad as he was in Britain.
Liverpool, however, saw the best of him. After that World Cup shambles of 1978, he was inspirational as the Reds regained their League title with a record number of points - 68, under the old two-for-a-win system. They were undefeated at home and at the end of a 42-match programme had conceded just 16 goals.
Dalglish scored 25 goals that season and was voted Footballer of the Year.
These were the glory days at Anfield. Liverpool retained the Championship in 1979-80, won the League Cup four years in a row between 1980-81 and 1983-84 and then topped everything by winning a hat-trick of Championships in 1981-82, 1982-83 and 1983-84. They also won two more European Cups. Only the coveted League and FA Cup double eluded them.
Dalglish was at the heart of it all and became Footballer of the Year for the second time in 1983.
The 1983-84 season was the most astonishing - the Championship, the League Cup and the European Cup. Yet within 12 months, tragedy would turn Liverpool's world upside down.
Paisley had retired and his boot-room assistant Joe Fagan had taken over as manager. Dalglish's international career was drawing to a close. He had been named in Scotland manager Alex Ferguson's squad for the 1984 World Cup in Mexico, but had withdrawn through injury.
He was to make his final appearance in the blue jersey in a 3-0 win over Luxembourg in November 1986, claiming a record 102 caps and sharing the Scotland goalscoring record of 30 with Denis Law.
But in 1985 he still had the European Cup in which to parade his skills. And despite his shortcomings at international level, he had no such problems in Europe, scoring 19 goals in UEFA club competitions, a British record.
Liverpool again reached the final where they faced Juventus at the Heysel stadium in Brussels. On the eve of the match, Dalglish was told by club chairman John Smith that he was to be Liverpool's next manager. Fagan was retiring and Dalglish was to take over the day after the European final.
During the next 24 hours, the club was to be convulsed by turmoil. There was crowd trouble at the match, a wall collapsed under the strain of rioting fans and 39 Juventus supporters died.
Liverpool lost 1-0, but what did that matter? Their fans were held responsible for the deaths, the distaste of the football world was turned against Anfield and English clubs were banned from Europe. Welcome to management, Mr Dalglish.
Such were the appalling circumstances under which he began a new phase of his career as player-manager. Nonetheless, Liverpool retained the Championship in 1985-86. And though he restricted his playing appearances, who was there chesting the ball down to score the goal that won the title at Chelsea? None other than Dalglish.
What's more, Liverpool won the FA Cup, beating Merseyside rivals Everton 3-1. That elusive double, which had been beyond Shankly, Paisley and Fagan, was Dalglish's in his first year in the job. No wonder he was Manager of the Year.
But just as others have found before him, winning is one thing, repeating it is another. The following season was a flop by Anfield's standards. True, they finished second in the league, but they won no trophies. It was made worse by the fact that Everton won the title and Rush was leaving to join Juventus.
Dalglish had to rebuild and he did it by buying two players. John Barnes from Watford and Peter Beardsley from Newcastle. Everything clicked into place for that 1987-88 season. Liverpool equalled Leeds United's record of 29 games without defeat (eventually coming unstuck at Everton!) and won back the title. They also made the FA Cup Final, only to lose 1-0 to Wimbledon.
But once again, misfortune was lying in wait - and this time it was to be cataclysmic.
Ninety-five people died in the Hillsborough tragedy on the day Liverpool met Nottingham Forest in the 1989 FA Cup semi-final. It was the worst sporting disaster in British history and was to lead to the introduction of all-seater grounds.
Merseyside was numb with grief and the chain of events was eventually to drive Dalglish from the game, drained by the unremitting pressure.
But in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Dalglish was a giant. He told his players: "What is called for is dignity. We need to set an example." It was Dalglish who provided leadership, not just to the club but to the whole of Liverpool.
It was Dalglish who organised hospital visits to the injured, attended funerals, read lessons in church, visited the bereaved, helped with counselling for the grief-stricken. He worked tirelessly, giving every ounce of himself. He would take calls from families of the victims in the middle of the night when they could not sleep and patiently talked to them for hours.
