So Long Kenny, Hello Opportunity
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.
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.
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.