After Rafael Benitez: Who Next to Fill the Anfield Hot Seat?

Jonathan ManleyCorrespondent IJanuary 30, 2008

As Rafael Benitez continues to drag Liverpool further down the Premier League table, the search for his successor is well underway.

Indeed, judging by Tom Hicks' recent actions and well-documented talks with a certain Jurgen Klinsman, you’d be far from wrong to suspect that the search started long ago.

But with the German committing himself to Bayern Munich, Liverpool will have to continue their pursuit of the right man.  The Reds need a manager capable of bringing them to the top—a level Benitez has found far out of reach.

Liverpool fans have gone through an array of emotions this season.  Great hope at the start gradually turned to frustration, now bordering on despair.

The club is no closer to contention for the title than when Gerard Houllier was in charge. 

Benitez supporters can carry on all they like about drawing in the Champions League and FA Cup Finals and winning the subsequent penalty competitions.  But failure to get anywhere near the leaders in the title race over the course of four seasons is simply not good enough.

So who should replace Mr. Benitez?  Jose Mourinho has long been touted as a possible replacement, but an outstanding candidate who would surely relish the challenge of this big job would be Martin O'Neil.

Over the years he has proven that he can work with the smaller clubs on a tight budget, can boss a big club winning trophies, and can (with reasonable funding) handle the transfer market.  He has never been rightly credited as the expert tactician he is.  Plus, his passion for the game is unquestioned.

Maybe this is the kind of character Anfield needs, rather than the studious, over-complicated managers of years past.  O'Neil can get every ounce of effort from the players who might need just that extra spark to get them going.

It’s about time more British managers were linked with the top end jobs.  Too often clubs install the highly qualified and respected foreign coaches who are not fully switched on to the passion and intensity of our game.  

Liverpool could do a lot worse than give a great opportunity to an enthusiastic Northern Irishman.  He certainly couldn’t do any worse in the Premier League than the Spaniard who's time is just about up.