Posts tagged: rafa benitez

Why Liverpool Fans Want Benitez To Do Well

By , December 20, 2012 8:22 am

In the moments and days leading up to Rafa Benitez being appointed Chelsea manager, the thoughts and feelings rushing through me seemed eerily familiar. I had been here before.

Questions were swirling through my mind, unable to grasp the concept of Benitez going to a team like Chelsea. Why would he want to go there? Their fans hate him. Why would he want to put up with Abramovich? A tyrannical owner that puts even Hicks and Gillett to shame. How could he go to a team that is such a rival of Liverpool’s? (I realize many fans disagree that they are our rivals, but like it or not, a rivalry was created and means a lot to many fans). Why would he risk his career going to a club that would sack him for just about anything they wanted to? How did he become so desperate that he was willing to put aside his own visions and ambitions to join a club that clearly has eyes for a younger, more beautiful Spaniard?

Benitez’s claims of wanting a project, to build a club dynasty from the academy to the first team, to have an owner that truly believed in his singular vision and supported him completely, all seemed like lies. He was joining the enemy. A club that epitomizes all that is wrong with football. And did I mention the fans abhor him?

When the news broke, I was crushed. I had convinced myself that through all these questions and belief in Benitez’s own words and character, that he could never join a club like Chelsea. Many argued with me, stating he “needed a job, he couldn’t wait forever, Liverpool didn’t want him so he had to move on, he can win just about everything there with those resources, he will make enormous amounts of money no matter what happens, he’s putting himself back into people’s minds, etc.” All valid and understandable arguments. But I still never thought Benitez would sell himself so short as to be desperate enough to take the Chelsea job. A club with no heart, no soul, and only a bottom-less checkbook to make up for that. This was not the Benitez I knew and loved.

Where had I seen this all before? A little less than two years earlier, another Liverpool man left Anfield for Stamford Bridge. Fernando Torres professed his love for the club and the fans, promising he would never leave. Shortly after, he left. The pain was palpable. I personally had never felt so hurt by a player leaving. I was devastated when I saw the ease with which he disappeared from Merseyside and sauntered down to London. Whatever the reasons, whatever the stories we still don’t know and that no one, including Torres, seems interested in telling us, it hurt. He was going to the enemy. And he was giving the finger to all the loyal Liverpool fans, that stood by him through injury after injury, and sulk after sulk, in the process.

It’s hard to even explain the feelings I had when Benitez became Chelsea manager. I was surprised, dismayed, disappointed, and painfully angry. Much the same feelings I had when Torres took his leave to the same place.

After a few days, I was able to reflect on all those aching feelings of despondency and I suddenly became happy for Benitez. Despite my hurt feelings, I only ever wanted the best for him, and I know I am not alone as a Liverpool fan in feeling this way. It’s like seeing your first love go off with someone else, that you know is not good enough for them and will only hurt them in the end. But if you love and care for someone, you have to let them go.

It was difficult to stomach him going to Chelsea, and that nauseating feeling will never leave. But I want him to do well. He deserves it. Sadly, I don’t feel the same about Torres and never will. While the feelings around them both going to Chelsea were similar, the ways in which they left Liverpool were very different.

Despite Benitez’s poor last season at Liverpool, he is still incredibly revered by most of the fans. He gave the club some of its most wonderful memories and moments. Reading his book Champions League Dreams reminds me of all those wonderful times we enjoyed as Liverpool fans under him, and how that euphoria and pride has seemingly vanished since he’s left. In some ways, I’ve found it difficult to read back in detail all the great moments he gave us without feeling incredibly depressed. It feels like a lifetime ago, when really, it was only three years.

Most Liverpool fans would agree, especially in hindsight, that Benitez should never have gone. He fought tooth and nail for the club and was subsequently dismissed by a club hierarchy that had driven Liverpool into near oblivion. What has followed since then has been nothing short of pure chaos. And all the while, a short ill-fated stint at Inter Milan aside, Benitez sat on the Wirral, awaiting the call that never came from his beloved club.

It is with that in mind that I don’t completely blame him for going to Chelsea, even though it is a club and a fan-base to be completely despised. The fact that I, and many other Liverpool supporters, are willing to put our ire for Chelsea aside simply because we want Benitez to do well tells you how much he still means to the club and its fans.

So you might still be wondering why we would want him to do well at a club we hate, with fans that have summarily dismissed him before he even arrived and have booed his every presence in front of them. Because of what he gave Liverpool. Because he gave us Istanbul, Cardiff, 2nd place in the league, and he made us the team to fear across Europe again. He gave himself to Liverpool, made the club and city his home, and the fans his friends. Most telling of all, when he left the club, he gave £96,000 to the Hillsborough Family Support Group. A cause that was not his own, but that he felt incredibly moved by and attached to. This, amongst so many other things, shows the character of the man.

