Liverpool Fires Dalglish After Worst League Finish in 18 Years

Liverpool fired manager Kenny Dalglish after the 18-time English soccer champion’s worst league finish since 1994.

Dalglish, 61, met with principal owner John W. Henry and club chairman Tom Werner in Boston earlier this week. He’d been in charge since January 2011, having taken over from Roy Hodgson. Nicknamed “King Kenny,” he was a favorite of Liverpool fans following a successful playing career at the club, and was in his second spell as manager.

“Results in the Premier League have been disappointing and we believe to build on the progress that has already been made, we need to make a change,” Werner said in a statement yesterday on Liverpool’s website. “Our ambition remains resolute to return this great club to the elite of England and Europe, where it belongs.”

Liverpool, which has spent about 100 million pounds ($159 million) on new players since the start of 2011, was eighth in the Premier League this season, 37 points behind champion Manchester City. The team won the second-tier Carling Cup in February to secure its first trophy in six years and lost to Chelsea in the May 5 F.A. Cup final.

Club owner Fenway Sports Group said that the decision to remove Dalglish “was not reached lightly or hastily,” and that the search for his replacement would begin immediately. Wigan Athletic’s Roberto Martinez is the early favorite for the job ahead of former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, U.K. bookmaker Coral Racing Ltd. said.

Low Points

While Dalglish guided Liverpool to two cup finals, the team lost 14 of its 38 league games. The 1-0 defeat at Swansea four days ago left the Reds with 52 points, their lowest tally since the Premier League began in 1992.

“Of course I am disappointed with results in the league, but I would not have swapped the Carling Cup win for anything as I know how much it meant to our fans and the club to be back winning trophies,” Dalglish said in the club’s statement.

Dalglish began his playing career at Celtic before switching in 1977 to Liverpool. He won multiple honors with the Reds including the English league, F.A. Cup and League Cup as well as the European Cup on three occasions.

He won the league three times as Liverpool manager before guiding Blackburn Rovers to the title in 1995. Spells in charge of Newcastle and Celtic followed before a break from management and his reappointment at Liverpool.

Dalglish joins director of football Damien Comolli, head of sports science Peter Brukner and communications director Ian Cotton in leaving Liverpool in recent weeks as Fenway Sports Group -- which also owns baseball’s Boston Red Sox -- restructures the club.

‘Debt of Gratitude’

“He did more than anyone else to stabilize Liverpool over the past year and a half and to get us once again looking forward,” Werner said. “We owe him a great debt of gratitude.”

Earlier this month, Liverpool posted a club-record loss of

49.4 million pounds for the fiscal 2011 year. The loss was mainly related to costs associated with plans for a 70,000-seat stadium that have been scrapped and severance payments to ex-employees including Hodgson, who was fired as manager after six months. Hodgson joined West Brom, leading the midlands team to its highest finish in the Premier League this season before being named England manager on May 1.

FSG, controlled by hedge fund trader Henry, bought Liverpool in October 2010 after lenders to former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett forced a sale when the pair defaulted on a loan linked to their 2007 buyout. FSG wrote off 200 million pounds of debt owed by the previous administration.

No Champions League

Liverpool has struggled on and off the field as losses have climbed to almost 100 million pounds during the past three years. Fans protested against Gillett and Hicks during their ownership and the team missed Europe’s elite Champions League for a third straight season.

The Reds’ failure to reach the competition reduces television and marketing revenue by least 25 million pounds. It may also hurt the club when it comes time to renew or replace its record 81 million-pound shirt sponsorship deal with London-based bank Standard Chartered Plc. A 25 million-pound contract with U.S. jersey supplier Warrior starts next season.

“The owners have removed the debt and everything is now being put in place to compete commercially and financially with our main rivals,” Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre said on the club’s website. “The only missing piece of the jigsaw, the most important piece of the jigsaw, is football and success in the Premier League.”

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