I would have loved to have lead off this piece with a line about Wayne Rooney’s brace and all-around imperious performance, the effective midfield partnership of Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick or the fightback that very nearly earned Liverpool a draw against Manchester United on Saturday. I would have loved to have devoted this space to football.
But writers don’t create talking points—events do—and the talking points from Old Trafford on this day had absolutely nothing to do with the game on the pitch. And so, while it rankles, upsets and even infuriates, we deal with the events we were given, address them, and hopefully do so honestly.
The difficulty arises when separating right from wrong. With what happened Saturday, and the months of buildup that preceded it, there is a very clear fissure between the two, a very obvious party “in the right” and an equally evident party “in the wrong.” In many ways the subject would be easier to address if the gulf between them wasn’t so pronounced, if the writer’s job was only to weigh in with an attempt at clarification.
There is no need for clarification in this instance, however; the events that transpired on Saturday were illuminating enough. There is only the right and the wrong, and that they need to be continually separated and explained only proves that there are some unfortunate souls who somehow have the two mixed up.
Kenny Dalglish is one of them.
In his post-match interview with Sky Sports, Dalglish claimed to have been unaware that Luis Suarez, his player, had refused to shake United left-back Patrice Evra’s hand. Suarez, of course, was making his first start since completing an eight-match ban for racially abusing Evra the last time the two sides met in the Premier League.
“I don’t know what happened in there,” the Liverpool manager, who had not been pitchside at the time of the handshakes, told his interviewer. “If you want to know what happened in there, ask someone that was there, because I wasn’t.”
Playing dumb is rarely an effective tactic. It’s a cop-out, and in this instance Liverpool Football Club, whose handling of the Suarez-Evra affair has been abysmal, could really have used some fair-headed public remarks from their manager.
Here’s what he had to say next.
“I never knew [Suarez] never shook [Evra’s] hand. I’ll take your word for it, but I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I never saw it. That is contrary to what I was told.”
What could he have possibly been told? That Evra played to the cameras by initially withholding his hand before grabbing Suarez’ arm as the Liverpool forward passed by? That Liverpool, once again, were the victims of an English football culture that favours Manchester United?
As nonsensical as both assertions are, it’s even more absurd that by playing the fool Dalglish seemed to entertain them. Of course, his performance in front of the microphone jives perfectly with Liverpool’s management of the whole saga.
This is a club that, as soon as Suarez was banned, released a statement not only defending the behaviour of a player adjudged to have committed racism, but also shifted the blame for the whole affair to Evra, whose character they astonishingly brought into question. As if that wasn’t enough, they had the gall to parade their players in Suarez t-shirts in the match following the guilty verdict, as if a display of solidarity would show to the world just how victimised Liverpool Football Club were by the whole ordeal.
When their fans booed Evra mercilessly in an FA Cup clash at Anfield in January it showed directly on the club’s conduct. They had enabled it.
When questioned about the handshake incident after the match, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, like almost everyone else who watched it unfold, couldn’t hide his disgust.
“I could not believe it. I just could not believe it,” he said. “[Suarez] is a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club. [He] should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again.”
But he will. Liverpool, unfortunately, aren’t most clubs. Where a United or Arsenal or Tottenham or anyone else would have nipped the problem in the bud before it became a stinkweed, Liverpool not only allowed the weed to grow—they watered it. And Dalglish, as manager, has been the one carrying the hose. It was on his watch that this affair evolved from a bit of nonsense to an outright scandal; it was under his guidance that Liverpool descended from laughingstock to complete disgrace.
In the separation of right and wrong, Dalglish, Suarez and Liverpool are alone unto themselves on one side of the valley; competence, reason and civil decency are on the other. What’s truly sad is that Liverpool Football Club are somehow proud to be on the wrong side.
Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer