So Long Kenny, Hello Opportunity

Former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish standing in front of the fans with arms outstretched

Kenny Dalglish

Following on from my recent post “The Problem With Liverpool FC”, manager Kenny Dalglish was sacked by the club last week, along with most of the senior staff. Interestingly assistant manager Steve Clark submitted his resignation in support of Dalglish but it has been rejected. Whether he’ll stay is still anyone’ s guess. Was it fair? I don’t know. I can’t say I’m surprised Kenny’s gone. He’ll always be a legend at Liverpool as both player and manager (in his first spell). His actions in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster will never be forgotten and rightly so, but how long can you rely on the past in the face of dwindling returns in the present, and grim prospects for the future. Personally I’m not upset he’s gone, he did a great job of stabilising the club when he came in but I wasn’t convinced he could really take us any further. From the national media reports you’d think everyone in Liverpool was up in arms over Kenny’s sacking. That’s not what I see walking around the city. Most Liverpool fans were bitterly disappointed with our return this year. We won the league cup but it hardly papers over the cracks. Even winning the FA Cup wouldn’t have hidden our shortcomings. The league is what matters and finishing 8th is unacceptable. I’m sorry things haven’t worked out for Kenny and if he’d been given another year things might have gotten a bit better. The key phrase there being “a bit better” though. So where do we go from here and who do we trust to lead us back to success? That’s the big question.

Picture the scene. It’s early morning in Boston, Massachusetts and Liverpool owner John W Henry arrives at his office to begin another day. He’s greeted by his PA and asks “anything important come in overnight?”. “Another 20 answer phone messages from Rafa Benitez’ agent” they reply. “Oh christ not again!” says Henry. Rafa is desperate to get the job back and it’s no secret, he’s stayed in Liverpool and wants to manage a Premier League team again. I keep seeing articles with headlines like “it’s got to be Rafa” and “Benitez is the only choice for Liverpool” and I wonder who’s writing them, because whoever they are they’ve got a few slates loose. I believe reinstating Benitez as manager would be a massive step backwards for the club and I’m surprised how quickly people forget the drudgery of Liverpool’s performances towards the end of his reign. It’s no secret that I lost patience with Rafa a good while before he was fired, having previously defended him. He did well for us in the early days and of course I was delighted at winning the Champions League in 2005. I thank him for that, but his handling of the Alonso affair cost us one of the best midfielders I think we’ve ever had. So for me no, I’m sorry, I don’t want Benitez back. Not on your life.

Rafa Benitez during his reign at Liverpool FC, stood in front of the stands

Rafa Is Desperate To Get Back In

What are the other options? Well if you believe the press it seems Roberto Martinez from Wigan is in the frame and has even held talks with Anfield officials. I’m not sure how I feel about that really. He’s done ok at Wigan without setting the world alight. You could argue he hasn’t had the resources to do much more and he’s taken Wigan as far as anyone could with that budget. His style of football seems good and at 38 he’s still young but seems to command respect from his players. He’d be a massive gamble in my book but maybe one worth taking. Another young manager who’s done well in the league this year with an unfashionable team is Brendan Rodgers at Swansea City. Some of the smooth, attacking and cultured football they’ve played this year has been sublime. I’d like to see the reds play more like that and I’m certainly not alone. He seems to have a decent future and like Martinez could be a gamble worth taking. However, he has declined to speak to Liverpool and seems happy to stay at Swansea, which is probably a wise move at this stage of his career.

Another name being heavily linked is former England manager Fabio Capello, who at the age of 65 could offer a more experienced head. I’m not sure he’d be right for Liverpool but he certainly has a good club record with the likes of AC Milan and Real Madrid. The rumours are that he’s very interested but he’d demand a large transfer budget and would want complete control of football matters at the club. I couldn’t see him working well with Johan Cruyff or any of the other names being touted for a Director Of Football role at Anfield. If Capello were appointed then one thing he could offer is a bit of star quality. He’s still a respected name in world football despite a mixed spell with England. I don’t think anyone can be judged on their record managing a basket case like the England national team these days. If he had the money he could attract big names to Liverpool which may be useful. It should be remembered though that he’s never managed in the Premier League before and his tactics may not please many LFC fans.

AVB in black overcoat on the touchline

AVB is my choice

Among the many other names linked one stands out to me. Andre Villas Boas, or AVB for short. I’m not sure whether he’d come to Liverpool but he is a talented young manager there’s no doubt about that. He doesn’t have the experience of a Capello but he does have a bucket load of potential. He had a bad spell at Chelsea earlier in the season but wasn’t given the backing of the board and it looks as though the senior players tried to actively undermine him. He’s my favourite candidate because I believe if given time and resources he could turn us back into a quality team in 3 or 4 years. The LFC owners say they’re looking to appoint a manager for 5 years minimum, but then Chelsea told him that and he was sacked after 9 months. So he may need some convincing. It takes time to build a successful team and we need a lot of work, you can’t expect that overnight. Just look how close Alex Ferguson came to getting fired at Man Utd. In today’s football climate he probably wouldn’t have survived and all Utd’s success in the last 20 years may not have happened. Whoever we go for we have to give them time and space to rebuild. On arriving at FC Porto AVB immediately dumped the 2 most senior players and completely rebuilt the team, successfully as it turned out. He wasn’t allowed to do that at Chelsea but I believe he could at Liverpool, if he’s given the time and really is interested in a long term project. That remains to be seen.

