Roy Hodgson confirmed Sammy Lee’s place on Liverpool FC’s backroom staff is secure – as he spoke of the peril that awaits the Reds in the Europa League.
With men such as first-team coach Mauricio Pelligrino and goalkeeping coach Xavi Valero following former boss Rafa Benitez out of Anfield last month, Hodgson is expected to make a number of new appointments.
But one man he is not thinking of replacing is Anfield stalwart Lee, who has played a key role in helping Hodgson settle into his new role during the early days of his reign.
It remains to be seen what position Lee will fill, but Hodgson recognizes both the passion he has for the club and the respect he has from the players, and is anxious to keep tapping into the 51-year-old’s knowledge.
“Sammy will stay here for the foreseeable future, absolutely – as long as he wants to be here,” said Hodgson, who takes charge of his first game as Liverpool manager against Al Hilal.
“I have no intention of letting him go and if he wants to stay with us, he is more than welcome. I haven’t made decisions on any (other positions) yet.”
Lee, who won two European Cups and three league championships during his playing career at Anfield, returned to the club in May 2008 when Benitez appointed him to the role of assistant manager.
He had previously been manager of Bolton Wanderers where, ironically, he took charge of game in the UEFA Cup against FC Rabotnicki of Macedonia – the side Liverpool could face in their Europa League qualifier in 12 days’ time.
The other option is for Liverpool to play FC Mika from Armenia, but either option means Liverpool will have a gruelling journey and Hodgson knows that the trip will be fraught with problems.
“It is every bit as difficult as I was expecting,” said Hodgson. “In this qualifying stage there are a lot of teams from countries that you don’t know well. There are teams that we are not going to know well, either. They are not the teams that reach the latter stages of these competitions.
“What I do know is that Rabotnicki are in Europe every year. I don’t know so much about Mika from Armenia but I do know the place.
“I managed a game in Armenia with the Finnish national team and I do know that we are going to get two very tough games.
“It is up to us now to get as much information as we can in what is a very limited period of time. But that is what we will try to do.”
Tus Zefik, the Rabotnicki assistant coach whose side lead 1-0 following Thursday night’s first leg, said: “I wished for Liverpool, my favourite club since I was a kid.
“Realistically, the chances of beating Liverpool are minimal but I’ll be more than happy with the knowledge that if we defeat Mika we will welcome to Macedonia one of the best clubs ever to have played here.”