So it didn’t take Rafa long to find a new position, at the San Siro.
The speed of the appointment suggests it was already lined up before he and Liverpool agreed to depart? One can’t help wondering if Rafa feels there is a slight “second prize” element about it as the Real Madrid post has gone to Mourinho. However, the Portuguese star shines the brightest at present so Rafa will be prepared to be patient, and wait for the opportunity to be reunited with his former club. It will surely happen, some day, some time?
Naturally thoughts now turn to who will be Rafa’s replacement. The list of “runners and riders” is long but, as always, only a few would seem to have a genuine chance. The usual suspects have reared their heads as seems to always the case when there is a vacancy at a club such as ours. Martin O’Neill and Guus Hiddink in particular, seem to be perennial candidates, regardless of whatever they say about their intentions. Others? Roy Hodgson, Sven Erikson, and ironically given his unwitting role in of some of Hicks’ and Gillett’s bumbling, Jurgen Klinsmann. Mourinho, despite being mentioned, was never really a prospect. Why would he choose to go to club in our situation when he can go to Real? Jose doesn’t do salvage jobs or things on a shoestring! Oh and there is certain Scottish ex manager who also appears to be in the running.
From the reports it seems that Hodgson and Kenny appear to be genuine contenders. Hodgson appears to be favourite, albeit for only taking the post on a short term basis, however, there are also reports that Kenny is more than keen to have another go. They say never go back and football isn’t exactly littered with examples of players or managers who have gone back to their former clubs and been more successful than they were the first time. Perhaps it is blind loyalty or wishful thinking that makes me say that if anyone can buck this trend it is Kenny, even allowing for the amount of time he’s been out of the managerial game?
Elsewhere Sven has said he would love to give it a crack which I find rather disrespectful, not to mention lamentably opportunistic (or mercenary?) given that he still has a World Cup campaign with The Ivory Coast to get through. And Martin O’Neill? Perhaps this is just my warped way of thinking but I wonder if his absence from the BBC World Cup pundits sofa is significant? Perhaps he has more important career moves to sort out than manfully sitting through Lineker’s tiresome alliteration and Sixth Form College puns?
Which brings me neatly to the so called greatest show on earth. As usual the build up and excitement is out of all proportion the tournament itself. Part of this is those seeking to make a commercial gain from the competition by trying to stoke up national enthusiasm via flogging their product. Some of the Kiplingesque prose and Henry V battle calls that have been bastardised in the name of TV commercials are enough to put one off straight away “if Carlsberg did team talks” … I think I’d cringe and drink Stella instead! I can say that now that they are no longer sponsoring us!
Then there are enough World Cup songs to fill a decent sized CD rack, a futile exercise as surely World In Motion will never be topped? Add to that the usual “1966 and all” that comparisons which… well you’ve seen and heard them and have probably got as tired of it as I have! People talk about the weight of expectation, this has to be longest and heaviest one of them all!
That said the prospect of having the tournament in South Africa is an appetising one. I’ve spent some time over there and believe you me it’s a great country. Cape Town and the surrounding area is fantastic place. Like anywhere you do need to be careful however I think it will be good for the World Cup. And the football? Nothing too spectacular to talk about as yet. Mascherano began well with Argentina but was lucky to get away with not getting a yellow card after a typically robust tackle however the biggest surprise was our man restraining Carlos Tevez from protesting to the referee over a decision Liverpool fans will be more familiar Mas being in the Tevez role!
England, as mentioned before, hopes at doing well, be it genuine opinion or whipped up hysteria, sprung eternal until the football actually started then it was usual mix of joy and despair! Steven Gerrard’s goal seemed to be taken with an assurance that we haven’t really seen with us this season. Glen Johnson produced his usual combination of attacking flair at the expense of defence. Jamie Carragher was lucky not to be at fault for a second USA goal having been outpaced by Altidore only for Green to redeem his earlier gaff with a good block. It’s ironic that, having agreed to return the squad, Carrgaher found himself omitted by Ledley King yet again, the main reason why he retired. The Spurs mans injury suggests he may get a longer run in the side? A worrying factor has to be Jamie’s lack of pace which we have seen exposed on a number of occasions this season. I guess this can be overcome but for me the overriding feeling is that, despite playing fairly well, England will have to improve at the back or they will be badly exposed and punished by he first half decent team they come up against.
Finally back home it was nice to see Rafa make a terrific gesture and donate £96k, one for each of the victims, the Hillsborough Family Support Group. A class act and despite last seasons problems a gesture says more about the man and his affection for the club and awareness and concern for the real issues surrounding it than any results can. I hope those who sought to trash him this season are suitably humbled.