Who do you think should be the next Liverpool manager? Maybe you believe I’m completely wrong. If so please feel free to chip in with a comment. Whoever gets the job it’s going to be an interesting summer for LFC fans and we’ll all be biting our nails again.

Dan

Posted in Football
2 comments on “So Long Kenny, Hello Opportunity
  1. I’m a Man Utd fan, so take my opinion for what it’s worth.

    It’s been odd over recent years to see Liverpool sometimes challenge for the title for the opening months of each season, then by February or March be completely out of touch and fighting for a sniff of a Champions League spot. Even in those glory days Torries and Gerrard couldn’t work miracles every week.

    I used to love Rafa’s Valencia team, but with Liverpool he got some success at the cost of bland football. I agree that it’d be crazy to get Rafa back, even though he does seem to be on the self promo circuit to build a groundswell calling for him to return. Rafa is built from the same mould as Jose Mourihno in that regard.

    Any club will have a much better chance of long term success if they think long term and give a new manager time to build, experiment and find out who works as well as who doesn’t. The thought in the back of your mind during that building process is “is this the right person to do the building?” That’s where you have to look at the detail to see each of the experiments they’re trying, and how willing they are to give it time to work, or willing to change something the fans may not understand, but they see isn’t working.

    You don’t sign a manager or a player for what they’ve done for another club, you sign them for what you hope they will do for yours.

    Liverpool needed some stability after the disaster of the dual US ownership debacle. I was very surprised Kenny came in then. I was one of many who thought he’d been out of the game so long that he’d be out of his depth at any club, and only his ties to Liverpool would keep him from being sacked within a few months. I thought he’d be much like Maradona was to Argentina; a motivator / mascot / hero and leave the tactics etc to a qualified manager. He proved me wrong in his first matches back by showing some tactical astuteness, and got the team winning again.

    For me, the slide to being sacked started with Suarez. The way Kenny handled that whole issue was pathetic. I believe he was very loyal to his players, and Suarez lied to him and the club, meaning Kenny walked the gang plank for him. From there on, the interviews post match got increasingly tetchy to the point where it looked like he didn’t want to be there but was too loyal to Liverpool that he’d never walk away.

    I hear the calls from a lot of Liverpool fans that he should have been given until Christmas, or even a full season. I’m not sure that’d have made much difference to be honest. He’d spent a LOT of money on players who mostly failed. Suarez is a fantastic player who has done well when he’s not been suspended or cheating. Carroll has picked up in the last few games of the season, and Downing has been a complete failure. Liverpool haven’t been all that bad last season, albeit toothless.

    As for a new manager, Capello would be a good option. He’s proven himself a fantastic club manager over the years. I’m not sure I buy the “he’s not managed a club in England” thing as a potential drawback. He’s managed clubs in a few countries successfully. If he manages a club in England, I’d expect him to adapt to the league as he’s done before. The downside of Capello for me, is that the fans may well look at his CV and expect insta-success, heaping pressure on him that “well, now we have a title winning manager, we expect to be winning titles now”. That will only end in tears. Liverpool need major work to become a club ready to challenge for a title again, and it won’t happen overnight, specially not with the financial limits on them compared to Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea.

    A younger manager with a long term approach could also work. Someone like Martinez or Rodgers would (if given the proper backing and control) mould Liverpool into a team worth watching again. If your team plays entertaining football, they get the fans back, as well as the neutrals favourite status, some of whom will become fans. Liverpool got a LOT of their worldwide fan base from their domination of Europe with Dagliesh, Souness, Keegan et all. The more neutrals who watch, the more lapsed fans return, the better the income, and the better their position will be.

    Whoever gets it, it’s a tough job at a sleeping giant of a club. I’d hope to see a long term vision with the new manager given time to experiment, but with commercial owners I’m not confident that will happen, despite the PR statements when he’s appointed.

    Now it’s not just a top four either. Tottenham have bullied their way into the “one of the top teams” status, Arsenal have slipped a bit but still qualify, Chelsea are going through a bit if instability but have bounced back fantastically well in terms of psychology and wins, Man Utd have been glued into there for so long, and Man City have come from nowhere to the top and look like staying there for a long time, knocking everyone else down a peg. The ray of hope in that scenario is that Villa have been atrociousness so Liverpool are not fighting with them.

    • Dan says:

      @gordon – Thanks for the thoughts. I agree with you completely over the Suarez situation. I love Kenny but his handling of that embarrassed me as a Liverpool fan. It culminated when Suarez returned months after and in the first post-match interview Kenny was asked how it felt to have him back. His reply was “He never should have been away in the first place, he was unjustly banned!!” and he just launched back into the whole thing again. I was screaming at the TV for him to shut up and talk about something else.

      You’re right that the rise of Tottenham and meteoric success of City has made it more difficult for everyone. As a club traditionally lumped in with “the big four” we’re in deep trouble. City, Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs are all well ahead of us now. That means fighting it out for 6th place with the likes of Newcastle is about where we deserve to be. We played some alright football this year and created a ton of chances without converting them but there’s a long way to go. As I said in my other post I think the defence is pretty solid, what we need is some creativity in midfield and a striker who’ll bag 20 goals a season. What team doesn’t though I suppose.

      I just hope whoever gets the job has time to really set out a long term plan, even if it doesn’t work at first the owners must be patient. Everyone craves success right now, but we need to be patient and we can’t live on our history forever.

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