Red Man Walking: Who’ll be next in the Anfield Hot Seat?

Pooling Resources; Our regular analysis of the antics at Anfield

WITH Wednesday night’s feeble defeat to Blackburn representing a new low in Roy Hodgson’s brief period in charge at Liverpool , the feeling is that NESV have lost faith in the 63 year old and are actively seeking a replacement. Based on what the New England owners have done with the Boston Red Sox, failure isn’t tolerated for long. We look at the potential candidates to replace Roy and assess each of their chances of actually pitching up at Anfield.

Didier Deschamps

Former Monaco and Juventus manager currently doing a more that decent job at Marseille. Deschamps was apparently sounded out for the job last summer when Roy got the nod. Has done well pretty much everywhere he’s been and has the pedigree and stature, as well as the ambition, to satisfy the Kop faithful’s yearning for success. The last Frenchman to fill the role didn’t bow out in a blaze of glory but Deschamps appears to be a more progressive, constructive coach than the successful-to-a-point but ultimately negative style of Gerard Houllier. Brought an unfancied Monaco to a Champions League Final in 2004 and has previous experience of taking over a big club in crisis after leading Juventus out of Serie B following the Italian Football  scandal of 2006.

Pros: Young, ambitious, urbane, well balanced personality, good track record thus far, knows what it takes to be a success in Europe from his playing days, leading name in European football.

Cons: Seems happy in Marseille and perhaps more importantly, Marseille seem even happier to have him and wouldn’t give him up without a fight.

Verdict: Strong candidate who appears to tick all the boxes. Would be a coup.

Frank Rijkaard

Dutchman who has been heavily linked with the post but that may be simply because he’s currently available after a less than successful spell at Galatasaray. Obviously made his name with the considerable success he enjoyed with Barcelona and there’s no doubt his teams of 2005 and 2006 played some fantastic football with Ronaldinho and Eto’o enjoying perhaps the most successful spells of their careers under Rijkaard’s tutelage. However, his last two seasons at Barca went downhill and his time at both Sparta Rotterdam, prior to Barcelona, and Galatasary post-Barca were far from successful. A stellar name in European football he may be, but the suspicion remains that Rijkaard hasn’t proven himself as a manager who gets it right most of the time. Given the lack of squad discipline towards the end of his Barca reign, you get the impression we could have the reincarnation of the Spice Boys era should Frank get the call from NESV.

Pros: Big name, who has managed big names. Believes in an attractive style of football. Currently available.

Cons: Patchy track record. Has been accused of being naiive both tactically and when it comes to player discipline. Wouldn’t come cheap.

Verdict: Would check the ‘Glamour signing’ box but perhaps lacks the steel to carry out the job required.

Martin O’Neill

Like Rijkaard, perhaps the most favourable aspect for O’Neill is that he’s currently available. Once looked certain to end up at a stellar name in English football and was oft touted as a successor to Sir Alex. Did fine jobs at Wycombe and Leicester before really making his name at Celtic, dominating the Scottish league, even getting the Bhoys to the Uefa Cup final (where, like fellow candidate Deschamps, he finished second best to a Porto side managed by a rather special one). O’Neill’s stock has fallen slightly over the last few years however as he failed to follow up on a promising start to his reign as Aston Villa manager. The step from a strong 6th place outfit into a top-four team proved to much for O’Neill and the unfortunate thing for him is that’s exactly the sort of step Liverpool’s owners and supporters would expect any new manager to be able to achieve as a matter of course. At the moment he’d represent an upgrade on Roy , but Liverpool fans are hoping for a little more than that.

Pros: Another who’s currently available. Knows the Premier League well. Decent track record. Would relish the challenge. Has never relied on millions to build a competent team.

Cons: Has a reputation for a dour style of football. Couldn’t coax his Villa team into making the big breakthrough. Perhaps works best with an underdog club rather than an established name.

Verdict: Probably wouldn’t be a disastrous appointment but unlikely to capture the imagination.

Jurgen Klopp

Currently leading Borussia Dortmund, the runaway leaders of the Bundesliga, Klopp’s name has been linked with the post of late and it’s not difficult to see why. Now in his third year with Dortmund , Klopp has overseen consistent improvement every term since his arrival, culminating in the club looking more and more likely to win the Bundesliga this time around – they’re currently 10 points clear at the top. He may not be a big name yet, but Klopp manages a side who get amongst the biggest crowds in Europe and he’s proven that he can get his side to outperform more established, and bigger spending, clubs – something that could come in very handy at Anfield right now.

Pros: Young, ambitious, methodical manager, likes his teams to play expansive attacking football, works well with limited resources.

Cons: Relatively inexperienced compared to other candidates. Not an established name. Dortmund unlikely to give him up without a fight.

Verdict: Another strong candidate but perhaps timing not in his favour right now.

