26 Oct 2009

RAFA BENITEZ - The man who came in from the cold

As Anfield, the city of Liverpool, and every Liverpool fan jumped for joy during Sunday's humbling of Man United, one man stood still...emotionless; impassive, and controlled. That man was, of course, Rafa Benitez - the heartbeat and Commander in Chief of everything Liverpool FC.

If one was to spend the whole match against Manchester United watching Rafa, it would be hard to judge the scoreline at the end. The team he was guiding on the pitch echoed his personality off it: cold, ruthless, determined and very tactical.

Every team eventually becomes the image of their manager, and Liverpool are showing signs that they are Rafa Benitez. Indeed, against United, the team was stubborn in its resistance and clinical in its attacking play.

I’ll try to refrain from throwing superlatives though because I’ve been almost driven barmy hearing all the negativity this week, and now we’re (inevitably) set for a week of praise. The fickleness of football and the media in general is as rotten as the economy surrounding it.

For a man supposedly unfit to be manager of Liverpool, Rafa must have been very lucky to tactically outclass Alex Ferguson for the 3rd consecutive time. It’s funny how the best in the business tend to have that luck. And it’s not as if Fergie hasn’t had his fair share, with 3 own goals changing matches in United's favour this season already.

If Rafa does manage to get his hands on the Premier League come May, he will have won every major competition available to him in the last 8 years, conquering Europe, Spain, and England respectively.

The majority of the football world seems awash with ignorance when the subject of Liverpool and Benitez comes up. The lack of respect shown to the Liverpool manager beggars belief; he is derided in some sections and Liverpool are gleefully kicked when they’re down by Sky Sports ‘pundits’.

With Rafa's proven pedigree in the big games and big moments, it’s borderline offensive to hear a bunch of ex-players (all considered unprofessional at many points in their playing careers) questioning Rafa’s managerial ability as if the last game was his first.

Matthew Le Tissier, Paul Merson, Charlie Nicholas and Stan Collymore all make fools of themselves regularly. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at their opinions.

Sky’s Soccer Saturday saw Charlie ‘Champagne’ Nicholas churn out the same old garbage about Rafa’s spending at the club. £250million, £300m hell why not go nuts, “Benitez has spent £687 million and he has nothing to show for it!”.

After having a go at Rafa's lack of nouse in the transfer market, Jeff Stelling, another who may as well be wearing a jesters hat, asked Mr Champagne about Wigan's passing record in games this season, to which Charlie replied “Jeff, don’t throw stats at me, stats don’t interest me”.

A classic example of selective argument. I feel like I should point out Paul Merson’s comments, but I can’t bring myself to do it. The man is a simpleton and I pity anyone who takes his comments as gospel.

I don’t want to dwell on these type of sensationalist nobodies though; I want to talk about Rafael Benitez. I thought it unwise to write an article about Rafa during the last two weeks because I don’t think the majority of people were in the mood to hear it. After Sunday’s game I think maybe people might be a little more open to Rafa-praise.

I hope I’m not alone in saying I see a lot of similarities between Rafa and Bill Shankly. Both are/were incredibly single-minded; ruthless and confident. Both share a certain affinity with the fans (although Rafa’s is a lot more knife-edge than Shank’s everlasting love was). Both men also seemed to have a habit of clashing with the directors and those above them. Both have/had ideas of dynasty. Shanks created one, Rafa is starting one. I see Rafa as very much laying foundations at the club, I hope others can see that too.

Losing four games in two weeks doesn’t make or break a great manager, and it doesn’t break an extremely good team. Rafa often finds himself as ‘boy against world’. We often see those who know him defend him to the hilt, those who don’t know him trying to strike the killer blow.

For Rafa, it must seem as though he’s shut out from the media clique and the ‘friends in high places’ advantage of certain managers. Rafa is very much out in the cold and if I as a fan get that impression then Mr Benitez must surely feel it too.

