Hiring an inexperienced manager is not without precedent

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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.

Kevin Elliott



  1. that was at an age when teams where a lot closer than now, when player opinion or players didn’t hold a club to ransom, you can not compare then to the climate in football now.

  2. I was thinking along the same lines. Jurgen Klopp was relegated with Mainz before he joined Dortmund, they were probably very ‘skeptical’ as well when he 1st joined them but id imagine not many are now.

  3. secondly, if dalglish had of been sacked mid seasom or 3/4 way through, would you still be having the same opinion of martinez, when they spent most of the season at the bottom of the table!

  4. Ash – I haven’t settled for anything – I’d love Guardiola to get the job, I’m merely suggesting that the absolute dismissal of Martinez we’ve seen so far is unjustified.

    Mark – thats true too, though I wouldn’t say they’re completely incomparable. Players holding a club to ransom hasn’t really happened us yet (in the horrible AVB/Chelsea sense).

    FSG, with Kennys sacking, seem to be playing by their own rulebook and no-one elses, ignoring players/fans opinions (in that there was disappointment in the season past, but there was no serious call for Kennys dismissal just yet).

    A lot of the people with very strong opinions on Kenny / LFC at the minute seem to be non Liverpool people :/

  5. I’ve been saying this all along. Not one of the managers we sing about in the stands week in, week out came from any proven “managerial stock”.

    It was only Rafa that broke the pattern really.

    What we need, as you rightly say, is someone young with fire and ambition. Martinez wouldn’t be my first choice, but I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if he took the helm. Under him, Carragher, with his diminishing role, would be well placed to take over in due course, thus restoring a great tradition.

  6. Great article. To Arse, ooh sorry Ash, I’d like to point out that world class managers are not born that way as Old Whiskey nose wasn’t perceived to be world class when he took over the Scum, Wenger came from J-League, Guardiola was a largely unknown managerial quanity when appointed 4 years ago, and who’s to take over at Barcelona … you probably don’t know ’cause he is also a complete unknown. Guess Barcelona is heading for mediocrity aeh? … MUPPET! Mark however may have a point but what is truly different from then to now is the media and the internet, which is ripe with socalled journalism, blogs and fans opinions. I for one hope FSG do not let themselves being held to ransom by a misguided bunch of Fifa 2012 managers who claim to be supporters of LFC but rather appoint someone young with fresh ideas who could turn out to be the next world class manager.

  7. sky sports news: Dave Whelan has just said Martinez been made an offer by Liverpool, and will have further talks on Tuesday, Whelan told him he wants an answer one way or the other by Wednesday/Thursday.

  8. Flauvio: I do tend to agree with you, but I guess I’m a little too cautious about martinez, my biggest fear is another Hodgson era, as short as what it was, on our hands.

  9. Well said. In the age of Twitter, blogs and 24 hr news, none of our great managers would have been hired or allowed to become great. We all want immediate gratification.

    Hodgson was clearly not the right man. FSG has said they want someone with an attacking philosophy. They want a new brand of Liverpool football.

    What does this say about all of us? Can we re-learn to be patient? Will we allow the next Shankly or KK to arise?

  10. The majority of young up and coming managers at big clubs at the minute, are managers who have someone along side them to guide them.
    Yes, Dortmunds manager got Mainz relegated, but he had showed promise otherwise, getting the best out of some very very average players. Now, at Dortmund, With Matthias Sammer as a technical advisor(who also currently oversees every German youth team & their physical and tactical development!) has won 2 leagues and a cup in 2 seasons. Martinez has done better at Wigan than Klopp did at Mainz – so why not get van Gaal in place and give Martinez a shot?

    Either they have this experience along side them, or as past Liverpool managers have had – they have it integrated in them by being within the club for long periods, i.e. Guardiola, who in total had spent almost 15 years playing & coaching at Barca before taking the managers job. Even Benitez spent a long time in different roles as player/coach at Real Madrid before going into full time management. Currently Liverpool have nobody like this that we could safely throw into the hotseat.

    Martinez needs to be given a chance, but i feel he will need some sort of guidance – i.e. Van Gaal – to help him.

    The perfect example of how this can go wrong without any guidance is Luis Enrique – who recently quit Roma after 1 very poor season. Enrique played for both Real & Barca for over 10 years in total, then spent a few years very successfully managing Barcas youth & reserve teams before being taken away from the club he knows so well to go to Roma – were he clearly struggled. In conclusion – whoever we appoint, it’s a gamble. So why not get a young, charismatic up and coming manager, give him a shot – and get the right people in place to let him really really have a proper go at it! Its working at other clubs, why not ours!

