I have inadvertently become the internet’s number one Roy Hodgson apologist
Well, a pretty terrible start to the season for Liverpool. Eight games in, and languishing in 19th, a relegation spot. Inevitably, people are already calling for the head of new manager Roy Hodgson. One of the most visible commentators on Twitter, Paul Tomkins, has been at the forefront of these discussions, but has been good enough to retweet my more pro-Roy tweets. This has led to me receiving a barrage of messages questioning me, and demanding the removal of Hodgson.
I’ve fought my corner because, on a very basic level, I see no logic whatsoever in sacking a manager after only eight games. Any club that followed that kind of short-termism would be doomed to failure, and doomed to a very large compensation bill too, from paying off all those discarded managers.
Let me be clear, Rafa Benitez had to go over the summer, after Liverpool finished a very disappointing seventh, and thus lost out on the payday of Champions League football. Also, with the uncertainty that surrounded the club’s ownership, there were only so many managers who would be willing to step in, with the immediate issue of a lack of funds to bolster an average squad, and the threat of a new owner coming in and appointing his own man hanging over the post too. Hodgson offered a calm, experienced hand. He was as good as it was going to get, manager-wise.
Also, I think Hodgson has been the victim of the kind of ‘perfect storm’ that no manager could have weathered.
First, the aforementioned money situation. He inherited a squad that lacked depth and lacked quality. Yet, he had limited funds to improve it. Rather than spend, spend, spend, Roy had to take his chances on the likes of Joe Cole – a great player, but not a dead-cert to perform. The departures of Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun, two key players, made matters worse. Hodgson did well to keep Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres on board.
Injuries didn’t help, especially to Fernando Torres. Torres hasn’t looked fit for a long time, and there have also been question-marks about his attitude. What manager would thrive with their star striker not at full fitness? What manager could cope with an inherited squad that lacked quality strikers, and lacking the funds to bring in anyone better?
And how about the uncertainties over ownership of the club? The Hicks/Gillett situation was bound to unsettle the squad, at least to some degree. With the clubs plans essentially ‘on hold’ right up to the sale to NESV, morale couldn’t have been high.
On to the games themselves…I won’t make any excuses for a home draw with Sunderland, or the home loss to Blackpool. Bad, bad results. But what of the others?
If it wasn’t for a rare blunder from Pepe Reina, Arsenal would have been defeated in the first game of the season. Manchester City, Everton and Manchester United away were always going to be tough fixtures. And Liverpool were unlucky to not get something out of the latter game. Hodgson has been unfortunate to have to face all three of those fixtures in quick succession.
The draw away to Birmingham was understandable too – they have always been incredibly strong at home. The defeat of West Brom looks pretty good in light of the Baggies performances defeating Arsenal and drawing with Manchester United.
So, really, how much better would a team managed by Benitez, or anyone else, have done?
I think that squad depth issues, quality issues, off-the-pitch issues, injury issues, and a tough set of fixtures have had more of an influence on results than Hodgson’s management. To remove him now would be to ignore the wider issues that have affected Liverpool FC, and in many cases continue to do so.
I am uncertain about Hodgson at present. To begin with I agree he seemed the sort of steadying hand that we needed with all the upstairs turmoil and the Rafa-lution turning into a dissolution. But I see little evidence in the tactical structure or approach of the teams he’s sending out that he quite gets the fact that Liverpool need to put other teams on the back foot, especially at Anfield, rather than worrying about the opposition. It’s the same negative take on big matches that infuriated me about Benitez. Once upon a time teams were worried about coming to ‘fortress Anfield’. Now even the lowliest clubs reckon they are in with a good chance of grabbing a share of, or even all of the points.
The players, of course, must shoulder blame too – very few of them appear to be earning their wages at present and they all look to Gerrard as if he’s Superman, or that chap from X-Men 3 who can multiply himself endless times and be in many places at once. It was obvious to pretty much the whole footballing world that Sunday’s performance in the Mersey derby was one of the worst of recent months. where was the fire in the belly, the ‘got to beat the local rivals’ urgency? But this lack of passion extended to Roy Hodgson, in my opinion, who not only failed to acknowledge how badly Liverpool had performed but also displayed a telling lack of hurt about a roll-over-and-die performance against the noisy neighbours. I can’t imagine him giving anyone the hair-dryer treatment a la Ferguson yet cannot help but feel this is exactly what some of them need at the moment. How else will Poulson, Jovanovic, Lucas, and even the so-far underwhelming Joe Cole appreciate just how much it ought to mean to pull on the red shirt?
Personally I think Roy has until January to turn things around. If we’re still flrting with relegation come the next transfer window I fully expect NESV to want to bring in a new man to spend whatever they calculate they can invest into new players. The Frank Rikaard rumours are as pie in the sky as the Mourinho ones were over the summer. I’m still hankering after a Martin O’Neill or Alex McLeish figure, one who clearly feels every dropped point is a personal affront.
Wow, sorry, that turned into a massive rant.
That’s alright – get it out your system!
I agree about the Frank Rikaard rumours, and why employ someone who has just failed elsewhere? Much better to bring in someone who has been consistently successful, and has a comprehensive understanding of Premiership football.
I’m getting increasingly worried about the attitude of many of the players. I’ve always felt a little uneasy about the influence the senior players have had – they seem to have influenced Houllier’s and Benitez’s departures, and now the rumours are they are unhappy with Hodgson. I have to say that it shows. It doesn’t create an atmosphere for success if the lunatics are running the asylum.
Without wishing to fall upon “too good to go down” clichéd avenues, I anticipate Liverpool being far further up the table by the new year. There aren’t that many points in it right now, and a few good results should make things look much healthier.
