Swansea City’s Brendan Rodgers now appears set to become the new Liverpool manager, and alongside Wigan Athletic’s Roberto Martinez, he has been the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish. Whether Rodgers is appointed into the role or not, the whole process has become so drawn out that I think there will be a huge collective sigh of relief once the debacle is resolved.
This managerial appointment is arguably a crucial one for Liverpool. After the disappointment of new England manager Roy Hodgson’s short stint in charge, followed by the poor league showing last season under Dalglish, despite reaching two cup finals, has left the club sitting quite a way behind other Champions League suitors. All of this of course has been played out in front of a backdrop of off-field drama which has possibly seen the close link with supporters the club has been famous for previously begin to erode.
Supporters appear to be becoming increasingly frustrated with how the club manages key issues, be it the redevelopment of Anfield or the relocation to Stanley Park, the Suarez issue and now the relieving of Kenny Dalglish from his managerial responsibility and the chasing of a series of new managers all under the public gaze.
Amidst this though, for me, is quite an interesting story. From the phone-ins I’ve listened to and the blogs I’ve read, it would appear the consensus don’t consider Messrs Rodgers or Martinez suitable candidates for the Anfield vacancy, mainly due to their current club’s stature and reference to the need for an experienced ‘World Class’ solution.
I’ve made reference previously that I think Liverpool supporters may need to begin to realign their immediate expectations. Liverpool FC remains an excellent brand with international notoriety, yet I cannot envisage there being a clamour of managers, in the bracket one might associate with ‘World Class’, queuing up outside John W. Henry’s office.
I would add to this that the appointment of an internationally renowned manager does not necessarily guarantee success… Luiz Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea are testament to that and there are many other examples of expensive failures. With this in mind, and with both Martinez and Rodgers advocates of the style of football that Liverpool supporters crave, I fail to see the danger in approaching and appointing either one of, in my opinion, two of the most promising young managers in the Premier League.
Both Martinez and Rodgers appear to be ambitious without being conceited; both have developed exciting young squads at minimal cost yet have increased in value, both appear to be much more adept at handling public relations than what supporter’s had to endure last season, and again, most importantly, both like their sides to play attractive attacking football.
I think there is a misnomer around the need to appoint an experienced manager. Surely a young ambitious manager with new ideas is a better, and more prudent appointment?
The most successful manager in British football, Sir Alex Ferguson, could hardly have been classed as an international ‘heavyweight’ when appointed manager of Manchester Utd in November 1986. Arsene Wenger was dubbed Arsene ‘Who?’ when plucked from Japanese football and then you could easily make reference to Liverpool’s city rivals’ Everton who appointed and showed faith in Preston North End’s David Moyes when highlighting that sometimes it pays dividends to not be so predictable when looking to appoint a figurehead to lead the club into the future.
I think both would be an excellent and refreshing appointment, although it would appear that Rodgers may be the man given the opportunity; however, it has been shown before, his success will largely be dependant on whether the Liverpool supporters give him a chance and give him time.
With Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager being openly debated this last week, with particular reference to his short stint in charge at Liverpool being (unfairly in my opinion) considered a major blot on his curriculum vitae, coupled with further defeats for the Kopites against Fulham in the league and to Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the blame for Liverpool’s recent poor form being laid firmly at Hodgson’s door.
Roy Hodgson was appointed manager of Liverpool in July 2010 having just overseen Fulham’s unexpected Uefa Cup final appearance against Atletico Madrid of Spain; 6 months and 31 games later he was sacked.
The statistic that is commonly thrown around as evidence of his failing is the new England manager’s win ratio at Anfield which is the fifth lowest post war at 41.94%. This is a figure that cannot be denied, nor can the Premier League table at the time of his departure, but I would question again whether Roy Hodgson can be solely blamed for that predicament.
When I was growing up and first started watching football, Liverpool were the dominant force, however, they haven’t added to their 18 league titles since 1989/90, a gap of 22 years and represents the longest period without a league title since the 24 years that separated their 1923 and 1947 triumphs, albeit there was the small matter of The Second World War during that time. What is more apparent however is the lack of true realistic attempts at taking the title back to Liverpool since the birth of The Premier League and Manchester Utd’s dominance. Reviewing Liverpool’s performance over this time may suggest that some supporters may need to adjust their expectancies as 62% of the time, Liverpool have finished outside of the top-3 and prior to Hodgson’s appointment, Rafael Benitez’s reign petered out with a seventh placed finish; they currently sit ninth under Kenny Dalglish.
In my mind, Roy Hodgson wasn’t going to Anfield to challenge for the title, it was more about a rebuilding job which needed to start with some consolidation. Amidst this, there was the backdrop of the club being put up for sale, the lack of confidence or support for the then owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and the general instability in and around the Anfield hierarchy. In addition to this, Hodgson had Kenny Dalglish as a prominent figure above him, the true Anfield legend and in my view a key perpetrator of his role being undermined.
Then we look at the squad that was available at the beginning of the 2010/11 season. Roy Hodgson was attributed with the signings of Joe Cole (who I had thought would’ve excelled at Anfield but struggled for form and fitness and at least now appears to be enjoying his football again as one of England’s few exports), Raul Meireles (who is now a Champions League finalist at Chelsea), Paul Konchesky (who had just enjoyed an excellent season at Fulham and was anticipated to fill the problematic left-back position but never really settled), and Christian Poulsen (which was possibly poor judgment). People tend to forget that Alberto Aquilani, Sotiros Kyrgiakos, Jonjo Shelvey and Milan Jovanovic were Benitez signings. In addition to these, Hodgson had a squad that remained heavy of underperforming individuals such as David Ngog and Ryan Babel; it certainly wasn’t a vintage team by any stretch of the imagination.
When Hodgson departed, in came ‘King Kenny’ and he was afforded the ability to make huge inroads into the transfer market. Out went Fernando Torres to Chelsea for a cool £50million (how I bet Hodgson wishes he had that money available) and in has come hugely expensive young Englishmen Jordan Henderson from Sunderland, Stewart Downing from Aston Villa and Andy Carroll from Newcastle Utd in addition to the tricky Uruguayan Luis Suarez and Blackpool’s Charlie Adam. Although Liverpool have won the League Cup this season (albeit via a penalty shoot-out against a side from a lower division), and also managed to make the FA Cup final, Liverpool’s league form has been abysmal, particularly at Anfield where they have built a history of being solid and consistent. Sunderland, Norwich City, Swansea City, Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City, Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham have all gone home with at least a point; this can’t be blamed on Hodgson and in my view is the reason why Liverpool have not even come close to looking like they may contend a Champions League place next season.
Kenny Dalglish may have been the right appointment when Roy Hodgson left; I do feel for Hodgson but it may have been a case of wrong time wrong place, but I think for Liverpool to begin to challenge at the top-end of the league again they need to invest in a world-class manager… Jose Mourinho would be perfect on Merseyside. If he got the financial backing I believe he would turn Liverpool into a force… if that was the case he would be spoken about in the same breath as Dalglish, Paisley and Shankley and that would suit Mourinho’s ego just fine.