It May be Martinez: Maybe It Should Be!

The Kop

Who’ll Get the Kop Job?

It has been over a week since Kenny Dalglish was ousted from the Anfield hotseat by American owners Fenway Sports Group. The King’s de-throning was met with mixed emotions, the overwhelming majority were shocked and saddened, however, there was a vocal minority of, mostly younger, fans who were satisfied that Kenny absolutely had to go. Whatever your thoughts on the subject, facts are facts, Kenny has moved on and now, so must Liverpool.

The American owners have worried a large number of fans in the last few months, due to a wave of sackings at Anfield which culminated in Dalglish being given the axe. So much so that the Spirit of Shankly fan group felt it necessary to send a letter demanding that Henry and Werner lay out their vision for the club and confirm that there is a plan to move forward, thereby assuring the fans that the club is not in “disarray”.

Despite these fears, it appears that F.S.G.  have a plan. In the wake of the dismissals of Comolli and Dalgish, a new structure is to be put into place which will include creating an extra post, that of Sporting Director, and spreading responsibility/risk so as to minimise the chances of, amongst other things, costly errors in the transfer market.

In addition to this, a long-term philosophy is to be implemented at the club, in the mould of Ajax or Barcelona, focussing on an attractive style of playing, youth development and integration and, most importantly, easy identification of potential useful, cost effective signings. A core footballing philosophy which remains constant at the club is also desirable because it means that should the manager have to be replaced, the philosophy at Anfield will remain unchanged rather than being turned 180 degrees with each new boss.

Louis van Gaal is believed to have been offered the job of Sporting Director, so say the Guardian at any rate. Van Gaal would be a great appointment for Liverpool Football Club. The forthright Dutchman is a winner, his managerial record speaks for itself. With league title triumphs in his native Holland, Spain and Germany as well as a Champions’ League title to his name, van Gaal is regarded as one of the finest minds in the game and his appointment as Sporting Director would not only be a signal of intent from F.S.G. but would also go a long way towards re-assuring fans who’ve lost faith.

Key to the management structure envisaged by Henry and Werner is a hungry, dynamic, young manager who likes to employ an exciting, attacking brand of passing football. Many names have been bandied about in the last ten days as to who may get the job, with men such as Guardiola, Capello and Andres Villas Boas linked whilst others, including Frank de Boer, have respectfully ruled themselves out of the running.

There are three remaining candidates who I believe fit the bill for F.S.G., namely: Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup. All are young, Laudrup being the oldest at 47, Martinez the youngest at 38, all are hungry and all espouse a free-flowing, short-passing, attacking style of play. There are question marks over the latter pair however.

Rodgers has done remarkably well with Swansea, guiding them to promotion before steering them confidently through their first Premier League season to end up with a more than respectable 11th place finish. However this was his first season at the top level and often newly promoted clubs/managers suffer with second season syndrome and drop back down. Rodgers has also declined to be interviewed for the Liverpool post fearing an unsuccessful interview may alienate fans of Swansea City, however, the Ulsterman has said he would take the job if offered. This doesn’t seem likely however with F.S.G. keen to follow their process.

Laudrup, a fantastic player in the 1980s/90s began his managerial career with great success, steering Danish Club Brondby to domestic league and cup victories. After leaving Denmark he moved to Spain as head coach of Getafe where he achieved great things, relatively speaking. Laudrup led Madrid’s third team to a Copa del Rey final and to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup before leaving after one year. Since leaving Getafe in 2008 Laudrup’s star has faded somewhat, unsuccessful stints at Spartak Moscow and Mallorca have put the brakes on his career. This, along with his inability to get on with Mallorca’s director of football when there, may just worry F.S.G. enough to by-pass him.

Roberto Martinez signs a fan's shirt, Wigan Athletic v St. Mirren 8th August 2009

Martnez May Just Fit!

That leaves Roberto Martinez. With A.V.B. believed to have been a red herring, Martinez is the clear favourite to get the job. Some reports claim that he is due to be unveiled as the new boss as early as this weekend after talks with F.S.G. in Boston. With Martinez known to be on holiday in the Caribbean, the likelihood of this remains unclear, however,  stranger things have happened, not least in football.

