Liverpool, a Changing of the Guard and the Times

Sunday was the much awaited Merseyside derby, a rivalry game between Liverpool and Everton. Two soccer clubs located a mere half mile away from each other. The game was exactly what you would expect from such a rivalry, tempers flared, goals were scored, and the game came right down to the wire with Everton threatening often in the closing minutes. However, the game ended in a rather unremarkable 1-1 draw. What followed just a few hours after was much more memorable and is sure to be something in the minds of Liverpool supporters for a long time to come.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was fired, or sacked as the Brits would say, only 8 games into a 38 game season. Mid-season firings have become fairly commonplace in the Premier League with at least one or two happening every year, but something this early is a bit special. Liverpool did under perform last year, and had an especially poor finish to the season. Then the start to this season has been almost as disappointing. Despite their current form though Liverpool are just 3 points, or one game, out of the all important fourth place position (fourth place finishers are awarded champions league qualification, a big deal for both prestige and finances).  The Liverpool supporters haven’t seemed to care much for this sort of optimism though, they’ve been clamoring for Rodger’s head since last season, but this season has really seen that group growing from a vocal minority to a screaming majority.

Now the sacking may have been justified and Liverpool may go on to improve under a new manager and challenge for fourth place, but they also might not. This will be something to watch develop and revisit at a later time when we can see the results, but what I feel is the more important issue here is the win now mentality that is leading to more coaching turnover than ever. Rodgers had the second longest tenure of any manager in the Premier League, but it lasted just over three years. For comparison in the 94-95 season, a season known for its turnover where 15 of 20 managers were sacked, there were still 4 managers that made it through the season and were over the 3 year mark.

I think what we’re seeing is the impact our culture and fans can have on how teams operate. Everything today happens in an instant, we aren’t happy waiting two minutes for our Ramen noodles to cook so there’s a Ramen cooker that cooks them in 1 (Yes that’s real, I hope no one has ever bought it, but it’s in stores and there must be some market for it). This approach carries over to sports though. We can’t accept waiting as fans, we want to win and win now. Any regression is blood in the water and the sharks immediately begin to swarm. In Rodger’s situation he inherited a team that was borderline bankrupt and had come off of a quite poor season finishing 8th in the league. Rodgers takes over and finishes 7th in his first year, but the team looked better and played some really good soccer over the course of the second half of the season. The team had hope, and they carried that hope through the next year finishing as runners up in the league and catching a few bad breaks that didn’t help in the title push. However, last year the team regressed and finished 6th. This whole season the pitchforks and torches were being gathered. Towards the end of the season the rioters were out and vocal with their “Rodgers Out” signs and arguments being spewed and posted everywhere. The man who had taken a team to the brink of ultimate victory just a year before, a victory that wasn’t expected in the slightest either, was being hunted like he was intentionally sabotaging Liverpool. Now all these supporters have their wish granted. There should be a new manager appointed within the week and hopefully he can live up to expectations.

I’m not saying the choice to move on was the wrong one, and as a supporter myself I actually find myself agreeing with it. However, I do think as fans we must be cautious of how we react and how quickly we call for change. I believe fans can exert tremendous pressure on the ownership of clubs and in some cases force their hand. As a business it isn’t acceptable to disappoint your customers and sometimes changing the manager can distract from the disappointing results. With a new manager comes hope, and for a struggling club this can be a saving grace. Here’s to hoping Liverpool made the right choice. #KloppIn

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