Posted by E2K on October 19, 2010, 01:52:51 AM
People talk about the job like itís 1959 and weíre praying for a Bill Shankly to come in and rebuild the club from top to bottom. This club reached the quarter-final of the Champions League and finished second in the Premiership as recently as May 2009, or less than eighteen months ago. That is a stonewall fact. Since then, Alonso, Hyypia, Arbeloa, Keane, Riera, Benayoun, Insua and Mascherano of that squad have left, the likes of Cole, Meireles and Johnson have come in. Itís not as strong, itís a squad of players that reflects the lack of investment on the playing side of the club over the previous year and a half, but it contains a first eleven good enough to compete at the right end of the table, some promising youngsters and a few fringe players that perhaps the right man could galvanise. This isnít 1959 and Liverpool F.C. is not in the second division. It has a quality squad of players and new owners who have suggested that theyíre here to win. Letís get all of that out into the open first.
The job is the same as it has been for the best part of twenty years since Graeme Souness took a sledge hammer to the place when a chisel was needed, since the club fell from its perch as Manchester United ascended to theirs. It hasnít changed. Itís been one long winding road back to the top and Rafael Benitez came closer to doing it than anyone. Iím not going to go into the history of it, we all know, weíll all have our own opinions on his reign. What I will say is that Rafael Benitez and any manager cut from that kind of cloth would come into the job as it stands today, have a look and rub his hands together. Reina, arguably the best Ďkeeper in the world. Torres, arguably the best striker. Gerrard, arguably the best attacking midfielder when heís on song. A ball-playing defender of huge promise in Daniel Agger. Englandís number one right-back, Glen Johnson. Dirk Kuyt, a hard-working, versatile attacking weapon who chips in with his share of goals and assists. Raul Meireles and Joe Cole, two good international players signed by the current regime. Ably assisted by a supporting cast including the solid Slovakian Martin Skrtel, versatile Brazilian Lucas Leiva, lightning-fast Dutchman Ryan Babel, and youngsters like Nígog and Pacheco who could be really good. In addition, two world-renowned youth coaches overseeing the Academy in Rodolfo Borrell and Pep Segura.
The jobís not easy, but it isnít a total rebuilding job either. If someone manages to pull Roy away from the sockets before he jams that rusty nail into it and completely fucks the electrics, if the right man to run the football side of things is brought in, is supported financially (and weíre not talking City-levels of cash here), then Liverpool arenít too far away at all. I fail to see why people think we are. Of course, at the moment weíre second-bottom. Does anyone really think weíd be there under a Benitez or a Pellegrini, a Lippi or a Hitzfeld, even a Laudrup, a Rijkaard or a Deschamps? Weíve apparently gone 180 degrees from Rafael Benitez having sole responsibility for finishing seventh to Roy Hodgson being allowed to abdicate it for his team sitting nineteenth. Smoke and mirrors. This is not to have a go at Roy again, simply to suggest that the team is better than this. Way better. Any new manager is not going to be asked to grab a bucket and start throwing water off the Titanic, nor is he going to be given a pen, a pad and an Ark, then told to find two of every fucking animal. The foundations have been laid, just go and build on them.
The job. Benitez fucking relished the job when he took over, despite the prospect of being outspent by his major rivals. One decent prospect in the Academy (Warnock), maybe a handful of top performers in the first team, we all knew that squad wouldnít cut it. He didnít give a fuck, he just got to work. He was hamstrung by an injury epidemic that season too, still finished a couple of points off fourth, reached the League Cup final, won in Istanbul with players like Igor Biscan, Vladimir Smicer, Milan Baros and Djimi Traore playing their parts along the way. Men like Benitez find a way. Thatís what we had. Thatís what we may have again, if the next appointment is correct. It wonít be Rafa, but anyone whoís made of the same stuff will relish this job, relish finding a way to exploit all the talent at his disposal, the likes of Torres, Gerrard, Meireles, Cole, Agger, Johnson, Kuyt, Skrtel, Lucas, Babel, etc. Is it as good as Chelseaís squad, or Cityís? No. But Benitez took over a squad that wasnít either and we all know what happened in 2005.
For the sake of all thatís good and holy, do not listen to people like Ronnie Whelan, Alan Hansen or Mark Lawrenson. I donít know what their motivations are, I donít care, just donít be suckered in. We are where we are because our manager is not good enough to motivate his players, get the best out of the talent at his disposal or impose effective tactics. Benitez took largely the same squad to seventh, seven points behind Spurs, with key players like Torres and Aquilani missing large portions of the season. That weíre in the relegation zone is little if anything to do with any lack of quality. When we get a new man in, if itís the right appointment, the club is situated on a decent platform to push on and try to get back to consistently challenging for honours. The fear that I have, and I hope Iím wrong, is that the appointment will either be flawed, or the current incumbent will be given too long to the point where precious time and resources will be wasted, pushing us back further than we need to go. At a time when things are looking up off the pitch, we now have to hope that our new owners listen to the right people, make an informed decision, and do the right thing. If they do that and a suitably-qualified individual takes the reigns, heíll be walking into the best situation that any Liverpool boss has inherited in two decades or more. And the job wonít take £300m to carry out, or years and years, or whatever else theyíre saying. Just a pinch of time, a tablespoon of expertise, a handful of patience and a large dollop of support.
Letís just hope they get the right man.
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