So, here begins my first proper post. While this blog is in its embryonic stages, the season is not and my mind and opinion have been spilling over for years. Therefore, I face a uphill struggle to avoid this turning into a stream of ranting and conjecture…I’ll be trying my best. Talking of tough challenges, I am going to kick off today with my thoughts regarding two men experienced in the hardest job in the game.
There is obviously only one place to start. Poor old Mark Hughes, or so the popular feeling seems to be. The Guardian and The Telegraph both today report that new Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was approached at the beginning of December, although Chief Executive Garry Cook had previously insisted that the decision to axe Hughes was taken after the 3-0 defeat to Spurs.
This is all obviously very embarrassing for the club, and will not help dampen increasing speculation that Mancini is facing a player revolt led by that bastion of compassion and ambassador of goodwill, Craig Bellamy. I, along with it seems the majority of the public, feel a great deal of sympathy for Hughes, who has always struck me as a decent, honest football man. However, I do think that there is a critical dimension to this situation that is being overlooked. Hughes enjoyed unrivalled, almost unprecedented financial backing from the owners. Whilst I am not claiming this means he should be delivering success by December (is this even possible??), in accepting the responsibility that comes with that cheque book he acknowledged that his was a unique situation in world football at the time. My point is, the behaviour of Manchester City may have been disloyal by conventional standards, but surely this is a club not operating within the same norms and values as the other 19? Along with Chelsea, they have set their own benchmark in terms of investment and profile building, why not set a new standard in terms of patience with a manager? Whilst the Premier League happily allow gargantuan levels of investment from initially benevolent foreign owners, no-one is in a position to complain when these powerful shareholders run their clubs how they see fit. And who can deny they might be a tiny bit disgruntled when they realise they have spent £38m on Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott.
The other man under a noticeable amount of pressure is a certain controversy-courting Spaniard, who‘s side went down to a gutless defeat at Fratton Park on Saturday. Rafa Bentiez’s post match press conference was bewildering and confusing to even the most optimistic Liverpool fan. To those with a more balanced view of the world, both performances at Portsmouth (the players’ for 90 minutes and Rafa’s afterwards) stank of a club in crisis, where the manager is starting to see how precarious his position is, and the threat of losing the dressing room. Benitez has, in my opinion, benefited for a year or so now from the extremely controversial ownership of the club. The unpopularity of Hicks and Gillette is such that amongst the fans, to question Benitez has been to implicitly support the Americans, unacceptable in the eyes of any red. They have united opinion against themselves to such an extent, that their attacks on the manager have led the fans to support him blindly despite his obvious shortfallings. The club cannot afford to sack Benitez, but at the same time they surely cannot afford to give him another transfer window to pursue his skewed policies. The bleakest thing for Liverpool FC, is that to get rid of the manager gives the two clueless owners license to pursue their favoured personnel, and as we have seen before, Klinsmann would not have been a popular choice. I once saw on a banner at Anfield, “If it ain’t broke, don’t HICKS it”. The problem now, is that the club clearly is broke both metaphorically and financially. Whoever’s fault that might be, the team responsible for the clean-up operation are questionable to say the least. For me, I would like to see Rafa walk, and King Kenny pull off his carpet slippers one last time to steer the club until the end of the season.
Thanks for reading, as I say comments and criticisms are openly encouraged, and I leave you with a little reminder why we should all have a soft spot for Roberto Mancini.