“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” - Winston Churchill
Liverpool’s recent woes have been all too well documented in the national press, the club’s nigh on disastrous form under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson this season having seen any realistic chance of silverware long since evaporate. However, with little to lose and a reputation to regain, recent developments at the club in terms of its managerial structure would appear – at least from the external perspective of a neutral – to be of a largely positive nature.
Hodgson, while possessing a career record that proves his undoubted managerial talent, was perhaps unfortunate to have taken on what was something of a poison chalice when he was given the Anfield job last summer. A handful of underwhelming signings and a catalogue of insipid performances later, the man who took Fulham to the Europa League final last season was dispensed with by John W. Henry’s New England Sports Ventures last week, the owners clearly keen to exorcise the obvious deficiencies of the pre-existing regime.
In Hodgson’s place has been appointed Kenny Dalglish, one of Liverpool Football Club’s greatest ever players and a man who won three league titles and two FA Cups as manager at Anfield between 1985 and 1991. Having been brought in on a short-term deal until the end of the current campaign, Dalglish’s hiring is a move clearly designed to reignite enthusiasm amongst a dejected fan base and perhaps instil a greater amount of pride and intensity within the beleaguered squad.
While the appointment of ‘King Kenny’ makes a certain amount of sense, arguably the wisest move taken by the directors in the last week has been to bring Steve Clarke to Merseyside in a coaching capacity. Famed for his innovative training sessions and popular style of man-management, Clarke’s arrival as an aide to Dalglish should be wholeheartedly welcomed by Liverpool supporters.
It would not be right to question the managerial credentials of Dalglish, this is, after all, a man who has proven the adroitness of his leadership in the past, but after a decade out of the business a brief process of acclimatisation is a natural inevitability. It is during this period of adjustment for Dalglish that Clarke, a coach steeped in the manifold nuances of modern football, can come into his own at Liverpool.
Having worked closely with José Mourinho during Chelsea’s title-winning seasons in 2005 and 2006, Clarke was credited by the Portuguese himself as being instrumental to both the tactical and psychological development of that particular team. A considered and unfussy man, Clarke should prove to be an ideal sounding board for Dalglish should he require any salient advice over the next four months.
Clarke’s other major benefit to Liverpool is that he is not tarred with the negative reputation of the previous managerial team; he represents a completely fresh start amongst the coaching staff and should prove a breath of fresh air around Melwood. It was rumoured that several first team players had grown weary of Hodgson’s infamously formulaic training methods, something which had been a source of some discontent, but it is highly unlikely that the diverse and quirky coaching for which Clarke is renowned will meet with the same resistance.
Indeed, if given the long-term contract that Commercial Director Ian Ayre seems keen to provide him with, it could well be that the former Chelsea coach possesses exactly the right skill set to be able to put in place a suitable framework for the club’s recovery and resurgence over a more protracted period of time.
Liverpool has a long way to go before the club can even think about getting back to the lofty heights of 2005 or even the 2008/09 league season, but the dual appointment of Dalglish and Clarke certainly has the feel of a step in the right direction for the time being.