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Roy Hodgson at Liverpool: wrong club at the wrong time

1 April 2011

Hodgson failed at Liverpool, but not for reasons beyond his control (Flickr: nicksarebi)

As a Liverpool fan, it is perhaps a little surprising I haven’t written more about my club in 2 months of blogging on 5 Added Minutes. The reason probably is that after 6 and a half years of Rafael Benitez and Roy Hodgson, a period which saw Liverpool fans complain of being constantly misportrayed, the club is now being spoken of positively in the media under Kenny Dalglish. And rightly so, given the Reds have picked up more points than anyone else since the club legend took over.

For Liverpool fans, the reasons for Roy Hodgson’s failure at the club are clear: he signed bad players, he played negative, direct football (see this remarkable chalkboard) and alienated important players, such as Daniel Agger. (Incidentally, Liverpool have only conceded two goals in the league with Agger on the pitch since Dalglish replaced Hodgson, and they were both in Danlish’s first game, away at Blackpool.) Fans also claim his press conference comments were unbefitting of a club of Liverpool’s size. Whilst some attacks on Hodgson became unnecessarily personal, they were a result of frustration about these issues.

This weekend, the English media have jumped on the chance to write about ‘Hodgson’s revenge’, as Liverpool take on an improved West Brom. David Anderson and Martin Lipton write about the clash in prospect, and they address some of the issues above in their column in the Mirror:

Reds fans should not be surprised by Hodgson’s instant success with West Brom – he did not go from being a great manager at Fulham, to being an awful one at Liverpool and now a good one at West Brom in just 12 months.

The truth is he has always been a good coach, but Liverpool proved to be the right club at the wrong time for him.

Critics might even say Liverpool were too big for him and that he is better managing clubs of the stature of Fulham, West Brom and FC Copenhagen.

That argument is backed up by many of the things he got wrong, such as signing Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen, making Liverpool more direct and failing to connect with the fans.

So far so good, even if “right club at the wrong time” contradicts the belief that “Liverpool were too big for him.”

But the two journalists then choose to blame other factors for Hodgson’s failings at the club, chiefly factors beyond his control.

His star player, Fernando Torres, has admitted since joining Chelsea that he never tried a leg for Liverpool this season, while Hodgson was also rocked in August by the sulking Javier Mascherano.

Fernando Torres suggested nothing of the sort. He spoke of Alonso and Mascherano’s departures as the main reason he left. Meanwhile, claiming that ‘Hodgson was rocked’ by the sulking Mascherano implies it unsettled the club for a sustained period; the reality is he unsettled preparations for Liverpool’s match at Man City, but was gone by the next game. Hodgson was not dealing with a player sulking of a large chunk of the season, and even if he was, unhappy footballers is hardly a revolutionary concept. Managers should be equipped to deal with such situations.

He also had to operate against the background of the worst civil strife ever seen at Anfield as Martin Broughton and Christian Purslow battled Tom Hicks and George Gillett through the courts to force through the club’s sale to Fenway Sports Group.

The period in question lasted 11 days, and the battle through the courts no more than 4. Liverpool did not play a single match during this period, so it can hardly be blamed as affecting results. Again, the concept of disruptive owners and discontent in the background is hardly revolutionary in football; the manager should not see this as an excuse.

Then there was Banquo’s ghost – Kenny Dalglish.

Dalglish would never have set out to damage Hodgson, but he holed him beneath the waterline before he had even started when he let it be known that he wanted the manager’s job.

Immediately, the Kop saw Hodgson as the man standing in the way of King Kenny’s return. They would call for him to make way for their idol every time something went wrong.

And yet the writers forget that had Hodgson been consistently winning matches, had the team been playing attractive football, the Kop would not have been calling for Dalglish. The fans were hardly calling for him after victory over Chelsea. Unfortunately, such results were not the norm.

Hodgson did do some good and Raul Meireles has proved to be an excellent acquisition, while he also gave young Martin Kelly his head.

Indeed Meireles was a good signing, but Hodgson chose to consistently play him on the right side of midfield, leading to less than adequate displays. Your buys can only be as good as they’re utilised; imagine signing Lionel Messi and playing him as a holding midfielder!  Meanwhile, claiming Hodgson gave Martin Kelly the chance to play first team football is offensive to both Benitez and Dalglish. Benitez started the young defender against Lyon in the Champions League in October 2009, and a very good performance was cut short by an injury that would rule him out till February. Hodgson only gave Kelly 2 league starts, Dalglish gave him 8 until injury forced him off against West Ham.

The tone of the article, which looks for excuses, is very frustrating as a Liverpool fan. It reflects some of the misconceptions about Hodgson’s stay at Liverpool. Paul Tomkins writes at greater length about manager suitability in the context of Hodgson at Liverpool, and is a must read.

It’s time to put the Hodgson-Liverpool story to bed. He was not the right manager for the club, and following his success at Fulham it shouldn’t be a surprise if he keeps West Brom in the Premier League.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 1 April 2011 11:02 am

    Dave Usher over at The Liverpool Way (http://www.liverpoolway.co.uk/blog/?p=1272) put it best: “‘I don’t have a magic wand’ was a regular expression used by Roy Hodgson. Well thankfully we’ve found a man who does” 🙂

    • 1 April 2011 11:18 am

      There’s been a lot of writing on Liverpool blogs and forums about where it went wrong for Hodgson, and I thought most of the media and public had come round to accepting he was the wrong fit. The Mirror article convinced me otherwise. Your quote there is brilliant; Hodgson’s reign was riddled with tame excuses, but for example this was Dalglish after the West Ham defeat:
      “There were a couple of shouts for a penalty, things that are outside our control that you can’t manage, but we’ll try to correct the mistakes we made.”
      No excuses, just a willingness to accept and move on. A much better attitude.

  2. 1 April 2011 11:40 am

    Incidentally, if you are a Liverpool fan wouldn’t 6 Added Minutes be a more appropriate title for the blog? Still remember nearly pooing myself when Gudjohnsen had that chance . . .

    • 1 April 2011 11:45 am

      Fair point! Don’t think I’ll ever know where those six minutes came from…
      Think I’ll stay with 5 for now though 😉

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