January 20, 2010
Ah, Liverpool. Despite what Sky, The Sun, and most from Cornwall will tell you, England’s most succesful club. The third most succesful club in Europe, and one of the best supported clubs in the world. However, they’re a shambles, both in the board room and on the pitch. As ever, there’s a danger of getting egg on my face with this post, but hey ho, I’m going to plough on into it like a two-footed Paul Scholes challenge.
Despite the backing that Benitez has received from Hicks and Gillett publicly, privately I’m certain they’re imagining his head on the chopping block. However, the complete farce that is their ownership of the Reds already has them on the brink of expulsion, and the removal of Benitez will certainly see them in the abyss. Indeed, due to his close relationship with those on the terraces, Benitez is pretty much unsackable
While Hicks and Gillett still got on, they approached Jurgen Klinsmann about the possibility of taking Benitez’s job. This was met with fury from the Koppites, who adored ‘Rafa’ for his European Cup win, and the board rightly backed down. That being said, now is the time that any board should be considering the Spaniard’s position.
Out of the Champions League, out of the FA Cup and only just hanging on to the coat-tails of Manchester City and Spurs in the race for fourth, Benitez should certainly be clearing out his desk. Despite taking the club to two European finals and an FA Cup win, his team just don’t have the depth to sustain a title challenge when Torres and Gerrard are injured. In his time there, he’s allowed Bellamy, Robbie Keane, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Pennant and Xabi Alonso to leave the club, leaving his club desperately short in genuine quality. Many Liverpool fans have blamed the lack of investment from the owners for Liverpool’s weak squad, but keeping those five would have gone a long way to reinforcing Benitez’s team.
I get the impression a section of the support are at last turning against Benitez, many believing the final straw came against Reading last week. However, before Hicks and Gillett start rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of finally getting rid the bearded one, they should have a long, hard think. There are many more Liverpool supporters wanting to see the back of Hicks and Gillett rather than the ‘FSW’ (‘Fat Spanish Waiter’ to fans of other clubs) and the removal of Benitez will see a massive protest.
So where does this leave Hicks and Gillett? Do they stay at a club where they are despised, swimming in debt, unable to invest in the squad and slide into mid-table mediocrity? Or do they remove Benitez from his position, and then get forced out the club by 45,000 angry Scousers? Or do they sell up to an owner with the financial muscle to take Liverpool forward?
This wouldn’t be a problem to them if they hadn’t dragged the club into ridiculous debt when they purchased them. Much like the Glazer’s did with Manchester United, Hicks and Gillett put their own greed above the supporters of the club. The attitude of the Hicks/Gillett team was summed up last week by Hicks Jnr’s email to a fan concerned at his club’s slide. The staggering arrogance of Hicks Jnr led to him being removed from his position, and proved that the Americans really don’t understand ‘soccer’ and it’s supporters.
Unless, of course, your name is Randy Lerner. Despite his ridiculous name, Randy is the perfect chairman for a Premier League club. He has very quietly set about making Aston Villa a true force in the game, backing his manager with funds, and allowing him to build one of the most exciting teams in the country. At the same time, he’s ensured Villa’s future is secure, tickets are reasonably priced and he is loved by the Villa support.
The two different styles of ownership are night and day, a million miles from each other and I truly hope Villa sneak into the top 4 at the end of the season. I would be surprised if there aren’t a few Liverpool fans praying for a bad finish too, in the hope that they can use the anger that will inevitably bring to force Hicks and Gillett out the door.
Liverpool finishing out of the top 4 and United claiming a record-beating 19th title might just be enough. I wouldn’t fancy being a ‘copper’ in the North West that day though.
November 24, 2009
I started writing this blog yesterday. Yesterday being the day when no Premiership manager had yet lost their job, and also being the day the SIXTEENTH Serie A boss got the bullet. Of course, today being a new day, Paul Hart has been told to clear his desk so my blog twists in focus. Nevertheless, I shall plow on.
In my humble opinion, the step towards giving managers the required time to do their jobs is to be applauded. Statistics tell us that clubs who back their managers are generally more successful. Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes have all experienced rough patches in their club career. Indeed, legend has it Ferguson was an FA Cup defeat away from the boot as far back as 1990. Arsene Wenger survived a few calls for his head in the years after their Champions League Final defeat, and David Moyes suffered from a couple of relegation battles after Everton’s earlier spells in the dizzy heights of the league.
However, there comes a time when club chairmen simply have to say goodbye and goodnight. The sacking of Paul Hart was perhaps premature, coming only after a few months of his tenure. The same is not to be said of Rafa Benitez at Anfield.
I know, it may seem odd to many, and my understanding is the vast majority of Liverpool fans are firmly behind the bearded one. Indeed, the majority appear to blame the board for Liverpool’s current plight, which will not be aided by tonight’s Champions League result.
As a neutral though, I think the fans are wide of the mark. Yes, there are obviously board room issues, and Hicks and Gillette must have the same attraction to the Koppites as a turd on a stick. That being said, surely Benitez must take a share of the blame? After all, Benitez is the man who decides which players he wants to keep isn’t he? And he is the reason why Liverpool’s squad is now spread so thinly.
Benitez could have had a backroom team of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, and they’d still have been able to tell him allowing Robbie Keane to leave last January was a mistake. Ultimately, I believe it was that decision which cost Liverpool the championship. Now I understand he may not have played every week, and undoubtedly Torres was the far superior of the two. But winning the Premiership takes a squad, and it is for that reason why I think Liverpool will finish outside the top 4 this year.
Liverpool are so short up front, and without Torres, they are pretty impotent, with only Ngog of any note. Compare that to their immediate competition from Eastlands and White Hart Lane. City have Adebayor, Robiniho, Carlos Tevez, Santa Cruz and Craig Bellamy. Spurs have Robbie Keane, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe, and Roman Pavlyuchenko. And that’s only when you consider forwards, it’s much the same throughout the squads.
I don’t care what any Liverpool fan says to me, the blame for this lack of squad depth can only be laid at Benitez’s feet. It would appear to me that his priority is still the Champions League, despite Manchester United equalling the league title record last year. The fact he has got knocked out of that before Christmas may force the board’s hand in the next few days. Failing that, a Merseyside derby defeat may be enough to turn the tide of support against him.
Then again, it could be his FA Cup moment. Wonder if he’ll be calling Fergie for advice…