Yet despite all of that, and despite an excellent win percentage, a European cup, an FA Cup, two Champions League finals, and the highest Liverpool points tally in years, the press, and even some fans, never took to him and wanted him gone. Journalists and commentators found it difficult to hide their hatred for the man, their reasons for which I still don’t know or understand. He was bullied, mocked, and turned into a joke by the English press. He received no respect from them throughout his time at Liverpool, and even less since he has left.

That, amongst so many other reasons, is why Liverpool fans want him to do well. He deserves better than the treatment he’s received and if going to Chelsea and helping them win will force the press and fans into respecting him the way he should be, then I am all for it. At the end of his Liverpool reign, he was tossed aside like garbage. Looking back, it was so disgraceful and foolish, especially when you factor in who he was replaced by, it is hard to believe that’s what actually happened.

The way he was treated by so many makes me sad, and I will never support Chelsea, but I will always support Benitez. A wonderful man, a compassionate human being, and a brilliant manager. Whatever happens, he will never walk alone for all that he gave to Liverpool Football Club.

You’ll Never Walk Alone, But It’s Time To Walk Away

By , January 6, 2011 6:39 pm

This article will also appear on Well Red Magazine

Where Did It All Go Wrong For Roy Hodgson?

There’s not much more that can be said in regard to Roy Hodgson and Liverpool. At least from the point of view of the fans and the writers that know and understand Liverpool Football Club well. For those outside of it, however, perhaps they need to hear it all again. It seems that in spite of facts, statistics, and obvious fan revolts, the media continue to believe in Roy Hodgson and feel, most of all, that he has been treated completely unfairly by those who love the club he is in charge of. What is unfair is the treatment those around the club have received and the constant notifications of how we don’t know what we are talking about. Oh that’s right, fans have only been eating, sleeping, and breathing the club since most were too young to even totally understand the game. But hell, what do they know?

It’s bad enough that the fans have had to live through the poor results, and even worse, the awful performances this season without being told how disastrous the squad is or that it’s really none of Hodgson’s fault that the club is in the mess it’s in. It’s Benitez’s fault of course. Why didn’t I think of that? It has to be Benitez. He’s the one that took Liverpool from an underachieving top four team to two Champion’s League finals (winning one), consistent top four finishes, and runners up just two years ago. It must have been all those dreadful players he bought and managed so atrociously to achieve those accomplishments, all of which weren’t good enough at the time, but Hodgson’s current record of seven wins in 20 games is of course by far the better record. I abhor using sarcasm to make a point, but it seems that the media has left us with little else since they refuse to look at the facts.

Here’s a fact for you, reported following what was another disastrous defeat to Blackburn. Kenny Dalglish has won more trophies than Hodgson has won away games in all his time managing English sides. While this kind of statement may be superfluous, it’s certainly a very glaring observation about the lack of success Hodgson has had, not just at Liverpool, but also anywhere in his career. The fact he hasn’t won any major trophies should be proof enough that he was never good enough for Liverpool. Whatever the media decide their opinion is about Benitez, one thing you can’t discount is the trophies he’s won, in a much shorter-lived career than Hodgson.

For those who tuned in to the Blackburn game yesterday, many of whom must have watched on TV because the traveling support barely attended (I wonder why?), they would have noticed two things. First, the staggeringly abominable performance churned out by the team on the pitch. Although, even before seeing that, some might have noticed that the lineup was altered quite a bit to the previous game against Bolton. To the nascent viewer (the English media in particular when it comes to Liverpool), this wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary, but to those who watched the much improved performance against Bolton, it begs the question of why mess with a system that worked quite well a few days earlier? That game involved one of the better performances of the season, and just happened to have Gerrard in the middle, and Agger at the back. The team pressed higher and Agger was in the opposition half attacking more often than not. Subsequently, he was once again left on the bench against Blackburn, perhaps he was deemed “too offensive.”

The second thing one may have noticed watching the dross against Blackburn was the vomit-inducing rhetoric spewed forth from the commentators. Throughout the match, as Liverpool played worse and worse, and Hodgson looked his usually clueless self on the sideline, they continued to back him. They believed it was all down to the disaster Benitez left in his wake over the summer, and that none of the current tactics, players, or system out on the pitch was at all because of Hodgson. And even more damaging was their refusal to point out his mistakes in the past, most notably with his time at Blackburn, where he did a Benitez by leaving the team in such poor shape that the following manager was left with a relegation battle. Only difference is, Hodgson isn’t blamed for that failure like Benitez is being blamed for Liverpool’s. All that was mentioned was that he led Blackburn to 6th place. What also wasn’t mentioned is the fact that Fulham are now in a terrible state since his departure. Surely it must be his fault, as Liverpool’s failings are Benitez’s? The media doesn’t seem to think so.

