4 Feb 2009

Cut the spin, Rafa: Robbie Keane 'failed' at Anfield because YOU stabbed him in the back

Rafael Benitez's regrettable man-management 'skills' and negligent misuse of Robbie Keane are the real reasons the Irishman 'failed' at Anfield.

In April 2008, I wrote an article warning against wasting huge amounts of money on a top class striker:

Why Liverpool Cannot and Should Not Sign David Villa

Many of the things I argued in that article ended up coming true with regards to Robbie Keane. I basically argued that buying another top class striker was a mistake if:

a) He was not going to be played regularly
b) Rafa was going to persist with a 4-2-3-1 formation

The article stated:

If Liverpool were to sign David Villa - or a striker of comparable quality - such a player is not going be happy sitting on the bench waiting for Crouch-like cameo roles. A player like Villa needs to play regularly and should play regularly, or what’s the point of spending all the money?

In the article, I also argued:

If someone like Villa was to sign, and Liverpool continued to play with one up front, it would be a recipe for disaster. Somewhere along the line, either Villa or Torres would become dissatisfied with warming the bench. Alternatively, Rafa could try and accommodate both strikers by playing 4-4-2, but this would cause the team to become unbalanced again.

And what happened? 442 with Keane in the team didn't work, and when it didn't, Rafa basically discarded him.

There is an (unproven) conspiracy theory going around about how Rafa didn't want Keane and the transfer was all Rick Parry's doing.


No top flight team allows a Chief Executive to sign a £20m player without any input from the Manager, and anyone who actually believes this needs to get their head examined.

Rafa wanted Keane...and then in just 6 months, he almost managed to destroy the player's career and confidence.

I don't care what went on behind the scenes between Benitez and Parry - no player deserves to be treated with the level of disrespect Benitez displayed towards Keane. This is not the Liverpool way and I feel ashamed that a manager of the club could act in such a manner.

With the constant substitutions, playing on the wing, forcing him into an unfamiliar role/system and dropping him every time he scored goals, Benitez did everything he could to ensure Keane failed. Let’s take a look at the facts:

Appearances - 28
Substituted - 18 times
On the bench - 5 times

So - in 23 of Keanes's 28 appearances, he was either on the bench or substituted!

Furthermore, whenever he scored goals it never seemed to make a difference:

Oct 1: Scores v PSV
Dropped the next game

Oct 22: Scores v Atletico Madrid
Subbed next game after 59 minutes.

Nov 8: Scored 2 against West Brom
Subbed next game after 59 minutes

Dec 26: Scored 2 v Bolton
Dropped the next game

How exactly is a player supposed to settle in, build up confidence and gain an understanding with his team-mates if he is ALWAYS BEING SUBSTITUTED/DROPPED?!

Benitez's job is to utilise Liverpool's assets in the best way possible to benefit the TEAM. Did he do this with Robbie Keane? The answer is undoubtedly NO.

Now, I was not a fan of the purchase to begin with, but the fact is that throughout his career, Keane has been a consummate professional, and when played in the right role, he has delivered the goals and contributed to the team.

Yet all of a sudden, at Liverpool, this premiership proven player suddenly becomes a failure?! The hand of 'Rafa the destructor' is all over this mess, and it is not the first time.

Just look at his disgraceful treatment of the likes of Peter Crouch, John Arne Riise, Xabi Alonso and Sami Hyypia - Benitez has form when it comes to detrimental man-management, and the Robbie Keane fiasco is the latest example of this worrying trend.

In light of Benitez's demands to have complete control over footballing matters (*shudder*), serious questions need to be asked about his judgement in the transfer market. It is now clear he had no clue how to get the best out of Keane, which begs the question WHY SIGN HIM IN THE FIRST PLACE?

The fact that Keane has gone after a only half a season (!) is further testament to the fact that Benitez made a massive mistake, which could end up costing Liverpool dearly, especially since there is no one in the squad of any real quality to replace Keane.

Oh, I forgot - Liverpool have Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel and David Ngog as cover, three undisputed goalscoring geniuses.