Guus Hiddink

Dutchman Hiddink would be many Kopite’s ideal choice to take the helm but the big question with Hiddink is whether he’ll ever really be a candidate for a top club job again. Not that his reputation around Europe doesn’t continue to be sky-high, more that it seems his desire for the cut-and-thrust of everyday club management is on the wane. He’s been linked with many a big club over the last few years but it appears to be a lifestyle choice on Guus’s part right now to stick to the less intensive world of international management. He does know the Premiership from his pretty exemplary half-season at Chelsea, his track record is second-to-none, and Liverpool are a club that still have a lot or prestige around Europe so Guus shouldn’t be completely ruled out of the running, but unfortunately for scousers, it’s a long shot.

Pros: One of the most respected managers in the world, great track record, fabulous experience, knows the Premier League

Cons: Appears to want to leave club management behind. Wouldn’t be the cheapest option even if NESV did persuade him to join.

Verdict: If I could speak for NESV: ‘It’s yours if you want it Guus.’ Unfortunately, he probably doesn’t.

Owen Coyle

Likeable one-time Irish international who’s currently doing a great job at Bolton Wanderers. Perhaps his lack of big-time experience could count against him in the running for this job but there’s no doubt that Coyle has impressed both with Burnley and Bolton during his brief but productive spell in the Premiership. Coyle appears to have that Scottish managerial nous and steel that has proven so popular down the years in the North West and his promising career thus far has many speculating that he might just be a worthy successor to fellow countrymen such as Ferguson , Busby and Shankly. Signing a manager who had worked wonders at a lower tier Premiership club didn’t work for Liverpool with Hodgson though, and the fear of the same outcome might just put NESV off appointing Coyle. Stranger things have happened though.

Pros: Appears to prefer a more expansive playing style than Hodgson. Working wonders with limited resoures. Young. Ambitious. Scottish(!).

Cons: Inexperienced compared to other candidates. Could prove expensive to prise away from Bolton .

Verdict: A strong candidate, no doubt. The fact that he’d be coming from a similar situation that Roy came from could count against him though – although it probably shouldn’t.

Martin Jol

Another who’s available after leaving Ajax this season, Jol proved himself a competent manager at Spurs and would clearly relish a return to the Premier League. He’s been around the block enough to know how to be a success in European football, his teams tend to play an attractive style and he appears to have been universally liked by players, fans and media alike wherever he’s been. However two things probably dent Jol’s chances of landing the job – the lack of a real, unqualified success on his managerial c.v., and the fact that his biggest enemy during his time at Tottenham, Damien Comolli, is now in situ at Liverpool .

Pros: Available. Likeable. Positive approach

Cons: (Lack of) Relationship with Comolli, Solid, but unspectacular, previous record. Verdict: Probably needs to be coming off real success in his previous role to land this gig,

Kenny Dalglish

The Kop have made their feelings known all season that King Kenny is the man they want back in the hot-seat. The last man to bring the league title to Anfield is still a god on Merseyside and is generally considered the finest player to wear the red jersey. His appointment would definitely get the fans onside and it’s unlikely that such a wave of positive emotion could be anything but good for the team and club for the short term at least. However, it would surely be a decision of the heart over the head if Kenny was to be appointed. He clearly wants the job – he applied for it in the summer, but the man’s been out of top level management for a decade now and his last couple of jobs at Celtic and Newcastle could hardly be described as roaring successes. Football has moved on a lot since Kenny’s time and the chances are that NESV would rather keep Dalglish on in his current ambassadorial role rather than giving him the top job.

Pros: Club legend. Would boost the fans. Won the league.

Cons: Out of the game a while. Not one for the long term.

Verdict: Kenny may be better off maintaining his legendary status by steering clear of the post.

Conclusions: The way things stand at the moment, it looks likes there’ll be three possible outcomes here:

Scenario One – Things go disastrously for Liverpool over the next few games, leaving NESV with no choice but to remove Roy permanently, get in a caretaker manager for the remainder of the season to steady the ship (still don’t think it would be Kenny – Sammy Lee more likely), and signing a long term manager in the summer. My money’s on Deschamps.

Scenario Two – Roy bumbles from one mediocre result to one bad result to one good result to one disastrous result between now and the end of the season, just doing enough to see out the season, finishing in 7th place. He leaves the club bymutual consent (sure!) in June and NESV appoint their preferred long term candidate in the summer. My money’s on Deschamps.

Scenario Three – The above may all be irrelevant; Liverpool may go on an unbelievable run, Roy may be feted as a hero on Merseyside come May having delivered a Europa League win in Dublin (what’s the story with those ticket prices by the way?) and a top four finish. In which case, well done Roy , we never doubted you and I wrote the above as an elaborate tongue-in-cheek piece to highlight the fickleness of football fans – Shame on you if you believed I meant a word of it.

My money’s on Deschamps.

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