Steve Nicol to Liverpool?

Saturday, October 23, 2010 | View Comments
Join Liverpool? Are you crazy?

Far be it for me to kick start a nasty internet rumor that has no basis in fact, but I was contemplating* the current travails of Liverpool Football Club, and having seen more than one or two suggestions that it might be time for Roy Hodgson to move on - or more accurately, to be moved on, forcibly, presumably using an electric cattle prod - a name came to mind.

The main name being bandied about at the moment is that of Kenny Dalglish. A legend at Liverpool, Dalglish was a player in the 'glory' days, and also steered the club to three titles and two F.A. Cups, as well as steering unfashionable Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League title in 1995. Recent forays into management have been decidedly less successful; sacked, somewhat unfairly, some would say, at Newcastle, and then relative failure at Celtic makes his resume less impressive than it would have been had Dalglish simply retired to play more golf. These days Dalglish is back at Anfield, combining the rather vague role of "Ambassador" with that of Head of Football Development. He was allegedly one of the people tasked with finding a replacement for Rafa Benitez and was an integral part of the eventual appointment of Roy Hodgson. Hodgson has a disastrous start to the season. Aside from all of the ownership issues, the Liverpool team has been abject so far, the lowlight being a home defeat to Blackpool. At the end of that game, the Liverpool fans started chanting for "King Kenny", something that is bound to have made the current manager feel very wanted. (And, if that wasn't bad enough, the team was flown to their midweek Europa Cup tie with Napoli by Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson.) Currently, Liverpool sit 19th in the Premier League following a dismal 2-0 defeat to city rivals Everton.

With the takeover at Anfield now complete - and the former owners' attempts to block the move rebuffed by the courts - people are naturally attempting to divine the best way of restoring the on-field side of the organization. In situations like this, the manager's position always comes under fire. If you make the assumption that John W. Henry and Tom Werner do want to bring somebody new in (and they do have form, remember), who should they be looking at?

Let's be honest. The days of the Anfield hotseat being the ultimate goal for managers worldwide is gone, simply because Liverpool Football Club is no longer the pre-eminent English soccer team. That mantle passed on to Manchester United and Chelsea, with Manchester City making a concerted effort to join them at the top table. Liverpool’s failure to qualify for the Champion’s League also means that they are without that massive injection of funds, which is surely part of the reason that there were no marquee signings during the summer. So the Liverpool faithful cannot be expected Jose Mourinho of Guus Hiddink to be pitching up any time soon.

I really have no idea if this is an option, or even if it has been discussed within the Liverpool boardroom (strangely, I don’t have a direct phone number), but would they consider Steve Nicol? Not only has he been (moderately) successful in MLS, but he has a very strong Liverpool connection, and given his current job could very well be known to the new owners (although I’ll concede that this last point is tenuous at best). It is arguable that although Nicol would not be the 'big' name that Liverpool supporters tend to demand, the fact that he did have such a successful career there (Four League title, three F.A. Cups, and one European Cup) would perhaps mollify those some fans. Plus, a Nicol appointment could be seen as an attempt by the owners to revert to 'the Liverpool way'; until fairly recently, the trend was for the club to appoint either people with experience of the club.

Naturally, there would be reservations; Steve Nicol has never managed at the top level in England, and even though he has been to the MLS Cup Final 4 times, all four have resulted in defeats. And would Nicol even want to move back to the UK after all his time in the North East? Depending on his ambition, that would be the main question.

I honestly don't expect Liverpool to fire Roy Hodgson until at least January (when the European transfer window re-opens), if indeed that's what they decide to do. That time would be ideal for Nicol to make the move, if he does, with MLS being in the off season.
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