ANFIELD legend John Barnes believes Liverpool will head into Saturday’s Merseyside derby as a powerful unified force under Kenny Dalglish.
The former winger admits the Reds are unrecognisable from their previous visit to Goodison last October when a team managed by Roy Hodgson were beaten 2-0.
Barnes (right) believes the total respect Dalglish commands has been crucial to Liverpool’s upturn in fortunes over the past eight months.
“Liverpool are now playing with the right passion, determination and spirit,” Barnes said.
“With Kenny in charge everyone is pulling in the right direction and that’s what you need to be successful.
“You need everyone, including the fans and the board, to be 100% behind the manager. They are and the players have responded to that with their performances.”
Barnes, who was signed by Dalglish from Watford in 1987, believes there’s a “fear factor” under Dalglish which wasn’t present during Hodgson’s short lived reign.
“The players never responded to Roy Hodgson and I felt a bit sorry for him because the players could have done more for him,” he added.
“Now the players are running an extra yard and trying harder because they know if they lose they are going to get the blame, not Kenny.
“Under Hodgson, if they lost they weren’t going to get the blame, Hodgson was. It’s a subconscious thing with all players.
“Look at Arsene Wenger, he’s been undermined by the press and by the fans after the situation with (Samir) Nasri and (Cesc) Fabregas.
“Once that happens it affects the players. Once you undermine the manager by not giving him complete control it goes on to the field. Kenny won’t be undermined by anyone whether it’s the fans, the press or the board.
“Now the players are accountable for the team’s performances. Now they know they have to perform because everyone is backing Kenny. That’s the way it should be for all managers.
“There has to be a fear factor where if the manager says jump players know they have to jump. A manager needs that kind of respect and power, and Kenny commands that at Liverpool.”
Barnes, who scored 108 goals in 407 appearances for the Reds, believes Dalglish has bought wisely since returning to the Anfield hot seat and expects to see him guide his old club back into the Champions League this season.
“I don’t think Liverpool will win the league but I certainly think they will be in the top four,” he added.
“Kenny has made signings not just for the present but for the future. That’s important as you need continuity. If you keep changing players you’ll never get anywhere. Now there are a lot of players in the squad who will be around for a long time and that has to be good.
“Stewart Downing is an outstanding winger and creates chances. With Jose Enrique, who is a very good attacking full-back, the left hand side looks good.
“In recent years Liverpool’s problem when they had a midfield without proper wingers was their full-backs weren’t attacking so they lacked width. Now they have a better balance.
“Next season young players like Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson will be a year more experienced and with greater consistency of performances Liverpool can challenge for the title.
“I think Kenny can bring the title back to Anfield. Everyone has got faith in him.”
John Barnes took part in a coaching session organised by Yazoo with pupils at St Oswalds School in Old Swan. Yazoo are running an on-pack promotion in association with Premier Sport offering free activities to kids. To find out more go to: www.yazoo.co.uk