The question of who might join a football team is something that all football fans will watch closely. Even if it’s a rival team, many will have a strong opinion on who gets hired. Choosing someone who used to be beloved by fans can prove to be a risky move by some managers. It can be difficult to tell exactly how fans will receive them.
The hiring of Pirlo, Lampard, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Juventus, Chelsea, and Manchester United respectively all looked to be hasty. Owners knew fans weren’t happy with performances, that the clubs needed restructuring, squads rebuilding. Having a familiar face leading the charge who knows the club’s culture and standards would be an excellent way to embed the new players and ideas in established traditions.
However, all three coaches had had no exposure to the highest level of sport, where they would be expected to coach their squads to play against teams with the best managers in the world. Unless they are Pep Guardiola, someone who has a preternatural coaching ability, it would be a struggle. All three – Pirlo, Lampard, and Solskjaer – were sacked soon into their tenure after underperforming.
Meeting Fan Expectations
Fans expectations are always to aim at the sun. When fan-favourites are hired, it’s usually at the beginning of a rebuild. A grace period is allowed, of course, as the stands are filled with supporters are excited to see a legend return. However, both Lampard and Solskjaer had summer transfer windows in which the club invested heavily in exciting players, meaning that the expectations were now to compete for titles. Neither could.
Meeting these expectations is one of things worrying Liverpool fans, and, probably, the Liverpool board. Jurgen Klopp is not a coach you want to succeed. He has those around Anfield clutching their Liverpool tickets, singing in unison as the team continues to set new standards for itself. He is adored. Steven Gerrard, currently Aston Villa manager, is who is the tipped favourite to take over in 2024 when Klopp’s contract runs out, and he is rumoured to step away from the sport for a while.
Gerrard dragged Liverpool to relevancy during his career. The club is where it is now because of Gerrard. If they were to bring him in too early in his coaching career, no one wants to think about the damage it could do.
The cynical side of hiring fan-favourites as a manager is that it affords the board time to rebuild and restructure the team before hiring the manager or coach they want, if they have any idea at all. Lampard and Solskjaer could calm the crowds. They had that respect. If it wasn’t going well, the crowd would go easy on them.
The owners could dilly-dally, take advantage of this, and, if it didn’t work, say, ‘well, we tried, but here is Thomas Tuchel or Rlf Ragnick’. They could stumble on success, like Solskjaer’s 2nd-place finish in the 2020/2021 season, but, in the end, they are fall guys for failure.
It’s a delicate process, hiring a manager. Fan favourites are easy options, which do have their positives. However, the owners are often the issue, devoid of ideas for how to produce a sustainably successful football club.
“Friendly zombie fanatic. Analyst. Coffee buff. Professional music specialist. Communicator.”