In recent days, Benitez - in his infinite gall - has slyly tried to shift the blame to Keane for not doing the business at Anfield, instead of accepting responsibility himself. Thus, he has exposed himself as the ultimate hypocrite.

The same goes for a certain section of Liverpool fans, who have created a spurious myth about Keane having a 'Bad attitude', citing things like berating plyers who didn't pass to him or looking perturbed when he was subtituted for the umteenth time.

What a load of twaddle - Keane had every right to be unhappy at his repeated substitutions, especially at the hands of a manager who had clearly made up his mind not to give Keane any kind of respect.

And it's not like there are any other players in the team who berate other players when things don't go their way...hmmm, Gerrard anyone? Keane has been a model professional his entire career and now Liverpool fans - supposedly the 'best in the world' - are attempting to sully his reputation. Pathetic.

With the right Manager, Keane could have been a great player for Liverpool. Instead, he was unforgivably stabbed in the back by Benitez and then cast aside like a piece of rubbish.

Keane - and Liverpool - deserved a hell of a lot better.

Things will not change though. Benitez will continue to treat players badly and his tiresome, self-interested, publicly played-out politicking will continue to drag down the club.

Still, who cares - That is what Liverpool FC is all about, right?


  1. Spot on dude.. even i have been a big admirer of Keane since long and it was really disheartening to see such a prolific striker warming the bench against stoke.
    Rafa has just used him as a pawn to make things clear to the owners that he wants full control over the transfers. The way he has treated Keane, i have hardly seen managers doing that..
    Am waiting for Keane's part of the story.. He might come out and say something what went on at the back..

  2. Remember when Keane scored against Bolton and then was dropped for the Newcastle game? What happened?

    LFC scored 5 with our best performance of the season... without Keane!

    He just didnt work out, he wants to be the centre of attention and with Stevie G and Torres there, he would never be that.

    Why should Rafa stroke his ego when he behaves like a toddler when he was substituted... Rierra comes off after 60 minutes in most games and you dont see him jumping on his teddy like Keane.

    He just didnt fit in and Rafa did the best thing for everyone and moved him on.

    In Rafa we Trust!!!

  3. I have to agree with every word Jamie. We had to pay to one of Spurs 'charities' because Rafa 'let slip' that he was on some target list. And even if Keane was not a Benitez signing, now is not the time to say that "the club" signed him.

    I'm curious to know why you didn't want Rafa from the start. I thought that we was the perfect manager, until the end of his second season, with one or two stays of grace after. I'm not that gone on M O'Neill. Would it be too outrageous to expect KD. Not thaaat unlikely considering his close ties in the last few years. My hunch is that RB is gone in the summer, regardless.

  4. Anonymous - please explain how Keane 'wanted to be the centre of attention'. Also, please explain how Keane 'behaved like toddler' when he was substituted. Sounds like the usual unfounded generalisations spouted by fans trying to justify Rafa's actions.

    Just because Liverpool produced a good performance after Jeane was dropped doesn't justify 28 substitutions'sub appearances in 33 games.

    Furthermoew, Liverpool were top of the table and flying high when Keane was playing, so he mustb have done some good.


    I didn't want Rafa from the start for a number of reasons:

    1. Negative, cautious style of football, evident from his Valencia team.

    2. Favoured use of two defensive midfielders, which he transferred to Liverpool, thus stifling the team.

    3. A history of arguing with the board and public-politicking, stretching all the way back to his time with Extramedura and Osasuna.

    4. Too many similarities between him and Gerard Houllier in terms of style of play, footballing philosophy (i.e. play not to lose rather than play to win) and poor treatment of players.

    5. The Real Madrid connection: In my view, Benitez's eventual goal is to manage Real Madrid and given his connection with the club, he will sooner rather than later. This is why he places more emphasis on winning the Champions League - this is a more impressive achievement on the continent than winning the premiership.

    6. Historical fact: Overseas Managers rarely do well in the English League. Out of the last 50 league titles, only 4 have been won by overseas managers - Wenger x2 and Mourinho x2. This is why I advocated Martin O Neill - a superb manager who learned his trade under one the greatest managers ever, Brian Clough, who won the European Cup 2 years in a row with Nottinghma Forest.

