Dalglish's reputation has been tarnished

No one questions Kenny Dalglish's commitment to Liverpool Football Club, but his handling of the Suarez affair has been regrettable. John Peters/Getty Images

Kenny Dalglish's position as icon, idol, spiritual leader and heartbeat of Liverpool Football Club must be in some jeopardy. It seems clear that Fenway Sports Group, the club's American owners, have been less than amused by the manager's clumsy public relations and circling of the wagons around Anfield this season. It would appear the club's sponsors are also getting twitchy about possible damage to Liverpool's "global brand."

Hence -- probably under orders from above -- the public apologies that flooded out of Liverpool on Sunday after Luis Suarez's provocative refusal to shake the hand of Patrice Evra and so put a public end to their feud.

Dalglish gave a toe-curling TV interview in the Old Trafford tunnel after the match, claiming he was unaware of the non-handshake and blamed the reporter for being "bang out of order" for what, in fact, was an entirely relevant and courteous line of questioning.

"Conduct unbecoming of a Liverpool manager" were the strong words of contrition in Kenny's own statement the following day.

Incidentally, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson went too far in saying Suarez should "never play for Liverpool again." I don't remember him taking that view when Eric Cantona launched his kung-fu attack on a fan at Crystal Palace all those years ago.

Evra's triumphalist cavorting at the end of the game also disqualified him from taking any moral high ground.

But whether Liverpool and its fans like it or not, the reality here is that Suarez admitted using a racially abusive remark to Evra (once or seven times, depending on whose version you believe). So after serving his ban, why was he still playing the injured victim Saturday and pouring more fuel on the fire?

Perhaps because his manager had claimed that "Luis should never have been away." Really? What was Dalglish saying? That Suarez should have gone unpunished for making a racial slur on a fellow player? It sounded like that and rather typified Liverpool's state of denial for months in this ultra-sensitive case.

The affair has rather diminished Kenny Dalglish. A shame because he really is a very fine human being.

Who can ever forget his compassion and sensitivity after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, when he made sure that either he or at least one of his players attended every single funeral? That is the measure of the man. He was brought up in the "Boot Room" era, when Liverpool could keep any problems in-house, and has, to some extent, tried to recreate that regime as he seeks to restore the club's former glories.

His stance on the Suarez issue has been born out of a deep love for the club and an overwhelming desire to protect his player. But in such a delicate case with the outcome going against his star player, too often this brand of PR has come across as misguided loyalty at best, and tacit approval of Suarez's actions at worst.

Fair to say "King Kenny," who often looks as if he would rather be walking barefoot on glass than doing an interview, has to work harder at embracing the demands of the modern media.

Suarez, as even Evra acknowledges, is not a racist -- and neither is anyone else at Liverpool Football Club. But Anfield's handling of his case was appalling, until those overdue apologies.

The club's traumas could end with a trophy in the league cup final against Cardiff City on Feb. 26. That would be a hugely significant step in the Reds revival.

But if, as seems likely, Liverpool fails to reach the top four and misses out on the Champions League again, Dalglish and his transfer guru, Damien Comolli, might be facing an inquest on Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll -- all of whom have failed to set Anfield alight so far.

For the moment, Liverpool's revolution is proving to be a painful one.

Ian Darke is a commentator for ESPN. You can reach him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/iandarkeespn.