Remedies? The Next LFC Manager

Posted: June 8, 2010 by Rob McDonald in Liverpool FC, Manager Talk
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As ‘Kingmaker Kenny’ steps up the recruitment of our club’s next manager. Rob McDonald runs a critical eye over those who are in the running, with some food for thought about ‘defensive’ Hodgson and ‘one trick pony’ O’Neill.

So, Rafael Benitez – for better or for worse – has left Liverpool Football Club, leaving us on the precipice of what could either be considered as a refreshing change or an abyss of catastrophic proportions, and depending on your leaning you’ll see whatever you want to see. My natural inclination was to think that the very worst of the worst was going to befall Liverpool Football Club, but now I’ve had some time to think about it, I am almost excited by what happens next.

After all, we had stagnated in the last year. I’m not going to go into any of the reasons I believe are behind what has happened but I do believe that a new man will be able to bring us forward, even if it’ll be in a couple of years down the road after the sale of our club – although contradictorily, I do still wholeheartedly believe that Benitez was the right man for the job but couldn’t survive the turmoil, the expectancy or the sniping in the press and neither could his relationship with the squad remain due to these reasons.

I have written a list of realistic candidates for the job and I’m going to go through my own personal opinion of their pro’s and con’s in relation to them taking over.

Roy Hodgson

Obviously a candidate who seems logical, he’s vastly experienced both in Europe and in England, he’s done a miraculous job at Fulham and rumour has it it’d only cost £2.5m in compensation to Fulham to attain him.

He plays a similar game to Benitez, organised and counter-attacking so in a sense it’d make sense, although how another defensive coach would go down with the fans and players is worrying, as my Brother pointed out to me. The other problem is, regardless of his experience and his success at Fulham, he isn’t a glamorous name and when your three leading lights are talking about leaving to bigger clubs, you’ve got to be concerned that an appointment like this one would be enough to keep them at the club, which is the most vital task facing any manager coming in.

He was, originally, my favourite for the job, but with more time to dwell on it, I’m not sure he’d be the man to take over and lead us on, although should he be willing to come on a short-term deal, he’d be a good choice as a fire-fighter in terms of keeping us relatively competitive, but probably not in terms of keeping our best players or attracting the right calibre of player.

Martin O’Neill

This one has been played primarily in the press, with not much word coming out of Anfield itself. I doubt that there’s much validity in the claim seeing as O’Neill and Dalglish fell out when O’Neill was manager at Celtic, but as he is mooted to be a candidate he should be discussed.

Building his reputation primarily on being a ‘man motivator’ O’Neill has managed to somehow ensure that no one realises that he’s a one trick pony. His one dimensional sides are built entirely on long balls to the flanks and crossing into a target man and has only really proven to be successful in England at Aston Villa where he’s also had a lot of financial backing from Randy Lerner.

He did well at Celtic, but Scottish football isn’t a good barometer for managerial prowess in this modern day and age, unless you manager a club outside of Glasgow’s duopoly and although he did a pretty good job at Leicester considering the limitations imposed on him there, there’s a difference between getting a small side to mid-table and turning Liverpool Football Club into title winners again.

A lot of people think that he’d do a good job on the basis of the fact he’ll be better in terms of motivation than Benitez, but these are the same people who only remember the last year when everything that could go wrong did go wrong and not the multiple times we showed strength and resilience in winning points in the last minutes of games, but that’s besides the point.

O’Neill would cost a lot to pry from Aston Villa and wouldn’t come on any short-term deal and with his managerial shortcomings seems a bad and unlikely choice. Going from one of the most tactically astute managers of his generation to O’Neill would cause a lot of problems and although his ability at building British squads, as so celebrated at Aston Villa, would be a kind of bonus should he be unable to keep our main players at the squad I don’t think he’ll be able to progress the squad onwards, definitely not as far as Rafael Benitez did.

Louis Van Gaal

Another one mooted in the press and supposed to be high on Dalglish’s supposed short-list but when you consider that we couldn’t afford to pay Benitez his full severance package it’s very unlikely such a big name could be attracted, especially with the absence of Champions League football. Although, that said he might be enticed by the prospect of managing in England and especially at a big name.

He’d bring a confidence and swagger to the club we haven’t had in a long time and his record speaks for itself, he is a top quality manager both domestically and in Europe, even taking Bayern Munich a team with great limitations to the final of the Champions League last year. Even though he’d be a great choice, given the un-rest at the club and the lack of funds, I highly doubt we’d be able to attract him.