    Martin O Neill is the ideal choice for Liverpool because he gets the MAXIMUM out of every club he manages. He took Leicester as far as manager could take them; won everything in sight at Celtic and did the best any Manager could there, and now look at Aston Villa - challenging for a CL place, which is the best that club can probably do given their resources.

    O Neill adapts to the players he has and plays a style of football that *suits the team*. Look at Villa now - they play good, attacking football for the most part and it pays off. Imagine what he could do with a higher class of player at Liverpool.

    O'Neill is a renowned motivator and excellent man-manager - If we got him, he could bring Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor with him - two players with tremendous pace - and I have no doubt that Liverpool could win the league.

  5. When you had something to complain about kanwar you were spouting off left right and centre, last august there was nothing you could complain about and ran off because you could find nothing to talk about, suddenly your back when there is something worthy of your bile. I would like to say you should not have bothered!!!
    Hope you go away soon and for good this time!!!

  6. A great article and how anyone could say Keane just wanted to be the centre of attention... well its laughable. Keane is a great player and a model professional.
    On another note I don't believe Liverpool will progress to contend the title each year under Benitez's management.

  7. Jaimie:

    Very good and interesting article. I would agree with most of what you are saying. Not least with regards to your admiration of Martin O'Neill. Of course, personally I would rather see him take Alex Ferguson's place at United when he retires.

    However, with regards to foreign managers and your argument that they rarely do well in the Premier League. I would find your argument somewhat misleading. Mainly because up until perhaps the mid-90s, there were hardly or had hardly ever been any foreign managers in England. For various reasons, none of which is likely to have anything to do with the managerial competence of foreign managers.

    So, it would perhaps be more correct to say that out of the (approx.) last 15 league titles, only 5 (Wenger x3 and Mourinho x2) of those have been won by foreign managers. Still one third. And 9 out of the remaining 10 titles have been won by one (1) British manager: Sir Alex Ferguson. Which might lead one to think that either it could have something to do with AF's personal attributes rather than British managers being more competent as such, or managerial competence is only one among several factors explaining a team's success.

    What do you think?

  8. Peter - thanks for your comments. :-)

    Martin O Neill to United? I really hope that doesn't happen, but I can definitely see it happening, especially after Rafa's stupid spat with O'Neill over the Gareth Barry affair. Wherever O'Neill goes, he will be successful and it that's United, then their dominance will only continue, which is bad news for Liverpool.

    Re overseas managers, you're absolutely right. Perhaps the comparison is not entirely fair considering the lack of non-British managers pre-premiership.

    I wasn't trying ti suggest that British managers were more competent than non-british managers, as that is clearly not accurate. I just feel that when it comes to winning the league, many overseas Managers do not seem to completely understand the British game.

    This is certaily true of Benitez and Houllier, and given their failures, I personally feel it is time to give a British manager a chance again, and for me, the only candidate is Martin O' Neill.

    Alex Ferguson is simply a genius manager - I have the greatest respect for the man, and I love his non-nonsense 'my way or the highway' approach.

    Another thing about Fergie is that he is committed to playing attacking football, and the evidence of that is his policy over the years of signing and nurtuting the best creative talent available. And with such a policy comes success, as Man United has have proved.

    This is where Benitez fails - he is *not* committed to attacking football, and we can all see what happens when saftey first is the prevailing football philosophy.

  9. I'm Irish so all things being equal I should be a vitriolic supporter of Robbie Keane if for no other reason than nationalistic pride.

    I'm not though. I resented Liverpool (Parry, Benitez, Hicks et al or whoever 'did' the deal) spending such an amount of money on a player of his age when his record in the Premiership was flaky at best.

    Robbie Keane looked good in a mediocre team, which truth be told was not difficult to do. He is a confidence player and needs to be told that he is doing well in order to perform well. Unfortunately, Liverpool already have a sizable quota of 'stars', individuals with skills in excess of those available in Keane.

    I for one am glad he's gone but it does raise questions which you too ask albeit somewhat vitriolically.

