A severance package thought to be around £3million up-front has been offered, and Benitez finally looks set for the Anfield exit; good, bad, ugly (not referring to Captain Pugwash aesthetics), what are your assessments? Well, let’s brush aside such legacy appraisals for now – alongside the crippling, asphyxiating American creatures hiding under the bed – and instead leap outside, frolicking in the bright and breezy garden of new manager speculation.
So, who would feasibly represent the most likely and worthy candidate? A substantial list has been mooted; the favourites being Martin O’Neill, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish, with the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Guus Hiddink and Mark Hughes also mentioned further down the list. Then, of course, there is the inevitable dream-ticket of Iain Dowie and Les Reed currently at even money (ok, they’re not listed, but just imagine the nightmarish scenario and think yourselves lucky at whomever you end up getting)
O’Neill is currently the bookies favourite. Having dealt with intensity of Celtic Park he could likely handle the pressure, though it would be a weighty challenge requiring all of O’Neill’s tenacity. Moreover, rumblings of discontent towards the end of the season led to speculation over his future at Aston Villa, meaning his instalment would not be a great surprise. Nevertheless, Randy Learner has insisted O’Neill is not going anywhere and fully expect him to remain at Villa Park.
Dalglish? Infinitely successful as both a player and manager, and currently working for the clubs youth academy, the Anfield legend is being touted as an alternative. However, he has been out of top-level management for ten years and would probably only be a short-term interim option in steadying the ship; especially since he is actually thought to be involved in the search for a new manager.
Roy Hodgson seems to be a likely, and probably very astute, candidate. Having guided Fulham to the Europa Cup final this season on a limited budget, picking up the LMA manager of the year in the process, he clearly knows how to squeeze the juiciest juices out of his produce. He is also vastly experienced in a variety of regions (Inter Milan – during a rebuilding phase, as may be required at Liverpool – Malmo and Switzerland, etcetera), whilst possessing intelligence, motivational and tactically proficiency and… well, I just like his voice. Though he may not be the most glamorous or exciting to many, I personally feel he would be an extremely effective choice to bring some form of stability to the club.
Of course, there is the question of whether such candidates would want the job, or be able to effectively manage, under the current owners and debt; certainly most spectators would have welcomed the news of two certain Cowboys riding off into the sun-drenched distance sooner than Benitez departing. Given such stifling and strangulating forces you feel potential successors would be cautious and want some assurances regarding Gerrard and Torres. Nevertheless, you also get the feeling most would accept the opportunity and the challenge.
At odds of around 7/2 Hodgson may not be a bad flutter on a personal level, but also on a wider scale it wouldn’t be a bad bet for Liverpool football club. Would he want to leave that cosy cottage?
So, who does your heart, and head, feel will be (or want to be) the next Liverpool leader?
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