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Rafa Benitez made right choice on new coach

Rafa Benitez made right choice on new coach

Sep 11 2007

by Ian Rush, Liverpool Echo

ASSISTANT managers can often have a pivotal behind the scenes role at a football club.

However, it should be remembered that ‘assistants’ are precisely what they are.

There can only ever be one top man. He can take advice and get help, but it’s the manager who stands and falls by results.

Liverpool have been fortunate over the years to have some legendary deputies, some of whom later established themselves as number one in their own right.

Bob Paisley learnt his trade under Bill Shankly, and Joe Fagan was the perfect replacement for Paisley.

I was fortunate to learn from Joe, Roy Evans and Ronnie Moran, all of whom had different qualities, but acted as a link between the players and manager. If you had a problem, you tended to find the number two before you made your way to the manager’s office.

I don’t know how similar Pako Ayesteran’s role at Anfield was, but I do know he had tremendous respect from the players.

All I’ve heard since he joined the club with Rafa Benitez is how good Pako is at his job. He hasn’t left because of any problems on that score, and the fact he and Benitez were together eleven years underlines how highly he was rated by the Liverpool manager.

But now he’s gone, it’s been put into the correct perspective by the mute reaction.

For a day or two it was a big disappointment, but in football you tend to see people move on very quickly.

An assistant leaving the club is a blow. When a manager leaves, especially someone like Benitez, it’s a catastrophe.

Speculation has followed about who will replace Pako, and I must say I’m happy to hear Benitez say he doesn’t intend doing so.

Recent history shows us how dangerous it can be to appoint a new man and expect the transition to be easy.

When Patrice Bergues left in 2001, Gerard Houllier replaced him with Jacques Crevoisier and then Christiano Damiano, neither of whom commanded the same respect from players and other members of staff.

That created extra problems for Gerard he didn’t need. An assistant is supposed to handle some of the difficulties, not create new ones.

It’s impossible for a manager to be a friend of the players. He needs to keep a distance, and that’s where assistants play a crucial role. Quite often, if they’re not providing this link or are simply causing more irritation, they’re having a counter-productive role and making life even tougher for the manager than it already is.

I’m sure this happened in the last few years of Gerard’s reign after Bergues left, so it makes sense for Benitez not to follow the same path, particularly if a staff he already trusts is in place.

When I moved into management I appointed an assistant I could rely on, Mark Aizlewood, and my idea was for him to play the same role as the number twos I’d worked with.

It’s unquestionably an important job, but at the heart of it working is trust. Trust between players and staff, and trust between manager and assistant.

When that goes, and it appears to have done so with Rafa and Pako, there’s no way back.

I’m sorry Pako Ayesteran had to leave and I’m certain if Liverpool win trophies in the immediate future, there will be those who make sure he is thanked for doing so much to rebuild the squad.

Sadly, Pako will probably suffer more from no longer having Liverpool part of his life than vice-versa.

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