8 Jan 2008

Liverpool - A footballing Phoenix ready to rise from the ashes

The death knell is sounding for Rafael Benitez, and the ominous drums of inevitable fate are banging louder and more frantically with each passing day.

It is increasingly clear that Rafa is on his way out of Liverpool. Reading between the lines over the last few months, it seems obvious that the club is conspiring and scheming behind the scenes, laying the groundwork for the future and preparing for the Spaniard’s exit.

I write this with genuine sadness as I can see, like so many others, that Rafa is a fantastic manager and fantastic man – exactly the type of character Liverpool need and deserve. He embodies everything that a Liverpool Manager should and shares many of the same personal qualities as Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish.

Despite his qualities, this season has, so far, been an unmitigated disaster on and off the pitch. Rafa’s perceived faults have been ‘discussed’ to death all over the net, so I won’t explore them here, but it is these faults (and in some cases limitations) that have played a major part in all the negative aspects of Liverpool’s season so far.

Gone are the triumphant cries of ‘Hail the Rafalution!’. Save for the blinkered blind-faith brigade, the relentless optimism that defined the first years of Rafa’s reign has all but disappeared, and the club is in turmoil, plagued with public recrimination, transitional uncertainty and maddening inconsistency on the pitch.

Whether it’s press conference petulance, public warfare with the owners, incessant rotation, formational inconsistency, poor team selection, depressingly negative tactics, persisting with mediocrity, refusal to consistently play the best XI, playing players out of position or pig-headedly ignoring deserving players, Rafa has to take much of the blame for many of the negativity both on and off the pitch.

The only thing negative that *hasn’t* happened is Rafa’s dismissal.

And if this *was* to happen, it would be the worst possible decision imaginable. I am a fervent critic of Rafa, but he does not deserve the ignominy of a mid-season sacking.

This is not the Liverpool way. The club has *never* sacked a Manager in mid-season, even when they deserved it! That’s left to the likes of Newcastle United, who will never understand the concept of Managerial consistency – something which explains why they have never and probably will never win the league.

It’s a well-worn cliché, but sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. I truly believe that, right now, things are as bad as they are ever going to get under Rafael Benitez.

The same slide into the abyss happened under Gerard Houllier, but the difference is that with Rafa, I genuinely believe things *can* get better. I never felt that with Houllier, which is why he had to go.

Rafa has the skills and the ability to win Liverpool the league, but he is sabotaging himself with his stubborn refusal to change his managerial philosophy.

People can keep going on about what he did with Valencia, but that is IRRELEVENT now. Liverpool are not in La Liga – the Premiership is massively different to the Spanish League, and Rafa cannot just import the same methods, stick to them and stubbornly and hope for the best.

Whatever Rafa is doing in the Premiership is failing on a grand scale and this needs to change. As such, Liverpool fans should just write-off the league for this season. It's 'totalled' as Hicks or Gillette would say. Forget about it. Accept the title dream is gone and just deal with it. There’s no point feeling angry about it. What’s done is done.

There is still so much to play for though, and I for one am excited about the possibility of winning the Champions League again. Of course, this is not how any Liverpool fan wants it to be, but this is the reality.

There is an old Chinese proverb that is especially relevant to Liverpool’s current malaise:

‘A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials’.

Rafa has to learn from this season’s ‘trials’ and come back next season with a different footballing philosophy. Yes – I believe that Rafa should be given one more season, but only if he is willing to address his flaws that have been so painfully apparent this season.

I genuinely hope Hicks and Gillette have some patience and faith, and grant Rafa a second chance for next season. If Rafa learns from this season’s mistakes, then the sky could be the limit for Liverpool.

However – If he persists with his irrational stubbornness and does not make the changes required, then he will have no one but himself to blame when he ends up on the Liverpool scrapheap.

Come on, Rafa! Just swallow your pride and learn from your mistakes! The majority of Liverpool fans want you as the Manager, but you have to earn that loyalty. And to do that, you need to accept that you’ve strayed from the path and led the club in the wrong direction.

Everything is still possible!

Liverpool are like the mythical bird, the Phoenix. At the end of its life-cycle, the Phoenix builds itself a nest and sets itself on fire. Both the nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, regenerated phoenix arises.

Liverpool’s season is burning, but next season, Liverpool and Rafa can be like the Phoenix and rise triumphantly from the ashes.


  1. I agree that sacking mid season is not the answer but rafa's time is most definitely up in the summer. Time after time he makes mistakes. It is not just this season but all seasons past. It is just coming to fruition now because the jubilation of winning the European cup for the fifth time, a dramatic fa cup win and another appearance in the champions league final, is starting to fade from in front of the eyes of all the sheep that follow the Liverpool manager blindly over a cliff.

