Liverpool lack of manager succession plan leaves them lagging behind Man City

Steven Chicken
Liverpool manager candidates
Liverpool manager candidates

We don’t claim to have any new insight into the inner machinations of what happened at Liverpool over the past few months. Did they have a sense Jurgen Klopp was thinking of walking away? Has there been a secret envelope ferreted away in a drawer at Melwood for years, forgotten in the move to Kirkby, containing the names of three ideal successors? Did Brendan Rodgers sneak in and steal that list, muttering ‘who’s laughing at empty envelopes now, losers’?

These are questions to which we don’t have the answers. The most pertinent thing, though, is: nor do Liverpool, apparently, when it comes to who they intended to replace Klopp.

Big clubs’ lack of succession planning is curious

That seems curious, doesn’t it? Not necessarily wrong, but curious.

It’s entirely plausible, after all, that a laissez-faire attitude is appropriate. A hot manager today can be yesterday’s news tomorrow. An assistant or youth coach groomed for the hot seat could have got bored and wandered off to Glasgow or London or Huddersfield, past the point of retrieval. The needs of the club might have changed. Or the existing manager might have been entirely committed until the morning they woke up and went ‘you know what, I’ve had enough of this’.

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Perhaps most importantly: an open mind is no bad thing, sometimes. Klopp himself was once just a plucky young former striker-turned-full-back-turned head coach with an unfashionable curtain haircut at second-tier Mainz. Sometimes, you need the perspicacity that only the here and now can provide.

Still…it’s curious.

You’d think things in the modern age might work a little bit more efficiently than losing your manager then heading to Wyscout and typing in ‘who is good managers now’.

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But the dirty truth is that talent is only ever one factor in football management. A manager who is brilliant at one club can be an absolute flop at another if they are the wrong fit. You couldn’t bring Jose Mourinho or Diego Simeone in to manage this Liverpool any more than you could ask Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime to play a young Vito Corleone: he may be box office, but he’s just not right for the part. You have to go and get that lad who was good in Mean Streets who may or may not be a big deal one day.

Alternative options may not be such an extreme departure, but it’s a scale nonetheless, and any club appointing a new gaffer has to be mindful that football is an inherently chaotic business where you cannot predict what is going to happen next.

It will be over three months before the majority of the Liverpool squad return to pre-season training under the new manager which, they might reasonably argue, is far more than enough time to get everything signed, sealed and ready to go.

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Big club networks hoarding managers: the next big trend?

Yet still…it’s curious, the degree to which there seems to be such little plan in place. It just isn’t how you might think it would work.

The only way to sidestep the maelstrom that we can see is exactly what Manchester City are reportedly doing when it comes to their succession plan for Pep Guardiola. The Mirror reported over the weekend that Michel, the head coach of their Spanish sister club Girona (or ‘club hermana’, if you will), is being groomed for the position.

Is this the coming thing in English football? Where clubs have been using their sister clubs to hoard youngsters and shuttle them around, are we going to see them hoarding promising managers too? It’s already happening, isn’t it?

Those leagues where B-teams play league football have known for years that there’s no reason that a suitable incubator for playing talent couldn’t also come to be seen as a perfect starting point for the next generation of manager.

Premier League clubs do not have that luxury, thanks to the way the EFL has been (unusually) protected from the suggestion of displacing clubs in favour of Premier League youth teams, bar the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, as we still insist on calling it.

More’s the pity: it’s a far more interesting and colourful world when those up-and-comers have to go and make their name in the lower tiers with a Brentford, a Bournemouth, a Bolton.

More: Liverpool | Jurgen Klopp’s replacement