Why Liverpool won back ground with apologies - and Dalglish lost some

It was decisive, contrite and had plenty of class. This was the real Liverpool in action.
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It was decisive, contrite and had plenty of class. This was the real Liverpool in action.

Hindsight is always 20:20 and given what has dragged on for so many months, the apologies from Kenny Dalglish, Ian Ayre and Luis Suarez yesterday were unexpected. There was no rider, this was Liverpool putting their hands up and admitting they were wrong.

This was the Reds putting egos aside and leading English football out of a mire which has been much of their doing. It was the actions of a great club whose behaviour this season has left so many baffled.

It's naive to suggest we can all go hand-in-hand into the sunset after the apologies - but it's a massive step forward and restores the faith we all have in the Liverpool institution.

The question raised from yesterday's positive move is where did the directive come from - and does this mean a change of relationship between the club's front office and football department?

Ever since October, when the Suarez case blew up at Anfield, leadership from the Liverpool board has appeared absent. It fell upon Dalglish and the players - witness the t-shirt controversy - to set the club's approach in handling such a touchy situation - and they got it hopelessly wrong.

Saturday's powderkeg had been building for weeks. From the initial incident between Suarez and Manchester United fullback Patrice Evra, to Tom Adeyemi's tears, to the damning findings of the tribunal hearing the case, it's just been a terrible, terrible look for Liverpool FC.

Only John W Henry and Tom Werner can explain why they did not step in sooner. Perhaps they felt the 'hands off' approach, which has worked so well since Dalglish's appointment, was still the right way to go. But when FSG directors opened their New York Times yesterday and read the editorial imploring them to get a handle on things, they knew they had to act.

Perhaps it's coincidental that after the NY Times' piece was published in the morning, Liverpool were delivering their apologies later in the afternoon. But with FSG's talented marketing team now attempting to reposition Liverpool as a genuine global money maker, it's unlikely Henry and Werner will allow such controversy to fester again.

Which could mean a change of culture at Anfield. Dalglish and football director Damien Comolli have been given free rein since FSG's takeover. But as they showed with Roy Hodgson's dismissal, Henry and Werner will be ruthless when needed.

With the ink barley dry on the record Warrior Sports deal, FSG and Liverpool's commercial department must have despaired when viewing Dalglish's post-match rant at Old Trafford. It was the stuff of a bygone era and did not reflect well on the Scot nor the club.

Dalglish's apology goes a long way to clawing back the credibility lost. But those taking a closer interest will have noted Suarez's statement failed to show any direct contrition towards Evra. Perhaps that's just too much to expect from the Reds striker, who from his tweet on Saturday night hinted he still felt deeply wronged by the entire episode.

Ayre and the front office at Liverpool will do well to keep their hand in over the coming weeks. The spectre of the foreign language interview will loom large. They may gag Suarez until the tension eases, but the threat of a rogue press or radio interview with the local Montevideo media cannot be dismissed. All the strides made in the last 24 hours could be lost if Suarez delivers another rant as he did on Uruguayan radio just days out from the Old Trafford match.

As both Ayre and Dalglish admitted yesterday, Suarez ignored their instruction. He put himself ahead of the interests of Liverpool and the English game itself.

Just as things moved so swiftly between Boston and Merseyside yesterday, you fancy, if the football department can't guarantee Suarez's co-operation, then the decision on how best to handle the Uruguayan - for the good of Liverpool FC - will be taken out of Dalglish's hands.

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