Rafa: Curbishley best choice for England

Rafael Benítez says that his opposite number in tonight’s league meeting with Charlton would be his personal choice as the next England boss, but finds it astonishing that the subject is even being discussed. Charlton’s Alan Curbishley has all the right attributes according to Rafa: “People talk about who will be the next national manager and for me he is a very good option. You try to teach your players the right things. He is a good manager and his team play good attacking football.”

Rafa is no stranger to long hours – he spends as much time coaching the team as he would have done in Spain, but in Spain he’d not have to then spend time on the actual management side of things – contracts, transfers and so on. He looks at Curbishley and sees a man that works just as hard: “Curbishley is what I call a ‘normal’ manager of a club – he works hard all the time. He is clever and prepares his players very well.”

Rafa says that the talk is not very respectful to the man currently in the hot-seat, and says it would not happen back in Spain: “I do not like to talk a lot about the England position because I have respect for the man who is doing the job. Some people talk and promote themselves. But for me, England have a very good team and it is the decision of the FA now.  In Spain it would depend on who was available. But we would not talk three or four months ahead of a major competition about such things.”

For Rafa the talk is not only disrespectful to Eriksson, but it could
also cause trouble for the England squad: “We would wait until after a
competition to talk about such things. But to talk now so many months
ahead of a competition shows no respect for the current manager. You
must think about the team and winning the World Cup. If you talk about
the position before the event it is not the best thing for the team.”

Liverpool’s clash tonight with Charlton is a game rearranged from the
early part of the season when Liverpool’s European commitments saw them
build up some games in hand. They are currently six points from second
place with two games in hand and so need to win tonight. Charlton
aren’t likely to sit back and let that happen though. Rafa says that
Liverpool have to hold their heads high and keep fighting: “When you
have experience, you know what to do when you are losing. I have talked
with the players and told them to get their heads up because we have
done a lot of good things this season. We are third, we are better off
than we were last season. We are progressing regardless of what has

Tonight though the Reds will have to make progress without their
captain Steven Gerrard, after he came out of the Chelsea game with a
knee injury. Rafa says it’s nothing to worry about: “Steven’s injury is
not serious; he needs rest for three or four days. He will be rested
because we have a lot of games coming up close together.” When
Liverpool drop points the focus is on the lack of goals from the
strikers. Stevie is top scorer but Rafa wants to see the positive
aspect of missing him for a game or two: “We have relied upon him, but
maybe this is a situation for the others, if he is injured he cannot
score. Maybe we will now see the other strikers scoring instead. It is
an opportunity now for the rest. Steven has played a lot of games and
scored a lot of goals. Now there is a need for the other players to
show that they also need to score.”

Robbie Fowler is in the squad, after staying at Melwood at the weekend
to bring his fitness closer to the levels expected by Rafa and his
staff: “Fowler has improved his physical condition, he has trained
really hard. But we have other strikers who have also been trying to
impress. If I do use him I know he will run and run, I’m just not sure
for how long.”

Fowler knows his second stint at Anfield comes with the understanding
that he’s no longer the first choice he once was at the club. He’s just
glad to get the Red shirt on and have the chance to try and get some
games in: “Robbie is happy about the situation, he understands his
role. He is committed and happy. Robbie knows he must improve, and we
want to get him fit for the rest of the season, not just one game now.”

Rafa sees Fowler has having some if not all the ingredients necessary
to play full time for the Reds, and he may have the whole lot soon: “He
may be 70 to 80% fit, it is hard to say because he improves every day.
But sometimes you do not always need to be 100% if you are clever and
know the right movements. If you are clever, know the movements and are
fully fit and quicker it is better still.”