Yet, I think it is unfounded arrogance to expect Liverpool to always win, and always be in with a shout of the title. Some fans need to be more realistic. Even fourth was going to be a struggle this year. Even the weakest sides are competitive. This side will always drop points.
And, the squad inherited from Rafa, and hamstrung by a lack of transfer funds, isn’t good enough, with or without Hodgson.
Too good to go down has become a terrifying phrase in recent years. It’s not a sentence fans of West Ham will ever like hearing, nor Newcastle devotees. And hearing this week that Wenger has said it about Liverpool has me puzzled – is he genuinely offering a footballing opinion or playing the sort of mind games we more regularly associate with Fergie?
I agree that player power is a terrible development in club and international football – witness what’s happening over at Manchester United: one overweight, adulterous Evertonian wants to leave and it’s automatically made the world’s media question Ferguson, the most successful manager of all time. It’s seems clear to me that Rooney might well want to escape to another country because of the publicity surrounding his failings as a husband yet fear he’s actually also stupid enough to take the money and be damned if City or Chelsea offer him a contract.
As for expecting Liverpool to win all the time, twenty years of hurt (well, of no league title) have made me grudgingly accept that we’re no longer a football superpower. But for all of Manchster United’s 27 (count them united fans, count them) years without a title they also went into every season with huge expectations. Simply put, United, Arsenal and Liverpool are the biggest clubs in terms of history and in terms of global branding so even though the expectation that the current crop of players at Anfield can perform miracles and win the Premier League is unrealistic, the undertow of historic precedent is indelibly imprinted upon the club and the fans. Right now I’ll settle for some more convincing performances on the pitch and the restoration of some dignity after three and a half years of our owners degrading our very name.
“Right now I’ll settle for some more convincing performances on the pitch and the restoration of some dignity after three and a half years of our owners degrading our very name.”
Amen to that!
I find it frankly unbelievable that people are giving Hodgson the benefit of the doubt, none was given to Juande Ramos at Spurs who incidentally was slaughtered by the media long before his sacking – 8 games into the season for example, yet Hodgson is still being considered a safe pair of hands and a man well known for steadying the ship.
All I can say is pull the other one, the team has been diabolical from top to bottom, if the first team may have been bad, you’d think the reserves would have a go against a team 3rd from bottom of League 2, surely…?
If anything, I find it ironic that Liverpool’s next opposition for which Roy Hodgson is resting (not rotating) his star players for, just so happens to be what was another ‘high flying’ club before he steadied (and settled) their ship, right at the bottom of the Premier League table.
If West Ham manage just a point on Saturday it could almost be written in the stars.
Are eight games enough? What would you consider the threshold of games a manager should be given before he is removed? I don’t think the blame should lie with Hodgson alone, and I’m not convinced anybody could have done any better, considering the circumstances. I’m also not convinced that paying off Hodgson (£3 million has been the reported figure) would be a good investment.
Looking through the archives, I see Bill Shankly lost his first two games 3-0 and 4-0…should he have been removed then?
Roy did leave Blackburn under a cloud, yes, but his first season was actually quite successful. He came in when the team had been struggling along with a caretaker manager for almost the entire season. From relegation battlers he took them to a sixth place finish. The following season player unrest and poor performances combined with apparently poor purchases in the transfer market to leave the team at the bottom of the table and Roy out of a job. Interestingly enough the player he was most castigated for buying was the same Kevin Davies who has just made his England debut at the age of 33. Player unrest and the failure of his signings to improve the squad make for a worryingly similar story this time around, though.
I don’t think there can ever be another Shanks as the entire environment of football has changed. Global business interests are what football clubs are focused on much of the time which says to me that they’ve pretty much forgotten that football was first and foremost an entertainment for the working classes. Shankly would offer up some great soundbites for the Premier League era but might well have been given the boot between 1966/7 and 1972/3 if things had been like they are now – Liverpool won nothing in that period and only reached one cup final.
As for Roy, eight games is indeed too few but I still believe he will be gone if things have not improved by January. He’s as good as admitted that Torres is leaving. Could a different man persuade El Nino to stay?
I guess January for a change makes sense, as there will then be the transfer window for a new boss to bring in new players. Roy has been unfortunate in that he couldn’t really bring in quality in the summer, and now may never have the opportunity to bid for top players.
Re: Torres – I do really hope he stays, but (and this may be a little controversial), there may be some logic to letting him go. For more than a year now he has gone from injury to injury, and the next 12 months might be the best time to cash in and move on. Should he break down completely then there will be little or no return on the investment. Plus, I don’t ever see the point of keeping an unsettled, unhappy player.
But, if he does go, I hope it is only sanctioned because a comparable player has been lined up to take his place. That has to be the case.
An interesting angle re Torres. But how gutting would it be to see him go somwehre else and stay devestatingly injury free?
Incredibly gutting! I’m not sure I’d take that particular gamble.
Interesting that both Torres and Rooney seem at a crossroads in their careers. It will be fascinating to see what their next steps end up being – the right move and they could become genuinely legendary, the wrong move and they could easily fall into the “What might have been…” pile.
Toreres will be remembered as a great footballer, wherever he goes, I’m sure. As for Rooney, he’s starting to act like a prima donna which doesn’t always go down well with fans in the present or the future when the career is over. There wasa great text sent to 5Live the other night saying that Rooney needs to go and read Bobby Charlton’s autobiography to remind himself what an honour and privilege it ought to be to play for anyone, let alone one of the greatest clubs in the world,