By the time you read this it’s quite possible that Roy Hodgson will have been named as Liverpool’s new manager.
A compensation package has been agreed with Fulham and Hodgson will travel to Liverpool to finalise details. Interestingly it isn’t totally clear just long his contract will be for. Two years? Perhaps enough time to get everything sorted off the pitch and bring in as higher profile manager if needs be? Two years would also appear to suit Hodgson, he’s had sixteen managerial posts in around thirty four years?
No doubt this appointment will provoke a mixed reaction among Liverpool fans from those who welcome it to those who think this is the end of the world – mid table “respectability”, or worse, beckons? Equally many believe that this will spark a mass exodus of players because we haven’t appointed someone who is “sexier” or with a higher profile. However, on the other hand many feel that Hodgson’s older, wiser, more down to earth approach is just what we need at present, a stabilising influence, almost like a throw back to the old boot room days?
Hodgson’s managerial record is also a point of debate. If you subscribe to “glass half full” philosophy then it’s a good one, plenty of championships in Sweden, European finals with Inter Milan and Fulham and qualifying for two major international tournaments with Switzerland. However those whose glass is “half empty” will no doubt say “major trophies on the table time” and that Sweden doesn’t count because er it’s only Sweden. They will no doubt, given the present circumstances; see his appointment as a cheap option and mainly on the back of one exceptional season with Fulham?
Regardless of what you think of Hodgson’s appointment one thing is certain. He has taken on one the biggest challenges facing a Liverpool manager in recent times, perhaps since Bill Shankly took over all those years ago? The club is in debt, a period of transition and if it doesn’t sort it’s house (or should that be stadium?) quickly things will get worse to the point where a recovery to the standard we’ve been used to over so many years may be extremely difficult, almost impossible, to achieve. Gone are the days where any Liverpool manager can take over, make a few tweaks, keep a steady hand on the tiller and see silverware rolling in even when he finally has to make changes. Hodgson faces a massive challenge. He’ll not have much money and will have to sell to buy. He also faces a difficult task in convincing key players to stay and may even have to sell against their, and his, wishes to balance the books. After last season he will be under pressure to qualify for the Champions League against a backdrop of a dwindling squad and strengthening challenges to our place in the so called “top four” (have we lost it already?)
So what do I think? Time to come off the fence. I’m a realist although some might say a doom and gloom merchant but I’m not going to blindly demand things when the facts in front of me say that they can’t be achieved. At present we haven’t a cat in hells chance of attracting someone with a high profile name. Hodgson came top of list of candidates that included former Real Madrid boss Manuel Pellegrini, Galatasary’s Frank Rijkaard and Didier Deschamps of Marseille. None of these appointments would have filled me with delirious ecstasy! As for Kenny it would be great, even romantic, but the fear is that his reputation would be tarnished if it didn’t work out. That would break my heart, keep the halo shiny Kenny!
So on the face of it Hodgson seems as good as appointment as any? Damming praise? Well no, at Fulham he proved that he can get the best of players who many would perceive as average or run of the mill. Bobby Zamora was revelation last season, Danny Murphy had a new lease of life and players such as Dempsey also shone. Just the sort of attributes you need with a limited budget and limited squad options? Hodgson also has experience across Europe at club and international level and, more importantly, in England. Perhaps this caused Houllier and Rafa more problems than they, and indeed us, anticipated or cared to admit? The English game has its own peculiar traits as I suspect Fabio Capello has recently found out! Moreover Hodgson appears to have got the green light of acceptance from the likes of Gerrard and Torres? Perhaps they will now get off the fence and commit thus relieving Hodgson of one of the many problems he is likely the face this summer?
I don’t want to knock Rafa but he did have his faults. For example Hodgson’s approach, if Fulham is anything to go by, suggests it will not be as overly cautious to the point were entertainment and “going for it” is strangled on the alter of simply not wishing to lose. Will we see the rotation and chopping and changing that punctuated Rafa’s early years and perhaps players will play in the positions they are best at playing in! It would also be nice to see Hodgson give youth more of a chance, perhaps he will have no option if funds are tight? However, will Hodgson be as vocal, vociferous and passionate as Rafa was should the balance of team be threatened by meddling from outside? For example what would he do if the owners decided to “asset strip” the squad and sell Torres or Gerrard or both?
So the jury is still out on Hodgson’s appointment but it would be if we appointed Jose Mourinho or Bobby Gould! It is wrong prejudge him and Liverpool fans are nothing but fair and supportive. They believe in giving a person a chance in the hope that he will return their faith and support. It’s quite simply the natural, decent thing to do and Hodgson seems a decent man. Those who are criticising the appointment will never be satisfied. Unrealistic, always finding fault to feed their need to have something to moan about. What do they hope to achieve by doing it? It will just make things worse for Hodgson and he doesn’t deserve that, especially as the ink has barely dried on his contract?
So Roy Hodgson, you are now a red. Welcome the greatest club in the world and good luck, you may need it! To everyone else, give him a chance, support him, get behind him, understand the circumstances in which he has to operate and who knows, we might all be surprised?