Mark Hughes

Reputedly met with club officials at the Benfica game last season, Hughes is a name out of left-field that has been bandied about in the press. Given his history as a Manchester United and Chelsea player I doubt he’d be very welcome at the club and beyond anything his limitations have been seen at Manchester City when it comes to high-pressure clubs, plus he’d probably replace Fernando Torres with Roque Santa Cruz.

Again, I think should he come in, it’d only be as a fire-fighter and on a short term deal to try and keep us competitive until new owners came in. Like, Hodgson I doubt he’d be able to keep the likes of Mascherano and Torres at the club who are undoubtedly frustrated at the lack of progress at the club and investment. But showed at Blackburn that he could find good players on the cheap (Santa Cruz, McCarthy, Warnock, Bentley etc.) so could be an attractive proposition in that sense.

Sven Goran Eriksson

Claiming to be a lifelong Liverpool fan, Eriksson is the only manager who’s openly thrown his hat into the ring and is another with vast experience. I think out of the managers I’ve mentioned, Eriksson is the best choice as he will be free from his commitment to the Ivory Coast after the World Cup and is the most likely to be willing to come in a short term deal.

He is a big enough name to probably ensure that one or two of the big names are willing to stay for at least another season and see if the club can progress at all and showed himself capable at Manchester City, although a number of his signings from Italy didn’t. He wouldn’t be who I’d like to take the reins over a long period, but in the short term whilst there’s instability around the club I think he’d provide a steady hand and isn’t likely to engage much in the political structure of the club.

Marcello Lippi

I’m not going to pretend to know that much about Lippi beyond his obvious record in Italy, but he is undoubtedly a major heavyweight of the modern game and will be another who’s free from the commitment to his country after the World Cup. He is renowned from emphasising an importance on squad harmony and a good relationship with the players, which many people believe is vital to the club at the moment.

This is a name I first read being linked in the Echo the other day and one I hadn’t actually thought of, after all he’s never managed outside of Italy and as far as I’m aware has never spoken of any desire to do so. Whether he’d want the challenge of another league at a club in such bad shape when there’s no guarantee whether or not he’ll still be wanted by the new owners, whenever they should come in, is debatable. Should it be possible, Lippi would definitely be a leading contender.

Slaven Bilic

I’m not entirely sure if there’s any validity to the claims that Bilic is in the running seeing as he’s linked with every managerial post in England going every time one comes up. But as a manager with no experience at club level I think he’d be a massive gamble should he actually be in the running.

His reputation is built on Croatia’s impressive performances in Euro 2008 and the qualification period beforehand, but a lot of people seem to neglect that he inherited a very talented and overlooked Croatian side. Besides all this he himself has said he wants to stay at Croatia for at least another two years so whether he’d want to make a furore in club football at this moment in time is unknown.

Kenny Dalglish

The man appointed king maker is seen as many as the ideal man to take over on a short term basis seeing as he’s heralded as a legend at the club and has a big influence on Steven Gerrard as well as having a good working relationship with Christian Purslow. But the reality is the man hasn’t managed a club in a decade, and football has changed a lot since then.

I’d also be afraid that a man who’s done so much for the club would get tainted by taking over at such a perilous time. A lot of people will see Dalglish as a steady hand who will be a good man motivator due to his history at the club, but these are the people who don’t see how much the game has changed. He’ll be a good influence on a handful of players, but a majority won’t be affected by his status within the club and the fan base, so I don’t know how much affect he’d be able to have.

He should keep to his ambassadorial role, ten years is too long to come back from, football evolves too quickly and he’ll be in too deep. He is a legend and should remain so.


The press, and Robbie Fowler, have said that Harry Redknapp would be a good appointment, but he drains clubs of finances (apart from at West Ham where he was fortunate to inherit such a talented young squad) and wouldn’t be likely to leave Tottenham after such a good season and the backing he receives there. His reputation as a ‘wheeler-dealer’ is considered a quality we’d need (which is very ironic considering the media’s portrayal of Benitez’s high player turnover), but him and McKay’s aren’t what the club need at all.

Markus Babbel would also have been an interesting name after his successful period as a player at the club and having garnered experience at Stuttgart in Germany but has recently joined Hertha Berlin as coach. Manuel Pellegrini hasn’t been mentioned that much in the press but has been mentioned by fans, but I think his philosophy wouldn’t apply to English football and he’d struggle as Scolari did at Chelsea.

Michael Laudrup would be an interesting choice, bringing a free-flowing attacking football back to Anfield and is also a free agent at the minute following his dismissal at Spartak Moscow. He did a very good job at Getafe in Spain and is a young and up and coming coach who’d probably relish the chance at taking over the reigns of such a big club, and although he is in-experienced in terms of management, he is a big name in the world of football and could prove to be a very astute choice.

