It is no secret that the majority of Liverpool F.C. fans want an end to Roy Hodgson’s tenure. I will not condone the scandalous treatment aimed at Hodgson during the last few weeks and having driven this point in my previous article, I will now concentrate on how the Liverpool manager has faired from a public relations and player-management perspective. I will hold back from analysing on-field performances as much has been said already and the consensus is that Liverpool haven’t earned victories but most wins were a result of senior players saving the day for Hodgson or the inability of opposing teams to take advantage of timid performances by the men in Red.
Roy Hodgson was appointed manager on 1st July 2010 and this brought mixed reactions from the Liverpool fan base. Liverpool hierarchy had previously instructed Kenny Dalglish to draw up a list of candidates which he deemed suitable to takeover from Rafa Benitez. Dalglish, it now appears, wasn’t impressed with any available solution and saw his request, confirmed by his son Paul, to take over the reigns rejected. This news came in roughly two weeks before Hodgson’s appointment was announced and this inevitably led many ‘pool fans to question the selection process and question who exactly was taking such important decisions. Coupled with this was the boardroom drama unfolding on a day-to-day basis and Roy was guaranteed a rough welcome by the Anfield fateful with every moment in his Liverpool debut season as manager scrutinized. Liverpool’s new managerial foundations were laid out badly from day one. If Kenny Dalglish whole-heartedly requested to take over management responsibilities at the club, then he should have been given the chance outright. The only reason I can think of for such a refusal was the nightmare of having King Kenny under intense media and fan pressure if things went bad on the pitch, although this would have been a remote possibility and I’m sure Kenny knows what’s best for the club hence his decision to “apply” for the job was taken after lots of thinking. He knows Liverpool’s intricacies, knows enough of the current team, demands instant respect and has had managerial experience at Liverpool and elsewhere, albeit a long way back.
Roy Hodgson is the last chapter, the final stab in the back of the cancerous ailment which is the only term I can use to describe the previous ownership. In no way am I pointing a finger at Hodgson as the man was chosen for the job fullstop. But one must point out that he has, so far, not lived up to expectations set out by those who retained that Hodgson came into the Liverpool family with a winning mentality and this was the obvious step forward for a man who took a mid-table team to the Europa League final only to lose to a vibrant Atletico Madrid side.
An unconvincing new manager employed and the next step was to convince Liverpool’s senior star players that there was still much to play for. This arduous task was delegated to Roy, who with great conviction, sought promises from Torres, Gerrard and Reina that they would not hand in transfer requests and abide by the new regime rules. To be fair, although anxious to read the news that such players would have stuck by their allegiance to the club, I was convinced none of the three mentioned above would abandon ship. An arduous task on paper but probably not such a difficult feat in reality. Still, Hodgson must be applauded for securing the services of Liverpool’s idols.
Roy’s next goal was to tap in whatever transfer funds were available at the time and fulfill more expectations this time on the recruitment front. In came Joe Cole, Brad Jones, Paul Konchesky, Christian Poulsen and Raul Miereles. Out on loan went Alberto Aquilani and Emiliano Insua. This is where visible cracks in Roy’s Liverpool career started to appear. Cole, Jones and Miereles brought smiles all over but these soon turned into frowns, with, mainly Aquilani’s departure who cost Liverpool a whopping £ 17m. The exact reason why AA was loaned out to Juventus is still baffling and I would like to think he couldn’t get used to life in Liverpool and wanted a return to Italy. Aquilani has put in solid performances at the Turin club and is now all set to seal a permanent move with the Italian giants. Mascherano, who’s intent on leaving Liverpool was sown months before Hodgson’s arrival, was replaced by Christian Poulsen, an experienced international midfielder and captain who was surplus to requirements at Juventus. Poulsen has had a torrid start to his Liverpool adventure and is in no way anything near the marauding, aggressively precise Mascherano. Miereles and Cole were most certainly exceptional acquisitions (one can safely include Brad Jones too) but that’s as good as it gets. Poulsen, Konchesky, losing Aquilani and Insua brought about justified fury and criticism from fans.
Liverpool news headlines on the fifth of July focused on what Hodgson had to say about his relationship with a certain Alex Ferguson. Barely five days after his move to Anfield, Roy was asked about his long term relationship with Alex Ferguson: “I know Sir Alex is not really a Liverpool man so I’m a bit concerned about my excellent relationship with him. I hope he forgives me for moving north and, hopefully, we can have a glass of wine together, maybe in secret. I hope that’s how he is going to see it but he is one of the people I intend to ring to find out.” Now that’s a sure way of repelling Liverpool fans! Roy must have known the tremendous rivalry between the two clubs before this interview and should have refrained from making such comments. This is unfortunately unforgivable behaviour hard as it may sound. More such comments were made, a case in point being Roy’s refusal to counter Ferguson’s verbal attacks on El Nino during his post match comments following Man. Utd’s victory over the Reds.
A relationship which started off on the wrong foot was now in tatters. On the field, matters were getting worse until the victory over Blackburn at Anfield which kick-started a 5-match unbeaten run which included victories over Chelsea and Napoli. The latter was brought about by an insightful and timely change by Hodgson who brought on Stevie G. for the second half. The remarkable come-back and demolition of Napoli will go down as one of Liverpool’s most impressive games under Roy.
Roy asked fans for patience and for him to be judged after ten games. More than ten games gone and fans are not impressed one bit by Roy’s management skills. True to say, Roy has toned down his comments regarding Alex Ferguson, has recognized that Poulsen hasn’t got what it takes to make the grade at L.F.C (or at least Poulsen’s use lately as a peripheral figure is what leads me to believe this). He is failing miserably elsewhere though – denying Daniel Pacheco a chance to show his true capabilities, uselessly criticising Glenn Johnson in public and persisting with regressive tactics, failing to address the basic deficiencies namely ball retention and the pass and move game.
A few positives overshadowed by too many negatives have led fans to chant Dalglish’s name as of late. I was never expecting Liverpool to recover overnight after three years of disgraceful ownership and Carragher has gone on record before the Blackpool defeat (October 2nd) stating that fans should not expect miracles and that Liverpool are in “works in progress” mode. I totally agree with Jamie and have always stuck by my conviction that the start to the season would be a roller coaster ride but nearing the hectic Christmas period Liverpool seem clueless, leaderless and rudderless. I believe Roy Hodgson is here for the short term and unless performances in the next seven games take a turn for the better, the short term should be over by the end of December. Failure to gain, at least, fourth place come next May, most certainly will result in players such as Torres and Reina sending out come and get me vibes and we all know this would lead to a complete disaster. Time for Roy to get his act together or else do the honorable thing and admit that the massive job is too much for him to handle.
See you next time.