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My thoughts on: The new Liverpool Manager

May 30, 2012 Leave a comment

 

The new Liverpool manager?

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.

Hot property. Liverpool and Aston Villa both chasing the Wigan manager

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?

A younger looking Sir Alex Ferguson

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.

My thoughts on: England’s Euro 2012 squad part V

May 11, 2012 Leave a comment

The new England manager

England have a new manager or head coach or whatever title they have decided to give Roy Hodgson. Much debate has been had whether he is the best man for the job with the media-backed Harry Redknapp apparently being the ‘people’s choice’ not being interviewed; but for me, I am happy with the appointment and I desperately hope the players, supporters and media get behind Hodgson and at least give him a fighting chance of succeeding.

The FA have confirmed that Hodgson will name his preliminary Euro 2012 squad by May 16th which is then followed by two friendlies, against Norway and Belgium, before finalising the squad prior to the May 29th deadline. Who will be in that squad is so difficult to call, but as always, I’ve given it a go:

Polish/Ukraine phrase book bought and polishing the accent

1. Joe Hart, Manchester City (GK) No change

2. Scott Parker, Tottenham Hotspur (MF) No change

3. Wayne Rooney, Manchester Utd (FW) No change

4. Ashley Cole, Chelsea (DF) Up 1
Like many of Chelsea’s senior players, Ashley Cole’s form has returned since the temporary appointment of Roberto Di Matteo and Cole’s performances, particularly in the two legs against Barcelona, have been back to the quality we would expect from England’s first-choice left-back.

5. Glen Johnson, Liverpool (DF) Down 1

6. Leighton Baines, Everton (DF) No change

7. Ashley Young, Manchester Utd (MF/FW) No change
Although Ashley Young’s recent ‘falling-over’ antics for Manchester Utd have not been widely appreciated by the English football following public, he is one of our main attacking threats in terms of either creating opportunities for others (which we desperately need in the absence of Wayne Rooney), or being in the right place to add the finishing touch to a move. He may even win us a penalty.

8. Gary Cahill, Chelsea (DF) Up 11
I think there is huge debate over who England’s centre halves should be, which feels strange as it hasn’t really been an issue in recent years. Both John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are getting older, not playing as many games and are more susceptible to making mistakes now, but in addition, it would appear that both won’t be included in the squad because of Terry’s impending court case. Gary Cahill hasn’t fitted in smoothly at Stamford Bridge, but has begun to find form, unfortunately for him, that was curtailed by injury in the Nou Camp but hopefully he should be fit for Chelsea’s date in Munich.

9. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool (MF) No change

10. Theo Walcott, Arsenal (MF) Up 3

11. Gareth Barry, Manchester City (MF) Up 3
Barry’s form has been one of the key factors in Manchester City’s recent resurgent form which has seen them overhaul city rivals United and have one hand on the Premier League trophy. He shouldn’t be in the first XI in my opinion, but I think he may go as Scott Parker’s holding midfield understudy.

12. Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) Up 3

13. Danny Welbeck, Manchester Utd (FW) Down 5

14. Frank Lampard, Chelsea (MF) Up 12
As per Ashley Cole, Lampard’s form and confidence has returned and equally, his performances against Barcelona in particular stand out. It feels odd to still talk about Gerrard, Ferdinand, Lampard and Terry in the build-up to Euro 2012 as I think we all expected England to have a very different look about them post South Africa. I doubt we will see the return of the Lampard/Gerrard debate in terms of how can we fit both players into the team, but for his experience and recent form I think this could be his international swansong.

15. Rio Ferdinand, Manchester Utd (DF) Down 5

16. Scott Carson, Bursaspor (GK) Up 1

One of England’s most consistent defenders this season for me

17. Joleon Lescott, Manchester City (DF) Up 12
I think that Joleon Lescott has had an excellent season, proven by his role in the Premier League’s meanest defence. He is naturally left-sided with pace and experience and I don’t think should be too far away from a starting position.

18. Adam Johnson, Manchester City (MF) Up 2
In my opinion, Adam Johnson is one of the true wingers England has got, and although I doubt he will start, I think he is truly an exciting and game-changing option from the substitutes bench.

19. Phil Jones, Manchester Utd (DF) Down 8
I’m not sure I would take him as on far too many occasions he just looks like a glorified headless chicken. He is quick, athletic, strong and clearly has ability, but at the minute I think he is suffering from his versatility and not being played consistently in one position. He should never be considered for right back for me and if he is going, it would be as fourth choice centre half or reserve for midfield.

20. Robert Green, West Ham Utd (GK) Up 3

21. Jermain Defoe, Tottenham Hotspur (FW) Up 1
England are really suffering with a lack of strikers I think, and unfortunately, I think Jermain Defoe is our most natural finisher but is not a preferred option at White Hart Lane. I think he might go, again because of his experience, plus he does seem to have that knack of scoring on the international scene.

22. Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea (FW) Down 4

23. Stewart Downing, Liverpool (MF) Down 2
For me, I think Stewart Downing’s international chances have gone. He has been given a fair few but I am yet to see him actually beat an international defender… I still think he might slip onto the plane though without anyone noticing.

Don’t book that holiday to the Caribbean just yet… you might get a nice week in Krakow!

Andy Carroll has proven to be a real handful at times… his first touch has improved also!

24. Andy Carroll, Liverpool (FW) Up 10
All of a sudden there has been a clamour for Liverpool’s once labelled £35million misfit to be on the plane since his near game changing appearance at Wembley in the FA Cup Final. He has a habit of scoring big goals, as he did in the semi-final also, and has proven to be a real menace when he is on his game as Chelsea certainly found out in that Cup Final cameo and the 1-4 reverse at Anfield in the league the following week.

25. John Terry, Chelsea (DF) No change
Putting aside his court case and the debate over the potential fall-out with Rio Ferdinand, John Terry’s form has been blighted by some major hiccups of late; most notably his performance at Anfield in the 4-1 defeat and also his lack of intelligence, maturity and responsibility with his needless sending off in the Nou Camp.

26. James Milner, Manchester City (MF) Down 14
Something of a forgotten man now I think. Not sure where he fits in at Manchester City let alone England.

27. Michael Carrick, Manchester Utd (MF) Up 8
Appears to be injury-free and back to his simple passing and possession maintaining self. Some doubt over whether he could be England’s holding midfielder as I don’t think his tackling ability is near Parker or Barry, but his form and passing range is good and he might just be a reasonable outside shout for the final 23.

28. Phil Jagielka, Everton (DF) Up 10

29. Aaron Lennon, Tottenham Hotspur (MF) Up 4

30. Peter Crouch, Stoke City (FW) Up 13
Crouch may just benefit from the change of manager to one who has previously tried to sign him and the lack of other options. He has got a good scoring record for England, but others will point out the quality of that opposition.

Might just have to listen to Jim Beglin describe the action

31. Tom Cleverley, Manchester Utd (MF) Down 1
I fully expect Cleverley to be involved with the England squad post tournament and hopefully for a few years to come.

32. Darren Bent, Aston Villa (FW) No change
How much have Aton Villa missed the striking ability of Darren Bent? I wonder if they would have been looking over their shoulder at the spectre of relegation this much if he had been fit. I think it’s a real blow for him personally and for England  that it looks likely he will miss the tournament, however, there has been a suggestion there is a slim chance he could be fit.

33. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal (MF) Down 5
I did think a couple of months ago when he burst into the Arsenal team that he would be in with a chance of being the Theo Walcott addition to the squad. It now appears as though he will have to bide his time for his full international bow… he may need to make sure he cements a place in Arsene Wenger’s first XI though.

34. Micah Richards, Manchester City (DF) Down 18
When Fabio Capello walked out on the England job I think everyone expected Micah Richards to stake a real claim for the right-back position. Despite his inclusion against Holland, his absence from Roberto Mancini’s team I think has proved to dampen his hopes and I think he will miss out.

35. Fraizer Campbell, Sunderland (FW) Down 8

What a season it would represent for Holt if he got the call

36. Grant Holt, Norwich City (FW) NEW ENTRY
The bustling striker’s form and goals this season for newly promoted Norwich City have certainly caught the eye, although, I can’t help but feel that his name is only being mentioned due to the lack of English strikers around at the moment. I think he definitely deserves consideration based on his approach, teamwork, contribution and goals this season… for him to be included would surely be an amazing story for the former Rochdale and Shrewsbury Town forward.

37. Ben Foster, West Bromwich Albion (GK) NEW ENTRY
I wonder whether Roy Hodgson might be able to tempt Ben Foster out of his self-imposed international absence to become a capable understudy to Joe Hart. He’s certainly had an excellent season and would be my choice for number 2.

38. Liam Ridgewell, West Bromwich Albion (DF) Up 6

39. Jack Rodwell, Everton (MF) Up 3

Might want to have a look if they have an Irish grandmother

40. Bobby Zamora, Queens Park Rangers (FW) Down 3
A couple of months ago I had Zamora just finding a way into the squad… at least that move to QPR has not had any sort of detrimental affect on his career.

41. Scott Sinclair, Swansea City (MF) Down 1

42. John Ruddy, Norwich City (GK) NEW ENTRY
His form certainly surprised me this year but he may finally be finding the promise that led him to Everton a number of years ago now.

43. Danny Graham, Swansea City (FW) Up 3

44. Joe Cole, Lille (MF) NEW ENTRY
Roy Hodgson did take Cole to Liverpool and he is having an excellent season in Ligue 1.

45. Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal (DF) Down 4

46. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa (FW) Down 7

47. Michael Dawson, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) No change

48. David Stockdale, Fulham (GK) No change

49. Paul Scholes, Manchester Utd (MF) Down 13
It would seem that we all have finally seen sense and realised that post-retirement Paul Scholes looks very accomplished against those sides lower down the league, but against quality opposition his decision to retire looked like a good one.

50. Nathan Dyer, Swansea City (MF) No change

My thoughts on: Liverpool FC

May 8, 2012 4 comments

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.

It never really worked out for the new England manager at Anfield

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.

The return of ‘The King’

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.

My thoughts on: The Next England Manager

September 28, 2011 3 comments

England face a trip to Montenegro on Friday 7th October as Fabio Capello aims to secure qualification to next summer’s European Championship Finals in Poland and Ukraine. A draw will suffice but England, as always, will be expected to win and to mount a serious challenge for winning the tournament with the memory of the team’s failings in South Africa still fresh in the mind.

For many, and I include me in that, thought that there should have been a change in leadership after the defeat to Germany; but there wasn’t, and now England sit on the verge of qualification for the 2012 tournament with Capello still at the helm, albeit ready to step down post-tournament (or sooner I guess dependant on the results next week?).

The big question then is who should take the reins and move England forward? To be fair, to call the Italian’s time in the job as a failure may be a bit harsh. We are slowly seeing a change in personnel and the removal of the reliance on a number of players in preference of youth; he has overseen comfortable qualification campaigns and who knows; he may have learned from the mistakes made in 2010 and England may have a good tournament next year (what would happen if we went on to win it I wonder?). The fact remains though that, in my opinion, England need a fresh start inspired by a new regime.

The next England manager?

The leading contender amongst the media and many supporters is Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Redknapp. Although Redknapp is tagged by some as a ‘wheeler dealer’ manager, borne out of his stewardship at clubs such as AFC Bournemouth, Portsmouth, West Ham Utd and Southampton; Redknapp has dealt with many high-profile players, so I fail to see how this attempted blot on his CV stands up. Some might say he hasn’t been that successful, which again I would argue against, citing his time at West Ham Utd with finishes of 5th and 8th and the overseeing of many academy products making the journey into first team regulars (and ultimately internationals).

His two stints in charge of Portsmouth brought about great success for a provincial club; winning the second tier at a relative canter, keeping them in the top-flight and winning the FA Cup and was ultimately more successful than his brief spell in charge of their near-neighbours Southampton.

Now in charge of Tottenham Hotspur; Redknapp has led the club forward to a point where they are now seriously considered as a real and consistent threat to the monopoly of the top-four slots in the Premier League, and indeed, oversaw qualification to the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.

I hear suggestions that this relative success was only possible due to the financial clout he received at Portsmouth and what he currently gets at White Hart Lane; however, I would argue that this is really not that relevant as being England manager dictates that you have a pool of every English player to select from and the role relies more on coaching ability, tactical nous and man management skills rather than how successful or dependant you have been in the transfer market to acquire success.

The FA I believe have openly suggested that the next manager of the national team will be an Englishman and although it is a sentiment that I would rather, I think it is something of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the media/public frustration connected to Sven-Goran Eriksson and the current incumbant. By choosing an Englishman does not necessarily guarantee you greater success as the opposite doesn’t as recent appointments have shown. My main issue with Fabio Capello is that I feel he doesn’t have the grasp of the language to communicate effectively nor did he have a great understanding of the English game when he came into the role… I may even question if he fully understands it now.

I would not be adverse to another non-English appointment, but I would stress that it would have to be given to a character who has experience of the English league and is able to communicate clearly and concisely in English. I would have no problems with names such as Wenger, Ferguson, Mourinho or O’Neill being linked to the job; all of which have been successful in England (albeit to differing levels and consistency) and all of which would command the respect of the squad. The same old arguments undoubtedly will be discussed referencing how successful (or lack of it) English managers actually are; but the problem with that is that if you measure success purely by winning the Premier League, until one of those clubs who monopolise that title give an Englishman the job, then it is unlikely we will see it for a few years yet.

Another common suggestion is that in order to be successful England need to appoint someone with proven international management experience. Research shows that this is completely inaccurate as since 1994, only Berti Vogts (one year with Kuwait) and Roger Lemerre (coached under Aime Jacquet’s reign) had previous experience at that level and therefore I think blows that thought process out of the water

The Special One?

For me, the next England manager needs to be an experienced coach, someone who has shown to be tactically aware and successful, someone who can communicate coherently with players and supporters, someone who can manage the players as individuals, including those players who aren’t necessarily in the squad, and someone who commands respect. For me, my choice would be one of the above; Redknapp, Wenger, Ferguson, Mourinho or O’Neill; I wonder whether the FA dare select any of these characters or opt for the ‘safer option’ of Stuart Pearce?