Oldham Athletic, hovering one point above the relegation zone in League One, produced their finest FA Cup moment since Joe Royle led the club to the semi-finals almost 20 years ago to humiliate Liverpool but it still may not be enough to keep their manager, Paul Dickov, in a job.
While Brendan Rodgers departed with an angry rebuke for the young Liverpool players who contributed to a feeble performance and deserved defeat, his Oldham counterpart had post-match celebrations punctured by questions over his future. Dickov was rumoured to be on the brink regardless of the outcome against Liverpool. His chairman, Simon Corney, offered no assurances that the 3-2 triumph will save the Scot from the sack on Monday.
"It's very awkward," said the New York-based businessman, naturally alarmed by a league sequence of seven defeats and one draw in eight games since 8 December. "We will have to chat about it tomorrow. Paul has his own decision to make. Days like this are great but the biggest thing is about staying in this division." Ah, the romance of the cup.
Dickov was unable to bring clarity to his future after the game either. "I don't know if it is enough [to save my job]. Let me enjoy this first," said the Oldham manager, who had three members of his back-room team placed on gardening leave in December. "This is right up there. I've won a European medal, played for my country and scored at Wembley but, after everything that has gone on recently, to go out there and win this game is right at the very top."
Asked if he would still be the Oldham manager when Everton visit in round five, he replied: "I'll be a manager."
Rodgers, turned 40 on Saturday but was left forlorn on Sunday. "We're bitterly disappointed," said the Liverpool manager. "We started and finished the first half poorly and started the second half poorly and got punished. Our mentality was poor and it cost us. I was really disappointed with our young players. We're trying to give them experience and let them see what it's like to play for Liverpool. If you are going to win trophies and go far then you need to come to places like Oldham and win. We were not good enough."
Two goals from the Oldham centre-forward Matt Smith and a header from the on-loan Manchester City defender Reece Wabara gave the League One club a 3-1 lead, with Luis Suárez replying for Liverpool. The visitors produced a weak defensive performance, with Smith dominating Sebastian Coates and Martin Skrtel until being stretchered off with a shoulder injury, and a lethargic attacking display until the introduction of Steven Gerrard sparked a belated response.
Rodgers, who selected a strong side, said: "I can't rely on Steven for 70 games. He's been incredible and you've seen his impact when he came on today. He gave real drive to the team but he shouldn't be expected to have to win games on his own.
"We didn't have enough physicality, especially considering we had two big, strong centre-halves (Skrtel and Coates). We had a 6ft 4ins and a 6ft 3ins centre-half. But across the board we didn't press well enough from the front. You have to stop the ball at source. The ball comes into the big guy but you have opportunities to stop it before it does. For the second goal we didn't track the full back. We talked about that at half-time and within minutes of the second half starting the same full-back goes and scores a header when we don't track him back. We are learning. It's great to put young players in but you have to have personality. Today our young players disappointed me."
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