  11. If the Hodgson scenario didnt happen, I think alot more people would be open to the idea of Martinez taking over. Give him a chance. Remember, Valencia gave Rafa a chance when he was an unknown brought in from Tenerife, Two league titles followed finishing above Barca and Real Madrid.

  12. capello, guardiola, avb they want guarantees to be competitive. We have no money for world class players and no money for world class manager. Stop dreaming

  13. “give him a chance” & “itll take time 2 bring success, it doesnt happen over night” is something i agree with & i hope whoever comes in has great success, but isnt this what FSG should of done with kenny, & given the fact they pushed him out without sorting a replacement 1st, is that really saying a future plan & great ownership decision making, if they’re not willing 2 give kenny a chance what hope has any1 else got, who ever comes in will need time, i just hope who ever it is, is still here this time next year

  14. This is bullshit. Has the new communications guy from FSG taken over this is Anfield and preparing the way for Martinez, remember Wigan lost 8-0 to Spurs, 6-0 to Chelsea and 4-0 to United, his percentage win rate is less than a third, to compare him to Shankly who oozed charisma is a complete joke. If he is to get the job, lets have a bit of honesty. !!!!!!!!

    1. So what? This season we lost 4-0 to Spurs, 3-1 to Bolton, and drew one and lost one to Wigan themselves. We lost to 2 of the relegated 3. We finished 9 points above Wigan, with what *should* be a vastly superior squad.

      I’m not necessarily pro-Martinez, but if he’s going to be the next manager, or if the next manager is another unknown, they should get this clubs support, because criticising them from the offset won’t achieve anything.

  15. if i’m not mistaken hodgson never having good record at big club. so when we appointed him we tend to not trust him to be our manager. without anymean to disrespect him, his carrer can’t get better anymore (i don’t know what is the reason FA decision to pick him thought).

    while martinez (not my favourite, but i’ll support him if he come) not having a ‘record at all’ cause he’s young and only managing small club and we tend not to trust him because of this, but maybe because he’s young as manager he tend to prove (much ‘effort’ than hodgson does) to everyone that he’s capable to managing big club such LFC.

    just like our fellow here (brent b) says : “What does this say about all of us? Can we re-learn to be patient? Will we allow the next Shankly or KK to arise?”

    because our impatient just cause us kenny last season, while in my opinion he deserve 1 more year, or at least untill december.

    i hope next season will be better, whoever in charge. YNWA

  16. I am not really for Martinez but let’s see what he can do he is a massive gamble if he gets it right the owners will be praised and if other way round they would be heavily criticised and written off..I think with Steve Clarke working alongside Martinez we might have a formidable team.On top of that having a Louis Van Gal would be extra impetus keeping my fingers crossed

  17. Comparing him to Shankly is dishonest, you casually ignore his win record, If Martinez is appointed good luck to him, your article is dishonest and disingenuous, to compare him to Shanks is complete bullshit, you should be ashamed

  18. Comparing him to Shankly is dishonest, you casually ignore his win record, If Martinez is appointed good luck to him, your article is dishonest and disingenuous, to compare him to Shanks is complete nonsense, you should be ashamed

    1. Shanklys win record at Huddersfield prior to joining Liverpool? 39%.

      Anyone in the world would have a hard job matching any of the Liverpool greats, and you’ve completely ignored the point of the article. It doesn’t say Martinez is the saviour, it says we can’t know what someone is cassiterite of

      1. ….is capable of, so we shouldn’t write then off so readily.

        (Edit cos my phones being an arse!)

  19. Great article, if nothing else to expose the thought processes behind manager selection. We can talk up the credentials of Benitez, but unlike Martinez, he’s been sacked a couple of times in La Liga, and has even overseen the relegation of Extremadura. All this before his glory with Valencia. And for all his tactical nous, and his assembly of a great team – his Liverpool challenged for the title once in six seasons. But we still took a chance on him, as we did Souness, Evans and Houllier. Are we saying Martinez isn’t in their class just because the opportunity hasn’t befallen him yet? IF he gets the job, let him be the proponent of his own success or failure. Somehow I doubt we’ll be complaining if he works out.

  20. I agree, I wouldn’t mind Brendan Rodgers either! Great style of play too… I think we should worry about DoF position more, as he will be the person signing and getting the players!

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