By Mark Holleran
So it looks like Roy Hodgson will be appointed Liverpool manager.
It’s not surprising, in fact it’s more surprising that it’s
taken this long for it to be made official. His forthcoming appointment is
largely being met with apathy from Liverpool supporters, many of whom
believe that Kenny Dalglish would make a far better choice as an interim
manager until new owners are in place with the finances to attract a
“Mourinho or a Capello” as Kenny’s son, Paul put it.
This feeling is understandable considering Hodgson will be replacing a
manager who had won 2 La Liga titles with a Valencia side that had
leapfrogged the traditional Spainish powerhouses of Barcelona and Real
Madrid and had strong Champions League experience before he took over the
reigns from Gerard Houllier, and this without taking into account the
success he had during his Anfield tenure. But what do we know about Roy
Hodgson, why have Liverpool come to this decision and what lies ahead for
the new manager.
Although Hodgson is flavour of the month in England at the moment, it is
only recently he has received much credit on these shores. His success has
mainly been on the continent and before his stint with Fulham many remember
him for the problems he faced at Blackburn, where he was sacked with Rovers
bottom of the table. He started his top-flight managerial career with
Halmstads in Sweden where he spent 5 seasons, taking them from relegation
candidates in his first season to winning 2 league titles. After brief
spells with Bristol City and then in Sweden with Ovrebo he took over at
Malmo FF where he guided them to 5 consecutive league championships and 2
Swedish Cups. He is still credited today with the transformation of Swedish
football introducing Rafa Beinitez’s favoured zonal marking.
Hodgson took over the Swiss national team in 1992 and gained successive
qualification for the 1994 World Cup, where the Swiss exited at the last 16
stage along with 1996 European Championships. Before the tournament he
joined Inter Milan where he presided over a rebuilding phase. This was not
the Inter Milan of today, they lacked any star names apart from Paul Ince
but Hodgson achieved a 7th place finish in his first season followed by a
3rd place finish and reached the Uefa Cup final in his second season. After
that he had a number of stints with Blackburn, another short spell with
Inter, Grasshopper Zurich, Copenhagen, Udinese, the United Arab Emirates, FC
Viking, Finland and most recently Fulham.
So Roy Hodgson certainly has a lot of experience and no doubt a number of
contacts within the game across Europe, which according to some sections of
the press is what attracted the Liverpool board. He has had success but it
has mainly come from leagues that aren’t considered as competitive as the
Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or even the Bundesliga and Eredivisie. His
period with Inter Milan shows that he has experience at a big club but even
with a final appearance in a more competitive Uefa Cup, it was hardly a huge
success. What Hodgson seems to be good at is helping teams to punch above
their weight, getting the best out of the players at his disposal and
bringing in talent on a smaller budget.
Hodgson’s appointment is a statement of Liverpool’s current situation.
There is little to no transfer budget available, so they need someone who
can make the best of what they have and make any necessary additions to the
squad on a small budget. They need a safe pair of hands to guide the
players through the current storm and do battle against the odds, and
considerable finances, to reach 4th place and regain Champions League
qualification. This is not a manager to bring silverware to Anfield.
However, given Liverpool’s current plight, what top manager in their right
mind would be interested in the Liverpool hotseat? With the club up for
sale, little money for transfers and no Champions League football, Liverpool
are not an attractive proposition at the moment.
None of this though, is Roy Hodgson’s fault. He is clearly a good manager
and probably unfortunate not to have had more of a crack at a top European
side earlier in his career. Liverpool represent this chance, even if they
aren’t in the best of health. But they offer an incredible challenge for
him. If he can turn around their fortunes, build a squad capable of getting
back into the Champions League and succeed where Benitez failed in
outlasting the current owners. then he will feel he could have a go at
achieving Liverpool’s seemingly endless goal of that 19th league title and
the cherry on top of his career – success in one of the elite leagues. He
has hit a glass ceiling at Fulham and he has shown throughout his career
that he is happy to move to new pastures with regularity. Their is no risk
for him, at Fulham he was on a yearly rolling contract and this could be his
last shot at going to a “big” club. Perhaps the only question mark for him
is whether to wait and see if the England job is up for grabs.
The downside is that Hodgson is unlikely to be considered of a high enough
calibre to keep hold of players like Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and
even Steven Gerrard. Whilst Hodgson would most likely wish to keep all 3,
he would also welcome the windfall he would hope to receive from their
sales. Unfortunately their seems little likelihood of him having much of
the proceeds that are generated. This would make his task very difficult
next season. With Liverpool likely, the supporters certainly hope, to have
new owners in place well before the start of the following season, Hodgson
would be seen by many to be a lame duck manager – much like Claudio Ranieri
when Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea. New clubs tend to rebuild and either
go for proven experience or young up and coming managers. Hodgson does not
fit into either category.
In all, this seems like a marriage of convenience. Liverpool need someone
to get them through the next 12 months, someone nice that will keep the
players and supporters onside but someone uncontroversial and not likely to
speak out. Hodgson will feel that he can turn things around enough to prove
to new owners that he is the man to take Liverpool forward. For Liverpool
fans the next few months represent one of the most crucial periods of their
history. Their anger needs to be directed at the owners and hope for a sale
as soon as possible but they also need to back the team and more importantly
whoever is the manager, even if he isn’t Kenny Dalglish or Jose Mourinho.