He stood, like an unwavering colossus, a comforter for a city's pain. Which is why, despite subsequent events, they have never forgotten him.
And then there were the flowers, laid like a never-ending blanket covering the goalmouth in front of the Kop. "The saddest and most beautiful sight I have ever seen," said Dalglish.
After a period of mourning Liverpool returned to football, winning the replayed semi-final. They met Everton at Wembley, forcing a 3-2 victory in extra time. Naturally, it was dedicated to the fans who had perished at Hillsborough.
They were also in the running for the double, but this time there was to be no fairytale. Meeting Arsenal at Anfield in the final match of the season - Liverpool's third game in six days - they could afford to lose by one goal and still be Champions.
They lost 2-0, Arsenal's Michael Thomas scoring the crucial goal in injury time. Dalglish was stunned.
The following season they regained the title and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup where Liverpool suffered one of their most amazing defeats. They were leading twice, yet contrived to lose 4-3 to Crystal Palace - a team they had beaten 9-0 earlier in the year.
By now Dalglish had hung up his boots, and the season of 1990-91 saw him at the centre of a controversy over his habit of selecting Beardsley as a substitute.
On Wednesday, February 20, 1991, Liverpool met Everton in a replayed FA Cup Fifth Round tie. It was an extraordinary match, ending 4-4. The following morning, Dalglish had a routine meeting with the club chairman and chief executive. Twenty minutes into the conversation he told them, without warning, that he was quitting.
The news was broken to a stunned football world the next day. Dalglish was walking out on a club that were top of the league, chasing a cup and league double and in the middle of unfinished business with rivals Everton.
Dalglish described himself as "a person pushed to the limit." He said: "I was putting myself under enormous pressure to be successful." His health was suffering and he told Liverpool chairman Noel White that on match days he felt "as if my head was exploding.
But if his resignation was a shock, his decision to join Blackburn Rovers as manager just eight month later was a sensation. Dalglish won them promotion from the old Second Division in his first year. Within three years they were Premier League Champions.
Of all places to clinch the trophy, Blackburn did it at Liverpool! Though they lost at Anfield in their last match of the season, nearest rivals Manchester United could only draw at West Ham and Rovers were celebrating.
The Dalglish magic was still working. It had cost former steel magnate Jack Walker, the Blackburn president, £30 million in transfer fees, breaking the British record twice for Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton. But Rovers had won their first senior title in 81 years and Dalglish had become only the third manager to lift the Championship with two different clubs.
And then he did it again. Just as Blackburn reached the pinnacle, he sought a way out of the day-to-day pressures, asking to be made director of football and handing the team manager's job to Ray Harford.
After success the fall. Blackburn struggled and both Dalglish and Harford left the club.
Then in spring of 1997, Kevin Keegan quit as manager of Newcastle United. His successor was Dalglish, just as he had replaced Keegan as a player at Liverpool.
What drives this man, who has quit twice at the top through pressure, to tread once again into the lion's den? Perhaps he wants to be the first manager to win the Championship at three different clubs.
There is, after all, something incredibly single-minded about Dalglish. He takes the business of football much more seriously than most, and is such a perfectionist that pursuit of success is an obsession.
He has 14 Championships to his name as a player and manager in England and Scotland. That combined total makes his achievements virtually unrivaled in British football. Yet somehow it doesn't seem enough.
One simple story probably captures the essence of what makes him tick. It is told by Stephen F. Kelly in his book, Dalglish.
Kelly writes of how, some years ago, a Scottish football reporter, Ian Archer, was strolling through Glasgow when Dalglish came up to him.
Dalglish offered a one-word greeting: "Wisnae!" "Wisnae whit?" asked the baffled journalist. "Wisnae offside," replied Dalglish and walked off.
Archer was stumped. Then he remembered that four weeks previously he had suggested in a match report that a Dalglish goal for Celtic might have been offside.
"It was," said the journalist, "the most piercing, informative and lengthy interview Dalglish ever gave to me."
It also speaks volumes about the self-conviction of Kenny Dalglish
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