One of the trademarks of Liverpool fans over the years has been their fierce loyalty to their manager. Liverpool managers as a rule are given time to settle in, time to make their mark on the team, given a fair chance to succeed. Where the fans of other clubs are screaming for their manager’s head after a few iffy results, Liverpool fans remain loyal and rational. It is no coincidence that Liverpool has only sacked one manager in their history (Benitez wasn’t sacked).
Well, I’m been listening to an increasing number of people on phone-ins, in pubs and just out and about on the streets and reading on websites and it is clear that a huge number of Liverpool fans want Roy Hodgson gone. Even after the Blackburn game, the majority of fans calling into phone-ins wanted him gone, despite the team putting in their best performance of the season.
There were rumours flying around last week that Hodgson had in fact been sacked and that the Europa League game at Napoli was to be his last. These rumours were started on one of the more irrational ‘fan sites’ and spread like wildfire. It got so bad that Hodgson himself had to address them saying “I have heard the ridiculous rumours about me resigning, and I can tell you there is not an iota of truth in any of them”
"The simple truth is that I have never considered resigning, and I never will."
What I want to know is; where’s the loyalty gone?
Okay, the start to the season has been bad, and the team are in the relegation zone at present, but does any Liverpool fan seriously believe that relegation is a serious prospect? Do they seriously believe that we won’t be in the top half of the table sooner rather than later?
It’s been 9 games people. Also, remember that Liverpool are currently 8 points away from 4th place, hardly an insurmountable deficit. You have to consider that in those 9 games Liverpool have travelled to Old Trafford, Eastlands and Goodison Park, three very tough away games. They also ran into Birmingham who were on a 17 game unbeaten run at home (which ended up being 19 games) They have also had to play Arsenal at home. So it has been a tough schedule to start the season.
Even the results in the Europa League, where Liverpool have done well so far, have been turned around to become a criticism. Despite Utrecht having an excellent home defensive record, having conceded only 12 goals at home the previous season, including clean sheets against Ajax, Twente, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord and AZ Alkmaar (the best teams in the Netherlands), it was a catastrophe that Liverpool didn’t go and record a 0-5 win, only managing a 0-0 draw, in the eyes of some fans. The same goes for the game against Napoli last week. Despite the San Paolo being a very intimidating place to go, Napoli being a good team and Liverpool’s threadbare squad hit by injury and players having to be rested so a very young, inexperienced team had to play, the fact that we ‘only’ drew 0-0, leaving us top of our group, was apparently a disaster. Of course it would be preferable for Liverpool to have picked up wins in both of those games but considering that the team had no real form to build on going into those games, they’re not bad at all.
There’s no question that the league form has been calamitous and it’s also no question that Hodgson has made some tactical mistakes. There has all too often been too big a gap between defence and attack and Hodgson has struggled to find the right balance for his team, trying players out all over the pitch.
However, the players have to take a large share of responsibility for the poor league form too. Playing Glen Johnson this season has been like giving the opposition a goal start. Every performance Dirk Kuyt has put in this season has been worse than the last. Maxi Rodriguez hasn’t done anything; the same goes for Joe Cole, who has disappointed so far. Milan Jovanovic has apparently made noises about wanting more playing time but done nothing to show he deserves it so far. Ryan Babel has been no better and David N’Gog has fluctuated from playing like a lethal finisher to playing like my Grandma. Gerrard and Torres have been far short of their best and Jamie Carragher has looked like a liability so far this season.
Looking at the Blackpool and Everton games it didn’t look as though the team were set up too badly, it just looked as though we were out-worked by the opposition. That is unacceptable. Form can desert you but effort never should.
Hodgson’s transfers have been called into question. Due to Benitez’s profligacy in the transfer market and the ownership debacle, there wasn’t much money for Hodgson to spend, so he’s had to shop in the outlet stores rather than the boutiques. So while Poulsen has struggled so far (he played well against Napoli, in my opinion), let’s give him a chance. The same goes for Paul Konchesky. The guy isn’t a world-beater, but he is an upgrade on Insua defensively and I’m sure he is going to be a solid player for us. Raul Meireles looks an excellent player so far and Joe Cole’s will surely show his worth soon (he put in his best performance against Blackburn).
It must be remembered that the current Liverpool squad is full of dead wood and is reaaly thin in some areas, and this is not Hodgson’s fault. Rafa Benitez left him with a demoralised, unbalanced, defensive squad, without the finances to make all the improvement necessary. Remember that in spite of the glaring deficiencies in the Liverpool squad after the 2008-9 season, where it was obvious we needed strikers and a right midfielder, Benitez spent £38m on Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani. It is unfair to judge Hodgson until he gets more time to make the squad his own.
Some fans are calling into question the way Hodgson deals with the press. He has a different approach to Rafa Benitez who was always going on the attack in press conferences and was a master of deflecting awkward questions. Hodgson has taken the more honest approach, and he’s taking flak for it.
For example, when it looked as though Wayne Rooney was leaving Man United last week, Hodgson was asked if he thought Man United would be interested in signing Fernando Torres as a replacement. Hodgson replied “I don't think Fernando Torres would be the only player they will be targeting or [we would be] the only club worried their star striker is going to be a target”. This was a cause for criticism, but it was an honest answer. Imagine if he had said “no”, the newspapers would have had a field day with ‘Torres not good enough for United’ headlines. He couldn’t win either way.
Hodgson had some very difficult situations to deal with when he took over. He had to persuade Gerrard and Torres to stay, despite constant headlines saying that one, or both were leaving. He also had his early season plans blown apart by Mascherano’s disgraceful behaviour, which was the main contributing factor to the Manchester City defeat (If you don’t know what I mean, Mascherano went on strike two hours before the game in order to try and force a transfer, destroying the gameplan Hodgson had developed). In fact Hodgson came out of those episodes with huge credit for the way he handled those situations with minimal fuss.
Hodgson has had to put up with a lot of flak ever since he took the job. For a start there were a huge number of people who didn’t want him in the first place. He was too old (though most fans would have loved Guus Hiddink, who is older than Hodgson), hadn’t won enough trophies, hadn’t managed a big club before (Inter didn’t count apparently), wasn’t Kenny Dalglish. His real crime in the eyes of some fans was he wasn’t Rafa Benitez.
Sadly some of the more idiotic fan sites and fan organisations, who trying to have a rational discussion about Liverpool with is like trying to have a rational discussion about Catholicism with Ian Paisley, will in all probability never accept Hodgson, and wont be satisfied until he’s driven out. All this achieves is feeding the press frenzy for negative stories about Liverpool, which helps nobody who has any love for the club.
Perhaps the end of the season may be the time to discuss Hodgson’s future as he’d at least had a reasonable amount of time in the job. If the team hasn’t improved and the league position is poor, the owners may then review his position (though I’d still give him more time regardless personally). Until then, let’s give Roy all the support he needs.
It’s the Liverpool Way.