This article originally appeared on The Tomkins Times on 4th May 2011. I have since updated it following Liverpool’s subsequent 5-2 victory at Fulham.
The League Managers Association’s Manager Of The Year award has been given out every season since 1994. Unlike the Premier League’s equivalent prize (which has gone to the title winning manager in 15 of the 17 seasons it has been awarded), the LMA trophy has been given to a wider variety of gaffers.
For example, the first five years saw the award given to Joe Kinnear, Frank Clark, Peter Reid, Danny Wilson and Dave Jones. As you’re no doubt aware, Roy Hodgson (formerly of this parish) took the award last year.
It’s clear that the LMA have tended to reward managers who have achieved more than has been expected of their sides. For this reason, I would suggest that this year’s prize goes to Kenny Dalglish.
Take a look at his record extrapolated in line with our rivals, with our record under Roy Hodgson similarly included for comparison.
What Dalglish has achieved has been nothing short of exceptional. The above info suggests that had he been in charge for the full season, then we would be in with a shout of the title with just two games to go. It’s also interesting to note that Liverpool have a higher win percentage than the champions elect under Kenny’s leadership.
Liverpool were never higher than eighth in the league under Hodgson; since Kenny’s fourth game (a home win against Fulham), Liverpool have been seventh or higher.
Of course, there’s an easy counter-argument to my idea of giving the award to Kenny – Liverpool were massively underachieving with Hodgson in charge, and all Dalglish has done is put them back to where they should be expected to finish.
Whilst that is broadly true, it’s not like everything has gone smoothly for him. The one truly star striker left, with his replacements either new to the country or arriving injured.
Not only that, but key players such as Gerrard, Agger, Johnson and Kelly have missed large amounts of games due to injury as well.
The quality of football that the Reds have played under Dalglish has to be commended too. Liverpool have won by two-or-more goals in six of the last eight league games, by three in four of the last five, and two five goal hauls have been amassed in the previous three.
These are not the lucky wins that we occasionally experienced under Hodgson, but quality sides (such as the two Manchester clubs) being ruthlessly put to the sword.
Obviously football has changed a lot in the last 25 years, but Dalglish has got the current Liverpool side performing almost as well as his title winning sides from his first tenure as manager.
For example, his 2.06 points-per-game beats the 1988-89 league runners up (and we would have beaten Arsenal on goal difference with his current record too!), and is only very slightly behind the 2.08 points-per-game that Liverpool’s last title winning side mustered in 1990.
I would also argue that no other manager in the Premier League has so massively exceeded their expectations this year. As Graeme Riley noted last month on The Tomkins Times: “The league standings are incredibly aligned with the (Pay As You Play) utilisation values. Before the Easter round of games, 13 teams were within two places of where they should be, and 17 were within four places” (more information on Pay As You Play is available here).
Clearly there hasn’t been too much overachievement in the league by any manager. In fairness, I would expect claims for the LMA to give their prize to Alex McLeish for winning the League Cup, or perhaps Tony Pulis for guiding Stoke to their first ever FA Cup final.
But for me, guiding a team who were in the relegation zone as recently as Halloween to the brink of European qualification takes some beating in the achievement stakes.
Of course, the LMA cabal will probably just give it to Hodgson for keeping West Brom up. What do I know, eh?
Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.