Whoever does take over faces a very difficult task in both keeping the squad together and reinstalling a confidence so disparate amongst the players. He’ll also have to be able to deal with the weight of expectancy from the fans and the ex-players in the media sniping at every wrong call as many people don’t understand the state of the club and the patience that’s required for the rebuilding that’s needed.

  1. mcdonaldtaf says:

    Thanks to Rob for this.

    I have to confess that I don’t share his excitement at the prospect of a new manager, although I can see what Rob means about “the turmoil, the expectancy or the sniping in the press”.

    Each of the aforementioned feel like a step down to me, or maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bad AGAIN!

  2. Sam Wanjere says:

    Another good analysis Rob. Once more, are we in a fix right now? No need to answer that. King Kenny remains the most logical for me, both in terms of continuity and popularity with the fans. He’s esteemed and is capable of convincing our stars to at least give the new project a try. Cons? Age – does he want to embrace a high pressure job given his current age? Might he want to risk his standing as an Anfield legend too should anything go wrong?

    Hodgson’s teams seem average but more like Jack Charlton’s Ireland in USA ’94. They’re solid and move well as a unit, a bit like Rafa’s Valencia. Has he been tried in a big club before? Yes, Inter Milan with some success. Can he do to LFC what he did with Fulham, albeit with a better quality squad? If he can replicate his FFC success he’d be a surprising find for the club. I remain slightly sceptical here.

    Martin O’Neill and ‘Arry are not Liverpool material to me. They might be media darlings but are their teams tactically astute, no doubt a reflection of their managers? For Redknapp, he’s supposedly good in scouting the basements for good players on the cheap but is that all? Rafa also unearthed the likes of Agger, Skrtel, Masche (very cheap at 17m), Kuyt and N’gog. Is that all? Do these two have a proven history of tactical nous, the kind that can lead us to Euro soccer at the highest level once more? I’d rather go with Hodgson.

    At the very other end of the scale is continental heavyweights like van Gaal and Lippi. Lippi is fascinating. He might want to try out a new challenge and they don’t come much bigger than LFC. But does he want to sacrifice the prestige he’s earned for a near bankrupt club that was once great, ala Real Madrid or Juve? Louis van Gaal would transform our fortunes but we just can’t afford him – not unless he comes on board for two primary reasons: 1) Love for the Red shirt, and, 2) Pro bono!

    Ericksson? Needs to learn not to speak to The Spam, a shadow imitation of a paper if ever there was one!

    Slaven Bilic is intelligent, a diamond in the rough. I wish we’d have him as an Assistant coach, right there with Sammy Lee and Markus Babbel. I would rather they assisted Michael Laudrup.

    Laudrup remains my choice for next manager.

    • robmcburger says:

      Taf, given the brevity of the situation I need to cling to something to maintain some semblance of sanity. And to be fair, Benitez had lost his effect on the club in the last year, the more I read (NOT from the generic spin doctor or fan) the more I get the impression that Torres was off had Benitez had stayed, and beyond that the club seemed to have drained of belief.

      Sam, Laudrup would be my ideal candidate, but I don’t know whether the club would want to take the risk. I’d imagine it’d be an experienced candidate they’d want to ensure a, relatively, stable season. If pushed, I’d say I’d rather Eriksson out of the others. I don’t think Lippi or van Gaal are candidates that’ll come anywhere near the club and out of the rest Eriksson is the best choice. As I said in the post, I don’t think Daglish is relevant enough today to be able to motivate a mostly foreign squad, and the fact he’s been out of management for a decade fills me with dread.

      Other names that I hadn’t considered, Jurgen Klinsmann (especially given his history with G + H), Bernd Shuster, Marco van Basten or even John Toshack who are all un-attached and could, concievably, come in for a season or two until we get new owners in.

      I think it’s safe to say whoever comes in is going to have to set up shop with at least 2 of Mascherano, Torres or Gerrard gone.

      • Sam Wanjere says:

        Hi Rob. Just revisiting your comment. Would you still stand with your choice of candidates for LFC manager given all that’s happened with those two parasites leaving Anfield?

  3. Mattyy says:

    No mention of Steve Nicol in the media – do you think he is a viable candidate? Could do well with Kenny above.

    • Rob says:

      Although Steve Nicol has done a decent job in the MLS I wouldn’t trust him in any major capacity at the club, Europe is a lot different to USA. And as I’ve already said, I don’t want Kenny to take over.

  4. Rob says:

    Oh, also Marcello Lippi should be taken out of that as he’s retiring after the World Cup.

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