After tonight’s disappointing result against Championship outfit Reading many fans are givign a lot of attention to Rafa Benitez, but my focus has been on the state of our support.
Since the final whistle blew at a cold Anfield there’s been lots of talk about the Spanish managers future at the club. Some have called for his head, which in my eyes is short-sighted. Despite that I have to respect people’s opinion after such a poor run of games, but what I can’t stand is those lowering themselves to calling the manager petty names.
We’ve had the whole list tonight, with the main shout being ‘fat Spanish waiter’. My main question to the people calling the manager names is do you know anything of the Liverpool Way?
Back before the dawn of the Premier League Liverpool fans used to be known for their dedicated support and commitment to the team and the manager. That doesn’t mean blind faith, it just means our decisions would be based upon rational argument, not petty name calling. If someone had earned respect at the club they’d have it for life, the supporters wouldn’t turn on them just because we had one bad season, which is exactly what this is.
During Rafa’s time at Liverpool we have made it into the Champions League every season, that’s four years of qualification for the tournament (I’m not counting 04/05 as Rafa didn’t manage the team when they qualified the season before) something we hadn’t been able to boast doing since 1984. There’s no argument Rafa re-established us as a European force.
In just five years Rafa has won the European Cup, The F.A Cup, The UEFA Super Cup and the Charity Shield. Not only that but Rafa saw us to another European Cup final, a League Cup final and saw us finish second last season in our best campaign in twenty years. It might also be worth noting that all but one of these successes came before the American owners takeover. A Coincidence? I think not.
We’ve also got to add on top of this that in last three years of his five-year reign Benitez has been under the command of possibly the worst owners to grace a Football Club outside of Fratton Park. Under the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett Liverpool have had £350m of debt placed upon the club, meaning Rafa has been forced to sell heavily in the last three seasons to buy and the owners went behind his back to try and bring in another manager. Has any other top coach in Europe had such volatile working conditions?
Compare this to Alex Ferguson’s first five season in charge of Manchester United. The Scot was backed by the board yet failed to win anything in his first two seasons in charge, the amount of time it took Rafa to win no less than four trophies. In fact it took Sir Alex four seasons to bring in his first piece of silverware, which was the F.A Cup in the 89.90 season and it took him seven seasons to win his first league title. In fact it took Sir Alex until 1999 to win the European Cup, something Rafa achieved in one season.
Yet I’m not trying to bash Sir Alex, as much as I’d like to. What I’m trying to show is the first seasons of a managers time at a club are not always an indicator of how good they will become. As much as I hate to say it Sir Alex Ferguson has been the best manager of the last twenty years, building United to a similar standard to what we were during the 70’s and 80’s.
The worst thing about it is Alex Ferguson had the backing of the majority of the supporters throughout his less than successful first five years at the club. A part from a small, yet very vocal, section of the support the United boss was backed and it paid off, with United catching up to our title record under his time at the helm. It’s the kind of support that needs to be shown to Rafa, as it has to other Liverpool F.C managers in the past, it’s just the Liverpool Way.
One bad season in five is not a good reason to get rid of a manager who’s as dedicated to the club as Rafa. He loves this club and the city and has worked hard to build us up over the last five years into an outfit that is much more respectable than it had been since the late 80’s. One bad season isn’t the be all and end all, as United’s board and fans knew and that’s why I hate to say I have a small amount of envy for them.
A new manager may lift the teams spirits in the short-term, but is there a better manager who would even consider coming to us with our owners? Can anyone from the likes of Curbishley, Pardew and Hodgeson really compete with our Spanish manager? I think not. And trust me that’s the best we can hope for, no other world-class managers would come near us, not in our financial state.
Now I know many will say that comparisons shouldn’t really be made between Sir Alex and Rafa, after all it was a different age. But I ask the question what has really changed in that time? The only major thing I can think of is that money is playing more of a factor, the more you have the better you perform. Seeing as in the last three years Rafa has little to no money I think that argument is invalid, maybe if we’d have had some investment from the Yanks I’d be saying it’s time for Rafa to go.
Of course there is one more thing that’s changed. The fans. Over the last twenty years, mainly due to the rise of Sky Sports, fans have become more fickle. The average new-age football fan wants everything yesterday and doesn’t care for long-term plans. This short-termism isn’t good for the club, neither is petty name calling, it’s simply not the Liverpool Way. We are better than that, we know how to dish out positive criticism without the baseless name-calling.
This isn’t the Liverpool support I used to know, and it’s not a support I like.