Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thousands March In Support Of Rafa Benitez

Thousands of Liverpool fans thronged the streets ahead of their team’s impressive Champions League win over FC Porto to voice their support for manager Rafael Benitez.

Amid chants of “Rafa is a Scouser” and “Rafa’s going nowhere”, the short march before kick-off was organised to show solidarity for the popular manager who is currently in dispute with the club’s new owners, leading to speculation he could be forced out.

Professionally-made banners and rudimentary homemade signs illustrated the strong sense of feeling towards the Spaniard.

“Rafa is God’s gift 2 Liverpool”, read one, while another likened a portrait of Benitez to Che Guevara.

The “Rafatollah” – a large framed picture of Benitez which supporters treat with reverence – also appeared.

Organiser John Mackin said: “We did this to display to Rafa, and to anyone else, that getting rid of him would be disastrous.

“The man is held in such high esteem by supporters.

“We were hoping for a couple of thousand people to turn up, obviously if it had been a Saturday afternoon we could have expected much more.”

Benitez has been involved in middle of a public row with LFC’s American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett over the club’s transfer policy.

There have been reports that his days as manager could be numbered.

However, the large crowds on Walton Breck Road outside the Kop stand last night were united in their admiration.

Holding a giant banner declaring “humility makes a great man twice honoured”, Norwegian supporter Howard Andresson said: “We made the banner because Benitez is Mr Humility and we don’t want him to go anywhere, we need him.”

Fan Paul Smart of Fairfield said: “Rafa’s got an unbelievable record and we just want to let the Americans know he can’t be sacked.”

Friend Mike Morris from Woolton added: “Benitez deserves our support for what he’s done.

“For Gillett and Hicks to get involved in Liverpool is great, but I think this should bring them to realise football in Liverpool has a whole different attitude to what they’re used to, and it’s not just about them negotiating with Rafa, but also about negotiating with us.”

Sean Taggart from Omagh said: “He has to stay.”

A banner unfurled inside the stadium at half-time read: “As always, we are focusing on supporting our manager”, a reference to comments recently made by Hicks declaring that Benitez should “quit talking” and focus on coaching the team – which prompted the Span- iard to repeat “as always, I am focused on training and coaching my team” at a recent press conference.

Liverpool’s dreams of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League were back on track last night after a spectacular 4-1 victory over FC Porto.

Benitez had said beforehand that Liverpool “must not lose” the vital group match.

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