Rafael Benitez has took a lot of criticism from various football pundits in the media this season, most of which I feel us unwarranted and short-sighted. The real fact of the matter is 90% of these so-called ‘experts’ are only in their jobs because they didn’t have the bottle to go into management themselves.
Firstly let’s look at Rafa’s biggest critic, one Stan Collymore. Over the last season the Brummie has attacked the Spaniard whenever he could for whatever he could. Clearly the former Liverpool forward has an agenda against the manager and seemingly the club on the whole, knocking both whenever he can, either on his TalkSport radio show or his Daily Mirror column. But what has Stan ‘the man’ Collymore done to earn such a high platform in which to voice his opinions? Well, nothing, really. Stan is the classic example of a very average footballer with a very big mouth who craves to be in the media limelight, and will say anything and everything in order to get his five minutes of fame. Many media establishments will happily entertain him by giving him blogs and shows. The problem is Stan has little to no knowledge about anything to do with management. As a player he wasn’t tactically aware and it’s shown into his retirement, with his ridiculous outbursts. Just because you were once a player doesn’t mean you know what it takes to be a great manager, something Mr. Collymore needs to learn.
My final word on Stan is that you might want to note the complete lack of job offers coming his way for management positions, clear evidence of how highly his opinion is regarded.
Another one of the more outspoken critics of Rafa and Liverpool is Sky Sports own Andy Gray. Ever since his time spent at Everton the big Scot has had a grudge against the Reds (most likely because of the number of times we deprived him of trophies). His never ending comments on zonal marking when we play is bordering on obsessive, despite the fact he never seems to mention it when Chelsea use it to their disadvantage. You could consider Gray not quite as bad as Collymore, after all he’s just another Blue with a chip on his shoulder and of course there’s one other major difference between Gray and Collymore, Gray bottled it. Big Andy was offered the chance to manage Everton not so long ago, a chance he turned down. Surely a pundit who thinks they know better than every manager in the league (bar Ferguson) would be more than happy to take a high-profile job at a former club. Well, clearly not.
One of Andy Gray’s Sky Sports co-workers is also someone who greatly enjoys putting Rafa under scrutiny- Richard Keys. While Andy Gray has the Anti-Rafa stuff covered up in the commentary box Keys has it all sorted in the studios, blaming everything on Rafa and whenever anyone tries to mention the owners he’s very quick to change the subject. What makes him laughable is that he’s never played football at any sort of high level, not even semi-pro. He’s never held a position at a major football club, he’s just a T.V presenter who is paid to make people sit up and pay attention. How a man who has no experience in the game at all gets the chance to voice his opinion to millions each week is beyond me.
The same can be said of TalkSport presenter Darren Gough, who likes to make a joke about the Liverpool manager whenever he can. Yes, that’s right, Darren Gough the cricketer, not the footballer, or the former manager, the cricketer. If anyone’s footballing opinion should be disregarded by decent football fans it’s his, regardless of if he’s played a bit of lower league football before picking up the bat. In fact, the whole of TalkSport tends to be very anti-Liverpool, minus Scouser Micky Quinn. If there was one radio station I’d suggest Liverpool fans avoid for health reasons it’s that one.
Of course, there’s two sides to every story. Some of the pundits out there are the exception to the rule and two I’ve noticed are our own Phil Thompson and former United star Steve Coppell. Thommo as he’s nicknamed often stands up for Rafa and presents the facts, a welcome change from the baseless lies spouted by other journalists that seemingly a large percentage of Reds seem to absorb. It has to be said that Phil is expected to be bias, he’s a clued up Red after all, but that isn’t why I can tolerate Mr. Manchester United Steve Coppell. Despite the former Reading manager only being a pundit for a few of our matches I hold him in high regard, he’s not shock-jockey calling for the managers head, nor will he say the manager is blameless. He has a balanced view and takes into consideration the bigger picture.
What’s the two things that links these two decent pundits? They’ve both been managers in the past. Coppell had a notably successful run at Reading while Thompson served as Houlier’s understudy and stepped in when the Frenchmen had heart problems. That’s the thing, the former managers or at least those with a bit of experience, give balanced and fair view, without an agenda. The talentless ex players and media darlings don’t and far too many Liverpool fans are being taken in by their rubbish.