...which is why there've been a lack in posts. My bad guys; my bad.
Solid win over the Toon over the weekend. My wife managed to fill up the PVR with episodes of Oprah, CSI (bizarrely, all three varieties) and a load of other assorted crap which meant I didn't manage to watch the whole game. The PVR was supposed to start recording at 7:45am (I had gotten in at 2am after an 11:15pm footy game) but clearly things went a bit Pete Tong.
When I did turn on the game, it was 3-0 and El Nino had just missed another, basically, open goal.
Luckily the game was on time delay later in the evening so I did get to watch Lucas's great performance, Gerrard's inspirational performance (glad he saved it for the weekend because he was gash against Croatia for England) and, amazingly, another solid outing for Sami Hyypia. But let's face it, if we can sign a decent centre back in either the January or off-season, then the "Liverpool Hall of Fame" bound Finn should be packaged up and either sold to a smaller club or put into a coaching role.
The game aside, there has been something small brewing up under the surface.
Seems as if Rafa has fallen out with the new owners. In a big way.
Apparently we had Georgian utility defender Kakha Kaladze all lined up for the January window when Hicks and Gillette told Rafa to forget about the transfer market and to "focus on training and coaching his team". This clearly got Rafa's back up and prompted the, frankly, bizarre news conference when he repeated this phrase more times than I have patience to count. Full transcript here.
Benitez is one stubborn, proud and seemingly petulant man. But who can blame him. Taking transfer responsibilities away from him essentially emasculates his role in the club down to a coach. Over the summer, when he was told there was a transfer freeze by the new owners, he used the Champions League final bonus, plus whatever he could recoup from selling players such as Bellamy to finance his 50m gbp shopping spree without costing the owners a penny. While his record in the transfer market is spotty (Morientes any one?) it is certainly improving (Torres?) and his quote on seeing the Valencia board bring him Sissoko shows that he feels he needs to have complete control over all sporting affairs in the club - "I asked for a sofa and they bought me a lamp".
So Benitez has been subject to "constructive dismissal", having his remit and responsibilities significantly cut back. Case closed.
Not so clear cut I'm afraid.
Let's take a look at this from the owners' view point. The professional sports business in North America has a clear differentiation between "church and state"; between buying and coaching the players. Owners are more involved with the purchasing decisions and usually deal with a "General Manager" as a buttress between them and the "Coach". So this makes sense for them. They also see the need for a cohesive purchasing strategy which, while it accounts for tactical short-term buys, focuses on the long-term future of the club - including the new stadium.
For my money, this disagreement is the clash of two egos enhanced by some petty brinksmanship and a cultural misunderstanding. Hopefully the squabbling that's taken place over transatlantic emails and conference calls will be put to bed over a face-to-face meeting.
I think we, as a club, need Rafa and that Rafa wants to stay at the club. Let's hope that's the case come this time next season.