So What Now?

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Anfield Liverpool v Sunderland Premier League 28/03/10 Anfield legends Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish and Rafa Benitez Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

There was a lot of healthy debate after my last article.

Many of you will remember that I thought it was time for Rafa to leave and thankfully, he has done so. But I really don’t understand the blind faith of the “In Rafa We Trust” brigade. Of course we should support our manager within reason, but when the manager makes a statement “promising” 4th position and the last Champion’s League place … and then the same manager gives us only 7th place, then surely the manager IS responsible isn’t he? Surely the buck must stop with him?

I just wonder how the “In Rafa We Trust” blind faith brigade would have reacted if Rafa had stayed and we had lost the likes of Stevie, Torres and Carra? Would their blind faith have remained as the proceeds from these sales were part channelled into servicing our debts and part channelled into mediocre replacements?

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad we had Rafa as our manager. After Gerard Houllier’s last few years we all needed someone fresh and someone to inspire us…. and inspire us Rafa did with what must surely be our greatest victory ever – Istanbul. How can we also regret having someone who brought us a second Champions League final in 3 years, or who gave us that fantastic FA Cup victory?

I just think he stayed for 2 years too long – and yes, that even takes into account our second placed finish last year that as far as I’m concerned, was a “fluke”. Yes I know how many goals we scored last season but we clearly ran out of ideas with way too many draws. The title was there for the taking as the other three teams out of the then “big four” couldn’t string together a title-winning run of games either. In my opinion, Rafa’s tactics killed off our chances of finally raising that Premiership trophy.

But that’s all in the past. Rafa has gone now so what next?

I think there’s a lot of cause for excitement and optimism now. It wouldn’t surprise me if a buyer has already been found for the club – but that there are complexities with any such arrangements such as any deal being reliant on Benitez leaving, the right managerial replacement being found and our key players staying at the club. Even IF a buyer hasn’t been found, it is clearly crucial that we get the next manager right and that our key players remain.

I have received a lot of emails asking for my opinion on who our next manager should be. Firstly, I think we need to go back to basics and to the grass roots of English football – and for me, we need a British manager at the helm. The exceptions to that rule would have been Mourinho and Hiddink – but they are both accounted for.

I very much respect Roy Hodgson and what he has achieved on the Continent and with Fulham, but I’m just not sure he’s who Liverpool needs right now. Has he got the hunger needed for our top job? Can he command the respect of our top players? I’m not saying I will be disappointed if he DOES get the job, but for me there are better candidates out there.

I believe it is a 3-horse race for the top job. By that, I mean that any of the following 3 candidates could all do a great job for us:

Jan. 14, 2010 - 05344654 date 13 01 2010 Copyright imago BPI Liverpool Global Ambassador Kenny Dalglish PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxFRAxNEDxESPxSWExPOLxCHNxJPN men Football England FA Cup Cup Cup tie 2009 Liverpool Portrait Vdig xsk 2010 vertical premiumd Football.

1. “King” Kenny Dalglish

Friends have intimated that Kenny would jump at the chance. “Unfinished business” and the chance to lead his beloved Reds again might be too tempting to turn down. Clearly, he would have the support of the fans and the club and is the one man who could be guaranteed to bring stability back to the playing side of the club. This stability is just what the club needs whether a buyer has been found or is still being sought. I don’t buy into the theory that he’s been away from the game too long – when you’ve got the talent, then it doesn’t go away. At 61, he’s still relatively young enough for the position but only he can answer if he himself is up to the demands of the job

2. Harry Redknapp

Sure, Harry is no spring chicken anymore but he would clearly love to finally get his hands on the reigns of a top 4 club – although ironically of course, that’s exactly where he is now! The current Spurs boss only has a year left on his contract and he is rumoured to have fallen out with the top brass at the North London club. Yes, Harry would have to turn his back on Champion’s League football next season, but how many more chances will he get to manage a club like Liverpool? Other than Kenny Dalglish, Harry is the one manager who would certainly command the respect of the dressing room and for me, he’s one of the few bosses who could convince Stevie to see his career out with us. On a final note, Harry is a success story in the transfer market and surely the board will give serious consideration to a manager who is probably the best bet to spend wisely with what little funds are available.

Apr. 25, 2010 - United Kingdom - Football - Aston Villa v Birmingham City Barclays Premier League - Villa Park - 25/4/10..Martin O'Neill - Aston Villa manager.

3. Martin O’Neill

Randy Lerner is adamant that his manager is going nowhere, but the fiery Northern Irishman would surely jump at the chance for the top club that his talents clearly deserve. O’Neill for me is the best long-term solution as he looks like the kind of manager who craves building a “footballing dynasty” like Sir Alex Ferguson. Punching above your weight with mid-table English teams or doing what’s expected with one of Scotland’s only 2 serious clubs is one thing, but surely O’Neill finally deserves his chance at a top club? His commitment and passion would be welcomed by the Kop – but would the board see his temperament as being a liability?

I was criticised by some quarters for suggesting that Rafa, like many managers, are akin to mercenaries by holding out for mega-buck severance deals. Was I wrong? Rafa walks away with a rumoured £6 million payoff and is surely about to walk into a bumper salary package at Inter Milan. To those who still think I was wrong – how do you feel now that we’ve got £6 million less for player purchases? The whole situation stinks if you ask me.

Then there is the issue of transfer funds. We were rumoured to have £20 million + player sales to spend this year. We should probably assume that’s closer to £15 million after we’ve paid off Rafa. I am curious to know what readers here would do? Sell Gerrard, Torres or as many fringe players as possible? Let’s assume that we could raise £25 million from selling fringe players … is £40 million enough of a transfer budget for a new manager? Surely Stevie HAS to stay if it all possible. It’s just not worth selling the heartbeat of our team and such an important player – especially for only £30 million. But would you consider selling Torres? £110 million can buy a lot of world class players (£70m (rumoured Torres fee) + £40m).

What would I do? Well, I’d keep Gerrard and Torres at all costs and give £40m to Harry Redknapp to use his best “wheeling & dealing” to good effect by bringing in a few shrewd buys. Our starting eleven is still a match for any team in the Premiership – with the right motivation and tactics – we just need to cut the dead wood and bring the quality backup that has been missing for the last few seasons.

What do you think? Do you agree? Who would you sell on and which manager would you bring in?

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