Given the flack he has taken recently one could easily understand it if Rafa, when faced with the morning papers, simply decided to bin them and move on the more appetising prospect of his frosties and toast!
The amount of articles personally criticising Rafa and forecasting doom and gloom on the club as a whole seem to be in direct proportion to the clubs recent dip in form but totally out of proportion to the wider picture. Parts of the British press have a reputation for being unforgiving and intrusive but Rafa’s been over here long enough so in theory the flack should not be a surprise. However I suspect he was still unprepared for the onslaught that he’s been faced with since this season started?
Thankfully Rafa seems to have the backing of those who matter, the majority of the supporters and those at the club. This should be all that matters nonetheless it is still gratifying to see others readdressing the issue as seen in Tony Evans’ recent articles in The Times this week. The articles spanned two days and there is an awful lot to get your teeth into so it is probably best if I just say they are here, here, here and here!
Evans is a Red. He has written a book about Liverpool. As a result I’ve no doubt many detractors of Rafa will see this as an example of the club using (no disrespect to Evans intended) a “safe pair of hands” to conduct some sort of charm offensive? May be there is an element of that but even if there isn’t, why shouldn’t there be? Why should Rafa and the club have to put up with the abuse it’s taken recently and be expected to remain silent or not be expected to put their side? Indeed perhaps it’s a good thing as in the articles Rafa is more revealing than he usually is.
We gain an insight into his thoughts regarding Gareth Barry and Robbie Keane deals and how the two were linked, why some players, (Alonso), were sold and others were bought (Babel, Aquilani) and why he occasionally feels it necessary to take a gamble in the market. There is the issue with Fergie, his ambitions for the future and a few memorable quotes – he’ll quit if Torres is sold and he will consider his spell at Liverpool to be a failure if we don’t win the Premiership. I quite enjoy Rafa’s grumpy, belligerent attitude and, on occasions, his single mindedness however, when you read things like this one wonders what his reputation would be like if he had been as forthcoming on a more regular basis?
Elsewhere there are attempts to make out that Rafa’s reign has been for the good of the club. The fact that the value of the squad has increased, the reputation of the club is better, turnover has increased, partly as a result of good progress in the Champions League. Net transfer dealings have not been as bad as many have thought and the academy is on the way the producing more home grown talent.
Some won’t need convincing about this evidence but it is, and will always be, open to interpretation. For example many won’t give a flying **** and will simply regard silverware, or lack of it, as the true indicator of success and progress. Others will be patient and more realistic and view all this against the background of Liverpool’s limitations and disadvantages in comparison to the rest of the so called top four. Some will openly blame Rafa or the players or the owners, or all three.
For me it is too early to say and I suspect one could cherry pick from all of these but what I do know is that I’m not ready for Rafa, mistakes or no mistakes, to leave yet. Yes it is frustrating that we’ve failed to build on last seasons runners up spot and yes we do look like going out of the Champions League. However, is this really the result of everything Rafa has been working for over the time he joined us? It is simply a combination of a number of short term circumstances some of which are out of Rafa’s control or that he couldn’t reasonable have been expected to predict or make contingency for?
Perhaps there will come a time, or even a specific moment, when I change my mind and think Rafa should go? However, even in these difficult times, I reckon that’s long way off. In fact, rightly or wrongly, the more the criticism mounts I more I find myself digging in and defending him – I’ve never liked bullies!
I don’t know if Tony Evans wrote this article as a response to the flack we’ve taken recently. If he did it is sad indictment on the attitudes that prevail in today’s game that that he should have to do so. Liverpool fans are known for their patience and footballing knowledge however, those outside seek to judge us and our club by the other twisted, unrealistic standards that infect the rest of today’s game. A game where over the top “knee jerk” responses, to short term set backs, are the norm. A game were overly ambitious expectations that often bare no relation to a clubs circumstances, are forced onto the agenda, regardless of the fact that they are impossible to meet? Liverpool FC are be better than all this and hopefully, through this bad time, everyone connected with the club will prove this with continued support for Rafa and the team? Hopefully such faith and loyalty will get its reward?
Tony Evans’ book on Liverpool is called a Far Foreign Land. It’s a good read, for a review click here. If you decide to buy it via the Far Foreign Land website £1 will be donated to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign – an ideal Christmas stocking filler?