    As an aside, the site claims to be an unbiased wish to review Liverpool Fc without being tainted by Fan-Boy, blinkered rants. You too are unfortunately, equally vitriolic in your dislike for the incumbant management. This I feel often detracts from your posts which are reasoned, explained and thought out.

  10. Anonymous: I felt the same as you when Liverpool bought Keane - way too expensive. Transfer fee notwithstanding, Keane was at the club and - whatever his perceived shortcomings - deserved to be treated with a modicum of respect. He wasn't.

    Whilst not the greatest Striker in premiership history, Keane has got something to offer. He has a history of scoring goals and, properly utilised, he could have been a good signing in the long term.

    Yes, he missed some sitters and didn't produce consistently when he was played, but how was he supposed to settle when it was clear Benitez had no time for him? Keane had no chance to gel with other players or get going in the team and his confidence was shot to pieces very early on.

    I take your point about the tone of my posts - I do not hide the fact that I am biased, or that I abhor the current managerial/boardroom structure.

    However, the site doesn't actually claim to be unbiased - it claims to reject the positive bias and blind faith displayed by large sections of the media and fanbase, the kind of bias whereby obvious problems are overlooked/ignored for no good reason.

    But yes, I can understand if, in the eyes of some, my approach detracts from my posts. If I'm honest though, that perception doesn't bother me as I do not hold myself out as being impartial or objective. That's what the BBC is for.

    I just tell it like I see it.

  11. This article exactly reflects my sentiments over the Keane-Fiasco.Keane certainly deserved better.

    Martin O-Neill would be a good choice for Liverpool(I like how passionate and protective he is about his players),but as I commented before,Frank Rijkaard would be great.

    Sir Alex gets my respect somewhat grudgingly.He is cheap (The way he bullies Refs and He didn't have to beg that Ronaldo to stay)but he is a strong manager.But how can I point finger at them when my club has such a disgusting manager and is run so crappily.

    Btw,I disagree about that part about ManU being committed to playing attacking football,the last time they played Barca they defended with their lives...That show-boating Ronaldo was nowhere to be seen!Recently too,they have been grinding out wins.Now it'd be fantastic if we have a system like Barca,whatever happened to ShareLiverpoolFC?Don't want to be sold to some money-grubbing Sheik...

  12. Jaimie;

    You might be right that British managers could be better suited to understand the mental aspects of the British game. Perhaps this is even more true in clubs such as Liverpool and United, who are rather similar really, with such strong connections within the local community. Perhaps a British manager is more capable of grasping and understanding the culture of these clubs and their fans than a manager from overseas.

    Jaimie & Red;

    Regarding United being committed to playing attacking football. I would most definitely say that attacking football is the trademark of United football, and it would be hard to argue with that. The fact that everyone is viewing United’s recent run of 1-0 results as unusual and out of the ordinary, rather than business-as-usual (as would be the case with Chelsea for example), is perhaps the best proof of this. Of course, an attacking style of play doesn’t have to and shouldn’t exclude defensive discipline and tactical awareness. It also doesn’t mean that the team might just have bad days when their attack just isn’t working and it is necessary to rely on the grittier aspects of the game.

    Sorry, didn’t want to risk this turning into a United vs Liverpool banter. :-)

  13. Hi Jamie,strange to see you back after that note that you won't be writing anything on this site anymore because you're fed up with modern football,some might say that you were gone while we were on top of the league(at last!!) and actually mounting a challenge and now when the things slipped a bit you're back and "modern football" isn't bad anymore.
    Anyway,I'm glad you're back because I liked reading your articles,with some I would agree and with some I wouldn't but that's the beauty of it. With the majority of this article I do agree.It is my opinion too that Rafa has a significant role in Keane not making it in a Holy shirt,especially crushing his confidence because for some reason he would play him in 2 games in a row when he was shit but put him on the bench after he would actually have a good game and score.Leaving him on the bench when we desperately needed a winner(vs Stoke I believe?) was just poor managment but I would also want to point out that it was Keane's fault too. He rarely put in a good performance to tell the truth,mostly he was just "out" of the game and those substitutions were more often than not deserved because he was just awful on the pitch.

