So Brendan Rodgers is our new manager. Am I happy? not really, but that’s not down to Brendan himself, the more I read, hear and see from the man the more confident I am in this appointment. No the reason I’m not happy is because Rafael Benitez as the outstanding candidate has been overlooked. Even more so now it appears there’s a strong possibility of no Director of Football running the show, which begs the question what possible excuse was there not to interview the man?
When the rumour mill was in overdrive and names were being thrown at us from all directions; the likes of Louis Van Gaal, Andres Villas Boas, Jurgen Klopp, Roberto Martinez, Joachim Loew, Frank De Boer, Fabio Capello and of course Brendan Rodgers I was excited. These names weren’t the Alan Curbishley’s, Sam Allardyce’s or Martin O’Neil’s of post-Houllier managerial speculation, these men were either established proven winners or exceptionally talented ambitious prodigies with highly regarded managerial potential who had what most Liverpudlians would agree as the correct philosophy on how to play the game.
Although Rafa’s name was conspicuous by its absence as the week wore on, I still held firmly onto the belief (or should that be clung to one frayed thread of hope) that FSG would be astute enough to at least speak to the him before cementing their appointment, but even if not, considering the standard of candidate linked with us then I would be more than happy to get behind any of them 100%
That was until two days ago when it became almost a dead cert that Brendan Rodgers had won the race to the Anfield hot seat, a race which Rafa Benitez had not been entered. It was at this moment I realised exactly how much I Iove Rafael Benitez, indeed more than a heterosexual male probably should, and how much I wanted him back in his office at Melwood.
The reason being I think, besides having had a bet some time ago with a Manc mate of mine that we wouldn’t go as long as them without winning a title, which I’m very close to having to shell out a grand on, and my belief that Rafa would have had us hitting the ground running had he returned, besides that there is this deep seated resentment against fellow fans and the owners (possibly undeservedly as they weren’t the ones to sack him in the first place) that despite sacrificing everything he had for this club, including it seems his reputation that he hasn’t been given the opportunity to repair that with us, while simultaneously shoving so called Liverpool fans bile back down their throats in the process.
Lest we forget that this man had been courted by the cream of Europe including his boyhood club, and still he chose to remain at Liverpool during horrendous turmoil. He took on our previous owners in full knowledge that in doing so he’d risk losing his job. He took the city, our traditions, our standards, our hopes and dreams and made them his too. Outside of football both he and his wife have given so much to the area, and I think I felt the least we could do was to give him another chance at building the dynasty he wanted; almost 50% of the first team squad is his, some of the backroom staff are his, he revamped an academy system that Pep Guardiola acknowledges as second only to Barcas’. If nothing else I wanted him to get another opportunity as a thank you for all he’s done, both on and off the pitch. While working on work experience for LFCTV and as part of the RedmenTV team I’ve been lucky enough to have met him, and from my encounters he is one of the most dignified, impressive, knowledgeable and humble men I’ve ever met, and it vexes me everytime I hear anyone disparage his legacy at the club or his character, and find myself defending him as if he were one of my own family. I don’t know whether Rafael Benitez will ever get the chance of coming back to our club now, it seems highly unlikely now but it’s a travesty the way he has been ignored by this club, who owe a great deal to him.
This is by no means a reflection on Brendan Rodgers himself, who actually reminds me of a young Benitez, probably more so than his compatriot at the DW stadium does; like Benitez, Rodger’s career was cut short at an early age by injury, so he moved into coach the youth set up at Reading as Rafa had at Real Madrid. They both travelled and studied their craft at some of Europe’s most elite footballing institutions, for Benitez that included Manchester United and AC Milan, for Rodgers’ Barcelona and Ajax. They both then went on to manage at lower league teams where they both experience being sacked for the first time, before later gaining promotion to the top tier of their respective country’s leagues with a rival lower league side. Rafa was then snapped up by Valencia at the age of 41, Brendan Rodgers is 39.
The similarities in career are almost uncanny. In fact when you look at the win percentages of the two side-by-side after their first three clubs, for Rodgers’ his only three, he actually comes out on top with 41.06% to Rafa’s 31.96% of course we should take into account Benitez first two clubs, Real Valladolid and Osasuna were unsuccessful and very short lived with a total of 32 games managed over his time at both clubs, so this would obviously skew the stats a little. If you take Rafa’s first three clubs after his sabbatical; Tenerife, Valencia and Liverpool his win percentage rises to an impressive 54.41% but then that gives Rafa the advantage of having far better players at his disposal. The point here is that there is no significant difference to be made between the two in terms of relative success cross-referenced by experience.
The other day I wrote an article saying that essentially if we are to be successful we all need to pull together and believe in the direction that FSG are taking us. There is however one proviso to this support for our owners. Rafael Benitez is a genius, I don’t believe there is anyone out there that can make such a dramatic impact, in such a short space of time with such a relatively tiny net spend, but he didn’t receive the backing from his board, and in the latter days at Liverpool he also lost some of the dressing room and some of the fans.
I like Brendan Rodgers’ I like his attitude, his philosophy and his emphasis on player character. He’s no Benitez, of course he isn’t he’s Brendan Rodgers; a man with his own character and his own ideas. I think he has the potential to do great things at this club, like his Iberian-scouse counterpart he appears to have insatiable ambition and a clarity of vision, but he cannot succeed without the backing of the board, both in confidence and monetarily, the players and most importantly the fans, as Kristian Walsh said in a recent article on The Anfield Wrap, on the message boards, phone-ins and in the stands, we have to be backing the manager, through the wind and the rain. Brendan Rodgers if he is to succeed will need something his recent predecessors never got, time AND money. Rafael Benitez revolutionising of the club combined with the King’s spending last season has created what I believe to be powerful springboard for the club to launch themselves into a new era, please don’t let us all be flying off in different directions.