Sir Kenny Dalglish admired as “one of the greatest of all time”

Liverpool’s leading goalscorer Ian Rush describes the “beautiful partnership” he enjoyed with former strike partner Kenny Dalglish but he could easily have been referring to the Scot’s relationship with the club.

‘King Kenny’ turns 70 on Thursday and while his first-team involvement eventually ended almost nine years ago following his second spell as manager his influence both inside and outside Anfield is still felt far and wide.

Dalglish has seen it all during his near 44-year association with Liverpool, from the highs of scoring the winning goal in the European Cup final in his first season and the Double as player-manager to the unimaginable tragedy of Hillsborough.

And while he earned so much respect for the way he conducted himself in the face of such monumental grief, finding enormous empathy with the families of the victims, it is on the pitch where he was most loved.

None more so than by Rush, who reaped the benefit with a large proportion of his 346 goals coming thanks to his team-mate.

“It was a beautiful partnership and I would have to say that he made things very easy for me on that pitch, something to this day he knows I will always remind him of,” Rush told PA Media.

Kenny Dalglish, Jan Molby and Ronnie Whelan congratulate Ian Rush (second l) on one of his two goals vs. Everton in FA Cup Final 1986 (Picture by Peter Robinson EMPICS Sport)

“I have so much respect and admiration for Kenny not just because of the insatiable instinct he had to deliver on the pitch, but the style in which he did it, such passion and pride.

“I am glad that in a way we have still a great partnership at Liverpool and the banter still continues today.

“He has done so much for this club it would be hard to start listing things. But he has done extraordinary things for the game in general, for football, for the fans.

“What can I say, he is one of the greatest of all time.”

Dalglish arrived at Anfield in 1977 for £440,000 having already won four league titles and a quartet of Scottish Cups with Celtic.

He was handed the unenviable task of replacing fans’ favourite Kevin Keegan but he scored in his first four competitive games for the club and by the time he netted the winner against Brugge at Wembley in that season’s European Cup final he was well on the way to cementing his place as the club’s greatest player.

“It was great to be a part of those early days of Kenny coming in and catching fire straight away,” said fellow striker David Fairclough, who found his options limited by the unwavering success of the Dalglish-Rush axis.

(L-R) Liverpool's Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen celebrate with the European Cup, 1981 (Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport)

“Kenny had the imagination and the ability to fulfil that imagination.

“He came from a place (Glasgow) that has similarities to Liverpool, he gets the ethic of places like Liverpool.

“Hillsborough was an incredible time to be in charge of the team and he maybe took on more than he should have done but he did incredibly well and that was the big thing that put him on the pedestal that people have him on.”

Another team-mate Alan Kennedy recalls the “fantastic experience” of playing with Dalglish and still remembers the instant first touch of the former Scotland international which would see the left-back haring off down the wing after playing a “40-yard one-two” with him.

“He is well respected by everyone in the game. If you asked the best defenders in Britain who they hated playing against it would have been Kenny Dalglish,” he said.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 9, 2011: Liverpool's manager Kenny Dalglish MBE before the FA Cup 3rd Round match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. (Photo by: David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

When Dalglish moved into management his silky touch was replaced by a determined desire to do the right thing for the club.

“One of his decisions didn’t benefit me as I left the club and went to Sunderland but I could see where he was coming from,” added Kennedy.

“I just thought ‘He’s made his decision and you have to get on with it’. He was very strong on the pitch and off the pitch.

“Hillsborough just showed the character of the person when he went to all the funerals, did all the right things and said all the right things.”