My thoughts on: Liverpool FC
With Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager being openly debated this last week, with particular reference to his short stint in charge at Liverpool being (unfairly in my opinion) considered a major blot on his curriculum vitae, coupled with further defeats for the Kopites against Fulham in the league and to Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the blame for Liverpool’s recent poor form being laid firmly at Hodgson’s door.
Roy Hodgson was appointed manager of Liverpool in July 2010 having just overseen Fulham’s unexpected Uefa Cup final appearance against Atletico Madrid of Spain; 6 months and 31 games later he was sacked.
The statistic that is commonly thrown around as evidence of his failing is the new England manager’s win ratio at Anfield which is the fifth lowest post war at 41.94%. This is a figure that cannot be denied, nor can the Premier League table at the time of his departure, but I would question again whether Roy Hodgson can be solely blamed for that predicament.
When I was growing up and first started watching football, Liverpool were the dominant force, however, they haven’t added to their 18 league titles since 1989/90, a gap of 22 years and represents the longest period without a league title since the 24 years that separated their 1923 and 1947 triumphs, albeit there was the small matter of The Second World War during that time. What is more apparent however is the lack of true realistic attempts at taking the title back to Liverpool since the birth of The Premier League and Manchester Utd’s dominance. Reviewing Liverpool’s performance over this time may suggest that some supporters may need to adjust their expectancies as 62% of the time, Liverpool have finished outside of the top-3 and prior to Hodgson’s appointment, Rafael Benitez’s reign petered out with a seventh placed finish; they currently sit ninth under Kenny Dalglish.
In my mind, Roy Hodgson wasn’t going to Anfield to challenge for the title, it was more about a rebuilding job which needed to start with some consolidation. Amidst this, there was the backdrop of the club being put up for sale, the lack of confidence or support for the then owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and the general instability in and around the Anfield hierarchy. In addition to this, Hodgson had Kenny Dalglish as a prominent figure above him, the true Anfield legend and in my view a key perpetrator of his role being undermined.
Then we look at the squad that was available at the beginning of the 2010/11 season. Roy Hodgson was attributed with the signings of Joe Cole (who I had thought would’ve excelled at Anfield but struggled for form and fitness and at least now appears to be enjoying his football again as one of England’s few exports), Raul Meireles (who is now a Champions League finalist at Chelsea), Paul Konchesky (who had just enjoyed an excellent season at Fulham and was anticipated to fill the problematic left-back position but never really settled), and Christian Poulsen (which was possibly poor judgment). People tend to forget that Alberto Aquilani, Sotiros Kyrgiakos, Jonjo Shelvey and Milan Jovanovic were Benitez signings. In addition to these, Hodgson had a squad that remained heavy of underperforming individuals such as David Ngog and Ryan Babel; it certainly wasn’t a vintage team by any stretch of the imagination.
When Hodgson departed, in came ‘King Kenny’ and he was afforded the ability to make huge inroads into the transfer market. Out went Fernando Torres to Chelsea for a cool £50million (how I bet Hodgson wishes he had that money available) and in has come hugely expensive young Englishmen Jordan Henderson from Sunderland, Stewart Downing from Aston Villa and Andy Carroll from Newcastle Utd in addition to the tricky Uruguayan Luis Suarez and Blackpool’s Charlie Adam. Although Liverpool have won the League Cup this season (albeit via a penalty shoot-out against a side from a lower division), and also managed to make the FA Cup final, Liverpool’s league form has been abysmal, particularly at Anfield where they have built a history of being solid and consistent. Sunderland, Norwich City, Swansea City, Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City, Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham have all gone home with at least a point; this can’t be blamed on Hodgson and in my view is the reason why Liverpool have not even come close to looking like they may contend a Champions League place next season.
Kenny Dalglish may have been the right appointment when Roy Hodgson left; I do feel for Hodgson but it may have been a case of wrong time wrong place, but I think for Liverpool to begin to challenge at the top-end of the league again they need to invest in a world-class manager… Jose Mourinho would be perfect on Merseyside. If he got the financial backing I believe he would turn Liverpool into a force… if that was the case he would be spoken about in the same breath as Dalglish, Paisley and Shankley and that would suit Mourinho’s ego just fine.