Rafa’s Gone – So What’s Next?

To the great disappointment of many thousands of Reds fans, and the to undoubted glee of others, Rafael Benitez was finally forced out of the club this past week (I don’t believe in this ‘mutual consent’ crap).

I for one am sorry to see him go, as I have always felt he was the right man for this club. One bad season does not make a bad manager. Even the great Bill Shankly had his lean years, most notably between the 1966-67 and 1972-73 seasons. He started the former by winning the FA Charity Shield, and ended the latter as First Division champions and UEFA Cup winners. All the years in between, there was nothing.

If things back then were like they are now, would Shankly have also been forced to leave in one of those intervening years because of one bad season? It’s a question that can’t really be answered as times have changed, and not neccessarily for the better.

There are still questions being asked by the fans, arguments being fought, as to whether the board have made the right decision. Some don’t think so, others do – although I fear they could be partially mis-guided by all these rumours of player unrest and that Rafa had lost the dressing room.

I personally don’t believe these rumours. As far as I’m concerned they’re a load of bollocks. Rafa may have seemed more like your strict old headmaster, than an arm round the shoulders Mourinho-type manager – but that was only what we were allowed to see. If it was true, why would so many players committ themselves to the club for the long term contracts they were on – stating the fact that it was because Rafa was the manager that played a big part in them signing? Why is there now heresay that some of them want to now leave and follow Rafa to his next club?

And if he was purely a strict disciplinarian and didn’t care about his players – why phone up Ryan Babel at the Dutch training camp to offer support as soon as he heard he was injured? (And this is only one example I’ve heard of – I’m sure there are many others).

Sadly this is now all conjecture and nothing more than a by-the-by since the decision was made, Rafa has gone, and by the time this is published, will probably be the next manager of Inter Milan – Champions of Serie A, Italian cup winners and UEFA Champions League winners. Kind of sticks in the gullett a little bit because Massimo Morratti can see Rafa for what he really is – a world class coach with a world class pedigree. Shame our owners couldn’t and allow him next season to correct the mistakes of this.

But anyway, I digress. Rafa’s gone, and we have to accept that, like it or not. Thanks for everything Rafa, you will always be a legend at this club – and remember – YNWA.

We are a club more akin at the moment to the likes of Newcastle, Leeds and Portsmouth, than Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal. Not forgetting there is now also Tottenham and Man City fighting to share our place at the captains table, while we are relgated to the visitors at the back.

The search for a new manager is ongoing – conducted, in part at least, by the King, Kenny Dalglish. A man that knows this club inside and out. A man that has been here and won trophies both as a player and manager. A man that understands not only the ethics of the club, but the city and the fans. And he can apply this in his search.

Unfortunately, with the state the club is currently in, would any decent manager even want to come here? Boardroom battles abound, uncertainty over the ownership of the club (lets face it, the ‘for sale’ sign has been up and down more times than a fiddlers elbow recently). And a transfer kitty more suited to Premier League new boys Blackpool, than to what is supposedly one of the top clubs in not only the country, but also Europe and the World.

Lets talk about likely candidates that have been mentioned over the last few days:

Guus Hiddink? Unlikely as he’s just signed a contract to manage Turkey a few weeks back. Can’t see him leaving there so soon into a new deal to come here.

Frank Rijkaard? Galatasaray and ex-Barcelona manager. Good at bringing players up from the ranks but also likes to splash the cash, so no.

Marcelo Lippi? Possibly, but we’ll need to wait until the completion of the World Cup before we could even ask.

Sven Goran Erikksson? Good club record going back to the early 80’s with Benfica, and a self proclaimed Liverpool fan for a number of years. An outside bet.

Kenny Dalglish? Well, the King is charged with conducting the search and therefore unlikely to put himself forward I feel. Besides, Kenny has been away from the front line of the game for too long – would he feel comfortable stepping back into the hotseat? I’m not so sure.

Manuel Pellegrini? Just been released by Real Madrid so at least he’s available and there’d be no compensation fee to pay. Not a bad manager, done ok at Villareal before going to Madrid. Another outside bet.

Harry Redknapp? ‘Arry and his family have a long standing relationship with the Dalglish’s for over 20 years, since Kenny brought a young Jamie to the club back in the late 80’s/very early 90’s. Unfortunately not a favourite as he writes for The Sun (a massive no-no), has still not been fully cleared of the fraud charges against him, and besides – he’s just got a chance at Champions League football with Spurs – would he give that up for the Europa League with us?

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Roy Hodgson? Not a bad manager, but not a great one either. He’s done ok at Fulham, done alright on the International stage. But other than that, most of his club career has been spent in Italy or Scandanavia, with his teams vying for what is now Europa League spots at best. Not the title winning manager we should be after. Not to mention his one other English club spell at Blackburn, he contributed to them getting relegated only 3 years after they won the Premier League – under King Kenny!

And there we have it. Not a too extensive list, but not one that would fill any Liverpool fan with any great hope for the future either. And certainly not one that would have us dreaming of the Premier League title any time soon.

We missed out by only a number of days on the one man that I feel would have gladly accepted the challenge – and has undeniable winners pedigree. Of course I’m talking Jose Mourinho.

Our club is in a right mess – owners that don’t actually own the club, and don’t talk to each other except through lawyers. A chairman that is a self confessed Chelsea fan. No manager. And all likely transfer fees from players sold off, not put aside in a kitty for any new manager, but purely to service the huge debt the club is in as ordered by The Royal Bank of Scotland.

So the question has to be asked. Where do we go from here? I’m not sure we’ll end up completely ‘doing a Newcastle‘ (or Leeds for that matter), totally self-imploding and getting relegated. But you have to wonder if we’ll be fighting for the Champions League spots, or the title, again any time soon – or will we have to put up with mid-table mediocraty?

There are now two searches going on at the club. One for new owners/investors, and one for a new manager. All clubs go through one or the other at some stage, but not normally both at the same time (good Gods, we are beginning to sound more like Newcastle every day).

World Cup aside, it’s certainly going to be an interesting summer. And all we as Liverpool fans can really do, apart from flooding the message boards, is sit back, put our feet up, open another cold can and watch with trepid anticipation. And hope both issues are resolved sooner, rather than later. Because the gaping wounds that they have caused in our club, will not begin to heal until they are.

Simon Pearce

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