sport

Dalglish back in the dugout

There's something unforgettable about watching legends like Dalglish, Kennedy, Whelan and Molby arguing and battling their way through a game of head tennis at Liverpool's Melwood training complex, writes Sky Sports News reporter James Cooper.

Their desire and will to win clearly hasn't deserted them, nor have the memories of the 15th of April 1989. It's 25 years since the Hillsborough tragedy that claimed 96 lives and a quarter of a century on the manager on that day, Kenny Dalglish, is behind a very special charity football match.

"I think the families realise how long it's been," he said. "It must have been arduous for them and we can only but imagine what they've gone through and they've been absolutely fantastic the way they've conducted themselves, so much dignity and all we're doing is trying to put on a game and show our support."

Not so much just a game as a Celebration of the 96 Charity Match.

On Monday April 21, Dalglish will be back in the Anfield dugout managing a team of British Liverpool stars of the past - among them the likes of Fowler, McMananan, Barnes and Beardsley.

Up against them the cream of Liverpool's European talent over the years, presided over by Gerard Houllier, and including Hamman, Garcia, Babbel and Jan Molby, who was at Hillsborough on that April day.

"It's been a big part of the club's history and a big part of the city and a lot of people still haven't come to terms with it or haven't recovered from it and we're no different. You do have flashbacks, you do know what it means, so this will be a special day."

Thirty five thousand tickets have already been sold for the Bank Holiday Monday game with proceeds shared between the Hillsborough Family Support Group and the Liverpool Foundation.

By the time the stars of the past kick off at Anfield, Liverpool's stars of today may have a better idea of whether their first Premier League title could become a reality with a crunch encounter this weekend as fellow contenders Manchester City come to town.

Roy Evans is assisting Dalglish with the charity match and he knows just how crucial home soil could be against City with Reds' supporters already at fever pitch.

"Obviously our fans play a massive part, they've been brilliant but they're getting excited now and we've got make sure they don't get too anxious," he said.

"They've got to have a little calmness about them as well but not in terms of the support they give us, just in their own minds, and with the ability we've got I think we can do it."

The City match is the first of five games that will decide Liverpool's fate. Five victories and the Premier League Trophy will make its first appearance in the Anfield trophy room that's housed the old First Division trophy on 18 occasions and Jan Molby's confident title dreams can come true this season.

"We have to say 'why can't they do it?'" he said. "They're still playing good football. They're still winning the games. There are tough challenges to come, absolutely, but you expect games to be tough when you're going for the title, but this could be a special year."

Brendan Rodgers's side haven't lost a Premier League game this year, winning 12 and drawing the other two of their 14 fixtures so far.

They go into the game against Manchester City on the back of nine straight Premier League victories and the man who managed Liverpool to their last Championship back in 1990, Kenny Dalglish, would be delighted to have Ulsterman Rodgers in his side for the Hillsborough game.

"I'm sure Brendan will be there and if he fancies a game he'd be more than welcome. I'm sure he fancies a game but I think he's got a problem with his knee, so he'll maybe get a late fitness test," said Dalglish.

Fitness is the only concern for those pulling on the famous red shirts again as they pay tribute to the Hillsborough 96, but if they go about their return to Anfield with the same verve and determination as their head tennis matches it truly will be another day to remember for Liverpool Football Club.