Liverpool Football Club is 125 years old. If it lives for another 125 years I doubt it will find a more fitting person to name a stand after than Kenny Dalglish. He is the King of Anfield. He is the greatest player and most outstanding individual to ever be associated with the football club that so many of us regard as part of our family. He is untouchable in his contribution to the club, the community, the character of Liverpool Football Club.
When the official unveiling takes place tomorrow and the artist formerly known as the Kemlyn and the Centenary Stand takes on its new name, it will a very special moment for everyone involved with the Mighty Reds of Anfield Road. It will be a happy moment; a moment to raise a smile, a cheer and our hands to acknowledge the man and the club for this superb recognition. But it should also be a moment to think about what King Kenny has done for us that goes well beyond football; well beyond the extraordinary goals; the passes; the assists for Rushie; the left foot curlers; the volley at Chelsea; the dink at Wembley; the on-field, unmistakable class. It will be a moment to reflect on those moments when – through his sheer force of personality, integrity, honour, dedication, love, heart and courage – he lifted us off our knees and so many around us.
He became player-manager in the shadow of Heysel; the dark night of our shame – yes, the shame was to be shared around but it was our shame. He lead us from that darkness. He gave us pride again.
It is impossible to put into words what he did in the shadow of our greatest tragedy; our deepest heartache; our lowest point but it is necessary to try. His leadership during, immediately after and still today following Hillsborough marks him out as one of the giants of his or any other generation. His words. His deeds. His steadfastness. His sacrifice – that is his health and own wellbeing. These are the real legacies of The King. The love, affection, respect and admiration the families show Kenny says it all. Only they will ever know what he means to them; but I know that he means the world to me. Not because of what he did when the going was good – and it was very, very good – but what he did when we needed him. Sport has produced people and acts of unbelievable courage. The story of Sir Matt Busby being given the last rites three times after Munich and then rising to lift the European Cup ten years later is one of the greatest stories ever told. The story of Kenny going to every Hillsborough funeral is mind-blowing; it brings a lump to my throat thinking about it now; it defies believe and yet defines his character.
It will be a day of immense pride tomorrow to see his name above that stand. It will be a gesture to warm the heart. It will be a day for him and his family to savour and enjoy. But it will also be a reminder of all that he has done for my football club and all the people like me who love it dearly. It will be a reminder of our darkest days and the unique role he played in helping us recover. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him twice. Both times, I was awestruck. Not because of what he said or did but for what he represents. He is the King because he is above everyone in our club; as a player; as a manager; as an ambassador; but most importantly, as a man. Love live the King. God save the King.