It was meant to be Rafael Benitez engulfed in a whirlwind, but it was Sam Allardyce who was struck by a small tornado yesterday. How Allardyce recovers – if Allardyce recovers – is now a question every bit as great as those surrounding Benitez and the American owners of Liverpool.
After a shellshocked Allardyce listened to Newcastle supporters singing "Big Sam for England" and other mocking chants, Benitez mounted another defence of his position regarding Messrs Hicks and Gillett. Rick Parry, Liverpool's chief executive, was brought into the equation publicly yesterday by Benitez, whose frustration with his superiors was not assuaged by this stroll, a win that leaves Liverpool unbeaten in the League.
Insisting that he needs three new players in January, one of whom is the on-loan Javier Mascherano, Benitez said of the owners: "They don't understand what the transfer window means in Europe. They need to understand how difficult it is to sign a player. When possible, you must do it. I think it is not serious, if they understand the market. We had a meeting on the day of the Arsenal game and it was really, really positive. After that meeting something changed. I was told to keep focusing on the team and that Rick Parry is in charge of buying and selling players. But they know the manager needs to manage the squad and prepare for the future. If we are to sign players [in January] we must speak to agents now."
Tom Hicks and George Gillett may not find that conciliatory. They may point out that Liverpool's squad strength was demonstrated by this emphatic victory. Steven Gerrard started it and dictated it. Booed by Newcastle fans because of England's midweek débâcle, Gerrard was serenaded by Liverpool's: "We're not English, we are Scouse". Gerrard drilled Newcastle behind after 28 minutes with a rising 25-yard beauty, and Fernando Torres missed an open goal on the stroke of half-time. He hit the post.
Newcastle were unable to mount any kind of pressure – it took them 38 minutes to have a shot, Alan Smith volleying wide – and they ended the game without having forced Pepe Reina to make a single save.
Crowd anxiety, already present following the 4-1 home defeat by Portsmouth in the last game here, grew. Allardyce had to do something to correct a defence that did not know whether it was a back three or four. Liverpool simply passed the ball around them.
But less than a minute after Allardyce's half-time team-talk that glaring Torres miss was rectified. Gerrard delivered a fast chest-height corner. Sami Hyypia flicked a boot at the ball, Habib Beye left Dirk Kuyt to follow it and so Kuyt had the space to divert it in from a few feet out.
Beye then made a big tackle on Harry Kewell and Shay Given saved from Torres, but in the 66th minute, the substitute Ryan Babel rounded off a slick passing sequence with a one-two with Gerrard. Near the penalty spot, Babel rattled his shot low past the helpless Given. Liverpool had four more good chances after that – 6-0 would not have flattered them – and as Allardyce stood on the touchline, the abuse directed at him rose.
When Liverpool fans sang: "You're getting sacked in the morning," there was a smattering of applause from home sections. The message from on high, however, is that Allardyce is not on the brink. Whether new owner Mike Ashley can sustain that position remains to be seen; it is now one point in 12 and Blackburn away next, followed by Arsenal here.This felt a long way from Bolton for Allardyce. "I've never found myself in this predicament before," he said. "It is quite a challenge. We've hit rock bottom but we've got to dig in and dig ourselves out of it. We've got to show a lot more grit, that was missing today."Reuse content