Kenny Dalglish has pledged to do his best to keep smiles on the faces of Liverpool fans for as long as he can, after signing a three-year contract to become the club's manager on a permanent basis. Weeks of speculation were ended today when it was announced that the 60-year-old Scot had signed a deal to stay on, along with coach Steve Clarke, which had become a formality very soon after he took temporary charge in January.
That it took until the penultimate week of the season to finalise terms was of no concern to Dalglish, whose unveiling was deliberately kept low-key and formed part of his routine pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday's visit of Tottenham Hotspur. As far as the man voted the club's greatest player is concerned, a second spell as permanent boss is a duty and an obligation he has been waiting for almost since the moment he resigned just over 20 years ago. There was no triumphalism or rash promises made, only a pledge to continue working to improve the club in the manner he has done since replacing Roy Hodgson four months ago.
"We are delighted it has gone as well as it has done," said Dalglish. "Steve is as important as I am to the club - we came in as a partnership and he has made a great contribution. For it to go so well has really been enjoyable for us.
"There might have been some people who were saying three or four weeks ago why is [the contract signing] not happening, but we were still going about our job. There has never been any problem with discussions or the timing. There was no need for anyone to dive in and make rash decisions. The fact it has only happened now does not take away from our devotion or dedication to get results.
"The place is much more stable now than it was before, the supporters have smiles on their faces, and it is up to us to keep them there as long as we can. But we are not going to sit here and shout our mouth off about what we are going to do."
Reds chiefs shower Kenny in praise
Director of football Damien Comolli, who back in January had been charged with finding the next permanent manager, admitted he did not even start looking. The Frenchman said such was the turnaround in results - only Chelsea have accrued more points than Liverpool since the turn of the year, which lifted the Reds from 12th to fifth - it was pointless even considering finding anyone else.
"We didn't look around," Comolli revealed. "Very early on we knew Kenny was the right person and, along with Steve, we had the right coaching staff behind him. We were talking about man-management, playing style and attacking football, and that is exactly what we have seen. We have seen exactly what we thought we would see, and that is why we did not speak to anyone [else].
"I have been impressed by the way [Dalglish and Clarke] turned it around: the quality of the football, the enthusiasm, the confidence of the players, the way Kenny managed to integrate very young players into the first team. I don't think there is anyone better than Kenny who could say what the identity of the club is about. And the reason no-one was linked with the job was because it was a no-brainer.
Managing director Ian Ayre echoed Comolli, saying the atmosphere around the club had been transformed by Dalglish, who enjoys an exalted reputation at Anfield. "We have seen a turnaround in fortunes on the pitch but we have also seen something else which came back as well as Kenny, and that was belief," he said.
"Once you saw that belief it was, as Damien said, a no brainer. We had several meetings, pulled the agreements together, and there was never a case of any consideration, it was just an evolution over the period."
The club's principal owner John Henry admitted just working with Dalglish had been enough to convince him they had made the right choice. "Kenny is a legendary Liverpool figure, both as a supremely gifted footballer and successful manager," he said.
"Since returning in January he has shown extraordinary leadership and the ability to bring the best out of so many people associated with the club. It was obvious to us very early on that the atmosphere had been transformed by his presence - no-one else could have produced such a response. We didn't need, nor want, to look elsewhere for the right man to manage the team.
"Working closely with him, we've seen first-hand his love for the club and his determination to do whatever is necessary to produce a winning side again. Having Kenny in the dug-out will help us in our efforts to bring the best available talent to the club as we continue to move forward."