Dylan Cleaver: Quite probable Dalts will return

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Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton. Photo / Abner Kingman
Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton. Photo / Abner Kingman

Just finished Red or Dead, David Peace's "challenging" novel about Bill Shankly's reign as Liverpool manager and life after leaving the club.

The book is divided into two halves. The first half alone carries to 493 pages. The second "half" is 218 pages.

Peace is famous for his Red Riding Quartet, loosely about the Yorkshire Ripper murders. Football fans will be more familiar with The Damned United, a contentious account of Brian Clough's disastrous 44-day spell in charge of Leeds.

There is nothing simple about Red or Dead: it is part academic exercise, part biography, part Shoot annual, part socialist manifesto. Games are detailed in exactitudes.

Example: "On Saturday 19 November, 1966, Leeds United came to Anfield, Liverpool. That afternoon, fifty-one thousand and fourteen folk came, too. In the forty-third minute, Chris Lawler scored. In the fifty-seventh minute, Peter Thompson scored.

In the seventy-fifth minute, Geoff Strong scored. In the eighty-third minute, Ian St John scored. And in the eighty-ninth minute, Strong scored again. And Liverpool Football Club beat Leeds United five-nil."

Critics were divided. It was either hypnotic genius or self-indulgence.

Unquestionably, however, Peace successfully painted Shankly as a man so consumed by the sport and the club, there was not a detail that escaped him, from painting the changing sheds to personally replying to every piece of fan mail.

It is an exhausting read, but then Shankly's was an exhausting life. Until, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, he resigned as Liverpool manager in 1974. Ironically, Peace's narrative speeds up during Shankly's slow decline from vibrant, at times brilliant manager, to his premature death just seven years later.

What Shankly found was that he couldn't actually live without the sport, hence the book's title.

To some extent I suspect a similar thing happened to Graham Henry post-2011 World Cup.

The whisper through the trees suggests there are some within New Zealand rugby's hierarchy who are unimpressed with Henry, gun for hire. I cannot be convinced he's done anything wrong except stayed closely involved with a game he cannot, and nor should he, let go of.

It's why I place little or no stock on Grant Dalton's weary resignation that he does not have another America's Cup campaign left in him.

"I always felt that it would be difficult for the team to stay together, particularly financially. There's probably will there but I have probably done my time," he said.

"Probably" is probably the key word.

Dalton is talking the language of the bereft. Since walking into the job after the failed campaign of 2003, Dalton has given the better part of his life towards making Team New Zealand first a credible then compelling challenger.

That he failed at the final hurdle will haunt him.

But here's the rub: Only he can change his epitaph. He's not going to do it by walking away now.

Everyone dies; if Shanks could channel Dalts, he'd tell only the truly blessed die without wondering.

- Herald on Sunday

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