27 June 2007

The End of an Era

Well, it’s less melodramatic than the title connotes, but still a sign that the times, they are a changing.

Piet Hamberg named new Academy Technical Manager

Liverpool have confirmed Piet Hamberg as their new Academy Technical Manager, with the former Ajax player taking up the position in July.

Hamberg, who played professionally in both the Dutch and Swiss leagues, joins from Grasshoppers of Zurich where he has overseen the youth set-up.

He has previously coached in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Hamberg will be part of a new-look Academy management structure introduced by the club this summer. He will work alongside John Owens, who has moved from Under-18 Coach to become Academy Manager, and Malcolm Elias, who will head up all Academy recruitment.

Chief Executive Rick Parry said: "Following the departure of Steve Heighway, we took the opportunity to review the Academy structure and decided to separate the very distinct roles.

"Piet will come in with the specific brief to head up the coaching and development side, while Malcolm will be in charge of all recruitment. But continuity is also very important, which is why we are taking full advantage of John's many years of experience within the youth system by promoting him to Academy Manager."

Reds Manager Rafa Benitez said: "We have had some very good reports about Piet and he will bring great experience to the new role. Our youngsters can only benefit from working with someone with his background in youth development."

It’s a fairly big shift going from Steve Heighway, who was head of the Academy for 18 years after a long playing career with Liverpool, to Piet Hamberg, who has absolutely no ties to Liverpool, the Premier League, or English football in general.

And yes, it’s a sign of the times. Look at the majority of the youth players Benitez has brought in. Antwi (Ghana), Roque (Spain), Idrizaj (Austria), Ajdarevic (Sweden), Insua (Argentina), Duran (Spain), Huth (Panama), Nemeth and Simon (Hungary), among others. That’s about as cosmopolitan as it gets. Just as Hamberg’s professional history is about as cosmopolitan as it gets.

It’s a bit strange seeing someone like Hamberg come in after the job that Heighway’s done over the years, but it’s another clear step in Benitez’s plan to overhaul the academy and overall youth/reserve systems. And while I can’t speak to Hamberg’s qualifications, I’m certain that he’s been brought in with good cause. Benitez and Heighway rarely saw eye-to-eye, and I highly doubt that Liverpool would appoint someone contrary to Benitez’ philosophy of, like Arsenal, scouring the world for Academy players before their prices go well through the roof. And someone with Hamberg's history looks to be just the man for that job.

In other housekeeping news, and not the end of any eras, Liverpool has re-upped with Carlsberg as official sponsor for the next three seasons. There are no figures bandied about in the article on the official site, but I’m hopeful the new contract is far more than the old one, which saw Liverpool vastly underpaid for shirt sponsorships, especially in comparison to United, Chelsea, and even Spurs.

At least I will feel less required to buy a new kit.

Also, I’m more than hopeful (sadly, much more than hopeful, which doesn’t usually help my mental health), there will be even more news on the Torres front (see here, here, and here for today's "new news"), now that organizations like the BBC are reporting that talks have actually been opened. Not to preempt any future scribbling, nor get too far out in front, but there is only one striker I’d rather see join Liverpool this summer, and I’m certain that Liverpool would be well priced out of a move for him if he even leaves his club.

I hope this transfer is tied up soon. I'd actually be alright with Liverpool paying the £27m buyout, even though that's nearly double the record signing. We know Benitez wants the player, and when Benitez spends big money, it's usually with good cause (Cisse as Houiller's signing doesn't count, but Alonso, Agger, Crouch, Garcia, Kuyt, Mascherano, and Reina sure do), and we know the player wants to come. Okay then.

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