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Kevin Cullen

Anfield of dreams

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / April 12, 2011

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LIVERPOOL — Moments after Liverpool put a dope slap on Manchester City last night, a brief snippet of “Sweet Caroline’’ echoed across the hallowed grounds of the stadium known as Anfield.

It was fleeting, nowhere near the whole song, and the only guys among the assembled 45,000 who added “So good, so good, so good’’ to the chorus were a couple of Boston guys, Rick McKenna and Mike Cavaretta, who are traveling in a business delegation with the British consulate in Boston.

The Anfield faithful love to sing, especially “You’ll Never Walk Alone.’’ But the introduction of a Fenway Park standard seems inevitable, since Red Sox owner John Henry bought the English soccer team last year.

Still, the incremental approach seems to be part of the go slowly, go softly strategy that Henry and Fenway Sports Group have taken.

The mixing of English football culture and American baseball culture is something that is going to take some time.

And that’s not a bad thing. So far, there is no Red Sox gear available around Anfield, and hopefully pink hats of any stripe will remain verboten forever.

In the pubs that surround Anfield — The Twelfth Man, The Albert, The Park — you can’t find a Red Sox hat, but Bostonians are welcomed warmly, seen as something as saviors after the previous American owners ran the team into the ground with staggering debt.

The only way Liverpool’s 3-0 victory last night would have been sweeter is if it was over the other Manchester team, Manchester United, the New York Yankees of English football. As it is, Liverpool beat Man United last month, so it’s been a very good year.

Luckily, few Scousers, as Liverpudlians are known, have cottoned on that one of their new owners is LeBron James, who when he isn’t playing basketball is usually wearing a Yankees hat. The Yankees and Man U have a decade-old marketing deal and there are certain things better left unsaid along the River Mersey.

If it’s any consolation to the Red Sox, Liverpool started its season almost as badly as the Sox have started theirs. Early on, Liverpool lost to Blackpool, which is like getting swept by the Cleveland Indians.

But since Henry’s group bought the Reds — Liverpool, not Cincinnati — the local 11 have climbed from the relegation zone to sixth place. If Liverpool can turn it around, so can the Sox.

Kenny Dalglish, who was a great player for Liverpool in the 1970s and 1980s, was brought in to manage the team on a caretaker basis after Henry bought it. Dalglish, a circumspect Scot, is a bit like Joe Morgan, who was brought in after the Red Sox fired John McNamara during the All-Star break in 1988. The team made a great run under Morgan and the Sox kept him.

Even if Liverpool had struggled under Dalglish, the Henry group would be under local pressure to keep him. He is Yaz-like in stature, hugely popular with ordinary Liverpool supporters. There’s even a touch of Joe Morgan to Dalglish’s placid, unfazed, shrug-his-shoulders demeanor.

Last night, Dalglish took the unusual step of starting an untested teenager, Jack Flanagan, on the back line. Flanagan played flawlessly. When I asked Dalglish how he prepared an 18-year-old kid to make his first start in the Premier League, he shrugged and said, “I didn’t tell him he was playing until right before the game.’’

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.

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