    I am a loyal Liverpool supporter but this does not mean that I have to support a manager when it is so obvious that there is such incompetence in his management skills. You could write exactly what he is going to moan about or what excuse he is going to make after ever match, it’s got so predictable and tiresome now.

    His stubborn behaviour in sticking with tactics that are so obviously wrong for the premier league is baffling. His obvious fall out with a striker who he has paid 20 million for is disgraceful and is costing Liverpool points every time he picks average players before him. No wonder Keane’s form has been so indifferent, just when he starts to look like he might start to play he is dropped for the next 2 games.

    I could write all day because I am so angry that we have been lead so blindly by this man and no one seems to care. I live in Belfast and have a large number of friends who support Liverpool and they all seem oblivious to this fact that I have been aware of since near the end of benitez second season. I have to admit I too was blinded by the euro success but who wouldn’t have been.

  2. I completely agree with you. I've been critical from day one of Rafa's appointment and nothing has changed over the last five years to make me change my mind.

    The article above was an attempt by me to be positive about Liverpool under Rafa, but I think it's clear from what I wrote that I didn't really have that much faith.

    I too have friends who refuse to accept the obvious fact that Rafa is wrong for Liverpool, but each to their own.

    I've maintained all along that Martin O Neill is the man Liverpool need. Most of his detractors just come up with cliched, unfounded reasons why he would be unsuitable, the most ridiculous of which is his apparent 'boring' style of football.

    These people are missing the point: O' Neill works with players he has availabale and gets as much as it is possible to get out of them.

    At Liverpool, he would be working with a higher class of player, thus he would adapt his approach yet again.

    O'Neill is a born winner and - most importantly - a superb man-manager, something Liverpool have lacked during the reigns of Houllier and Benitez, who are both appalling man-managers.

    Like Brian Clough, his former manager at Forest, O'Neill has the managerial gift, and I would love to see him at Liverpool.

  3. Jamie I respect your opinion especially your constructive criticism, but why have u suddenly decided to care? Why Now? Especially when you had become disillusioned about the club. Fine that was your choice, but the fact that you pop up now in the club's mini-crises is disturbing to many fans.

    You're a paradox jamie. On the one hand you criticise Rafa and the clubs affairs, fine we live in a free world, on the other hand you loudly proclaim to all and sundry that you're quitiing. Then this week you decided to resurrect yourself anf loudly proclaim you were right all along!
    Most fans don't like you is because of this confusing behaviour. Liverpool is like your family. You may not be happy about them, they may take advantage of you and all, but they're still there for you through thick and thin. You can't help it but you still remain in the family

    You give the impression that Liverpool (and by extension its members) is like a rich friend, someone to be used and abused when YOU feel like it.

    So please make a stand. Either you continue to contribute to the club or you leave the Liverpool family. For good. You can't have it both ways mate!

  4. I think you overstate the issue somewhat. I do not 'loudly proclaim' anything to 'all and sundry'. This is my website - the readership is comparatively miniscule compared to many other sites. Am I not entitled to post stuff on my own site?

    If I wanted to announce anything to lots of people, I would post an article, which would then be disseminated to newswires etc. The fact I haven't seems to contradict what you're saying.

    In any event, just because I've become disillusioned with the club doesn't mean I stop having opinions.

    I don't agree with your 'Liverpool FC as family' analogy. It's quite frankly simplistic and inaccurate, and if you believe that then you are sadly brainwashed like many other fans.

    Football clubs are not family. They used to be, but not anymore.

    Let me ask you something: Do you think Liverpool FC sees *you* as family?

    I think not. The divide between the club and the average fan is growing all the time; fans are being alienated by the club on a grand scale, but this is just part and parcel of modern football.

    The club - like most top flight clubs - wants one thing from the fans these days, and that is MONEY. They don't *really* care about the fans, as evidenced by things like how difficult it is to get tickets, the rip-off rising prices of tickets, the shambolically run LFC ticket office and countless other things I could mention.

    I don't care how the fans perceive me. I don't care if they 'don't like me'. The fact is, the majority of fans refuse to see the truth and consistently ignore the writing on the wall.

    I was right about Rafa and the so-called fans shouted me down. Now these same fans are all moaning and bitching about Rafa. Ironic, isn't it.

    The fact is, some people just have a knack for seeing the way things are and the way things are going to be. I am one of those people. If fans can't hack that, then that is their problem.

    Anyway, as I've stated before, I'm sick of Liverpool FC and I'm sick of football in general. I no longer gain any enjoyment watching football. In fact, it makes me sick, just as the mass delusion of brainwashed fans who think football is like a religion makes me sick.