The Missing Link
Feature by Lewis Melisi
Updated Thursday, 6th September 2012
Guest blogger Lewis Melisi talks about the need for FSG to appoint a Sporting Director at Liverpool Football Club.
For the regular readers of LFC blogs and forum pages, it won’t have escaped your attention that one comment which has been spoken about significantly as a consequence of what we’ll call 'deadline day' is FSG’s need for a permanent figure within Merseyside, the much discussed Sporting Director role.
For those that believe this position is nothing more than a glorified go between I suggest you think again. For me a Sporting director would be the missing link between the Owners – FSG and the manager – Brendon Rodgers. A direct line of communication, an interpreter for all things football related. Clearly something that was missing on deadline day.
Now I appreciate that Ian Ayre already holds a senior position within the club and I’ve no doubt that he is an astute business man, clearly his previous success outside of Liverpool and the current position he holds at the club are evidence of this, but a sporting director needs to be a footballing man, with hands on experience within the game and the inner workings of a club, something Ayre is lacking. The phrase, Horses for courses, springs to mind, the practice of choosing the best person for a particular job. Business matters should be left to business men, namely Ayre, Henry, Werner etc and footballing matters left to footballing men, the sporting director and manager – The sporting director acting as the main point of communication ensuring that both sides of the club are aware of and understand the needs and ideas of the other, supporting both parties in creating a unified vision, seeing that there is no conflict between plans and that each party serves to benefit the other and drive Liverpool FC forward collectively and successfully.
Identifying such an issue is the uncomplicated task, resolving it by finding the right man for the job and appointing him is an altogether more difficult prospect. Who would want, and more significantly, could succeed in such a position? For certain the candidate would need to be a well travelled and experienced ex manager / coach with a degree of success in Europe’s elite leagues and competitions (Ideally Premier League and Champions League), English speaking of course (although not necessarily his first language) and preferably an understanding of the club, its history, the culture and the expectations of the fans.
The most fundamental point and ultimately success of the entire – indentifying and appointing exercise, and this is the key, is that the sporting director mustn’t be employed to oversee the works of the manager. Brendon Rodgers cannot be undermined in what he is attempting to achieve. It is paramount that the sporting director works with and alongside, not above the manager, if anything I would suggest quite the opposite, Rodgers should have the overruling say in all footballing matters, the sporting director there to assist, communicate, provide opinion, pass on previous experience, identify potential issues or improvements but not interfere with the squad or on field activities. Simply put the role is to support. Rodgers is to remain the principal face of the club, the sporting director instead remaining in the background working within the sporting and business side of the operation and only ever speaking openly with media under the guidance of BR.
And now onto the more complicated part of this blog, potential candidates. For me Kenny Dalglish would have been an option prior to his recent time as manager but too much water has passed under that bridge and despite his undying love for the club there is undoubtedly bad blood between him and the owners, not to mention the potential discomfort of working alongside the man who replaced you. Given the credentials I listed previously there is one stand out candidate who most certainly ticks all the boxes, and that is former Reds manager Rafa Benitez. Whatever your thoughts on his time elsewhere – Tenerife, Valencia, Inter, In his Anfield days he provided a great deal of success, not to mention what for most remains the finest moment in our history, that of Istanbul 2005. Admittedly there were mistakes during his reign, most notably the season which later led to his dismissal but also his persistent squad rotation and some questionable transfers, both incoming and outgoing, specifically that of Xabi Alonso which still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But no manager has or will ever have a perfect or faultless period in charge, not at this or any other club. Mistakes are and always will be made, it’s the lessons learnt and how these can be used to better the club going forward, preventing similar errors / occurrences and influencing future decisions.
Since I decided to write this specific piece I have struggled to come up with any alternatives to Benitez, I genuinely believe that there are no better suited candidates for the position; In fact I challenge any readers to suggest another.
To conclude, if the club are to move forward under FSG and Brendon Rodgers it is imperative that they form a closer working relationship, business and football matters must coincide, not divide, something which cannot be achieved with 3119 miles of Atlantic Ocean between them. The failings of recent weeks mustn’t be allowed to repeat themselves, there have been mistakes, and the final implications of these actions we can only speculate and hope are not too severe, it’s a harsh lesson but a lesson all the same.
As ever comments, both positive and constructive criticism are welcome @LMelisi on Twitter.