By David Maddock
The blaze of rumour over Kenny Dalglish’s future has already been replaced by a furious inferno from his fans.
The Liverpool chief’s future was very much the No.1 topic on the agenda as a wide-ranging Anfield review was launched by the owners.
And amid fevered speculation that Dalglish was about to be sacked, chairman Tom Werner and principle owner John W Henry’s vocal refusal to back their boss has left a vast vacuum filled by conjecture and criticism.
The short-term pain of that, they reckoned, was a small price to pay to ensure greater long-term damage wasn’t inflicted by hasty public pronouncements.
But Twitter was soon ablaze with horror that a Reds legend could be left to hang in such a manner.
That anger is not likely to have much impact on Werner and Henry, though.
They may well be the exact opposite of the previous owners, the reviled Tom Hicks and George Gillett, in that they are intelligent and reserved, unlike their predecessors.
Yet they are still businessmen, who act decisively, when they feel they must.
Sources close to Dalglish were informed on his return from Boston that
discussions hadn’t gone well.
The Americans, it was suggested, had explored the possibility of a different role with the Scot, that relieved him of his managerial duties.
That was turned down flat.
Despite rumours to the contrary, Dalglish didn’t quit either.
The meeting broke with the manager making it clear that he wanted to remain in the job, but required unequivocal support to do so.
He was told the review would continue and a decision would be reached about the future as soon as possible.
That decision, though, may not arrive until Friday.
And in the meantime, an incredulous¬ Liverpool support will grow ever more restless.
But Tuesday’s silence was ominous. As was the idea that the owners wanted to explore a different role with Dalglish.
It would suggest they are playing for time, while they work out how best to replace
Dalglish with someone who can take the club forward. But such an outcome is not as easy as it sounds.
By addressing the situation in the lions’ den, the manager has put his employers on the back foot, and they will not find it easy to dismiss him now, without creating resentment amongst the support that could undermine any successor.
If King Kenny survives, it will be because the owners decide that politically it is the correct thing to do under the current circumstances.
If not, it is because the owners feel decisive action is now their only option, given the continued absence of Champions League football.
A worrying precedent has already been set across the pond.
Last season, after two years of failure to reach the baseball play-offs, Werner and Henry removed Terry Francona,¬ the most celebrated manager in Boston Red Sox history and the man who finally brought the title back to Fenway Park after an 86-year wait.
At the start of the Premier League season, Henry made it clear a top-four finish was the ‘minimum aim’ at Anfield.
He invested more than £100million in the pursuit of that aim, and expected an immediate return.
Long term, the owners want an energetic manager with fresh ideas to create value within a young, ambitious playing squad, by developing and enhancing unseen qualities.
Jurgen Klopp, the Borussia Dortmund boss, fits the bill, but the Reds would seem a hard sell to a man who has already turned down Chelsea.
And the fact that Liverpool in its current form isn’t an attractive prospect for potential managers could be the reason the owners make such a tough call this week.