"We don’t think he should ever have been away but we are delighted to get him back," Kenny Dalglish said when asked about the return of Luis Suarez following Monday's match against Tottenham. The response from the papers was immediate—and exactly what one would have guessed it would be.
"Kenny Dalglish has risked infuriating Manchester United ahead of Luis Suarez's appearance at Old Trafford next weekend," began the always understated Daily Mail. Meanwhile, the Express wrung their hands, concerned that with one sentence "Kenny Dalglish [has] reignited the Luis Suarez race row." Not to be left out, the Post picked up on what quickly became a familiar theme, suggesting that "Liverpool FC bo[s]s Kenny Dalglish has risked the wrath of Manchester United."
And those were amongst the more mild openings on offer as the press concerned themselves with reaffirming that Liverpool was in fact the dastardly villain of week, and all with a match against Manchester United looming to add a dash of further spice to the story. Still, even if the press were doing their best to blow Dalglish's post-match musing out of proportion, given the way Liverpool has been a favourite target for many in recent months it was to be expected. Every Liverpool fan knew it when they heard Dalglish's comment, no matter how sympathetic they might have been to what was in reality a fairly innocuous statement. Dalglish should have known it, too, and removed from the immediate aftermath of a match that hadn't gone quite as planned he probably would have.
By this point, though, Dalglish and all involved with Liverpool Football Club must know that when they open their mouths to talk about the Luis Suarez issue they've already lost—at least as far as the London press and the vast majority of unaffiliated fans are concerned. After all, this is a discussion being led by the likes of Martin Samuel, a walking Little Englander cliche and staunch Roy Hodgson supporter who had this to say following Liverpool's decision to not contest Luis Suarez' ban:
Liverpool deigned to do the world a favour and will not appeal Luis Suarez’s eight-match ban. How decent of them. Maybe they’ll make a T-shirt telling us all about it; or a hat. Not a white, pointy one, obviously.
Compare that to how he opened his more recent discussion on John Terry, a hyperbolic plea for calm rationalism and the rule of law with his previous concern for the damage being done to race relations both in sport and society as a whole quickly discarded when the topic had turned to England's captain:
[It would be] so much easier for everybody if he would just accept that the verdict of the kangaroo courts is in, without the tiresome necessity of due legal process in a proper one.
Judged unfit to captain England in the grand court of Twitter, messageboards and radio vox pops, why doesn’t Terry just slink away and accept that nobody has the patience for a fair trial these days?
|Patrick Barclay invokes Heysel to score points.|
It might seem a blatantly hypocritical outlook on the two cases, but that doesn't change the fact Samuel is at the forefront of guiding the public discourse on football in England—and he's not alone amongst those who would rather see Liverpool torn down as the default option. Alongside him is Patrick Barclay, another man who helped to drive Rafa Benitez out of Anfield in favour of an English revolution led by Hodgson and Christian Purslow, and a man willing to use the tragic death of thirty-nine Juventus supporters at Heysel as a way to score points against Liverpool fans.
They, and those like them, have been consistently two-faced when it comes to coverage of the cases of Luis Suarez and John Terry. And they represent an outlook—perhaps more honestly than most—that is thoroughly widespread when it comes to the London press' coverage of all things Liverpool. Moreover, it has been the reality for some time now, from long before the Guardian took Ian Ayre floating the idea of individually negotiated foreign television rights as cause for treating the club as though it was out to destroy football. And from before the Mirror blared "RACIST" over David Maddock's trolling reaction to Luis Suarez' eight-game ban. Or even before Oliver Holt puffed out his chest and declared the word "negro" racist in any language before suggesting that "black bastard," by comparison, wasn't in fact a racially charged phase.
That doesn't make it right. Because quite simply it isn't right that the people paid to call themselves journalists and whose views help to guide the opinions of millions can behave in such an irresponsible, hypocritical manner with frightening regularity. But nevertheless it is the reality, and anyone with two eyes and a pair of brain cells to rub together knows it. So of course every tabloid and half the broadsheets jumped at the opportunity to take Dalglish's comment suggesting he didn't think Suarez should ever have been banned and turn it into an excuse to do a bit of concern trolling, lining up a favoured piñata and taking a few swings.
On some level, the club and Kenny Dalglish must know it, too. So while having had his comments blown out of proportion following the match against Spurs was unfortunate, and that many in the press over-reacted to them deserves mention, those within the club tasked with dealing with the press should by all rights know how their slightest slip will be treated at this point. After all, a not insignificant segment of that press is at present preoccupied with finding reasons to attack the Liverpool—and really, it's nothing new. Sooner or later the club needs to behave as though they realise that this is in fact a war they cannot win by playing nice and attempting to change the minds of a group of people who at their core simply don't like them very much.