27 Nov 2007

Gerrard exposes his lack of support for beleaguered Benitez

On the eve of Liverpool's most crucial game of the season, Steven Gerrard has stuck his oar into the ongoing problems at Anfield with pointless comments that arguably display his lack of support for Rafael Benitez.

Gerrard was never slow to voice support for Gerard Houllier or Steve McClaren when they most needed it, so why are his latest comments completely devoid of any kind of support for the Manager he has eulogised as 'the best in the world'?

Sticking his nose in during periods of club unrest is nothing new to Gerrard. In 2004, when speculation was mounting that Gerard Houllier was set to leave, Gerrard came out with ridiculous comments about how he would leave Liverpool if Houllier was sacked:

"If Gerrard Houllier left the club, I would have to consider my own future. I belive he is the man for the job. I love playing for him".

In another display of public support, Gerrard was even more emphatic:

"The criticism is very, very unfair. I'm not just saying that because he's my manager and made me captain - but because of where he has taken us and what he has won since he took over. He's brought the club forward massively.
"I'm sure he will be here for many years to come and will continue to take us forward and win things. Gerard's faith in me was one of the factors why I signed. He has improved me as a player and we are capable of winning trophies under him in the years to come. I want to be part of that."

The club is undergoing another period of unrest and the same thing is happening again, only Gerrard displays no public support for the Manager he recently described as 'World Class':

“It’s important that the players keep their focus. We realise that there is stuff going on behind the scenes but as a player you have just got to blank that out. As players we get judged on results so it's vital that we don't get distracted from what is going on off the pitch and keep on winning.”

First of all, did Gerrard need to focus yet more media attention onto ‘stuff going on behind the scenes’?! In fact, did he need to make any comment at all on the situation? What possible purpose do his comments serve? None whatsoever I would argue.

If Gerrard had to say something, he should have said something positive, along the lines of: ‘All the players are behind the Manager, and we support him 100%’. This is the kind of thing a captain *should* be saying, is it not?

Of course it is, as proved by Gerrard himself recently when he offered positive, emphatic backing for former England Manager Steve McClaren when speculation was rife about his job:

"I'm certainly backing the manager. I've got a lot of faith in him. I've enjoyed working with him and speaking to the other players I'm sure they feel the same”.

So why no similar display of support for beleaguered Benitez when there was every opportunity for a show of solidarity? On the eve of a game that could make or break Benitez’s career, a show of support would have done wonders for Rafa’s position. It would have also tallied with the overwhelming support of the worldwide fanbase and created a positive symbiosis of support.

Instead, Gerrard just states the obvious and talks about a ‘distraction’ in detached terms as if it’s happening a million miles away and has nothing to do with him or the team.

Gerrard knows exactly what he is doing, and if he wanted to support Rafa in public, he would have. The question is, given his ample public support of Houllier and McClaren in the past, why has Gerrard not supported Benitez?

I personally suspect that Gerrard is not worried either way if Rafa leaves, as it would give him the perfect excuse to leave Anfield in the summer, and no one would question his decision. After all, Gerrard has made no secret of the fact that he dislikes being played out of position – something that ‘detached’ Benitez has done regularly throughout his reign.

Indeed, there is speculation today that Gerrard would ‘consider his future’ if Rafa was to leave. This is clearly paper talk, but it would not surprise me if Gerrard is already planning his future away from Anfield.

After Gerrard cried wolf twice over Chelsea, he made a rod for his own back in the sense that he created a situation where by he could never publicly consider his future again, lest he incur the irreversible wrath of the fans.

In such a situation, what does Gerrard do if he wants to leave? There’s nothing he can do. He’s basically stuck unless he can find a situation where he can leave and be absolved of any blame.

The Benitez situation is the opportunity Gerrard has been waiting for. If Rafa is sacked, Gerrard can start making noises about his future again, and people will be more understanding because a new Manager will have to rebuild again, and Gerrard might not want to hang around during the transition period.

This would be far easier to accept that the dual Chelsea debacles, and given the fickle nature of fans, I have no doubt that the majority would support Gerrard if he gave that kind of reasoning for leaving.

Ultimately, as club Captain, Steven Gerrard should have come out with a show of support for Rafa. If he could muster up support for Steve McClaren, why could he not do the same for Rafa?


Post a Comment