MON His Way?

Paddy Power: Next Permanent Liverpool Manager

Martin O’Neill  2/1


Kenny Dalglish 10/3


Roy Hodgson 4/1


Sven Goran Eriksson 15/2


Mark Hughes 14/1


Harry Redknapp 14/1


Jurgen Klinnsmann 16/1


Gus Hiddink 20/1


Merseyside Messiah? Don't bet on it

‘Liverpool Football Club’. It has a ring to it, doesn’t it? The most successful English football club of all time; 5 time European champions, a record number of First Division triumphs. Surely the chance to take up office at Anfield would be too good for even the most wanderlust of managers to turn down.

But it isn’t. In fact, it’s pretty easy.

Because as proud a history the Merseyside club may have had, and as loyal the unshakeable support, they are still gifted with, is; the new football decade we are about to embark on doesn’t seem to care much for what tune the spirit of Shankly danced to in 1984, or for what lyrics of defiance ring out from today’s SOS at the Kop end in the cold year of 2010. Instead, the inevitable pastures new of Liverpool Football club seemingly suggests that only unforgiving, turbulent terrain lies ahead for the once “mighty” Reds.

And once again, Martin The Messiah is apparently poised to reign supreme and rescue the scousers from midtable obscurity. What is more alarming is that The Villa Blog (author: Damian Dugdale) has successfully got under my skin for a second time and suggested that O’Neill is not the man for us anyway; rather, my old pal Rafael Benitez should replace him. As I feel there are no words which could justify my frustration at this outlook, I will refer readers to my earlier post which compared some aspects of the gaffers’ performances:

However, this isn’t to say that I don’t think Benitez is a good manager. In fact, June’s messy remnants in the red half of Liverpool are testament to how bizarre and surreal the situation is; a sad situation that the scouse fans find themselves embroiled in. Because on the 3rd of June, it was announced that Rafa Benitez would step down from his managerial post at Anfield “by mutual consent”. A decision which I would have agreed with because as much as the Spaniard has in him to give, I don’t think he was the right man to take a limited, crisis-ridden Liverpool forward. Nevertheless, having been ‘sacked’ by the Premier League’s 7th best team, Benitez finds himself being chased by the European and Italian double champions Inter Milan to replace the world’s best manager, Jose Mourinho.

Does that make sense? If Fulham had sacked Hodgson after finishing 7th last year, would he be linked with the Barcelona job? Although, if Fergie guided United down 5 league places this coming season, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to think that the 2011 Champions League winners were interested in him, would it? However, it would be senseless of the Glazers to let him go off the back of one bad season (not that I should be comparing Fergie to Rafa, of course). But it is all immaterial because unfortunately, modern day Liverpool doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Hence, when I see Martin O’Neill’s name at the top of every list of managers to replace Benitez, I am not concerned. Yes, there are some buffoons who would be happy to let our “underperforming” boss go, stressing that he is not the man to take us forward; that we have finished in the same position for three successive years. But as I’ve said before, the fact that we are even standing still (which we aren’t anyway; we’re going forward), in the face of today’s outlandish market, is a rousing tribute to the unflappable work of O’Neill and his shrewd backroom staff. And after completing 4 hard years of undying graft just to pull us out of the trench we were buried in, why would MON want to abandon a ship that has just begun to gather momentum? Why would he even think about stepping aside, just for someone else to sweep in and take his credit? More importantly though; of all teams, why would he want to go to Liverpool F.C?

In spite of the fact that Villa sit higher in the league, the appeal of Liverpool Football Club has vanished for a number of off-field reasons. Obviously, the American owners don’t offer much for a prospectus manager to get excited about. With a mountain of debt, Gillett and Hicks have apparently used the club purely for personal reasons as means of softening the blow of their other business ventures. And with the club for sale for at least £600m, it could be a long, long time before the money is available to steer the club from 7th, back into title contention.

On top of this, the refusal of the boardroom to back their manager to the hilt is a complete no-no in football; and a prominent issue which is nothing but a deal-breaker for the obstinate Martin O’Neill. Time and time again, Benitez was undermined by the Liverpool board: players like Aaron Ramsey and Daniel Alves to name but a few starlets who were let slip through the net, simply out of lack of trust in their manager; and an unnecessary arrogance that the board knew what was best when it came to team matters. Of course, I have lambasted Benitez’ transfer performance in the past; but if I was a member of the Liverpool hierarchy, I wouldn’t employ someone to manage the team if I would refuse to put complete faith in him. The manager is hired to carry out his duties and run the club as he sees fit; he should be allowed to imprint his stamp and create his own vision and if the board don’t buy into his ideas, then he shouldn’t be in charge for 6 years. Before MON takes control at a club, he makes sure that he actually has control. There is no way he would agree to take charge of a team if he knew that he would be restricted in his input; if he knew that he didn’t have the freedom to manage how he wanted; if he knew he didn’t have the full backing of the board. England failed to acquire the Northern Ireland man’s services because it was clear to him that he would not be able to conduct his responsibilities and shape his visualization without interference from the powers-that-be. Either you place your complete trust in the manager, or you don’t hire him. Fortunately for us, MON demands this and gets it at Villa – he wouldn’t at Liverpool.

Moreover, the attitude of chairman Martin Broughton in the last 2 months has been of a very poor nature that would scare off even the most patient of managers. Arriving in the post on the 16th April and refusing to contact the manager for a full week is unacceptable. And after sacking the soon-to-be boss of the European Champions, a lot of Rafa’s peers might view the expectation attached with the current Liverpool vacancy a tad too much.

With the on-field catastrophes of the season passed, the necessity of having to still qualify for an uninspiring Europa League tournament, and with the off-field uncertainties of the boardroom and ownership; Liverpool has now not only become a new-manager-repellent, but it could well turn out to be a current-player-deterrent. For what reason would Javier Mascherano want to dismiss the attentions of Barcelona? For what reason would the managerless, debt-stricken club refuse the money? Does Steven Gerrard want to end his career knowing that Solomon Kalou has won more league titles than him? Were Torres and Reina just following their fellow Madrid-born citizen? The question marks at Melwood are all too big for a manager to take such a punt on such a sideways step.


Besides, shouldn’t the fact that O’Neill has already signed another contract extension be some indication of his allegiances? Should it not only support the idea that he isn’t looking elsewhere, but reinforce his excitement at the prospect of a 5th season on his Villa mission? Because he signed on so soon, I have every belief that he honestly feels there is unfinished business with this project. And that he believes he is the man to deliver success to Aston Villa after a long time coming.  

But with bookies unanimously suggesting that Martin O’Neill is on his way, I think I might return to my betting days and take advantage of their naivety.


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Filed under Martin O'Neill, Uncategorized, View of the Outside

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