Rafa does, however, have one amazing weapon in his armoury against the doubters, and that is the Liverpool fans. Secular in our nature, we as a people and as a fanbase must surely be able to relate to the unfair criticism of our Manager. Liverpool, Scousers and the wider fanbase in general, often display that ‘us against them’ mentality, something from which Rafa can take comfort. Basically, when our backs are against the wall we rally around those who need our protection.

Rafa is a big boy and can handle the pressure, but when Liverpool fans back him it gives a sense of unity that is rare to find. I often hear on television that Liverpool fans are against Rafa and this and that, but I can’t really trust the surveys and vox pops; there’s always an agenda.

You don’t have to look far on the internet to find some moron preaching about Mourinho and claiming to be a Liverpool fan, but in the cold light of day, most fans I speak to talk with a lot of sense.

The last week saw probably the greatest pressure build up in the last 20 years for a Liverpool manager; the ball had been dropped, but it takes a man of great courage and guts to reach into the fire and pull it back out again. This is what Rafa has done, and we should not forget it the next time Liverpool are in dire straits.

We’d be fools to think that we’ll never be in such a situation again, but we’ve learned that when luck and form conspire against us, we have the testicular fortitude to fight our corner. And then some.

Chris Severs


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  1. A pro-rafa article Chris? Jaimie would not approve ;)

  2. Very good article Chris, well written. Personally being 21 I have no real memory of the managers before Souness, so I can't comment on the likeness with Shankly.

    What I will say though is that I have criticised Benitez over the last few weeks and felt his time is up. I still think that, I don't think this team can win the league, although I'd happily eat humble pie if they did. I think it's unfair to dismiss Benitez record in the transfer market, and some of his man management and tactical decisions are very questionable at times. I agree, most pundits are fairly one-sided in their views, but I personally don't take too much notice of them. It is annoying however that you think just because people don't think Rafa is the right man, then they aren't genuine fans. Just because people look outside the box, think about alternatives and don't subscribe to the 'love is blind' type of support doesn't make them wrong or unworthy of supporting a club. I've argued for at least 2 years that we won't win the League under Benitez. I hope we do and I am wrong, but I can't see it.....and so far I've been right! Irrespective of that though, I am a LIVERPOOL fan, not just a Benitez fan. I will always support Liverpool, nobody else.

    Going off on a tangent slighty, made me laugh how some Man City fans are now calling for Hughes to be sacked, and United fans now slagging off their squad. Very comedic.

  3. Well, since all articles have to go through me first, it seems that I do approve ;)

    As I've always said - I welcome positive articles, as long as they are well argued and not just 'Rafa is the greatest and that's that!' type arguments.

  4. well said. Lets all show a bit of faith ( not blind faith) in our manager and the squad he has assembled.
    quote - "You don’t have to look far on the internet to find some moron preaching about Mourinho and claiming to be a Liverpool fan"

    you just have to visit this site to see that sort of defeatest drivel nearly every week.

  5. Absolute rubbish, Brando.

    You are just spouting untrue generlisations like so many other people.  This site is both critical and positive about Liverpool FC, and that is beyond dispute.  Just because something is criticised doesn't mean it is defeatist, and  - importantly - valid arguments are presented for every POV.

    Just because the views here don't fit with you (clearly) insular view of Liverpool doesn't make them wrong.

    And I guess you missed all the positivity about yesterday's game (and liverpool's league chances) over the last week.  In fact, this site has probably been one of the most positive LFC destinations in the build-up to yesterdays game.

    So, perhaps you could try and be fair, eh? ;)

  6. Hi Jamie,
    I just thought i'd stop in to apologise for yesterdays victory. I know you must be devestated that Rafa's job is safe for another few months but by the same token would like to thank you for all the negativity which articles like yours, tony cascarinos and stan collymores have created which have had the opposite effect than intended and brought rafa and the squad closer together and perhaps proved to be the catalyst to yesterdays victory which in turn I ( and all true fans) hope to be the springboard for a succesful year...
    Here's to another 10 years of Benitez...
    Viva Rafa

  7. Ah yes.  You must be referring to the following:

    Me praising Rafa after the Sunderland defeat:


    Me highlighting how Liverpool had won the title after losing 4 of the first 9 league games in the past:


    Me arguing that Liverpool would rise from the ashes and mount a title challenge this season:


    Me arguing that Liverpool would be fine without Gerrard and Torres:


    Me arguing again that Liverpool could beat United without Gerrard and Torres:


    me highlighting the weaknesses of United's central defensive pairing:


    Me stating the following in my interview with Rebublik of Mancunia (prior to the United game:

    "Liverpool will beat United.  it's almost guaranteed if you ask me".


