Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish defiant in his praise of Luis Suárez on his return after eight-week ban

February 7th, 20125:21 am @


“Are you Terry in disguise?” they sang. They followed that with: “Let’s all
wear a T-shirt.” The Kop was saving itself for the grand entrance. When
Suárez was eventually summoned, it only needed the removal of his training
top to add verve to the atmosphere.

Then came the introduction, the eruption, the immediate improvement in
Liverpool’s performance and the brush with authority. He immediately closed
down and stole possession from Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Every touch, turn and
trick was then acclaimed.

He was booked for kicking Scott Parker, a decision which provoked fury on The
Kop. This is the world to which he returns.

Nine games ago, Suárez was just a footballer. Now there are those who will
treat him as an emblem of Kop resistance against an unjust establishment.

The South American has been transformed into a modern day Che Guevara by his
fans – a veteran of a kind of guerrilla war with the Football Association
and Manchester United.

This will be reprehensible to many, but to understand it you must recognise
the political nuances surrounding every decision which impacts upon
Liverpool Football Club. Suarez’s period in purgatory was never going to
impact on his popularity.

Apart from his ban, the controversy has played out beautifully for his
relationship with the Liverpool supporters.

Suárez has accidentally found himself following in a well-established
tradition. Liverpool worships rascals, particularly those in club colours.
Robbie Fowler was loved not just for his goals, but for his on-field support
for sacked dockers (he was fined by Uefa) and the mime artistry that so
upset Graeme Le Saux and Evertonians (banned and fined by the FA).

Michael Owen could never foster the same rapport because he was never ‘in
bother’ and looked too smart in an England tie. Suarez’s problems have
assisted his status at the club.

While the rest of the country laments a series of PR disasters on the
striker’s behalf, Suárez’s advisors could not have dreamed up a more ideal
means to garner even more esteem at Anfield.

Taking on the combined force of the FA and Sir Alex Ferguson is a perfect
storming of the old guard –regardless of whether you win or not. In the
short term, Suárez was hurt by lack of football. In the longer term, it has
done him no harm on Merseyside.

“For me, Luis Suárez has nothing to prove to anyone at Liverpool. Every game
he plays he is determined to make an impact,” said Dalglish. No-one at
Anfield last night can be in any doubt.

Patrice Evra and The FA’s independent commission have enhanced rather than
damaged Suárez’s reputation at Anfield.

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