Recent revelations that we’re all going to have work a damn sight longer before the state awards us a pension may have robbed this birthday of some of its significance, but not in the case of Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish. King Kenny turning 65 today still rates as a moment in Scottish cultural life.
I wrote the same thing about Andy Irvine just the other day and am sure the swashbuckling rugby player, whose 65th comes later in the year, will accept that the swashbuckling footballer pulls rank on him for having lit up just a few more of our greatest sporting moments, with his goals and his imperishable smile.
If the Dalglish scoring technique was developed in the playground then so was that beamer. It was a schoolboy’s grin – apple-cheeked joy that never dimmed all through a brilliant career with Celtic, Liverpool and his country. No one ever looked happier for having achieved the dream of every lad, at least of his generation. Other strikers tried being stone-faced or surly. And what fools they looked.
The trademark Dalglish goal for Celtic was a low thumper: Hibs were hit by one in the 1972 League Cup final, Rangers in the following year’s Scottish Cup final. For Scotland there was a famously scruffy strike through the legs of the England goalie, but who cared about aesthetics that day? At Liverpool he copyrighted a new kind of goal, inviting the defender to get nice and close then using his bum to swivel and shoot, often from a ridiculous angle.
Scotland also benefited from the Dalglish gluteus maximus and we still debate which was the apotheosis of arse-assisted goaldom – that corker against Belgium or the one against Spain? But maybe neither goes into the time capsule if a solitary goal is all that’s allowed. Perhaps it would be the soaring header – “Argentina here we come!” – against Wales.
In management he showed at Liverpool you could be a boss while still a player – and an ecstatic goalscorer – and win titles. Some like to claim his Blackburn Rovers title was bought for him, but you still have to spend wisely and shape a team and mega-millions are squandered in the English game every season. His time at Celtic contained elements of farce but by then his legend as a manager was secure, for being a shoulder upon which an entire city could cry in the wake of Hillsborough.
In his second spell in charge of Liverpool, he could be contrary, crabbit and Chick Murray-deadpan – yet more reasons to love him. And to think there was a period wearing the dark blue when he was doubted, even mistrusted, for a perceived failure to replicate his club form in totality. Maybes aye? Maybes we didn’t really know what we had, and then it was gone.
Happy birthday Kenny.