King Kenny remains untouchable at Anfield: What impact can a club’s history have on their current standing?
This week’s FA Cup Final saw Liverpool fans mocking Chelsea’s history for being less decorated than their own.
It was the consolation that Liverpool F.C. took in their dramatic defeat by Chelsea that ended dreams of a cup double.
This raised the question as to whether this element of sentimentality and tradition can hinder, rather than enhance, the fortunes of a football club.
Much has been made of the fact that Kenny Dalglish will be given a longer period to improve Liverpool’s status than most would, due to his reputation. This is ratified by the fact that the Scot remains at Liverpool’s helm, when his predecessor Roy Hodgson was bullied out of Liverpool after just 31 games.
To deliberate over whether Hodgson would have delivered a trophy to Anfield would be simple speculation, but what can be ascertained is that there has been very little improvements in this Liverpool side since his departure, despite the millions of pounds spent acquiring new players.
Dalglish’s reputation as a legend of the club has afforded him more time to attempt to improve its situation, despite showing no signs that he is the right man to do this – a prime example of how the club’s sentimentality is becoming an obstacle to their progress.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes it is a lack of emphasis on club traditions that can hinder it.
Take the example of Arsenal. Seven years without a trophy and with their consistent place amongst the Champions League spots in the league being offered as compensation, there is a danger this will become the new ambition of a club that need look back less than ten years to see two league titles, three FA Cups and an unbeaten season thrown in to boot.
There is a case to be made that not qualifying for the Champions League this season wouldn’t be the worst result for a club like Arsenal. It is no secret that manager Arsene Wenger has done a fantastic job of implementing an economic system that will flourish under the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules being implemented.
The funding lost from failure to qualify for the Champions League would, of course, be a blow to the North London club, but with the £50 million profits announced earlier this year, if anybody can afford it, it’s Arsenal.
Failure to qualify may serve to pop the bubble in which Arsenal find themselves and reignite the need to bring trophies to a club in danger of going stale. If that means a shift in philosophy, not wholesale but enough, then so be it.
It is important for clubs like Arsenal to keep their grasp on recent history, lest it should fall away into the brackets of an unattainable past.
Newcastle demonstrated a ruthlessness that cut all bonds with sentimentality when they sacked Chris Houghton, a decision met with grave disapproval by fans. However, a season on and there can be no denying that it was a decision that has brought the club forward and provided and exemplified that football is as much about the football as it is the past.
To take inspiration from a club’s history is important, but equally important is the ability to prevent it shrouding that club’s judgement in delusion.