By Kevin Elliott
A lot of furore and clamour has been made in the last week about our great club daring to consider hiring a young, relatively inexperienced manager – primarily one Roberto Martinez. “We should be aiming for a world-class manager” is the constant call. And I agree, to an extent. However, we seem to have stumbled into this misconception that because Liverpool have had world-class managers, that they have hired world-class managers.
Historically, quite the opposite is true. All of our ‘great’ modern managers (I’m thinking Shankly, Paisley, Fagan, Dalglish) came from a position far from that of ‘world class manager’.
Bill Shankly (3 first division championships, 1 second division championship, 2 FA Cups, 1 UEFA Cup) came from 2nd tier Huddersfield, where he’d failed to get promotion 3 seasons running, with a win percentage (a stat we seem to be keen on these days) of 36.57%. At Liverpool, his win % moved to 52.19%. For Liverpool to hire the equivalent of Bill Shankly today, they’d need to look at a mid-table Championship team, and hire that guy. Imagine the press!
Bob Paisley (6 first division championships, 3 European Cups, 1 UEFA Cup, 3 League Cups and a European Super Cup) only ever managed one club – rising from the bootroom after Shanklys surprise resignation in 1974. Liverpool was his first and only managerial role.
Following Paisley of course was Joe Fagan (1 first division championship, 1 european cup, 1 league cup). Again, Joe’s only full-time managerial role was at Liverpool (he had previously been Assistant Manager at Rochdale and player-manager for ‘Lancashire Combination’ side Nelson).
Next, of course, was the King himself: Kenny Dalglish (3 first division championships, 2 FA Cups [in this managerial term]). Kenny was appointed Liverpool player-manager in 1985/86, obviously without any previous managerial experience. During his first term in charge, Kenny recorded a win % of 60.87%. The highest of any Liverpool manager in history.
These are but a few stats to illustrate my point. In the aftermath of what we all seem to agree was the hasty decision to sack Kenny Dalglish, it seems we have lost sight of our history. Liverpool FC does not hire world-class managers, we make them. We sound out that spark, that unexplainable little glimmer of potential and nurture it into something spectacular and world beating. The notion of hiring an established world-class manager is of course alluring, but shouldn’t be consider the ‘only option for a club like Liverpool FC’. Roberto Martinez, for me, fits this mould. He has kept a distinctly average Wigan side in the Premiership far longer than he had any right to and is a man on the up.
When talking this theory over with my brother (who possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of football I could never match), he pointed out the one thing these great managers had which isn’t present in todays situation: on-the-job experience at the club. With the exception of Shankly, all those managers mentioned previously were following in the footsteps of great mentors they had worked with for years. This backroom experience of the club is sadly diminished these days. This is where a cool, experienced head like that of Van Gaal could provide the perfect counterfoil to the young Martinez.
Roberto Martinez, should he emerge from his Miami trip with a contract, has all the potential to do a fantastic job for Liverpool FC. Not only does he have the potential, he has the precedent.