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The fool on the hill?

The fool on the hill?
Written by This Is Anfield on September 23rd, 2007 ▪

At the beginning of the season there was some big news coming out of Anfield.

£50M worth of talent coming in, a new broom at the academy, a fabulous new stadium and Paco’s new training hills at Melwood.

All of the above designed to turn Liverpool into the most exciting team in Europe for many years to come. Not only would we have some great young talent but we would also have the fittest bunch of players on the planet and these lads would be playing in Europes’ most futuristic venue.

Sadly we may not realise this dream because the very man that started to make it seem achievable could be the one that destroys it.

Yes - Rafael Benitez.

Before you start to destroy me let me point out one or two things.

Firstly I want Rafa to do well and act sensibly. Secondly I am not on the same mission as I was when Houllier was here. I really disliked Houllier for a number of reasons and wanted him out. With Rafa it is different because he really does have the potential to be the best coach in the world a la Shankly and Paisley.

So let me explain my controversial comments.

rafa the gafferYesterday I sat immediately behind the dug-out and watched with great interest the body language of those that sit alongside and behind Rafa. I also observed Rafa’s own behaviour.

What I saw was the ultimate autocrat referring to his assets/players by their surnames when instructing them to warm-up. “Crouch, run” was one example.

Next to him was a young lad who is obviously one of these new Spanish scientists and Alex Miller. They drew pictures of the pitch with little players on and showed the subs where to run etc. It was almost as thought they are playing a computer game but with real players.

What seemed to be missing was a bit of personality. The type that great leaders have. The type that Paco Ayesteran, Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho have - the ability to be human.

Let me tell you a little story.

Several years ago I worked in Greater Manchester and regularly saw a Manc player out socialising near to the place I worked. We would occasionally acknowledge each other until a time came when he was no-where to be seen. I asked one of his mates “What’s happened to X?” and he said “He’s living at Fergies house at the moment whilst he straightens himself out”.

The player did indeed spend 3 months at the Ferguson’s whilst avoiding certain temptations and is now (although his playing days are over) the biggest admirer of the Manc boss.

Similarly an old school friend of mine is part of the the Chelsea backroom team and confirms the rumours that Mourinho was a family man who genuinely looked after his players and referred to them as his family.

Unfortunately our boss is not like this and is infact a very rare type. He is probably more suited to computer games or Dragon’s Den type businesses that running football teams that have real people and personalities in with his autocratic style.

pakoHis friend and fellow spaniard Guilleme Balague recently said on Sky that losing Paco would be serious for our players as he had a relationship with them. He also explained that Rafa views them as “pawns”.

Here’s some of what he said:

“Paco is also the man who says ‘no’ to Rafa…He is the good policeman…He develops relationships with the players that Rafa Benitez is not willing (to)…he is not interested at all in building up these relationships.”

Now forgive me for saying this but I remember a certain Frenchman who became quite removed from his players. Things also went downhill for him when his number two (Patrice Bergues) left the club.

If you add to this his constant obsession with rotation and a determination to out-fox the whole of the footballing world with his bizarre selections and omissions then we should be getting worried.

Yesterday I observed a team, both on the pitch and in the dug-out that were not really a team. They were a bunch of talented players being ordered around by a moody, agressive boss. Would you thrive in such a situation? Would you give your all at work for such a person?

I am not going to try and add to the comments about Torres because I just don’t understand it. It defies logic.

Another funny thing happened yesterday too. I got a text 10 minutes into the 2nd half from my mate in South Africa. We used to go to games together and his text said “Is Houllier back?”. He was watching our slow, confused build up play and passes back into the heart of defence when we needed a goal.

Perhaps the most telling sign for me came when the brilliant Ryan Babel was substituted.

He came and sat in front of me and turned to Charles Itandje and asked “Did I do OK?”.

Should a player of such enormous potential really have any doubts. Should his manager shake his hand like a business associate when he leaves the field or should he put an arm round him and say “Well done”?

I am worried because Rafa may soon look like the fool on Paco’s hill.


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