Kick Out Brendan Rodgers and Make Steven Gerrard the New Liverpool Boss
Liverpool should stop playing games and offer Steven Gerrard a new contract – as player-manager.
That’s a bold statement, but I happen to believe it is the best chance for one of football’s most storied clubs to rediscover its heart.
Brendan Rodgers’ failure in Europe has only underlined what many in the Kop already knew – that the Irishman’s hopes of repeating the success of last season departed with Luis Suarez.
As Martin Samuel wrote this week in the Daily Mail, you can buy close to 20 Rickie Lamberts for one Suarez, but class is what wins trophies, not numbers.
And oh how Liverpool could do with the Uruguayan’s goals right now.
Rodgers and co didn’t learn from the mistakes Tottenham made by going on a scattershot buying spree with the Gareth Bale millions and he spent the summer filling the dressing room with a mini-bus full of players that simply weren’t up to the club’s exacting standards.
Now the emperor has been revealed with no clothes. Rodgers tactics that sometimes seemed bizarre with Suarez and Sturridge have simply been exposed as delusional without them.
Would Bill Shankley have ever dreamed of sending out a weakened team against the likes of Real Madrid? Not in a million years. There was pride at stake, something so much more important to Liverpudlians than trying to safeguard a couple of Premier League points by putting out a weakened midweek team.
Accepting defeat to the world’s best team before a ball was kicked? Unthinkable. Shankley and Paisley and Fagan – and even Dalglish and Souness – they all believed that Liverpool was the world’s best team.
In the years since the famous Liverpool boot room was disbanded, Anfield has had precious little to celebrate bar the triumph in Istanbul ten years ago which, lets face it, was a freakish result that was always unlikely to be repeated. Despite the heroics, this wasn’t the all-conquering Liverpool team of old.
But Gerrard is a different matter altogether. Think what you like about his captaincy of England, but Gerrard bleeds Liverpool red in the very finest tradition of Tommy Smith, Emlyn Hughes, Alan Hansen, Ian Rush, Sounness and Dalgliesh.
With perhaps the exception of Jamie Carragher, no other modern Liverpool player exemplifies the spirit of what it really means to pull on that jersey.
There will be detractors who say Gerrard has zero experience in management but it’s not like there is no precedent. Dalgliesh ruled over one of the club’s most successful campaigns as player-manager, a role that would totally suit Gerrard.
He certainly wouldn’t be short of advisors. Hansen’s got some time on his hands since quitting his TV gig. There’s Mark Lawrensen, Kevin Keegan, Sounness and of course, Kenny Dalglish, to name a few who could all be on hand to offer advice.
I’m not talking about Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool, or Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool and definitely not Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool. Gerrard would represent Liverpool’s Liverpool.
Shankley and his anointed successors used old-fashioned methods, to be sure. Nine-a-side games every day would no longer suffice for training sessions and foreign players are here to stay.
But it’s easy to forget how carefully those old teams were assembled. Shankley would watch lower league games up and down the country searching for hidden talent – snapping up players like Keegan from Scunthorpe and Ian Rush from Chester and ruthlessly discarding others he considered over the hill.
He was looking for players with heart. Liverpool players. Not soccer mercenaries who wouldn’t know the Wirral from Walthamstow or Warsaw.
This Gerrard understands. He is Liverpool. He should be the face of the new Boot Room.
Rodgers, a decent enough man but a flawed coach, talks a good game about understanding Liverpool.
But Liverpool should never surrender without a fight to Real Madrid and must always triumph against teams like Basle. The real Liverpool would never sign Mario Ballotelli. It wouldn’t let Carragher share his priceless knowledge of the game with the public as an analyst when he could share it with the team he grew up with.
Liverpool is family for families, a reason to believe in a city ravaged by decades of industrial decline. It’s certainly not a halfway house for foreign footballers looking for a bigger paycheck.
That’s why John Henry and his board should be brave enough to put Gerrard in charge before his contract runs out at the end of the season.
If they screw up and let him leave they will lose the most important link to the past they have.
And the Kop will never forgive them for that.
By showing faith in Gerrard and trusting him with managing the club, Liverpool might, just might, usher in a return to the golden days of old when Real Madrid and great teams of their ilk are the ones who are afraid to go up against Liverpool and not the other way around.