The Bib Theorists

In the second part of our exclusive interview with Tony Evans from The Times, we focus on off the pitch matters.

The departed coaching staff, the manager, and Fenway Sports Group, are all discussed.

Yesterday, we had part one of our interview with Tony Evans, Football Editor of The Times and author of I Don’t Know What It Is But I Love It: Liverpool’s Unforgettable 1983-84 Season, and Far Foreign Land: Pride and passion the Liverpool way.

If you missed that, click HERE here to catch up.

In this second and final part of the interview, we talk about off the pitch issues, starting with the dismissals of some of the coaching staff, and then onto the manager and FSG.

Why do you think Mike Marsh and Colin Pascoe were sacrificed?

What’s really interesting is, a year ago we nearly won the league, and people were doing the Photoshop images of Shankly and Rodgers, and we were the ‘Kings of the world’ and we were ‘Going to go on and win the league next year’ and all that.

So, Rodgers get his new deal done. In a sense the owners were backed into a corner – they had to do it because of the success.

Normally, when a manager goes in and does a new deal, he gets all of the staff a new deal at the same time. Just to make sure everything is in sync, ‘We’re all in this together’ – that didn’t happen.

He didn’t get that done. Pascoe and Marsh didn’t get their deals done. So I suspect they’ve known they were on borrowed time for a while.

Why didn’t Rodgers get them done? Did he not think his own staff were good enough to have the deal done? I don’t know.

Last season, clearly, there were issues with the coaching. They can’t set up the defence.

Mind you, it was only three months ago, before the Man United game, Rodgers was gloating, “Do we need a defensive coach now?” Well yeah, actually Brendan, you did.

There’s a whole load of gobs**tery gone on there. Clearly Pascoe and Marsh weren’t good enough to be coaches at the level they were coaching.

Plus, and the other side of that: I’m glad I’m not mates with Brendan Rodgers.

How close do you think Rodgers was to getting the boot this summer?

I don’t think it was that close. I think he was closer in December when essentially FSG bullied him into playing all the signings, because he wasn’t interested in most of the signings from the summer. And they bullied him into it, they set up with the three at the back system that made it work.

I think he was close to being canned then. I think less close this summer.

I also think there’s a reluctance to pay him off. There’s the other question; who do you bring in? Everyone is talking about Klopp, and Klopp’s agent is flashing his knickers at the club now. But is he the answer? I’m not sure about Klopp, either.

Looking around at the market for managers, there’s no obvious top class manager there who would come in and they would say, “Alright, this is our fella for 10 years.”

There is another aspect to it as well. The day they sack Brendan Rodgers, there’s a big question that they need to be asked:

“You sacked Kenny Dalglish for this man. You told us this was the future. This was year zero. This was going to be a brave new world. And Dalglish had just won a trophy, demean the trophy if you like, but it was a trophy and not many managers win trophies. You brought Rodgers in, and said this is the way forward, this is how we’re going to be successful…

What’s it brought us? It’s brought us nothing.

We’re back, if anything, in a worse situation than we were then. So, you sacked arguably the second most important man in the club’s history. Well no, he’s arguably the most important man in the club’s history because of Hillsborough, which Shankly didn’t have to deal with. You sacked one of the two most important men in the club’s history, for Brendan Rodgers, and now you’ve sacked him.

Was it all worth it? Whose idea was it? What were you thinking?”

And those questions get asked, they’re not going to like those questions.

If the first few months of the season go wrong and we’re stuck in mid-table, do you think the more pressing question would be: where is your ambition? That’s the thing that’s been thrown at them since it was made clear that Rodgers was staying.

Well, where is their ambition?

Their ambition at this stage, I believe – and it’s not always been like this – is to get us in the top four, get the football club in the shape that is more attractive to buyers, and move on. Sell on.

That’s what I think their ambition is.

I think the ambition, formerly, was to win the league. They wanted to win the league but I think there has been a certain loss of interest in some quarters, and there’s been an eagerness from some members of Fenway Sports Group to turn their investment into cash. Especially after the new television deal.

So that’s what the ambition is, and that’s what the ambition will continue to be. It’s a short-term one. And you’d have to ask, is sacking Brendan Rodgers the way to get there? I don’t know. Because it all comes down to the one question: who do you replace him with?

And considering that the recruitment of players has been so brilliant, where are they going to find a manager?

People will queue up to take the Liverpool job. But they might find that when they actually get down and sit in front of FSG and they’re told the way the club operates, the way it will continue to operate and the way players are going to be brought in, they might find it’s not as attractive a job as they previously thought looking from the outside.

How long do you think FSG will stick around if we can’t get back into that top four?

To maximise their investment they need to be in the top four. So I think they’ll try and get into the top four.

The other thing is, there’s not many buyers for a club like Liverpool. You need a lot of money. Even in the era of FFP – it’s not like Sheik Mansour anymore, you can’t come in and throw money at it – there’s a fair amount of infrastructure at Liverpool that needs to be built up. And there’s a fair amount of investment in players and people and, we have fallen behind our rivals. And somehow we’ve got to find a way to get back up there. It’s not easy.

On the face of it, we’re in a great position. We’ve got global support, we’ve got a wider reach than anyone except for Manchester United in the Premier League, and all that’s fantastic.

But you know what? Unless you can get it right on the pitch, that’s not going to bring you enough. So any potential buyer is going to have to weigh it up and say, “Look, are we going to be able to get this thing back on track? Are we going to be able to compete with the elite of the Premier League?” We’re a long way from that.

Liverpool is a fixer upper. It’s not like you’re buying Arsenal, and moving into a top four club and everything’s ticking along quite nicely, Wenger’s getting older, Guardiola might want to go there next year, and you’re well settled.

It’s not like that. There’s work that needs to be done. The squad is not great. The manager may not be the real thing.

You’re outside the top four and you’re going into a new season with people bricking themselves over the first fixtures! For God’s sake, it’s Liverpool. The second game is Bournemouth at home, we’ve got Norwich in that run as well, but everyone’s talking about the manager being out by October! What a sales pitch.

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