“The Demands of the Job”

When Rafa Benitez was forced out of the club, there was a name at the top of many people’s lists and it wasn’t Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish, or Brendan Rodgers.
It was Owen Coyle.

He’d gotten promoted with a Burnley side playing decent footy.
He’d kept playing decent footy in the Prem and kept them up.
Then he left them to go to Bolton, and took a side that basically played Stoke/Allardyce type footy and got them playing like… well, like Burnley, (who were almost immediately relegated.)

Coyle took a bruising up-n-under Bolton side, got them playing decent footy, in a very comfortably upper mid-table bracket, and even took them to an FA Cup semi-final.
Coyle’s name was being lauded throughout England. He even won a few manager-of-the-month awards.
His style and his personality were praised, and in hushed (and not so hushed) tones he was being linked with managerial posts at the top clubs in England.
This included a significant enough number of our own fans wanting Owen Coyle to replace Rafa Benitez.

Then it all went pear shaped.
Bolton went down.
..and languished at the bottom of the Championship… whereupon… Owen Coyle was fired by Bolton.
Now the odd thing is… the clamor from Premiership clubs for his services disappeared. And I’m not talking about Arsenal, United, Chelsea or Liverpool… I’m talking about teams that regularly change their manager (oops… I actually am talking about Chelsea and Liverpool, but I think you know what I meant.)

Now please understand…. This IS NOT an anti-Brendan blog. It isn’t.
I stand behind him. I continue to support him as Liverpool Manager. And I think calling for his head right now is Bang Out of Order.

And I’m not comparing Brendan Rodgers to Owen Coyle directly… but really, prior to coming to LFC, Rodgers achievements last season were no greater than were Owen Coyle’s 4 or 5 years ago.
The big argument (from most) for giving Brendan the job was not what he had done at Swansea, but what he could perhaps do with “His Swansea system”… at a bigger club with more resources and a better group of players.
… the important part of that being “more resources and better group of players”.

but simply put… it was a big gamble …coz he doesn’t really have either.
Sure it could be argued that he’s got half a dozen players that are “better than Swansea” players… but the rest of the squad is nothing but inexperienced potential and faded glory at this point… exactly the kind of squad “you’d expect to see at a Swansea”.
(caveat: we “could” be better than that description, but right now, we just aren’t.)

In a lot of ways I feel sorry for Brendan. He was offered a poisoned chalice.
But this is the crux of the problem now…
Imagine for just a moment if Rafa, after having battled on all fronts for 5 years, had just stuck it out for a few more months?
Not coz he was the bee-all-end-all of football management… but because he KNEW football, so did all the people in the various coaching positions throughout the club, his assistants, the Reserves, the recently restructured academy.
The 3 guys that didn’t know footy… John Henry, Tom Werner, and Christian Fuckin Purslow. (Ian Ayre knows footy, but he’s not a “footy man”, he’s just a businessman who knows a bit about the game.)

The result of that decision was some very serious short-term damage… but even at that, it could have been reversed.
But it wasn’t reversed. FSG didn’t know enough about football to know that they had just bought a football club that wasn’t being run by football professionals.
They didn’t know enough to realize the guy that got fired was the guy that should have stayed… the guy whose advice they so sorely needed…
… and that the guys remaining… the guys advising them about all matters football… actually knew fuck all about football (and as has certainly been proven… what makes a good football player.)

Instead of an organization with a solid structure of footballing knowledge base…
… they got an organization run by two guys with game controllers in their hands and competent scores on Fifa pro.
… and Roy Hodgson…

In all honesty… I felt sorry for FSG for about 6 months… but I think they’ve had ample opportunity to learn the realities of the Premiership and football in general, and even more specifically what LFC is (or should be) all about… and simply put…
… they haven’t… they just haven’t.
They’ve been like a small, silver metal ball-bearing, lumbering from bumper to bumper in a pinball game… scoring a hit on the 1000 bumper once or twice, but mostly hitting the 100 bumper, and slipping between the flippers.
And so… instead of correcting mistakes… they’ve continued to make them… compounding the initial damage while adding damage all of their own doing.

If they want on-field success then they need to get their shit sorted and right quick.
If however, they just need a solid, upper-mid-table asset with a decent financial turnover, then it’s us fans that need to get our shit sorted and come to terms with top earners leaving the club, to be replaced by promising youngsters, who will eventually be sold on for a profit…
… like fans of the Once Mighty, European Cup winning, League Topping Aston Villa… a fallen giant, who can still occasionally go to a top club and beat them 3-0.

Their first transfer window saw them sell 2 players for £58 million and buy 2 for players £53million.
Their second transfer window saw them offload 38 players to bring in 9 players for £120 million
Its fair enough to complain about the value we got for that money… but it fuckin annoys me no end when people ignore the 38 player exodus that financed the “£120 million spending spree”. Some dead weight on ludicrous wages went in that window… but some promising young players and a certain Raul Meireles went also.
Its also annoying as fuck to see blame laid on one person for what was clearly an institutional collection of fuckups.
(I’m referring to all decisions and players there. I don’t know what we pay Downing, but I’m fairly sure we’d have been better off paying some of it to Raul to keep him here.)

In the same way, whatever the actual ins-n-outs of the Dempsey saga… I’m pretty sure it wasn’t all Ayre’s fault.
We inquired about Siggurdson, then fucked him off for the price tag and wage demands. (supposedly)
We inquired about Dempsey, then fucked him off for the price tag and wage demands. (supposedly)
Yet, we spunked £11 million on Borini who’s initial price tag was (according to Jenn Chang) less than £8million. (and rose due to rumor leaks as opposed to any real valuation???) (supposedly)
And £15 million on Allen whose initial price was £12. (supposedly)

So what the fuck is our transfer policy?
We won’t be held to ransom for a player?
We’ll gladly overpay for one?
And whose decision was it to let Andy go? Coz there seems to be some conflict on that as well?

