FA Cup provides saving grace for Dalglish
Liverpool fans of a certain vintage will remember only too clearly footage of legendary former manager Bill Shankly jabbing a finger at the old League Championship trophy with the words: "This is our bread and butter. This is the one we want."
And in a phrase that could have been carved into the Anfield boardroom walls, the Scot also insisted the only purpose of the club's existence was to win trophies.
So Liverpool season's balances precariously between those two Shankly statements as they prepare to face Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday.
The Carling Cup has been won, the FA Cup is there to be won - but the "bread and butter" of the title is as far away from Liverpool's table as ever.
Fulham's 1-0 win at Liverpool on Tuesday produced another unwanted record as it was their first Anfield win after 30 previous attempts. It brought the tally of points dropped at home to 30 this season, a campaign that has also resulted in a meagre total of just five wins at their supposed "fortress".
Liverpool are 34 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City and second-placed Manchester United and any hopes of fulfilling the pre-season goal set by owner John W. Henry and his Fenway Sports Group of securing Champions League football next season disappeared weeks ago.
Kenny Dalglish's team are level on points with Fulham and three points behind neighbours Everton, who have had a small fraction of Liverpool's spending power at their disposal.
And yet, when presented with the challenge of cup competition, Liverpool have been transformed from lambs into lions. Chelsea and Manchester City were eliminated en route to winning the Carling Cup, a run also saw a victory on notoriously hostile turf at Stoke City.
Liverpool last won the FA Cup in 2006 with a penalties win over West Ham at the Millennium Stadium. Photo: Getty
Liverpool knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup and came from behind to beat Everton in the semi-final at Wembley when form, an admittedly unreliable measure in this part of the game, was overturned.
So have Liverpool, in a question that would have had a succession of legendary Liverpool figures such as Shankly and Bob Paisley horrified, become a cup team? Is that famous "bread and butter" of the title off the menu for the foreseeable future?
Former Liverpool midfielder Jan Molby believes their season can only be labelled as a satisfactory one if they add the FA Cup to the Carling Cup - but understands the method behind the mask of mediocrity in the Premier League.
He told BBC Sport: "It appears that Liverpool have become a team that excels in the cup. I don't think ultimately that is what Liverpool want to be. The big prize is winning the Premier League but it appears the first step for Kenny Dalglish has been to get some trophies in the cabinet.
"Maybe because of that they might have prioritised the cups a bit. You have got to start somewhere. People talk about confidence and a winning mentality and you get a winning mentality by winning things - winning matches is not enough you have got to win trophies.
"You start there and build on that. Cup football is a different type of game. In the league games at home maybe Liverpool have gambled more in their approach and they have been caught out.
"Perhaps in the cups the initial mentality has leaned a little more towards not getting beaten and they then have individual brilliance in the shape of people like Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard who can win those games."
The Dane added: "You get some seasons where teams do well in particular games, perhaps having a very good record away from home. The confidence grows in those specific games and cups are the same.
"Liverpool will now be having entirely different thoughts when they play in cup games, they will be thinking, 'We can do this. We've done it all season and we can do it again now'.
"It can also have an effect on the opposition. If you took it on form alone in the FA Cup semi-final then you would have backed Everton to beat Liverpool, but psychologically Liverpool will have been thinking the cup tie suited them and perhaps Everton were concerned that they were up against a team that were specialists in cup competitions. It is a two-way street.
"I don't even think it is something that will carry on into next season, where Liverpool go especially well in cups butChelsea will certainly be aware of how well Liverpool have played in the cups at Wembley on Satuday."
Dalglish appears to have made a concerted effort to target silverware as a starting point for his second spell as manager, even more so when it became abundantly clear Liverpool were not title material.
Molby added: "Kenny will have hoped to do better in the Premier League, but when they didn't he probably thought they couldn't go to places like Exeter City or Brighton in the Carling Cup and play weakened teams or chuck things away. He played strong teams, stayed in the competition, gave themselves something to fall back on apart from the league and that's been fantastic for Liverpool."
Final judgement on the outcome of Liverpool's season will come on Saturday, however, and Molby is clear on how the verdict will be reached.
"The only way Liverpool's season can become a good one is if they win the FA Cup on Saturday," Molby said. "I think if they don't then you are entitled to go back and analyse the season and there will be some tough questions asked.
"If they don't win the FA Cup, then all they have won is the Carling Cup and there are very few clubs that make that competition a priority.
"The owners are sensible. They will know this is going to take time but they are not going to put up with competing for seventh or eighth in the Premier League forever."