Downing. No excuses.

by Darren Walsh

So, not a good week for Scottish football managers then.  After the expected sacking of Alex McLeish at Aston Villa, now Kenny Dalglish is the next to be shown the exit.

There is, however, a little more debate to be had over the Anfield legends departure.  Did he deserve more time to implement his plans?  Did the two cup final appearances not grant him a stay of execution?  Or was it all about the league results when deciding his fate?  Did FSG always have it in mind to push him out the door come this summer?

There are a lot of questions, and we will probably never receive any definitive answers.  What we know for sure is that FSG have now made a clean break with the past, and it is on them to recruit a manager from the outside world.  Roy Hodgson was already there when they arrived, and Dalglish was the natural choice as a caretaker in January 2011.  His success in righting the ship meant that his permanent appointment last summer was a foregone conclusion, and a challenge for a top four place looked a very strong possibility.

But it didn’t happen.  While possessing a strong defence meant that they were capable of winning any game, an impotent attack let them down.  Despite a debate on whether to go long to Carroll, or short to Luis Suarez, the goal chances were there.  They just didn’t take them.

The majority of the arrivals have added nothing to the team, though at least Andy Carroll has given some hope with his strong finish to the season.  Jordan Henderson has the “potential” tag on him and might develop, but Stewart Downing has no such excuse and surely won’t be at Anfield for much longer.

So who is out there to take over?  First of all, any talk of Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho is ridiculous, as is talk of attracting any manager who is at a Champion’s League level team.  The thing that Liverpool have in their favour is the stature and history of the club, and the glory that would belong to the manager should he succeed.   So while the cream of European managerial talent won’t be arriving, it also means that Mick McCarthy won’t be walking through the door.

A more radical idea would be naming Steven Gerrard player manager and surrounding him with experienced assistants.  It was done with Dalglish himself in 1985.  However, there is an argument made that combining the two jobs in this day and age is almost impossible, which is why we don’t see it happen nowadays.  The most likely appointment is someone who is already out of a job (Louis Van Gaal or Andre Villas-Boas), or someone leaving the international football scene after Euro 2012 (Joachim Low).

It will be interesting to see how the new man is welcomed to Anfield.  Roy Hodgson got a very short honeymoon after taking over from the very successful Rafael Benitez; how will the supporters treat a man who takes over from a certified legend?  There has to be improvement straight away, both on the pitch and in the transfer market.  The advantage that the new man will have over Hodgson is that he won’t have the spectre of Dalglish hanging over him; that option has been tried, and failed.