Even though he is now manager of Chelsea and I’m a Liverpool fan one can’t help thinking about Rafa Benitez.
I think it’s fair to say that towards the end of his time with us there was touch of the “marmites” regarding the fans affection for Rafa. Many felt his time with us had run it’s course whilst others, mindful of what he had achieved, were willing to give him more. In the end it just petered out as the icy financial fingers of fate finally tapped Hicks and Gillett’s shoulders.
I reckon Benitez’s legacy gets better with every season. Of course there is Istanbul however, in addition to this, there was regular qualification for the Champions League in which we made another final and regularly reached to the knock out stages. Although we beat side likes Barcelona, Real Madrid (twice), Inter Milan (twice) it is ironic that many of these runs saw us having protracted and close tussles with Chelsea! As the reality of our current situation hardens those days become increasingly halcyon?
Like most managers Rafa’s signings were hit and miss. However, for every Philipp Degen, Antonio Núñez or Mark González (or Ryan Babel?) there was an Alonso, Torres, Mascherano, Reina or a Kuyt. He’s only been in the Chelsea job a day or so however, looking at his press conference the other night it was nice to see him showing signs the prickly bullishness punctuated by early attempts to defend his team that endeared him to so many just as much as it annoyed others whne he was with us.
Chelsea fans may not have welcomed Rafa with open arms but he’s a good bloke, still lives near Liverpool and has affection and understanding for the club, he gave to the Justice Campaign when he left us, more to point managerial wise they could do a lot worse? For me quite frankly, and I mean this with affection and even though it is with a different club, it is nice to see the belligerent, bloody minded old git back on the scene. I wish him the best of luck (“lucky” or otherwise), but within reason!
Meanwhile it’s back to business at L4 and the matter of Swansea at their place today. No doubt there will be talk and comparison of BR now and what is happening to his old club however, all this is just froth and should not be allowed to detract from the priority that a win is needed regardless of who the opposition is? Despite Thursday’s set back in terms of Europa League qualification we did mange to stretch our unbeaten run and we will do well if it continues today. If we do it will be evidence of further progress?
The build up to this game has focused on the comments of Swansea’s Ashley Williams who, with startling originality, joined the growing queue of people lining up to have poke at Luis Suarez.
“I’d go as far as to say that the manner in which he approached the game, with utter contempt for us all, means that he’s streets ahead of any player I’ve truly disliked since we’ve been in the Premier League. He dived more than any other player I’ve played against before – it was so bad I was genuinely shocked”
By sheer coincidence Williams has a book out “My Premier League Dairy” (again original). Despite this it is described as an autobiography which begs the questions is Williams well known, famous or interesting enough to merit the destruction of the trees that were required to produce this ground breaking opus of sporting literature? I guess the answer to that is no hence the dragging out of selective extracts to appeal to populist opinion. Williams blathers on
“Suarez has that aura about him that says ‘I’m untouchable’, and his manner and behaviour made me want to knock him out. The lack of respect he shows everyone means he gets no respect from me.”
Well I’m sure Luis, once he’s been told who you are, will be gutted about that Ashley! As for knocking him out, big man! Is that your solution to dealing with anyone you don’t like, how enlightening!
It is clear Williams doesn’t “respect” Suarez however what I, and I hope many others, don’t “respect” are greedy, transparent and cynical attempts to ride on the back of populist opinion for personal gain. This is hardly the biggest ask in the world but everyone should boycott this book even if it reaches Poundland, which should be very soon!
To the game and besides BR, Joe Allen will also be returning to his old club however, sensibly, he will be trying to play it down.
“You can focus too much sometimes on the occasion rather than treating it as any other football match. That’s the key for me – to try to approach it like I would any other weekend.”
Good, modest, down to earth stuff (take note Ashley) which appears to extend to Allen’s contributions on the pitch, nothing spectacular but an essential, if unflamboyant, cog in midfield The sort of player you don’t notice (I can’t recall mentioning him in any my match reports) but missed when he’s not? We shall see.
Team wise Andre Wisdom despite, being injured and subbed on Thursday, is expected to be good to go and presumably those first teamers who missed out in this game will also return?
Prediction? There should enough motivation given the recent 3-1 defeat to Swansea in the League Cup however, above all, we need to keep our run going slowly building up form and confidence. Earlier this month BR talked about our progress as taking two steps forward and one step back well Thursday was a step back so time to move forward again? I take us to this with what will be, for some, a surprising win, 2-1.