  14. Hi Davor - My opinion about modern football hasn't changed; I still despise it. And let's be fair here - in the 4 months I was away, there were plenty of things I could've written about, such as Rafa's stupid rant v Ferguson, excessive draws, misuse of Robbie Keane, public arguing with the owners, crap style of play etc. I just didn't have the energy. However, irrespective of my dislike for modern football and 21st century Liverpool FC, certain things just irritated my so much that I just had to get it out. Basically, anything that I feel damages the repuation of the club/dishonours its history I will be writing about.

    Re Keane - I agree to an extent that Keane did not set the world on fire when he was playing, but I don't believe that was entirely his fault.

    First and foremost, Rafa misused the player and played him in an unfamiliar system. Whether it was on the wing, as a lone striker or whatever, Keane was not utlisied in the correct way.

    When he WAS played in the correct position, he delivered with goals and assists. Rafa never gave Keane a chance to settle though - every game it was something different: On the bench; subbed; different position; dropped or sometimes not even in the squad.

    If Fernando Torres was treated in the same manner, he would not play as well either!

    On top of all this, Keane was regularly substituted very earli in games, often at 60 minute marke. Given the statistical fact most of Liverpool's goals have come in the last 15 minutes this season, it is reasonable to argue that had Keane been allowed to stay on for longer, he would have scored more goals.

    When you know you're not wanted and its obvious the Manager has no faith in you (as evidenced by 28 substitutions/benc starts in 33 games), I don't see how it is possible to reach a high level of performance.

    Add onto that the inexcusable insult of being dropped or subbed after every goal scored, then I can understand how Keane struggled to find any rhythm.

    If you're climbing a mountain and some is at the top throwing rocks down at you, sooner or later you will give up or fall off.

    I don't blame Keane at all - I blame Rafa 100%.

    He treated Crouch the same way, and many other players.

    The Manager's job is to utilise the assets and resources available to him in the best interests of the club.

    Was Rafa's treatment of Keane in the best interests of the club, or did he act out a selfishness and arrogance?

    I think the answer is blatantly clear.

  15. Jamie I fail to see the difference between Fergueson's "my way or the highway approach" and Benitez's. They are all one and the same. Except that one has won titles (may I point out that Ferguson won his first title 7 YEARS after he was appointed), and the other has not. And please notice the status of the clubs when both took over. And why on earth would you love a manager who by your standards "insults referees and fans" brings the game into disrupute, plays mind-games, plays predatory tactics in transfers etc
    Would this be because AF is scottish perhaps? So thats 'acceptable' for AF, but not for Benitez?

    Anyway isn't it presumptuous to assume that Benitez puts more emphasis on winning the Champions League? Aren't you guilty of what you accuse "lazy" fans of? Look at it in context, in previous years we have been way off the pace in the title race and the CL was realistically the only "cup" we could challenge for. In addition to the fact that the prize-money could be used to improve the squad.

  16. Anonymous - interesting comments ;-)

    I think there is a MASSIVE difference between Ferguson and Benitez when it comes to their tough approaches.

    1) Ferguson is tough but fair. Benitez marginalises and ostracises players unfairly. See Crouch, Keane, Pennant, Finnan etc. When has Ferguson ever done that. Just give me ONE example! All the playerds he's gotten rid of (Beckham, Keane, Veron etc), deserved to go and they were dispatched in the right way. And United went onto even greater heights afterwards, which is proof that Ferguson was right.

    2) Ferguson is stubborn but his stubbornness benefits the team, hence almost unparallelled success at United. Benitez is stubborn, but in an irrational way and to the detriment of the team. Examples: Ridiculous formations; ridiculous and unnecessary rotation; *repeatedly* playing players grossly out of position (Crouch on the left wing etc); Sticking to an ultra-cautious gameplan when it's not necessary (leading to endless draws); *repeatedly causing public friction with the board; *repeatedly bringing unnecessary public scrutiny on the club...the list goes on.

    3. Ferguson may be tough, but he commands respect by treating players *with respect*. Was Keane treated with respect? Crouch? Has Ryan Babel been treated with respect since he came to the club? How about Sami Hyypia? Steve Finnan? Jon Arne Riise? Again, the list goes on.

