LOSING YOUR HEAD

January 11, 2008 |

Newcastle’s Big Sam Allardyce is the latest in what is best described as a particularly virulent rash of EPL axings. The number of managerial casualties this season is taking on Rambo-like proportions.
The reason I bring this up, is that firing line is getting a bit too close to home. Speculation is rife (as if it can be anything other than that) about Rafa leaving Liverpool before his two years is up. Sources “close to Rafael Benitez” have suggested that his Anfield exit is imminent.
Funny that, though. He doesn’t seem to want to leave. The fans don’t seem to want him to leave. G&H don’t seem overly eager to be rid of him. And I definitely don’t want him to leave. This much is for certain though, something has to give.
Rafa is a proud man. But he is also an astute man. And no one can be more aware of his position than him. As fantastic as his achievements in Europe have been, he will not want to be remembered for his exploits abroad alone. The man has unfinished domestic business. And he’s good at what he does. But he needs help and he has not been too proud to ask for it.
Rafa needs money. Time is not something that he, or any other top-flight manager, has anymore. The days of a Ferguson (Sir Alex to us) and a Wenger are all but over. In this day and age, with this en vogue Queen of Hearts approach to ownership, the general pleb understands and expects a manager’s life expectancy to be short. In fact, we gleefully go haring off to the market square in eager anticipation of the pending execution if even the slightest dip in form should occur. And this year has yielded a bumper crop of managerial melons.
Modern Premiership managers are not afforded the luxury of developing a team from the roots up. And they are certainly not ever allowed a “rebuilding period.” Chelsea proved that buying a team can work. They won. A lot. But as history has evidenced, lobbing great gourds of cash at a problem only ameliorates it temporarily.
Rafa needs money. But rather than simply buy a team, he has meticulously assembled the bones of a team that will contend for a title. Now he needs the flesh. And cosmetics cost.
It must be frustration in its essence for the manager of a team that is steeped in winning history – and one that is on the cusp of resurrecting that greatness – to watch as new ownership comes in and then make overt gestures towards doing whatever is necessary to make it happen only to become bearish when it counts the most.
It can only be more frustrating for a man who has proven he can spend non-existent funds wisely, to watch the missing pieces of his puzzle get snapped up by teams that don’t need them while his fiscal hands are tied. And then when he tries to take peddle his existent wares in the market place, he is told that the shop front is closed by order of the management.
G&H are in an all-around tenuous position. Rafa has proven that he has everyman’s support. He has also proven that he can do great things with a roster that, on paper, couldn’t win a round of bingo. Yet G&H are making him do the money dance. As little as the Man U faithful felt for the Glazers, they at least did what was necessary to win a title. And then there is the issue of the super stadium.
            The truth behind Rafa’s stipulations will be seen in February. It might become more about Rafa’s impatience with the lack of support than it is of G&H’s impatience with his lack of productivity that sees him on foreign shores. Assurances mean very little. And promises even less. The only thing that holds any value is a jug with your name on it. And that doesn’t last very long either.
 I hope he doesn’t leave. But I understand if he does. Real Madrid and Inter Milan are dream jobs with deep coffers that rarely snap shut. And what of our consolation prize? Apart from a potential threat of a personnel diaspora, we always have the eternal question: who’s next?

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