The British media have accepted Roy Hodgson’s dopey nice-guy act as genuine, and therefore he remains untouchable despite his obvious deficiencies as a football manager. The constant lowering of expectations hasn’t helped, and for some reason the media keep buying into it. After the Wolves defeat, he cynically said, “If fans are going to expect to [beat the bottom-of the league team] that’s very dangerous. If they’re going to do that they’re going to be in for a lot of disappointments.” Hodgson clearly lives his life in disappointment by never approaching anything with positive intentions and expectations. He may choose to live his life in this manner, but Liverpool fans want, and deserve, better.

For all the comments surrounding the current Liverpool manager, with many that could be construed as nasty or derisive, I don’t think anyone believes he’s an evil man. He’s just a man who blindly believes in himself, despite the outward results proving he’s not up to the position of manager at a club like Liverpool. At the end of the day, I hope he moves on from Liverpool with a deeper understanding of the game and takes the (harsh) lessons he’s had to learn in his short time in charge to better himself as a manager. For all the fans’ disappointment and anger vented toward Hodgson throughout the first half of the season, we can only wish the man well. And for all his obvious inadequacies as a manager, his glaring negativity and nigh on spiteful reactions to criticism and his own team’s fans, it’s only right to remind him that he’ll never walk alone, but perhaps now it’s time to just walk away.

A Message From Liverpool To Manchester United: We’re Not So Different, You And I

By , October 19, 2010 1:14 pm

Wayne Rooney Eyes A Move Away From Old Trafford

They say that football, like most things in life, is cyclical. Peaks and troughs await the best and worst of teams, and just how long each one lasts is up to those involved. By no means is either a high or low guaranteed to be forever, which for some teams can ultimately be good, or for those at the top, a disaster.

Just ask Liverpool. This is the team that was at one time the best in England and the best in Europe. Consistently, year in and year out, they competed with the best players and best managers the game had to offer. It must also be pointed out that this period of utter dominance in the 70s and 80s was followed by a period of footballing wilderness in the 90s, at which point another team took over as the dominant force in England (more on them in a bit).

Even in the 2000s, Liverpool maintained their dominance in the “Top Four” domestically and continued to be commanding on the European stage. Under Rafa Benitez alone, Liverpool made it to four European semi-finals in six seasons, along with two finals, winning one of them. Although there were always some setbacks, Liverpool looked a great side in Benitez’s penultimate season by finishing second in the Premier League, their best finish in a long time.

But alas, Liverpool still find themselves in the position they are in now. From finishing second place two seasons ago, to seventh place last season, to currently in the relegation zone. It’s a harsh reality to observe after five years of steady highs and rebuilding, but the crash has hit and hit hard. The team now flounders after three years spent under poor ownership and previous and current miss-management. While there’s no one person to blame, whether it be the owners, Benitez, or Hodgson, the club has slid from its position of grace and is struggling to cope.

Then there’s Manchester United. A team so dominate in the 90s and 2000s that they climbed from winning seven division titles before that period to winning 11 in the last 17 years. Oddly enough, they won their 18th league title two years ago, equaling Liverpool’s all-time record, the same year Liverpool finished second at the end of an excellent season. Both teams finished the 2008-2009 season on a high, with a visible momentum for the future.

Eighteen months later and United look a completely different side, while, like Liverpool, selling their best players off and not bringing in adequate replacements. You can look at the negative impact owners such as George Gillett and Tom Hicks have had at Liverpool and see a very similar impact the Glazers have had at United. While they appeared to improve for a time under the American family, they have found themselves faltering after some notable sales and a heavy increase in debt.

This season has no doubt started poorly for the runners-up. A succession of dropped points to teams like Fulham, Everton, Bolton, Sunderland, and West Brom have left them stewing in mediocrity. No longer are they the fearsome team from the Northeast that used to put teams to the sword, but rather a side with a geriatric core and a defense resembling a sieve.

It’s not necessarily a game of “Let’s Blame The Owners,” but the debt that United now find themselves in, despite their large gate receipts and continued appearances in Europe, has to be worrying. And even with the incredible haul of £80 million for Ronaldo, whom have they replaced the prolific player with? The team has failed to attract stars of that caliber and started to become a team of unimpressive ‘value’ players. The likes of Valencia, Javier Hernandez, Michael Owen, and Gabriel Obertan have yet to impress at Old Trafford, and most importantly, they’ve yet to impress the only star player left in Wayne Rooney.

It’s sad news for those that follow United to hear of Rooney’s apparent desire to leave the club, following in the footsteps of his former strike partners Ronaldo and Tevez. The situation may change, but he appears out the door to the nearest trophy winning side in blue.

As Ferguson and Rooney remain at odds, it’s the first time the public have been privy to chinks in the United armor. While it may seem unfathomable to United fans to be protesting outside a courtroom to oust their current owners and languishing in the drop zone in desperate need of a turnaround, that’s exactly what Liverpool fans thought a year ago.

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