Roberto Martinez is an ideal candidate to take over the job as manager of Liverpool Football Club and here’s why. Joining former club Swansea City as manager in February  2007 in League One, the Spaniard introduced the short-passing, possession style of football that so many observers have drooled over when watching the Welsh side, under Brendan Rodgers, this season. Rodgers has of course continued with the philosophy and added players to achieve further success but it was Martinez who initiated and nurtured it.

In his first full season in South Wales, Martinez guided the Swans to promotion to the Championship, a feat which hadn’t been achieved in 24 previous years, by virtue of winning the League One title. The same season, Martinez was voted LMA manager of the year. 2008/9 saw Martinez’s Swansea really consolidate their position in their first season in the Championship. Finishing in 8th position just outside the play-off places, the Swans campaign saw them go on a run of just 4 defeats in 30 games.

Martinez left Swansea at the end of that season, becoming manager at Wigan Athletic, the first English club he had played for after arriving from Spain. Taking over from Steve Bruce, Martinez lost several key players, including Antonio Valencia, before he properly got started. Avoiding relegation was the target although Dave Whelan, the Wigan Chairman, was realistic about his club’s chances, guaranteeing Martinez a three year contract whether he was able to keep them up or not.

Not only did Martinez keep them up, he completely overhauled the style of football, from old-fashioned long balls to tall strikers and tough tackling under Bruce, Martinez introduced short-passing, attacking, attractive football and made Wigan one of the most exciting teams to watch, outside of the top six.

Despite having a minimal transfer budget, tiny crowds(relatively speaking) and constantly having to ship out his best players, Martinez has kept Wigan in the Premier League to the present day, no mean-feat when you consider that clubs the size of West Ham and with the Premier League experience of Blackburn Rovers have gone down in the same period.

Roberto Martinez is young, hungry, dynamic, plays an exciting, attractive, passing brand of football, wants the job and has great Premier League experience in the toughest, most pressurised part of the division. People say there is no pressure of expectation at Wigan but, for a manager, trying to keep your club up and alive in the world’s best league brings massive pressure, even if it’s mostly self- applied .

Martinez has won a title, is loyal, is well-liked within the game and by the media, speaks Spanish and English-handy given the squad’s Spanish/South American contingent, is massively respected by other managers-Ian Holloway changed his whole footballing philosophy after attending a coaching seminar given by Martinez- and would, I believe, fit perfectly in to the  “Liverpool Way” of doing things, where somebody like A.V.B. would not necessarily.

A point well worth remembering is that the current Wigan boss has got more Premier League managerial experience than Rodgers, Villas Boas, Capello, Guardiola, van Gaal, Laudrup and Lambert put together; all names that have been linked to the post. Martinez is also likely to fit into the Fenway project as they look to take on somebody with talent but as yet not a massive name in the game, thereby getting him relatively inexpensively and with a real hunger to prove himself at the top level.

The Spaniard’s transfer activity will also interest the American’s as his ability to sign players cheaply and move them on for a significant profit has been noted, along with the ability to quickly and practically identify and bring in, sometimes on loan, players that can improve his sides, examples being: N’Zogbia, Moses, Al Habsi, Cleverley, Maloney. The posting of van Gaal or somebody of his stature in the Spoting Director’s role should allay the fears of any fan who worries about Martinez’s potential ability to attract top players.

Who will get the position of Liverpool manager remains uncertain, in fact as I write this, there are stories doing the rounds on Twitter claiming that van Gaal has asked for the job ahead of that of Sporting Director. One thing is certain, however; this is the beginning of a brand new era in the history of Liverpool Football Club, a Brave New World with a brand new structure and whoever is to lead us into this dawn, the fans must unite and get behind the club, the owners, the manager et al. Now is the time!

Martinez image by illarterate aka Dan Farrimond. Anfield image by Kennysarmy.

I first had this article published on live4liverpool, click the link below to access the site.


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