Passing the Baton, Changing the Guard and Other Such Metaphors.
(Sorry for the delay in my first entry !)
This time of the year is a bit weird for football fans. The dust is still settling on last year but already we look towards the future. This year more than ever as there is a sizable change from last season. First of all we must address the fact that it seems that at the last LMA meeting someone shouted “Change Places” and the managers all ran around and hoped they didn’t get QPR…
In fact, of the Premiership managers that started the season, it’s possible that only ten (at time of writing) will lead there teams out for the 2013/14 season. Winning the Champion’s League didn’t still Roman’s itchy trigger finger as Roberto Di Matteo was replaced, for the interim, by interim manager Rafa Benitez interim-ly to the end of the season. (Rafa has since signed for Serie A side Napoli) Other mid-season changes include ‘Arry Redknapp taking over form Mark Hughes at QRP, Nigel Adkins booted out from the Southampton hot-seat to be replaced by largely unknown Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino and Adkins himself replacing Matt Lucas lookalike Brian McDermott at Reading. Finally, Fiery Italian Paolo Di Canio replaced the under-performing Martin O’Neill at the Stadium of Light. However, it is the end of season changes which have surely been the most seismic.
Sir Alex Ferguson finally retired after another trophy winning season with Man Utd. (Emphasis on the finally!) As a Liverpool fan that has only ever known Ferguson at United he has become the pinpoint of our frustrations as they rose and we seemingly stagnated and finally fell down the pecking order. He was the very embodiment of the club and as they won title after title he seemed almost invincible and quite frankly I grew up despising him. However, with hindsight and a few more years’ worth of football knowledge under my belt despise is too strong. Don’t get me wrong, as a Liverpool fan I’m glad he as finally gone and hopefully in a few years we’ll have our perch back but as a football fan you can’t help but admire what he has achieved in our game. As I said to my dad the day Sky Sports News was filled with the news of his retirement “I don’t like him, but I respect him” and as much as it hurts to type, he is a legend of world football.
And in true Fergie style, he handpicked his replacement in choosing the then third longest serving Premiership manager behind himself and Arsene Wenger in Everton supremo David Moyes. My feelings towards Moyes compared to Ferguson mirror those of the difference in rivalry Liverpool hold with Everton & United. The rivalry between Liverpool and United is far more, in my eyes, nastier than the Merseyside derby, there is more animosity and hatred whereas the Merseyside derby is friendlier. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t a friendly and for those 90 minutes nothing matters other than beating the Toffees but the hatred isn’t there. It is a healthy rivalry. I think the reasons behind this are the fact that a lot of families in the city have both red and blue sides and also the tremendous support of the Everton fans and club in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy with the city uniting. In my eyes David Moyes has done a fantastic job with the resources available at Goodison Park and I have a tremendous respect for him. However, I hope he isn’t as successful next season!
Other post season changes include the return of the Special One to Chelsea which resulted in my brother, a Chelsea fan, smiling for about two days straight. I am looking forward to his return next season as he is a great entertainer and a great manager but it makes you wonder what if he doesn’t have the desired effect, what if he cannot keep the old guard firing and if the fans turn. A trophy-less season at the Etihad means Roberto Mancini has been relieved of his duties to seemingly be replaced by outgoing Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini and Tony Pulis has been replaced by fellow Welshman Mark Hughes. There could yet be another change if Roberto Martinez leaves Wigan to succeed Moyes at Everton.
There have also been some icons of the Premiership hang up their boots as Beckham, Scholes (again) & Owen all deciding their playing days are done. Fabrice Muamba and Stan Petrov have also been forced to cut their careers short due to medical reasons and I wish them all the best in their futures but one player’s retirement has been at the forefront of my mind. Jamie Carragher.
As a Liverpool fan, Jamie Carragher epitomizes everything that a Liverpool player and footballer in general should represent. Putting himself on the line for the team and his team-mates, living every second like a fan and being down to earth and not courting controversy or limelight. He has been a part of the Liverpool team as long as I have supported them and is Mr Liverpool. The stats speak for themselves; 737 apps, 5 goals ( not counting own goals!) 38 England caps ( criminally low in my eyes) and honours amassing 2 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 UEFA Champions League,1 Youth Cup, 2 UEFA Super Cups and 2 Community Shields . It was that night in Istanbul which in my opinion cements Carra’s reputation as a legend. I was recently watching a compilation of his moments in the match against AC Milan on LFCTV and he was everywhere from helping start the move which brought the penalty for the equalizing goal to continuously throwing his body into tackles and blocks ignoring the pain of cramp and the exhaustion protecting our goal and finally letting Dudek know of Bruce Grobbelaar’s wobble legs against Rome all those years earlier (even if he couldn’t understand him!) But he did this every match while marshalling his defence and leading from the back. It is no coincidence that our best form this season was when he returned to the team. It is his continuous community work, professionalism, attitude and skill which upon his retirement have led to glowing references from past team-mates, managers, coaches, opponents and the wider football world but I will summarise mine in one line.Thanks Carra, Liverpool Legend.
So to conclude the next season of the Premiership is going to look very different to the last with manager changes, legends retired and surely some major transfers to come,but one thing is for sure. I can’t wait.