Roy Hodgson’s detractors have been back out in force in the past week after he ruined their fun by managing Liverpool to a win over Chelsea. A terrible second half against Wigan and an appalling ‘performance’ against Stoke were all they excuse they needed to once again call for his head. This is after rumours about his supposed impending sacking earlier this season were so strong, Hodgson had to publicly address them.
Never mind the total ineptitude of the players in both games, with some seemingly being unable to do the simplest of things like passing a ball 5 yards. Never mind the fact that the team played with absolutely no heart or desire against Stoke. Never mind that some players, crowd favourites too, completely disappeared when we needed them to step up against Stoke. Never mind that Hodgson was calling for the defence to push up against Stoke and they totally ignored him. Never mind that Hodgson’s record so far into his Liverpool career is very similar to Rafa Benitez’s, despite Hodgson having a much tougher fixture list to contend with at this stage of the season than Benitez did.
It’s all Hodgson’s fault, at least in the eyes of some fans.
Unfortunately, some fans are now so desperate to see Hodgson out on his ear that they’ve resorted to spreading misinformation and lies about his managerial record and his handling of the current squad.
What’s even worse than these erroneous ‘facts’ being spread around is the number of people who will believe anything negative about Hodgson, regardless of whether or not it’s true, just because it fits their personal opinion. Most just accept anything they’re told, as they can’t be bothered to check the facts.
There have been two prominent ‘facts’ about Hodgson doing the round this past week so I’ll address them both.
Roy Hodgson’s away record
It has been spread about this week that Roy Hodgson has only won 13 of 105 away games in English football.
This fact seems to have originated on Twitter, repeated on a prominent LFC site and it’s spread over the Internet and I’m told it’s been repeated on TV, all reported as fact.
There is a small technical hitch with this fact. It’s not true.
For a start, Hodgson has managed 115 away games in England, not 105. He has won 24 games, not 13.
I’m not saying this is a good record by any means; of course it’s not, but with the true facts making the point you wish, why do people feel the need to make something up?
However, it’s important with a stat like this that it’s put in some context. Hodgson’s first English managerial role was with Bristol City between January and April 1982. Bristol City had suffered consecutive relegations and were in the third tier of the English league (what’s now League 1). The club were again near the bottom of the league (they would become the first team to suffer three consecutive relegations) and very nearly went bankrupt, so it’s probably fair to say that Hodgson wasn’t able to spend much to strengthen the team.
It was fifteen years before Hodgson managed another English team, when he took charge of Blackburn in 1997. Blackburn had been champions in 1995, but had been in decline since. They were nearly relegated the season before Hodgson took over and star striker Alan Shearer had been sold. Hodgson did turn fortunes around, leading Blackburn to a 6th place finish and a UEFA Cup place, but was then sacked after a poor start to the following season. It wasn’t until the end of 2007 that he took another English job, rescuing Fulham from seemingly certain relegation.
The majority of Roy Hodgson’s career in England has been spent at clubs that were either in decline (sadly, I’ll include Liverpool in that) or had already declined, so it’s unfair to judge Hodgson’s record without considering the circumstances in which he’s had to operate.
Hodgson has alienated Dani Pacheco
One Liverpool website has latched on to a rumour that Dani Pacheco, who has been tipped as a future star, wants to leave Liverpool due to a lack of first team opportunities. This site has clearly decided this as all being Hodgson’s fault as apparently the big mean boss won’t let poor little Dani play and this is yet another example of Hodgson being to blame for anything and everything. Other sites have picked this up and are also reporting it as truth.
Three small, yet significant points here in response to this rumour.
Firstly, the website this rumour was pulled from clearly states that it is a rumour. It is not presented as a fact. There are no direct (or even indirect) quotes from the player, his agent, his friends, his family or anyone stating he wants to leave.
Secondly, there are rumours (and I’ve heard this from someone I know who works for the club) that the reason Pacheco has been overlooked for a squad place recently is that he arrived late for a reserve match and is being left out as a punishment, though I’ll stress again this is just a rumour. A prominent Liverpool fansite is also reporting this rumour but seems to think it’s grossly unfair that he’s getting any punishment at all (so they have something else to blame Hodgson for). I think that’s totally wrong, if you step out of line, there should be repercussions, especially for young players.
Finally, it was reported recently that Hodgson sees Pacheco’s long-term position as being a wide player, rather than an out-and-out striker. This makes sense to me as for all his skill; Pacheco is pretty small, and would get knocked about by some defenders. I shudder to think what would have happened if he’d have played against Stoke and got some of the treatment Torres was getting. Playing him in a wider position should enable him to find the space to use his talents and help him get into the first-team, without him getting battered about. So it may be that Pacheco isn’t playing in the first team as he simply has to learn a new position at reserve level before he’s ready to make the step up.
What a lot of Hodgson’s detractors seem to forget is just how poor Liverpool were last season. We lost 11 games in the Premier League alone, including some truly abysmal showings, particularly against Portsmouth. Rafa Benitez assembled an extremely defensive squad, sorely lacking in attacking options. Even the attacking options that were left are arguably not good enough, save Gerrard and Torres.
With the financial situation at the club, Hodgson didn’t really have much to spend, so the squad is still a work in progress, with Hodgson not being able to make his mark yet. Despite working with limited funds, Hodgson is being criticised for some of his signings not being world-beaters. While it’s true that Joe Cole has not lived up to his billing so far, I still reckon he’ll prove his worth sooner rather than later. Paul Konchesky has his limitations, but is a solid, if unspectacular player. Christian Poulsen has looked poor so far, but you can still count his league starts on one hand, so it’s far too early to write him off as lots of fans have. I was disgusted at the Napoli match at some of the comments, jeering and vitriol directed at Poulsen when he was taken off. Liverpool fans are known for giving their players and managers support, but sadly this seems to be eroding away.
Also it has to be considered that Hodgson only had a short pre-season and not much time between taking the reins and the club’s first match this season. Fans seem to expect that Hodgson should have had some sort of magic wand that would be able to cause the players to forget the debacle of last season and solve every problem in the club and turn the clubs fortunes around instantly.
Real change, not just smoke and mirrors, takes time. This season should be about regrouping after last season and moving forward. The realistic target for this season should be 4th place in the league, and with Liverpool only 6 points from 4th, this is still achievable.
Criticism of a manager is both part of football and the right of fan who pays to watch their team, either financially or emotionally. Hodgson has made mistakes and should be held accountable for them. However, with him only being in the job a little over 4 months, it is far too early to jump to any conclusions about his suitability for the job. It’s definitely wrong to use erroneous stats and malicious rumours to discredit Hodgson just because you don’t like him.