Kenny Dalglish has not exactly been full of festive cheer recently. Mark Douglas wonders what he would make of the financial remit imposed on Alan Pardew at his former club.
YESTERDAY it was the media putting pressure on Andy Carroll.
The previous week it had been the Football Association for handing out a stiff sentence to Luis Suarez – and before that opposition fans for targeting the Uruguay striker.
Earlier in the campaign it had been referees, either for overlooking offences against Suarez, Craig Bellamy or, in September at Stoke, Liverpool’s whole starting XI.
Sometimes you wonder whether Reds boss Kenny Dalglish really believes his side are victims of a collective sporting witch-hunt or whether the wily Scot believes constructing a siege mentality is the quickest route to drive Liverpool back towards the elite of English football.
Either way, it is time someone had a quiet word and reminded him that things could be a lot worse for him at Anfield. After all, he has been handed unprecedented funds to rebuild his Reds – as tomorrow’s opponents Newcastle United know only too well.
First the mega-deal that took Carroll to Anfield, a £35million switch that continues to have a profound effect on St James’ Park. While Newcastle have not missed the goals that the Gateshead-born forward brought to the club, the nervy trepidation that abounds going into the January transfer window is a direct result of Dalglish’s January largesse.
If Newcastle felt they got a good deal over their homegrown striker, they were not quite so enamoured with the way business was conducted before the £4million transfer of José Enrique.
The Spanish left-back wound up at Anfield in the end but it was only after a tortuous summer in which neither player nor purchasing club emerged draped in glory.
Enrique’s decision to subject Newcastle to the silent treatment before a tiresome Twitter tirade forced their hand was regrettable given his fine service to the club over the previous two seasons, while Liverpool’s reluctance to buy him earlier in the summer hit United’s efforts to replace him hard.
It has added edge to the contest for some supporters, who resent the way Liverpool seem to be cherry-picking Tyneside talent.
Reports linking star names Fabricio Coloccini and Cheick Tioté with a Merseyside switch have only fed into a feeling that the Anfield club’s excellent North East scouting network are merely waiting for another opportunity to pounce.
Even Pardew, normally a model of diplomacy, was pointed when asked about the Coloccini links back in October. The Anfield outfit won’t care a jot about putting North East noses out of joint, but how Newcastle would love to end a 17-year wait for an Anfield win tomorrow.
If that rancour might be building on the terraces, it does not extend to the dressing room where Enrique will be greeted warmly by his former colleagues.
Along with Enrique and Jonás Gutiérrez, defender Coloccini was part of a band of Latin stars referred to as the ‘Three Amigos’ last season. It was hoped that the bonds of friendship formed between the trio might help United keep hold of the left-back and Coloccini admits to The Journal that he did fight tooth and nail to try and keep Enrique in the North East.
That he failed is not a sore spot for the Argentina defender. Indeed, he admits the Anfield switch might have been the best move for Enrique – who he wants to see in the Spain squad before long.
“It is no surprise that José Enrique is doing well,” Coloccini told The Journal.
“He is a very good player – he is playing and doing well, it is no surprise to me. He is a class player. He is maybe even better than he was for us. I hope in a few months he will be in the Spanish team, which is the best in the world.
“We tried to keep him here in the summer. Every day me and Jonás would say to him ‘Don’t leave, don’t leave’ because we want the best players at Newcastle. We wanted to keep him here.
“But there were other things that he was thinking about it and we understand that sometimes you change clubs. It is normal, it is fine – we still like Jose.”
No doubt Pardew will reflect ruefully on the list of grievances carried by Dalglish and wish that he had the advantage of being untroubled by big money bids for his players. The Newcastle boss bristled at suggestions yesterday that United are “back where they belong”, sitting a point below the Reds. Pointing out the disparity in their respective budgets, Pardew feels Newcastle are doing much better than could be reasonably expected.
So while Dalglish spends January on the hunt for players, Newcastle are at the mercy of others. Pardew admits January is an “uncertain” time for his Magpies.
“It is about the really big, top clubs if they make a move, like they did with Andy Carroll last year, it can push everyone around. We are in their hands to a degree,” he said.
“We are on our guard because your best players may get looked at. Any player coming out of here would be for a lot of money. The message is that we are in a great financial position and we want to keep our best players.
“We are just looking forward to the next three games.
“Some clubs are not fortunate to carry players at the level we are at, we are so we are vulnerable, like Arsenal were last summer.
“In terms of where we are at the moment we can be pleased with ourselves. We have to be on our guard, the Andy Carroll stuff did not do us any favours so we will not be accepting that last minute stuff any more.”