    4. Ferguson acts in the best interests of Man United. Benitez acts in the best interests of Benitez. He clearly has a persecution complex, thus he is always trying to have everything HIS way for HIS benefit.

    I could write a book about why Ferguson's touch approach works and Benitez's fails. The bottom line is this: Ferguson's stubbornness is POSITIVE. Benitez's is - almost without exception - Negative.

    I've addressed the Benitez v Ferguson issue at length in the following article, including your point about Ferguson's early years:


    Re your list of charges v Ferguson: insults referees and fans" brings the game into disrupute, plays mind-games, plays predatory tactics in transfers etc).

    That list is just sensationalised press BS. I don't care if he insults referees. I wouldn't care if Benitez did. Questioning a referee's ability is not an insult. especially when refereeing standards are so poor these days.

    Mind games? So what! Part and parcel of the game. It's not illegal and Ferguson is the master, as evidenced once again by Benitez recently falling into his trap.

    Predatory tactics in transfers. This is all hearsay. If Ferguson taps up players illegally then that is wrong. Has it ever been proven that he taps players up? No.

    Benitez is just as bad - look at the Gareth Barry fiasco, wherein both Benitez and Steven Gerrard engaged in classless public tapping-up.

    I like Ferguson for one reason: He is a superb Manager. He does things the right way. His nationality has nothing to do with it. I have respect for all the great managers of the game, past and present, whether it's Brian Clough, Kenny Dalglish, Arsene Wenger or whomever.

    Re the importance of the CL. In Benitez's first 4 season I would argue that it is obvious he prioritised the CL, hence Liverpool's poor showing the league. Now, he's *finally* realised that the league is what's most important to fans, he has started to take it seriously.

  17. 1) In response to your comment
    Jaap Stam, Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis, David Beckham, Roy Keane (face it Roy's statement WAS right, those players were NOT performing!) perhaps? And what did those players ever do to be realistically fired. And exactly what do you mean they were dispatched in the right way? The manager sat them down and explained why they were not in his plans? Sounds like Benitez did that as well to me. AF was not called the axe for nothing you know

    2) Well hasn't Benitez stubborness improved the team as well? In fact i could argue that he has learnt over the years and changed his approach. He's dropped 4-5-1, needless rotation etc Wouldn't you say, looking at the last 5 years, that our team has improved? Remember the dark days when we could not win away? When we would never ever come back from being a goal down?

    Oh and remember AF causing friction with the board. Rock of Gibralter anyone? Not to mention his criticism of the Glazers when they came. Fine he's calmed down on that one.

    Forgive me but didn't you recently criticise Benitez for his outburst about United's treatment by referees? Double Standards there Jamie! You yourself have been calling for respect in the game, upholding high standards etc but you can't dismiss AF's treatment of referees, not to mention opposing players. The media is one thing, fine they can give punishment and take it but the football authorities is another. I thought you were all for respect on that. And don't get me started on how AF uses the media to publically sway the minds of potential targets. Why do u think ManU's transfer dealings annoy fans in general?

    Jamie admit it! you are like the so-called 'lazy' fans out there! The very things you say are wrong in this game, you allow other people to do it (and you ADMIRE them for it!) but when our manager does it, shock and horror he's disrepectful of the club...

    3)I take offence at your examples. How was Sami ever disrespected? Rafa took him aside earlier this season and explained his future role. Yes Sami was not happy about missing out on the champions league, but lets be honest, with the defenders we had at the time was there really a need for him? And exaclty how was Ryam Babel disrespected? Also I could argue that it was time (football wise) for Riise and Finnan to go. And something very interesting, have you, generally, heard ex-liverpool players criticising Benitez after they left? Yes there is the odd one, but have ALL of them done that?

    4) Persecution complex? AF's siege mentality perhaps. Also in all of the commotion about Benitez's outbursts, notice how Steve Gerrards' court-case has now been overshadowed. Could it be that Rafa is protecting his man from the media onslaught? Looks like Benitez's

    I agree AF is a great manager. But his record is surely tainted by the manner in which he acts. Let me ask you this who has a better character as a manager? AF or Martil O'Neill? Hence your respect for AF is unfathomable to me.

