ONCE upon a time Liverpool supporters were revered the world over as some of the most patient, understanding and knowledgeable football fans on the planet.
Famed for their ability to support managers, players and staff through adversity while rival fans and media wait with knives drawn, searching for the first signs of vulnerability. This attitude wasn’t blind loyalty, but deeply rooted in the understanding that not everything in football can be immediate; people take time to settle, tactics take time to perfect and as long as there’s a long-term vision that the fans can believe in, that time will be given to those who deserve it.
A contingent of modern Liverpool supporters are not only destroying this image but dragging the more rational fans among us down with them. These are the fans that expect instant success, mega-money transfers, players producing 10/10 performances week in week out, a glut of goals every game and silverware in the trophy cabinet at the end of every season. In Liverpool’s current situation, such expectations are a pipe dream.
As if Liverpool supporters don’t have enough to deal with at the minute from rivals fans, the cringeworthy website www.TalkToRafa.com sprang up this week encouraging fans to: “Tell FSG (Fenway Sports Group) and John W Henry why they should talk to Rafa!” citing “Rafa Benitez restored Liverpool’s dignity, it’s time to repay that and show him the dignity he deserves”. The site then offers visitors the chance to e-mail John W Henry directly and explain their reasons for Benitez’s return. The stunt is perhaps a level above the shameless petition from last summer to attempt to persuade Henry to sign Juan Mata from Valenica.
This kind of behaviour is not only plain embarrassing to any self-respecting fan but it also to club itself and hugely disrespectful to the owners. FSG are professionals, they deserve the right to make their own choices and decisions. So far they are yet to make a single decision during their tenure that their hand hasn’t be forced in some way or another.
Arriving to a club in disarray, Roy Hodgson was ousted for Kenny Dalglish on an interim basis after bowing to fan pressure, who was then awarded a permanent contract for his efforts at ‘steadying the ship’. When Dalglish fell far below the boards expectations he too, rightly or wrongly, received his P45. FSG’s decisiveness as now cleared the way to implement the original strategy they had when they tookover the club and can begin to do things their own way.
FSG are more than aware of who Rafa Benitez is and his achievements with Liverpool but they are also aware of his inadequacies. It makes more sense for them to appoint a fresh manager and not one coming with baggage from a previous ownership. One thing they won’t appreciate is the fans telling them who to appoint via being inundated with e-mails or petitions declearing they will be participating in some grave injustice by not appointing Benitez.
For the record, I’m a huge fan of Benitez but this isn’t the way Liverpool fans should be behaving; we’re in danger of becoming a laughing stock should this continue. The same applies for fans clambering for FSG to appoint a manager as soon as possible. Dalglish was sacked a little over a week ago, yet some fans are getting hysteric over the fact the club hasn’t got a manager. If FSG had appointed an immediate replacement then I’d be truly worried; Liverpool fans have been burnt in the past by owners yet FSG are taking the time and effort to find the right man for Liverpool Football Club. The current overhaul of the backroom staff also indicates that they are here for the long-haul; implementing their own people to form a stable support structure for the incoming manager.
FSG need support from the fans and belief in their vision. The appointment of a new manager is their first real test, they should be allowed to do it on their own terms and judgement. More importantly perhaps is support for that manager; who will also require 100% support from the stands if he is to have any chance of success and certainly should not be unfairly chastised for not being Rafa Benitez or Kenny Dalglish.
The new manager’s names floating around Anfield may not meet with everyone’s approval but every manager must make the step-up to excellence at some point in their career. With the patience and backing of fans understanding the task facing him he may well do exactly that.
At times like this we can draw on Liverpool’s illustrious history as a guide for the future. Bill Shankly was one who always believed in the bigger picture and the socialist philosophy of everyone pulling in the same direction and sharing the rewards. Modern day fans of not only Liverpool but clubs the world over could do with remembering his famous quote: “My idea was to build Liverpool into a bastion of invincibility. Napoleon had that idea. He wanted to conquer the bloody world. I wanted Liverpool to be untouchable. My idea was to build Liverpool up and up until eventually everyone would have to submit and give in.”
Liverpool are are the process of rebuilding; it’s only fair we allow enough time for it to happen before developing unrealistic expectations. The future is bright, just don’t expect sunshine every day.