Thursday, 30 December 2010

Speaking Volumes - Roy Hodgson

My LFC supporting friend felt the need to write down his thoughts and feelings after last nights game - this is his email....

This is a quote from the BBC Website. It speaks volumes about Roy Hodgson.

"A lot of our players were below their form and the level we want them to play at. It was a performance way below what we are capable of and what we wanted to give. I'd like to give Wolves credit but Ithink we were a bit unlucky to lose the game. Probably 0-0 would have been a fair result but it was nowhere near our expectations or hopes. It's one of those days thatsaddens you as a coach and as a player. Tonight the fans go home angry and disappointed because they've seen their team play badly."

Firstly, you will never see these words being spoken by Ancelotti, Wenger, Ferguson etc. as they would not allow their teams to have been beaten by Wolves.

But that aside, any honest Liverpool fan who watched the game cannot believe that a 0-0 draw was deserved or fair, nor should it have even be contemplated.

We played Wolves, not Barcelona.

Yet, it is perhaps, the second part of the statement, underlined, which provides much more about the state ofmind of Mr Hodgson. For me, it’s the use of the phrase "their team" which is most notable. Its as if he is divorcing himself from the team and the performance. May I suggest that a re-phrasing along the lines of "…fans go home angry and disappointed because we've played badly" would be better received?

Now this use of language suggesting separation between him and the team maybe a sign that he doesn't feel the Liverpool team is "his", when for all the booing and disgruntlement and criticism being aimed at the team by the fans for the parlous state of affairs, there is ultimately only one man who can alter things - and that man is Mr Hodgson.

It would not be histrionics to suggest that Liverpool FC on the pitch are in crisis and historically when we have been in crisis mode in the past, and - with one major exception - the fans it appears have always backed and believed in the manager to do his job and to lead them through.

When lower league, Watford beat us in FA Cup in 1970, it signalled the end of the "60s team", and a major rebuilding provided by the guiding hand of Mr Shankly. The fans believed, the fans trusted, and following a defeat one year later in the FA Cup Final, first Division Championships and European honours flowed; and the fans received their reward.

In the darkest days of the club's history, immediately after Hillsborough, Mr Dalglish provided exceptional leadership by undertaking the mammoth task ofoffering real succour to the fans and families, bychanging the way of thinking of the club and ultimately the sport. Liverpool FC moved from a being strictly commercial institution, designed only to win trophies, to an "enlarged family"and in doing so brought the needs (not the wants) of the fans into sharp focus.

Mr Dalglish's leadership brought near normality to an abnormal circumstance and pulled in the support of other clubs. The fans believed in Mr Dalglish and he altered the perception of the club and - for want of a better phrase - the fans received their reward.

Ironically, and far less important than what he achieved during the aftermath of Hillsborough, upon his resignation, it is arguable that Mr Dalglish left a much weaker Liverpool squad than the one he inherited - they had in the main reached a "tipping point" in age. This was the crisis that Mr Souness inherited, compounded by new regulations in Europe (demanding more home grown players in squads) and a need to update the workings of the club, which had remained unchanged for a generation or more. Unlike his predecessors he did not command the respect or belief of the fans that he could lead the club through the crisis, borne out ultimately by the strange decision in aligning himself with a certain "red top" newspaper in the aftermath of his illness. In the end, spelt bold in his resignation letter, Mr Souness acknowledged he tried to change things too quickly and too deeply, which saw his team, boasting good young players like Fowler, McManaman and Redknapp playing next to Julian Dicks, Neil Ruddock and Itsvan Kozma. The fans did not believe, and were proved right.

And now that same non belief is inherent when fans consider whether Mr Hodgson can lead us through the present crisis.

You can argue it’s "not his team", but lest we forget Mr Benitez won the European Cup with the majority of his predecessor's team with a couple of additions. Mr Hodgson is playing with his predecessor's team with a couple of additions, but unlike Garcia and Alonso (Mr Benitez's additions) Mr Hodgson's additions have not inspired confidence (leaving aside Maurieles who was lined up long before Mr Hodgson arrived).

You can argue that "he's not had enough time", but I struggle to think of another profession where you are given time to prove yourself. And yes, I know that football is a pantomime and not of the real world, but try to imagine using that argument with a pilot who has difficulty with direction and control of aeroplanes or a doctor who keeps misdiagnosing ailments or a drummer who's booed off stage night after night for not being able to keep time. "Listen just give him more time, it'll all come good…."

You could argue that his experience will prove invaluable in this time of crisis, but his record and "experience" appear to speak for itself. He took the then Champions of England to the brink of relegation, he managed championship teams in countries where the league is not as strong as the Premiership (Norway and Denmark), he managed Milan for a couple of years reaching a UEFA Cup final, a fate he replicated in over achieving one season with a mid table Fulham and he managed a couple of national sides. And it is perhaps this final statement above all others which for me is the main question that needs to be asked of Liverpool FC when offering Mr Hodgson the manager's position. What was the criteria they used in appointing him?

In the club's Annual Report of 2004, it clearly states that in releasing Mr Houllier from his contract and seeking a replacement a set criteria was formulated and followed. The new manager must have won a major European league; he must have one of the major European trophies; he must have a proven record of developing talent; he must be young enough to be a long term appointment, etc, etc. Mr Benitez ticked all the boxes, was approached, his availability following his resignation at Valencia helped, and he was appointed. So I wonder, what criteria did the (then) Board at Liverpool FC use in seeking to appoint Mr Hodgson? He wasn't available - his contract at Fulham was bought out - his record as above shows non achievement, he has no proven track record of developing young talent, he's never won a major European league, nor cup, and ultimately this is his folly.

I always believed Mr Hodgson was a "holding position" appointment, similar in some small way to Mr Fagan when replacing Mr Paisley. In Mr Fagan's case it was keep winning trophies and keep everyone "on board". For Mr Hodgson, it is keep the team in contention for Europe (5th, 6th, maybe a Champions League push) coupled with a run in the domestic cups and Europe, and to offer a steady hand on the tiller, until a long term replacement is found by the new owners, who were not in place at the time of his appointment. However, it is sad to say that some 18 games into the Premier League season, and less than six months after his appointment, it is quickly realisable that we have a "drummer who can't keep the beat".

I believe Mr Hodgson to be a genuine man. I believe him to have sound football knowledge and theory, but it is painfully obvious that he is not the right man to manage, develop and lead a major European footballing team like Liverpool.

His attention to team matters in both bringing in players and altering the poor state of affairs on the pitch, are acting as the coffin in which his managerial reign in being lowered. His language in divorcing himself from the performance against Wolves, providing that separation, is the coffin lid being nailed down.

And the three words of Blackpool, Northampton and Wolves are the tombstones which ultimately should mark the end Mr Hodgson's disastrous tenure as manager of Liverpool FC.

For the sake of the club, Mr Hodgson now needs to leave with all due haste, less we slip through the trap door (which is waiting) and become a mediocre mid table team...or worse.

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