I know some always want to wade in with “Dempsey isn’t pulling up trees at Spurs” or “Andy has been injured all season at Wet Spam” or “Gylfi couldn’t score in a brothel with a case full of cash”
And there’s some validity to such comments… individually they are discussion to have…
But it does cloud the discussion of what was behind the decisions at the time.
We courted Dempsey, we tapped him up… it wasn’t a case of Ayre hopping on his bike and doing an Easy Rider when he should have been working the phone.
And frankly I think that has bearing on the “buy British policy” and the decision to spend £35million on Andy Carroll, or value Downing at £20 million, or let a £6 million Charlie Adam leave for only £3.5million to the first bidder… and NOT see the value in the likes of Demba Ba or Michu before anyone else did.
… coz you know… our current targets are Thomas Ince and Danny Sturridge?
Our “tranfer policy” and just Who is in charge of it are unanswered questions.
January should be quite interesting?

So to return to my opening point…
…decisions have been made and we went from a proven Winner of top trophies, to a proven winner of 3rd tier trophies and mid-table security, to a semi-retired Winner of top Trophies, to a Bloke that did alright in Wales.

That might be terribly unfair on Brendan Rodgers… but in all honesty we simply do not know if it is or it isn’t.

A frustrating element of recent results… wins, draws and embarrassing loss… is the manner of the performances… in that… after initial progress made in implementing “possession football” even when results weren’t going well, it appears that Rodgers has somewhat turned his back on what he was trying to achieve…
…. And he now seems to have reverted back to the core of the squad from last year, playing quick, long balls up to the forwards…er forward… er midfielder masquerading as a forward…
Only one player from the side that started against Aston Villa was a Brendan Rodgers sigining… Joe Allen.
So for all the drum-banging trumpeting of a youth policy playing total/possession/death-by football… in terms of the sides development… have we now stalled?
(and did we perhaps need to, in order to progress beyond the weak start?)

Where was Assaidi against Villa… surely it makes more sense to play this kid against a weak Villa defense given that he did reasonably well against a fairly strong Udinese defense?
Adam Morgan was the sole striker against our pre-season opposition, and was given a run out in early Europa games… if you want to see what a kid can do… in a side that has only one recognized (sort of) striker… surely the defenses of Aston Villa, Sunderland, Southampton, Reading and QPR, are where you find out?

Nah… fuck that… put Downing at left-back and bring Cole off the bench to change a game…. Whatever you do, don’t have Suso or Pacheco handy on the bench… 3 defenders makes more sense???
I’m trying to give Brendan the benefit of the doubt… it is very early doors yet… but fuck me lad.

And someone explain this to me…
When Lucas was injured we played Allen in the holding role… not Henderson.
…and when Hendo did get a game, it was either alongside Allen, or pushed in front of him.
But in the two games Lucas has played… the player who replaced him from the bench has been…err…. Henderson… with Allen playing further forward.

Ah shit… that sounds very Anti-Brendan… and I don’t mean it to be… as much as I’m trying to “stay all cerebral” about where we are… I’m feeling as frustrated as many of you are.
(Although there are a few that continue to fly the “4 bells and all’s well” flag. Kudos to youz even when I do disagree.)

I think we made a big mistake firing Kenny.
I think we put all our money on the green zero when we hired Brendan.
Maybe it’ll prove one helluva a bet and bring in the big rewards that such bets sometimes do???
I hope so… I hope I’m proved wrong on both points… I really do.

We simply do not have a choice but to hold fast and “let it ride” now.
Another managerial change at this juncture or in the summer (unless the wheels really do come off in spectacular fashion) could be catastrophic, in a way that will eclipse our previous 3 managerial changes.

The owners need to back Rodgers, and buy who he wants… regardless of a million here or a million there.
And get our targets sorted. No more promising youth, we need proven players.
Rodgers responsibility is to pick the right targets (if he’s the one doing so.)

It was all well and good as a financial philosophy cutting Kuyt, Bellamy and Maxi… and even Carroll… from the wage bill…
… but cutting them from the squad (the team actually rather than the squad, which makes it even worse) without competent replacements, was unforgivable and frankly criminal.
Assaidi and Borini were players you ADD to the above names, not replacements for them.
It is part and parcel of why we are where we are.
Goals left… and they never came in.

And AS important … we need to show the “top players left in the squad” that they haven’t made a mistake extending their contracts.

For those keeping score…

Our reality is…We’ve played 29 games so far and we’ve got the same number of wins as the last 29 games last year, the difference is 4 draws more and 5 goals less scored.
…and that playing the “much vaunted possession” style of play that was supposed to make all the difference from last year… the style that people would be “happy to see regardless of results”
…and yet two things remain unchanged…
…the on-field outcome remains largely unchanged…
…as it appears do the (albeit yet muted but beginning to grow) calls for a manager’s head.

2 blogs back, I listed 7 fixtures as “not too many games that could not be described as a must win” They were Reading, Anzhi, Everton, Swansea, Newcastle, Anzhi, Chelsea
… they yielded 2 wins, 3 draws, 2 Losses

In the last blog I listed the next 8 fixtures, reiterating the suggestion that most of them were “must win”. They were Wigan, Young Boys, Swansea, Spurs, Southampton, Udinese, West Ham, Aston Villa
… they yielded 4 wins, 2 Draws, 2 Losses

I’m hoping that trend continues, coz the next 8 fixtures are:
Fulham(h) Stoke (a) QPR (a) Sunderland (h) Mansfield (FAC-a) Mancs (a) Norwich (h) Arsenal (a)

… in my opinion, we need at least 6 wins out of that lot…
…or its gonna be a long season