BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom, May 23, 2011 (AFP) - Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish believes his players should not be blamed for failing to qualify for Europe for the first time in 11 years.
A 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa, for whom Stewart Downing was the scorer in the 33rd minute, meant Liverpool finished sixth behind Tottenham, who will therefore play in the Europa League next season.
Though he did not mention him by name, the Scot implied that previous manager Roy Hodgson was the main reason why Liverpool fell short, although the Villa reverse had followed a home defeat by Tottenham last week.
"It's disappointing for the players but I'm certainly not disappointed with them," Dalglish said.
"They have done fantastic to get as far as they have done. It would have been nice to have finished on a positive but we just ran out of legs - and fit players. There were some who shouldn't have played.
"The most important thing for us is that we did the best we possibly could. We just came up a wee bit short. We have to get on with it and accept that we aren't but we didn't not qualify for Europe because we lost today - it was because we had a bad start to the season.
"If you start as badly as that you are lucky to be sixth."
Liverpool spent heavily in January, using the £50million they banked from Chelsea for Fernando Torres to buy England's Andy Carroll, who did not play against Villa because of a knee injury, and fellow forward Luis Suarez, the Uruguay international.
Would a lack of European action, and specifically Champions League competition, dissuade potential signings during the summer? Dalglish thought not.
"There's a lot more players who don't play in it than do," he said of the Champions League.
"Liverpool Football Club is a big enough attraction to players. And anyone we want to bring in has got to be a lot better than what we have got already. Here it is only a chosen few."
Villa, who had won at Arsenal the previous week, finished a campaign that had seen them flirt with relegation for a number of weeks in ninth place.
Ashley Young, the England forward, is keen to move to a bigger club in the summer however and Brad Friedel, the goalkeeper, will soon be a free agent.
Gary McAllister, the assistant manager, promised the supporters the club would do everything it could to persuade Young to stay.
"We have got to keep trying to keep him and maybe a couple of signings here and there might help," he said.
"We have got to try to convince him we can bring in the quality of player that will help us get to a higher level. And until somebody comes in with a bid he's still a Villa player. He's got a year left on his contract."
Even more uncertain is the future of Gerard Houllier, the manager, who had to stand down earlier in the season because of heart problems.
Speculation is rife that the former France coach will be asked to relinquish the post permanently in the next few days by owner Randy Lerner.
McAllister conceded that important talks on that subject were imminent.
"Towards the end of the week there is something going on with the chairman and the chief executive and once that gets cleared up and sorted that's the next big thing," he said.
"I've spoken with him and he was delighted we had won. He wished the players a good break and be prepared to come back on the seventh of July."