SHORTLY after Kenny Dalglish had vacated the pre-Cup final media glare, John Henry took a stroll around the Anfield trophy room.
Liverpool’s principal owner had begun the season with expectations of a top-four finish and lucrative Champions League qualification after bankrolling a significant summer transfer splurge.
Spectacularly, that hasn’t happened.
But, from the smile fixed on Henry’s face on the Wembley turf as he joined the celebrations following the Carling Cup final in February, it’s clear the American is a man who enjoys winning.
And adding two further trophies to that glittering trophy room in their first full season would surely represent success for Fenway Sports Group.
Henry will be at Wembley once again this weekend as Liverpool aim to complete a domestic cup double in their FA Cup showdown with bitter rivals Chelsea.
Much has been made of Liverpool’s struggles in the Premier League, with Tuesday’s 1-0 home defeat to Fulham leaving them languishing in eighth place and in danger of their lowest-ever finish since returning to the top flight in 1962.
Kenny Dalglish, though, is a firm advocate that nothing can compare to the shimmer of freshly-claimed silverware.
“In the league, it’s 38 games and at the end of it you finish in a certain position and that tells you how successful it has been,” says the Liverpool manager.
“In cup competitions there aren’t as many games and if you get beat you are out.
“There is an obsession with the Premier League because of what it holds for every club and the financial value and the rewards you get for finishing in the top four and getting into the Champions League.
“But there‘s a satisfaction to winning a cup competition that you don’t get from finishing fifth or sixth in the league.”
Dalglish, who will be without only long-term absentees Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam at Wembley, believes it isn’t just principal owner Henry who has enjoyed the taste of triumph lately.
“We have already had one cup final this season, and getting to the FA Cup final is never to be undermined or overlooked or underestimated,” says the Scot.
“It’s a fantastic day out for everyone and a great reward for our effort and commitment and respect for the competition we have shown. We feel we deserve to be there.
“Everyone knows it will be a difficult game. Nobody will underestimate Chelsea. There’s confidence and no arrogance. We have huge respect for Chelsea.”
Jamie Carragher concurs with both his manager and skipper Steven Gerrard that victory at Wembley would go a long way towards redressing the balance of a poor league campaign.
“Winning two trophies would be a big thing, without a doubt,” says the vice-captain. “We had gone six years without winning. In that time we had some great Champions League nights but at the end of your career you want medals to look back on.
“If we win two of the three competitions we have been in, it would be a great season.”
Chelsea, though, are buoyant under interim manager Roberto di Matteo, who masterminded a famous elimination of Barcelona to reach the Champions League final against Bayern Munich later this month.
“Di Matteo has come in and done a great job,” says Carragher. “They have great players and have had a great side for a long time. It will be a tough game.
“You have to take your hat off for what they achieved in Barcelona. But this is a different game. We respect Chelsea but we are desperate to win. They are on a great run of form. And we have had some big battles with them over the years.”
Among those battles have been Carragher’s tussles with Didier Drogba and, more recently, former team-mate Fernando Torres.
Since the arrival of Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho to England – their failure to see eye-to-eye the genesis of the modern-day rivalry – the teams have met 30 times in less than eight years.
Among those was Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final win at Old Trafford en route to last winning the trophy in 2006.
And while the Anfield outfit won at Chelsea in the Carling Cup earlier this year, Carragher believes tensions have eased between the clubs.
“We’ve had some great battles over the years, myself and Drogba, Stevie and Lampard, however you want to look at it,” says the centre-back. “We’ve come out winners a few times, so have they, but it’s been a great battle over the years.
“I think it’s a big rivalry. It started six or seven years ago for different reasons, I think we can all put our finger on exactly where.
“I don’t think it’s as intense as it was then. It’s still a big rivalry, but I think there was a little bit more to it back then.
“I think from ‘05, ‘06, ‘07, ‘08 we played them in four big semi-finals in a row, and I think Mr Mourinho had something to say about that!”
While Dalglish believes the experience of Carragher and Gerrard will help those team-mates appearing in a first FA Cup final, the Liverpool manager is confident his players can stand up for themselves.
“They have played at Wembley twice before and won a cup competition and a semi-final, and some have played there for their countries,” says Dalglish. “They just have to look after themselves, they are big strong boys.
“I don’t think it matters when you get to a cup final how many times you have played in one before, there are many people who won
“It’ll be a help that Jamie and Steven are at this club but on the pitch the players need to have to look after themselves as much as get a bit of help from each other.”
Of course, with Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel impressing as a centre-back pairing, there is no guarantee Carragher will make the starting line-up at Wembley on Saturday. But the 34-year-old takes a realistic view of his involvement. “I think I’m at a stage now where if I play then great, but if I don’t then I understand it,” he says. “I’ve missed a lot of games this season, where I’ve not in the past, so I’ve got my head round that a little bit more.
“And if I am on the bench, as I was in the last cup final, then the main thing is winning. You still get a medal. I’d love to play, but if I don’t then I’ll be praying the lads win it for us.
“I had a fear I’d never play at the ground for Liverpool. I never played at the old Wembley and played a few times for England at the new one, but playing for Liverpool in a Cup final is special.
“Cup final week doesn’t happen every year, it’s always great so you try and make the most of it.”