It has been an interesting couple of days. Throughout Tuesday, Twitter was awash with people “in the know” saying that there would be a press release soon that Kenny had been sacked. On Wednesday, the Kenny fans were all out in force laughing at those in the know. Today, Liverpool fans awake to news that the King has left the building. Many of those “in the know” (including the media) will come back and say “see I told you”, but at the end of the day, you fling enough shit up against the wall, and some is bound to stay up. Now that it has happened, what should we, the fans, make of it and what lies ahead for our club.
Before we can talk about Kenny, we should have a brief look at the couple of guys that came before him. Enough has been said about Rafa Benitez, and fans still seem to be divided on the man. He brought a deal of success, but many did not like his squad rotation, some questionable player choices and his defensive style of play. There’s also some debate over whether he was being supported financially with some pointing to the fact that he certainly bought some big name players, but at the same time he also had to sell some big names to fund those bigger names. When he left, the club was in turmoil, the owners were in a battle, and any new manager was always going to struggle. Roy Hodgson had a wealth of experience but he was always going to struggle at Liverpool. The other clubs that he has managed have all been clubs where expectations were low, even at Inter. They had been at a low level, and had no stars at the time. When he came to Liverpool, he suddenly faced a number of stars who were playing below their level, a fan base that expected the highest levels, and owners that would not buy before players were sold.
When Roy left, the man that many had wanted instead of Roy stepped in. When Kenny stepped, he raised the spirits of those players, that had been performing so badly under Roy. That boost in spirit seemed to be the start of something great and once again fan expectations were high, as you might expect from fans of such a great club, having one of their heroes back at the helm. The issue, however, was never whether Kenny could raise the spirits, the issue would always be a) whether Kenny still had it in him, tactically and mentally, to bring back the glory days and b) what would happen transfer wise.
You have to hand it to the new owners, they have certainly backed their man. They have provided a large amount of funds to start the rebuilding, but again people were maybe expecting too much too soon. Even with Roman’s money Chelsea took a while before they were winning, and the same is also true of Man City. Yet Liverpool, with considerably less funds than either of those two were expected to turn it around in one season. Any new signing will in most cases, Suarez aside, require a bit of time to settle in. However, as soon as one of the new stars failed, everybody was instantly criticising the purchase, and saying they should be benched.
The problem to me, league wise, was that too many players seem to have given up after the Carling Cup final. We won that, and it secured a place in Europe, and it just seemed like a number of players were thinking 4th was going to be too much of an ask. Once that mentality sets in, its going to be hard to turn that around. At that stage it is up to the manager to try and figure out how to get the best out of his players, and that to me was maybe Kenny’s failings. He was able to get the players up for most cup games but they didn’t seem to care too much about league games. Other teams just wanted it more, because they were fighting for relegation, or titles, or 4th place finish. Having said that, the players let Kenny down too. If you can’t motivate yourself to play well in the FA Cup Final, against one of your bigger rivals, then when are you going to?
Maybe the problem is with the modern day footballer. They expect things to work well or they want to leave, they have come to the conclusion that they might be more important than the manager. It’s not just at Liverpool, look at the number of managers that have come and gone at Chelsea. It’s easier to get rid of one man, and easier to blame that one man, than it is to get rid of/blame the 11 men on the pitch. Liverpool used to be a club that stood by their man and gave him a chance, but we’ve now had 3 different managers in less than 3 years, and that is a worrying trend.
The only other thing that stood against Kenny was his age. Let’s say it took him 4 to 5 years to bring it all around. By that stage he would be beyond retirement age, and yes managers have been know to go on for longer years, but there would always be a chance that Kenny would leave just as it was all working, only for the club to then fall into turmoil again. The owners have preferred to bring in younger, hungry managers, and you would expect that philosophy to continue.
So what next for Liverpool, who will step in to take control? I personally think that the owners need to attempt to make a statement, and they have to bring in a manager with a big name or that has at least managed a top club ideally into a Champions League position. At the same time, the fans have to be wary that whilst Liverpool has a great history, at this moment we are not in the Champions League, and some managers may well be wary of coming to a club that has changed managers three times in a short space of time. There have already been a couple of names linked, including Martinez and below was this morning’s betting from William Hill:
Rafael Benitez (William Hill odds: 2/1)
Roberto Martinez (7/4)
Frank Rijkaard (9/2)
Paul Lambert (10/1)
Alan Pardew (10/1)
Brendan Rodgers (11/1)
Fabio Capello (12/1)
Andre Villas-Boas (14/1)
Carlo Ancelotti (16/1)
Jose Mourinho (16/1)
Martin O’Neill (16/1)
Jurgen Klinsmann (20/1)
Pep Guardiola (25/1)
It is no surprise that Rafa is at the top, the man still clearly has a love for Liverpool, and his main criticism during his tenure was that the owners never supported him like he wanted them to financially. Looking down that list, there are some great managers, but you would think that maybe they would prefer to go to a Champions League club. Those include Mourinho, and Guardiola. I would love to have Guardiola at Liverpool as his football philosophy would hopefully bring us back to the pass and move days, but I would imagine he may be tempted elsewhere. Many fans have already spoken out against the likes of Martinez and O’Neill, and I would imagine Pardew would at least want to manage Newcastle in the Champions League.
There are plenty of names in the left overs to fit the “mould”, but you have to wonder just how good they will be at a bigger club with higher expectations. They may have done very well at Swansea, Norwich etc, but there is a difference between staying out of the bottom three, and getting into the top 4, and then another big game between that and winning it.