    RE: Importance of CL. This comes down to opinion and how we view events, but what proof do you have that he disregarded the league? Remember that back in those days we had the most atrocious start in the league (and improved over the 2nd half) so that we were realistically out of the title race by November/December. Yet again I say that he prioritised the CL AFTER we were knocked out! And can you honestly say that the team we had in those days would have competed over a season? I think not

    Don't take all this too personally mate!

  18. Anonymous: Thanks for your comments. I'll respond to your points one by one.

    1. Jaap Stam et al

    I fail to see your point. Ferguson got rid of those players in a professional manner, he didn't marginalise them for months on end, repeatedly play them out of position and totally destroy their confidence.

    2. Benitez's stubborness improving the team

    I totally disagree - Benitez's stubborness has been nothing but detrimental to the team and this continues to be the case. Whether it's playing people out of position, ridiculous formations, never playing a settled team, stupid rotation policies or whetever else, his stubbornness is the reason Liverpool have failed to challenge for the title for the last 5 years and is the reason the title challenge has failed this year.

    This season is a prime example: Liverpool flying high at the top of the league and what happens? Same old irrational stubbornness rears its ugly head and hey presto, Man U have overtaken us.

    The only way the team has improved since Benitez arrived is in cup competitions. In the league, it;s the same old story as when Houllier was in charge.

    My alleged criticism of Benitez over his outburst about United's treatment of referees

    I criticised Benitez for his ridiculous public outburst, yes. What exactly is your point here?

    How exactly is Ferguson's 'treatment' of referees so bad? I think refs *should* be publicly criticised if they make monumental screw ups, which happens on a regular basis. Why shouldn't they be criticised? *Cliche alert* Because they have a tough job?!*cliche alert*

    Refs don't have to do the job - if it's so tough and they can't hack it, let someone else do the job who can hack the criticism.

    As long as the criticism is non-personal, I don't have a problem with it, whether it's Ferguson or Benitez.

    And criticism of referees has nothing to do with 'respect' in the game - it's to do with ensuring standards are upheld and amateur decision-making is not ruining the sport.

    Benitez disrespecting Sami Hyypia

    Hyypia is a true Liverpool legend and vital member of the squad, not only for his ability but for his experience and leadership. Benitez has left him out of the CL squad TWICE now, the second time he included Philip Degen in his place, someone who is ALWAYS INJURTED AND HAS NEVER EVEB PLAYED A GAME FOR THE CLUB!

    This is the ultimate lack of respect for a player of Sami's stature and just illustrates Benitez's strange thought process. I mean, how is it possible to justify such a decision? It is ridiculous, especially since Sami is vastly experience in the CL *and* chips in with goals.

    Babel, Riise, Finnan

    You really are the ultimate Benitez apologist aren't you!

    The treatment of Steve Finnan was a disgrace. Dumped from squad, marginalised and forced out by Benitez. Why? Because he dared to mildly question Benutez's selection policy?! Finnan was nothing but a model professional and deserved better.

    John Arne Riise - a great servant to the club over the years and Benitez doesn't allow him to say a proper goodbye to the fans. Benitez could have played him in the last game of the season at Anfield but he *deliberately* chose not to. Why? Because he has an unpleasant nasty streak to him.

    Treating players this way is not the Liverpool way. Riise had a hand in many Liverpool successes and deserved better.

    As for Babel - like so many others before him, he has been COMPLETELY WASTED by Benitez. If Babel was at Arsenal, he would be a world beater by now, but once again, Benitez is responsible for a criminal and arguably negligent waste of talent and misused of a potentially valuable resource.

    Ferguson's 'character'

    Ferguson is the 4th best Manager in the history of the english game (after Shanks, Paisley and Dalglish of course ;-), and his record is not tainted by anything.

    Character? He is tough, but in the right way and he knows how to play the game. Liverpool fans need to stop being so biased and at least attempt to be objective when it comes to Man U/Everton. In the modern game, Ferguson is peerless.

    Oh, and I don't take any of this personally. I don't know why people think I do - I have a forthright writing style but that's just me ;-)