OLIVER HOLT: All that Kenny Dalglish stands for should be cherished

OLIVER HOLT: Now more than ever all that Sir Kenny Dalglish stands for is to be cherished… whilst Ed Woodward shows Manchester United are class act

  • It was reported last week Sir Kenny Dalglish had contracted coronavirus
  • If this pandemic compels us to mourn sometimes, it also gives time to celebrate
  • Dalglish is the best British footballer I’ve ever seen – he was the shining star
  • Dalglish won everything there was to win for Liverpool and did it with class
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

In the midst of all this, in the midst of the lockdown and my dad in a care home no one can visit any more and my mum reaching for her shopping through a window and the friends we can no longer meet and the pleading on the faces of our NHS workers on the news every night and the line on the graph that is still heading north, we think more, and with greater clarity, about the things we hold dear.

In sport, maybe that means the football club we support and whether it will survive the economic effects of the pandemic.

Maybe it means pining for the loss of a favourite rite of spring like the Masters. Maybe it means reliving minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, run by run, Ben Stokes’ innings at Headingley last summer when miracles delivered us from more innocent things.

Kenny Dalglish is a Liverpool icon and won every domestic trophy whilst he was their manager

For me, it means people. Even if they are sportsmen or women I never met. Because even then, they are symbols of something.

So it is a shock when Norman Hunter is admitted to hospital suffering from coronavirus because he is a link to my first age of football, a link to a time when a footballer could have a nickname like Bites Yer Legs, a link to Bremner and Giles, Reaney and Lorimer.

It is the same with Jimmy Greaves, although I never saw him play. He was taken into hospital last week, too, and even if it was for reasons not connected with coronavirus, even though he has been ill for some time, there is something about the current sense of being under siege that makes it feel as if it’s even more important that one of our greatest ever goalscorers pulls through.

But this need not be maudlin. One of the things about this pandemic, about this isolation, about this separation, is that it has prompted a human urge for us to tell our friends and other people we respect how much they mean to us.

Dalglish has tested positive for coronavirus and is being treated in hospital currently

It is one of the happy instincts that comes with adversity. The change in all our lives sharpens those feelings. The pandemic has made many of us articulate them better than we did before.

I felt that about Hunter and Greaves. The need to stress that they represent a constant in the part of our culture that is most important to me. To stress that just the mention of their names triggers feelings in those of us who love football that take us to a happier place.

And most of all, I felt that about Kenny Dalglish. He is likely to be allowed home from hospital soon after it was reported last week he had contracted coronavirus so this is not some sort of dirge or ode to loss or concession to fear. It is the opposite of that, actually. If this pandemic compels us to mourn sometimes, it also gives us the chance, and the right, to celebrate those things we hold dear.

Dalglish is the best British footballer I’ve ever seen. He was the shining star of the Liverpool team of the late Seventies and early Eighties that still has a claim to be the greatest club side this country has ever produced. He won everything there was to win for Liverpool. He was skilful, he was clever, he was selfless, he had vision, touch and courage.

Dalglish won six first division titles, the FA Cup, four League Cups, the European Super Cup and three European Cups as a Liverpool player


I finished the last episode of Tiger King last week and moved on to Sunderland ’Til I Die. I hadn’t seen any of it before but I’m already hooked. I love the way it captures the intensity and the emotion of football and how much it means for both players and fans. It made me miss the game more than anything since the lockdown began.

He did it on the biggest stages, too. His goal at Wembley to win the 1978 European Cup final against FC Bruges is still one of the best finishes I’ve ever seen. It was perfectly executed, starting with a brilliant through ball from Graeme Souness and ending with the most delicate of dinks over the goalkeeper from a tight angle.

But there is so much more to Dalglish’s contribution to football than that. Times like this make you value human qualities more than anything. And when 96 Liverpool fans died at Hillsborough in a tragedy that still casts its shadow over our game, it was Dalglish’s strength and his nobility and his stoicism, that helped to drag his club and the families of the dead through their agonies.

By any measure, he is a giant of our game. All this is without even mentioning that he won the League with two different clubs — Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers — as a manager, one of only four men to have achieved that feat in more than a century of history.

Dalglish managed Liverpool in two different spells – in his last spell he won the League Cup

Dalglish personifies the joy of football. At a time when we are being denied the escapism of going to the game, even the memory of the beauty of his goals and his passing and his awareness of those around him on the pitch is like a refuge. I am not a Liverpool supporter but I have watched that goal against Bruges hundreds of times.

And even if he will always be associated with Hillsborough as well as all his triumphs, it will be because he represents a stubborn kind of indomitability, a refusal to submit, quiet dignity and a triumph of the spirit as well as self-effacing and self-deprecating genius.

Nostalgia feels sweeter and more precious now in this new age of uncertainty and loss, but celebrating Dalglish is about more than that.

Now, more than ever, everything he stands for is to be cherished. 

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been derided by me and many others in the wake of the club’s recent decline, so it seems only right to point out that in a time of real crisis, he has shown himself to be a man who rose to the challenge when it mattered most.

United’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been inspirational and not just because they have refused to take advantage of the Government’s furlough scheme that Newcastle and Tottenham are still plundering. United have gone much further.

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been derided by many

A fleet of the club’s Foundation vehicles was dispatched to Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and the NHS Manchester Foundation Trust Charity, with more than 3,500 United gifts for NHS staff, including the unsung heroes of the hospital cleaning and backroom staff. 

The club also donated medical equipment and consumables to the Salford Royal, including protective equipment, dressings and other club medical supplies. Woodward has also encouraged staff to volunteer for the NHS or in their local communities during the pandemic particularly those who currently have a reduced workload.

Staff will continue to be paid in full if volunteer work takes place during working hours. Maybe we ought not to extrapolate too much from actions that impact life off the field but it would be nice to think that the class and the foresight that Woodward and the club continue to show in this crisis might be a sign that United will head in the right direction on the pitch, too.

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