There's no way Kenny Dalglish will be Liverpool manager next season. Who will replace him?
Kenny Dalglish will always remain an Anfield legend. With the passing of time his current stint will be viewed as transitory from Rafa to whoever is appointed next (Woy being written out of Anfield history – although if the England gig works out successfully, then maybe he’ll be reclaimed). Kenny will be remembered as having guiding the ship through choppy waters with the embarrassing losses and ridiculous outlays on underperforming players glossed over. Given his history at the club, there is no way he will be hung and quartered for what has been one of the most disappointing seasons in recent times for the Reds.
It seems inconceivable that Dalglish will remain in charge post-summer, and for him to do so would surely mean the end of his “free pass” with the team – he would have to come under the same scrutiny that Messrs. Bruce, McCarthy, Villas-Boas and probably McLeish were under this term. No-one wants to see him get the boot so assume that the FA Cup final will be his final act as a Liverpool manager – a fitting way to bow out.
So assuming that he will do the right thing and step aside, who are the candidates to replace him? For the sake of this article I am looking only at current Premier League managers. Liverpool will never hire a second tier manager from the Championship, there is no internal succession plan like the ‘good old days” of the bootroom boys, and continental options will be examined in a future article. There are no currently out of work managers with a compelling case save Rafa (who I’ll come back to later in this series)
Off the bat the following managers in the Premiership during 2012 can be eliminated on the basis of age, loyalty to another team or rivalry to Liverpool, having just moved to a new team recently or just simply being “the wrong fit”:
The following can be disregarded on the basis of poor form with current teams:
The following are high flyers this season:
Roberto Di Matteo
The following have had poor seasons but are rightly regarded as promising managers:
Sifting through the Domestic Contenders
Roberto Di Matteo: An outside bet. In a short space of time Di Matteo has gone from being an “ex-West Brom coach” to beating Barcelona and preparing a team for the Champions League final. Some comeback. He will be looked at seriously for the Chelsea job on a permanent basis but may lose out to a higher profile candidate. Could he then be picked up by the Reds? Stranger things have happened in football…but you’d have to say it’s unlikely.
Paul Lambert: Impresses at every turn. Has taken an unfancied Norwich into the Premier league, and kept them there despite being everyone’s pick to go straight back down. His Norwich team has no big names but works well as a team, and if there is one thing this current Liverpool squad seem to need it is a sense of togetherness and team culture. It is exciting to think what he could do given the opportunity, and looking at his effective management of the big men (Holt and Morison) you’d have to fancy him getting the best out of Andy Carroll too. He’s seen as low profile but has captained his country, won the Champions League as a player, and well respected within the game. In my opinion a serious contender.
Brendan Rodgers: Impressive performer with the “Welsh Barcelona”, a move to a bigger club seems inevitable this summer. That club is likely to be Spurs by all accounts. He would be an inspired choice at Liverpool and is young enough to develop a legacy at the club, but if as seems likely he is offered Spurs, which may come with Champions League football, he may see Liverpool as a back up plan only (yes it hurts to admit that).
Alan Pardew: Has had a great season with Newcastle after coming in under difficult circumstances. Has developed a fantastic team and is unlikely to want to leave given the success he has on Tyneside at the moment and the project he is building. You’d like to think a serious offer from Liverpool would tempt though…but it might not given how well Newcastle are going.
Owen Coyle: Coyle has promise but this season’s efforts with Bolton will make any bigger club nervous about taking him on. Bolton have never recovered from the thumping Stoke gave them last year at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. Coyle has more to do and prove before a bigger club comes sniffing for his services.
Roberto Martinez: Has done a great job with the worst squad in the Premiership, and his loyalty to Wigan is to be admired. A jump to Liverpool is likely a bridge too far, but look for him to step up to a midtable team. West Brom, Aston Villa or even a return to Swansea appeal as possibilities.
Verdict: The most compelling and realistic domestic candidates are Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers. Either would be young enough and separate enough from the current team environment to come in and really shake things up. Either would be a smart acquisition for the club. Rodgers is the sexier candidate however Lambert has the bigger league and continental experience. I would be offering him a two year contract and half of Kenny’s current spending quota, with the aim of a top four finish.
In a future article I’ll examine the claims of Rafa Benitez for a return, plus some of the continental contenders.