Furious Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish threatened to wield the Anfield axe after accusing players of failing to represent the club properly in their shock 3-1 defeat at Bolton. Dalglish insisted that his side was more interested in the forthcoming week's clashes against Manchester City in the League Cup and against Manchester United in the FA Cup than they were in yesterday's mission at the Premier League strugglers.
Liverpool face a League Cup semi-final second leg with City on Wednesday in which they hold a 1-0 lead. While victory in that game would put Liverpool on the brink of their first trophy since winning the 2006 FA Cup, an even more high-profile cup tie awaits on Saturday.
United visit Anfield in the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first meeting between the two bitter rivals since the much-publicised race row which ended with Luis Suarez being handed an eight-match suspension. However, despite the importance of those games, Dalglish was in no mood to forgive his players for failing to perform against a Bolton side with the worst home record in English football.
"The most disappointing thing for me is I don't think we were ready to play the game," said Dalglish. "I don't think the approach was correct, I don't think the way we went about our work was correct. The foundation of the club has always been built on respect for other people, built on the philosophy that the next game is the most important one, not the one that's two or three down the line.
"If they needed a lesson to be taught to them then today was it. If they thought they could just turn up and get a result and not match the opposition for effort and commitment then they got a lesson today. If they have learned it, then fine. If that was what the problem was, if they thought this game was not as important as the next one, then fine - but they wont be here."
"We have to look at ourselves and see what we can do to try and prevent it happening in the future. That's what we will do. I never asked them what they were thinking but I would assume that people would have that idea in mind. If it is, then it's not correct, in the sense that it's not the right way to go about representing this football club."
Liverpool fell behind early, to a goal from Mark Davies, before Nigel Reo-Coker extended the Bolton lead. raig Bellamy reduced the arrears for Liverpool only for defender Gretar Steinsson to complete the scoring for Bolton.
"It was before the game (that Liverpool lost)," added Dalglish. "The start of the game we lost a goal after four minutes but I think we've got to make sure we are in there ready to go before we start the match. I don't think we were. That's probably why we lost a goal in four minutes. They thought this was not as important as the next one. The key for us is not to repeat what we have done."
The game also featured an altercation between goalscorers Reo-Coker and Bellamy, as they exited the field at half-time, following a foul by the Liverpool forward on the Bolton captain late in the first half. "Craig Bellamy is Craig Bellamy," said Reo-Coker. "No respect for him so he can do what he wants to do."
Bolton manager Owen Coyle was more diplomatic and said: "I didnt know there was a running battle, but its an emotional game, a passionate game. People say and do things in the heat of the moment."
Coyle was, understandably, the far happier manager and hopes the victory can help transform his teams fortunes at home. "Im thrilled for the players but even more happy for the fans," added Coyle. "At 2-1, Liverpool were back in the game but the fans got behind our players and that was pleasing to see. Weve got to turn the Reebok into a fortress again and when you get that atmosphere here, it helps."