    In the same interview, me stating the following about Benitez:

    <span>"Rafa will not be sacked, nor should he be. Liverpool have never sacked a manager mid-season and the club is not going to start now, especially after last season’s 2nd place finish".</span>
    <div>Me continually posting positive articles from other writers about Rafa:</div>



    Yes, I see your point.  but don't let the truth get in the way of spreading lies ;)

  8. apologies if i stopped reading your articles in october as I just presumed your negativity would continue as the negativity of the mainstream media gathered to a frenetic pace...the last thing i wanted to do during beachball week was log in here and read your negativity but it seems you have completely changed your slant as your desire to be objective and original (cough cough) know's no bounds... well at least we can be in agreement that this one stat has made everyone happy -
    Liverpool 2
    Manure 0
    Im off to play 9 holes

  9. Great Article, couldn't have put it any better myself. We are unique as fans and we are becoming more of a collective the more the Manchester Utd media propaganda is spoon fed to us via Andy Gray and his evil little flying monkeys at sky tv. I can not wait for the day we lift the prem under Rafas stewardship and rub it in their fergie bum-stained faces! YNWA

  10. For Heavens sake, I thought this was an article written by Jaimie Kanwar! Blinkers! Bonkers!
    But that would mean the sky falling down on the earth wouldn't it?

    Thank you, Chris. Finally, someone with a bit of perspective on this site.
    Oh no, that's not you, Jaimie. :-E

  11. Great article, after 2 weeks of defending Rafa's qualification, accomplishments and character against offensive criticism, from half wits and home grown managers, Rafa again proved his critics wrong. Ha has overperformed against richer and more powerfull clubs in Europe and England and will continue to do so, while building a dynasty for years to come. All that, while working for an undercapitalized club, with 2 feuding imposters for owners.  RAFA YNWA

  12. haha
    just because you know he won't be sacked coz the club dont do sackings mid season doesnt mean you haven't been waging a hate campaign against him for the last year.
    I reckon You saw how ridiculous Sky sports and the like were with their treatment  of the manager and the club in the past couple of weeks and have realised that your argument was just sensationalist drivel, hence the flood of seemingly positive articles from your good self...

    And don't get me wrong... i know you are a liverpool fan, just not a very helpful one...
    viva Rafa

  13. haha 
    just because you know he won't be sacked coz the club dont do sackings mid season doesnt mean you haven't been waging a hate campaign against him for the last year. 
    I reckon You saw how ridiculous Sky sports and the like were with their treatment  of the manager and the club in the past couple of weeks and have realised that your argument was just sensationalist drivel, hence the flood of seemingly positive articles from your good self over the last few weeks.
    And don't get me wrong... i know you are a liverpool fan, just not a very helpful one... 
    viva Rafa


  14. Thanks for reading Nick,

    I don't think for one minute that those who don't like Rafa aren't genuine fans. There probably isn't a manager in the world who has 100% support from every fan.

    My problem usually is the people who beat Rafa with the same stick of misguided stats and statistics. I know a couple of fans who would prefer Guus Hiddink and I often can't argue against their points.

    If someone can make a good point against Rafa, I'll always consider it.

    If you aren't that big of a fan of Rafa, I only feel sorry for you because most of the people who feel the same as you use tired arguments and misguided facts.

    SkySports miraculously were reporting Rafa's record in comparison to our great managers. Only Kenny Dalglish won more times in his first 200 league games, and Rafa's win percentage is way up there in his fisrt 5 years. Ahead of Shankly, Paisley and funnily enough, Fergie, who trailed way behind.

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