When Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish return to Wembley on Saturday for the semi-final against Everton don’t be surprised if you see Kenny ponder for a moment to take it all in. Wembley, even though it is now rebuilt, has been and integral part of Dalglish’s career both as a player and a manager. In many ways Wembley has defined Kenny success. When Kevin Keegan departed for Hamburg many Liverpool supporters, including myself, wondered how Keegan could ever be replaced. Bob Paisley solved that one when he signed Kenny from Celtic for a British transfer record of £440,000. Dalglish’s playing career at Liverpool marked one of the club’s most successful periods with him winning seven league titles, three European Cups and five domestic trophies. And where did King Kenny make his Liverpool debut, wearing Keegan’s number seven shirt? Wembley on 3 August 1977 in the Charity Shield match against Manchester United. The 82,000 crowd witnessed a 0-0 draw and with no penalty shoot-outs in those days, the shield was shared. However, Liverpool didn’t have to wait long to experience Kenny’s impact as he scored his first goal on his league debut a week later on 20 August against Middlesbrough.
Less than a year later on May 10, 1978 Liverpool and Dalglish were to find themselves walking back onto the pitch at Wembley for a slightly more important trophy, the European Cup final against Club Brugge. With Ray Clemence, Phil Neal, Phil Thompson, Alan Hansen, Ray Kennedy, Emlyn Hughes, Jimmy Case, David Fairclough, Terry McDermott and Graeme Souness in the starting line-up with him the crowd of 92,000 watched a goalless first-half. However, in the 64th minute Dalglish received the ball in the penalty area from Souness and cooly clipped the ball over the oncoming goalkeeper Jensen for Liverpool’s winning goal which saw them become the first British team to retain the European Cup.
As a player Dalglish played in five League Cup Finals at Wembley loosing the first to Nottingham Forest 1-0 in a replay but winning four in a row between 1981-84. 1981 beating West Ham 2-1 in a replay, 1982 a 3-1 win over Spurs (I watched that one on TV in a hotel in Saudi Arabia!), 1983 a 2-1 win against Man United and 1984 against Everton 1-0 in a replay at Maine Road. As manager Kenny saw Liverpool loose 2-1 to Arsenal in 1987.
Kenny also has a distinguished history at Wembley in the FA Cup. The 1986 FA Cup final was a derby against Everton with the match being played seven days after Liverpool had secured the league title with Everton being runners-up. Liverpool won this fantastic match 3–1 with two goals from Ian Rush and the other coming from Craig Johnston after Gary Lineker had put Everton ahead in the first half. Kenny was player/manager for this one and of note is the fact that Liverpool’s team was the first in an FA Cup final to have no English players in the starting lineup. The 1988 Wembley FA Cup final saw Dalglish as manager when Liverpool took on Wimbledon. I was there to witness the tragedy of that 1-0 loss so the less said about it the better but John Aldridge missed a penalty to make it 1-1. In 1989 Dalglish was back as manager with Liverpool for the FA Cup Final against Everton once again. The final was played just five weeks after the tragedy at Hillsborough and just before kick-off there was a minute’s silence and the teams wore black armbands as a sign of respect. It was another enthralling final which saw Liverpool eventually winning 3-2 after extra time.
Kenny has also been to Wembley with Liverpool five times in the Charity Shield. On his debut, as mentioned earlier, and as Liverpool’s manager in 1982, 1988 and 1989. All were won. Spurs 1-0, Wimbledon 2-1 and Arsenal 1-0 respectively.
When Dalglish returned to management in October 1991 with 2nd Division Blackburn they ended the season qualifying for the playoffs. Dalglish led Blackburn into the then new Premier League by beating Leicester City 1–0 in the play-off final which of course was at Wembley.
Kenny has a rich and successful relationship with Wembley and I haven’t even touched on his international career with Scotland. So Saturdays semi-final will be a very special day for him, probably more so than anyone else in the stadium.