Rafa and trusting him.

Posted by Rafas3leggedtable on July 22, 2009, 11:34:36 AM

One of my many faults as a football fan and as a person is that I am quite insular. I am rarely open to new ideas and like tradition. I think a lot of things that have happened in the past. If only I had done this different, that different, crossed paths at different times, been in that same place but at another time.

If.

Equally, I remember good times and sometimes my mind gets stuck in a time warp, afraid to move on and embrace change. All these feelings apply to me as a person, in life, love and as a Liverpool supporter.

When a spectacled middle-aged Spanish man walked into our club 5 years ago I knew nothing about him as a manager or as a man. I knew a bit about his teams and how he liked to set them up but nothing about Rafael Benitez the man.

The Michael Owen sale, if we are all honest, plunged us supporters straight into an instant dilemma. We had to decide via our gut instinct if in front of us was a man who was on a power mission, to blow away all the old Liverpool and rule with an iron fist. Or to decide if he was another Christian Gross in the making, full of fancy ideas of how football clubs should be run. Suit-dressed men sat in executive boxes with mobile phone in hand while a posse of coaches sit on the bench and…er coach…while he just picks the team.

Or had we another Arsene Wenger in the making? Except a Spanish version – would Melwood become a Spanish colony full of wonder kids, plucked from the academies of Barca and Real Madrid? Was he here for the long haul or was this just a stepping-stone? A foothold in a new country? Did he know Liverpool? The place and the people as well as the club and its history?

We did not know the answer to these questions in July 2004. But we trusted the gaffer as he broke up the cliques that he disapproved of in the dressing room.

Fast forward 5 years, and although we have been proved right with our gut instincts that we can trust this man, I want to ask some of these questions again.

Rafa the autocrat? It’s never been a nice word to associate with and it instantly leans towards the notion of a power freak but if push comes to shove then yes I think Rafa is an autocrat. He has moulded the dynamics and leads of communication of the club in such a way that the final word is now with Rafa. He can decide what is best for this club and we can all either trust him or not.

Rafa the stubborn man? Yes he is this too. If someone upsets him he will not forget in a hurry. He will not put arms around players or build up their ego. He will be hard on players, sometime even cruel. This will separate those with balls from those without. Take it or leave it.

Rafa the manipulator? When the infamous tirade at Fergie was happening in front of our eyes, those of us who had witnessed Ferguson’s ramblings for too long, nodded in appreciation in the way that Rafa was prepared to stand up (and look a bit silly in the process) to this bully. Rafa laid down markers that day that will stand this club in good stead for the next few years. Already we can see how much Fergie has lost all concept of reality. Rafa will also use the reputation of other teams/players and will play down/under-estimate our own potential in other cases where mind games are needed in this modern day.

I will end this rather mixed up post by quoting what other, respected and knowledgeable, people think about Rafa Benitez the man as well as the manager. Xabi Alonso could do worse than listen to these people and remember that it was Rafa who trusted his talent all those years ago. Now is time to return that trust.

"Rather than being arrogant, which he certainly isn't, this manager of ours is driven, learned, astute, educated and his attention to detail is fantastic.''

"I was sitting right behind Rafa and I can guarantee that it was in no way trying to disrespect their bench, we had the set-pieces up on the board before the game and he'd told Xabi Alonso to do a certain free-kick. Xabi did the opposite but we managed to score from it, so he was basically saying 'don't listen to me, do your own thing'. Rafa's the type of manager to focus on his team. He's not the type who'd get involved with another manager while the game's going on, or disrespect anyone, he's just so focussed on making sure the team plays well."

These are quotes from Sammy Lee and Steven Gerrard respectively and say it all. For the record I would trust these two with LFC in their hands more than anyone, bar one. Rafa Benitez.

He has altered the way I look at our matches now. We are worthy to be called great again and he is unselfishly laying foundations for our future all the time. We play great football, he is a master technician and he loves this club and city.

I would trust him with my life.

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