Liverpool don’t need a miracle, just an object of affection

by Barry Landy

The weekend’s on field action wa completely overshadowed by events at Anfield where Roy Hodgson departed Liverpool to be replace by Kenny Dalglish, and Barry Landy from the Down in the Box blog gives his reaction to the whole debacle.

“So, how has Roy Hodgson gone from being given a Manager of the Year award to being given the sack in just a matter of months?” That was the question being repeatedly put to a selection of Liverpool legends, and Jason McAteer, as news broke of Hodgson’s exit from Liverpool and the drawn out, sorry affair reached it’s all too inevitable conclusion. The answer to the question is not a simple one as many staunchly would have you believe. For in the eight months since the Englishman led one of the most modest outfits of the Premier League era in Fulham to the Europa League final, Hodgson has overseen some drastic personal and professional changes. He ditched the grandiosely mediocre ambitions of Mohammed Al Fayed and Fulham, for whom he had undoubtedly reached a glass ceiling, for a Liverpool side who had hit the floor if not the bottom, with battered egos and brusied pretensions. In his short stay at Anfield, the well travelled manager was a helpless observer in a protracted ownership battle as he fought to halt Liverpool’s slide and aclimatised to a huge hike in expectation.

The men who appointed Hodgson had took their money and run. They fled the sinking ship. His position untenable, his occupancy of the hotseat thoroughly uncomfortable.

Such is the volume, the standing and the notoriety of their very existence, any sympathy to Roy Hodgson’s plight at Anfield was always likely to be drowned out by the opinions of the Kop, the future of their club and not the well being of a disposable manager, an outisider, most prominent in their minds. It is difficult to see how Hodgson would ever have been a success at Anfield, easy to conclude in hindsight, but with little assurances of his future in the middle of the clubs sale, it is improbable that his tenure would ever be a stable one. A stop gap appointment by Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the at the time outgoing American regime, Hodgson’s initial brief was to tide their saleable asset over. If the ex-Fulham boss could persuade dissatisfied stars such as Fernando Torres to remain at Anfield, half his job was done. Follow that successful negotiation with a steady if unspectacular league campaign (Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur having usurped them last season on merit) then Hodgson would have done well. However, with the club changing American hands, it was unwise and presumptous to think beyond the short term.

Both Hodgson and the fans have fallen victim of the previous regime’s mismanagement of the club. The manager will claim the Liverpool job, a title he claimed was the “biggest in club football” upon his arrival in the summer, was too big an opportunity to turn down. Aged sixty two, having previously managed no fewer than fifteen clubs and three national sides, varying greatly in standards and locations, Hodgson will have seen the Anfield hotseat as one last opportunity to make his mark at the very top level. He will have felt he deserved the chance, which on the face of some remarkable acheivements with resources significant in their scarity, is unquestionable. Ultimatley, it has been an unremarkable record this season that has seen him shown the door. The two time Internazionale manager may contest that his team had successfully navigated the Europa League group stages with little fuss and held games in hand in their as of yet faltering attempts to penetrate the top six. That, for the Liverpool fans, is the minimum requirement. A dreadful recent run, including a home defeat to strugglers Wolves, suggested to many that winning those upcoming games and mounting a challenge for sixth was beyond Hodgson. Now, we’ll never know what he would have acheived, if anything. What cannot be argued, is that for John W. Henry, Tom Werner and their NESV group in the aftermath of their takeover, the perogative to seek their own staff was entirely theirs.

Already having to fight against dissenting supporters, in some cases verbally and wholly unrecommendable as the effects of intense pressure began to show, Hodgson could never fall back on the assurances and confidence that any manager should feel from their employer, the very people who had entrusted him with the position. The men who appointed Hodgson had took their money and run. They fled the sinking ship. His position untenable, his occupancy of the hotseat thoroughly uncomfortable. For that reason alone, the ‘hero to zero’ tags are unfair. It is easy in hindsight to conclude that the marraige of manager and club was never a match made in heaven. Looking in from beyond the pearly Anfield gates, Hodgson must have pondered before his arrival what could conceivably be acheived at a club where virtually nothing was nailed down, where everything was in limbo. To take on the job in such testing times, Hodgson showed commendable ambition and faith in his own ability. On this occasion, he did could not provide the results and latterly it appeared the temperment to back it up. For those reasons alone, the Kop could never love Hodgson like managers previous and future.

On Sunday, former player and manager Kenny Dalglish took control of team affairs, as he will for the remainder of the season. While his earlier than expected return from a new year cruise will be a short term solution for Liverpool, someone so revered at the club coming in is bound to have some sort of galvanising effect on a team lacking effort and heart for the most part this term. Liverpool are not a club reknowned for the uprooting of managers and the unstability it brings, and Hodgson has only been the ninth manager at the helm in fifty years, since Bob Paisley. If this fact is lost on some members of the team, there are few better to remind them of just why that is than Dalglish. His spell outside of management, twelve years since leaving the managers role at Newcastle United, bares little consequence. Dalglish is reknowned for remaining active within the game and the club. Some question the sensibility of bringing back a former hero, throwing heightened romanticism into a season of tumultuous emotions on Merseyside. It may risk tarnishing the memory of the good times with a cameo stint amongst the very bad times.

As opposed to previous returning heroes at various clubs, they have needed a miracle to turn things around. Alan Shearer at Newcastle being a prime example. For Dalglish and all his experience, all that will be required of him is to bring stability to his beloved Liverpool. In doing so, he will provide the Liverpool fans with a manager they can love, an object of affection missing in the hearts of the Kop since Rafa Benitez’s departure last summer.

The coming days will see a post mortem of Roy Hodgson’s reign at Liverpool, accusations that the Croydon born manager was a ‘flavour of the month’ appointment, quick to be cast. Those aims though are abhorrent. To be considered for that, admittedly, deceptively unflattering moniker a certain level of acheivement is nonetheless required. His recent sucesses at Fulham, especially in Europe, belittle suggestions that Bolton’s Owen Coyle is a contender to take the baton and lead Liverpool into a title race in years to come. ‘What has he ever acheived?’ The knives are out, sharpened and ready. The sorry affair of the Roy Hodgson era has led to a sea change in perceptions at Liverpool. Any ambitious, even slightly left field appointment as of now, is doomed for failure. ‘Why them? Why not someone who has won something?’ Hence Kenny Dalglish for the meantime. Hence the reverting to the memories. Turning things around at Anfield is beyond Kenny Dalglish but he has a place in the hearts of all Liverpool fans. For now, if trophies are beyond Liverpool, that will do.

This article first appeared on the excellent Down in the Box site which you can also follow on Twitter.

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