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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 25, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

    Hodgson can still emerge with credit

    Carl O'Malley


    Have to…focus…on….blog.

    I’m feeling a little like He-Man trapped under a rock, but I hope to hurl it away with a timely show of strength.

    It’s hard to focus on the meaningless world of sport when the country is being led into oblivion by an insufferable bunch of morons who, quite frankly, would be of more use right now as organ donors.

    So, as a type, I have no idea where I’m going. Much like Ireland, I suppose. The Celtic Tiger has emerged as Cringer. No Battlecat, I tells ya. Now there was a feline you could rely on.

    Aha! What about this?

    Maybe we can take some heart from two other proud old-timers that refused to go quietly into the night and are now showing beansprouts (whatever) of recovery.

    I refer, of course, to Liverpool FC and Roy Hodgson.

    Roy asked to be judged in 10 games and when that turned out to be 900 minutes of utter drivel, he said judge me at the end of the season.

    Well, I’m not waiting to the end of the season, mainly because I’ll probably be a hunter-gatherer by then, living hand to mouth and wearing a loin cloth just like He-Man’s. Enduring image, I know.

    I thought Hodgson was the right man for the job when he replaced Rafa Benitez. It was also right that the Spaniard left because root and branch reform was needed and that meant a change of ownership (primarily) and management. That said, he brought a lot to the club and suffered from unjust and disproportionate abuse from a jingoistic British media.

    Hodgson, I figured, was the man to steady the ship until new owners were found, but was probably destined to walk the plank after they arrived.

    That, it seems, is not the case, yet. Unless NESV are more dishonest than a bunch of speed-dating Fianna Fáilers (can you imagine that amount of spoofing crammed into 60 seconds?), it looks like he’ll get a chance to spend a bit of their cash in January. Sort of.

    It’s an area, along with his public relations and man management, in which he has been found wanting during his brief tenure.

    Christian Poulsen, he insisted, was not a replacement for Javier Mascherano (though he clearly was), but he hasn’t even looked like an adequate back-up for Jay ‘I’ll never really make it’ Spearing. Paul Konchesky, like Poulsen and Hodgson, is another aged journeyman and was hardly an inspirational addition when he arrived to replace young left-back Emiliano Insua.

    The re-signing of ‘sick-note’ Fabio Aurelio and the contract extension for Jamie Carragher were two baffling moves on Hodgson’s part, while he also appears ready to let Dani Pacheco leave the club, despite the young Spaniard being one of the tidiest looking players in the squad, let alone the reserves.

    It is hard to tally this sort of transfer policy with the vision of the new owners, who have repeatedly pointed to investing in the future and backing young talent, while shunning expensive short-term contracts for players nearing the end of their careers.

    That’s where Damien Comolli comes in, I suppose. It is inconceivable that the newly appointed director of football strategy was brought in to merely give Hodgson the thumbs up on his decisions, but will Hodgson be given a say at all? And if not, does he care?

    His predecessor wouldn’t have stood for it, but Hodgson might just be happy enough to coast along with this one in the twilight of his career and work with what he’s given. Afterall, it’s a box office job and it’s bound to boost the ol’ pension fund.

    With no discernible gameplan, he’s managed to keep them treading water after a disastrous start. If Comolli earns his wages in January by securing four or five talented additions, and given the inconsistency of all around them, top six is possibility and top four isn’t unthinkable as long as they stay in touch between now and then.

    Finishing above Benitez, would represent an unmitigated success for the Englishman, though there are a whole host of reasons why we should not compare the two seasons.

    However, it’s unlikely to be enough to keep him there. The owners’ desire for youth and vigour stretches beyond the playing squad and while they’re happy for Roy to keep the bench warm for now, he’ll need to make way for young blood who aims higher than “famous” wins over Bolton.

    Nevertheless, unlike Ireland, he might emerge with some credit. Maybe he could come help us then. Hell, even €5m for the 30-year-old Poulsen is better than the deal we’re getting now. I’d much rather He-Man, though. He’d sort this lot right out.

    • Cathal Henry says:

      This was so lazy, it’s almost unreal. Roy Hodgson has been given a ridiculous task in managing a club that has been rotting away at the core for the past twenty years. You lambast Hodgson for the signings of Poulson and Konchesky whilst defending Benitez despite a myriad of disastrous signings. Pennant, Babel, Dossena, Morientes (though who could’ve predicted the extent of his capitulation?), Voronin (VORONIN!!!) and Robbie Keane, who was used as a political football between Benitez and Rick Parry. Benitez also oversaw the sale of one of his best signings, and fulcrum for the team, Xabi Alonso whilst attempting to replace him with the average Gareth Barry. He even failed in that! Hodgson has made a couple of bad signings, but when you take into consideration the timeframe in which he had to work, the fact that Liverpool had NO senior left backs and very little cash, the fact that he had previously worked with Poulsen, who was previously reliable and has been better recently and the good signings that he has made such as Mereiles (Mascherano’s ACTUAL replacement) and Joe Cole (a free transfer from under Tottenham’s nose), you will no doubt agree that he’s done pretty well in that regard.

      Signings aside, Liverpool have been shaky and Hodgson hasn’t exactly helped his image with some bizarre comments to the media, however, they have been improving. Also, as a Liverpool fan myself, Roy’s comments to the media pale in comparison to Benitez’s repeated tirades against other teams, managers and whoever else got in his way. The squad needs strengthening. A new centre back who can run faster than 2kph, a speedy winger or two, as we really lake pace in the team- especially in the wide areas, and a decent striker. Roy is not to blame for the shortcomings of the squad that he was left with and he should be given time to restructure the team the way he sees fit. How short are our memories that we forget how he was roundly praised for turning around the fortunes of Fulham? Or even Inter, who were stuck mid table when he took over and who he guided back into Europe. They still remember him fondly. He needs time, we certainly gave Rafa enough.

    • orieldude says:

      As a certain John Giles might say you have to take Hodgson on his own merits. Trying to blame Benitez now is rather pathetic. Benitez’s side finished second with their highest ever points tally 18 months ago (and should really have won it), yet Hodgson’s apologists now claim that it is Benitez’s fault that Hodgson’s side play as they do and are where they are.

      Eight of Hodgson’s first choice players would have been in Rafa’s first choice 11 when Man Yoo and Real Madrid were being played off the park. Alonso is a big loss, but that loss does not explain the subsequent collapse into mediocrity. Regardless of Rafa, ownership issues and the rest there is no excuse for the performances seen this season. None whatsoever. There is no excuse for loaning out Aquilani if no back up to Torres could be found. there is no excuse for loaning out Insua if the replacement is Konchesky. There is no excuse for buying Mereiles to replace Mascherano then playing him on the wing. There is no excuse for alienating Agger or, worse, Pepe Reina.

      Furthermore his fawning over, and subsequent humiliation by, Slur Alex Ferguson, his failure to say ‘over my dead body’ when rumours of Torres being sold to Man Yoo and Reina to Arsenal surfaced and his bizarre claim that Liverpool had played well while Everton eased to a facile 2-0 win in the Merseyside derby are just three examples of a man who is simply a mid-table manager at what remains a big club – yes, a huge club.

      Remember Juande Ramos? Remember Alain Perrin? Good foreign managers hounded out early in the season by the British press, yet Hodgson is spared. Just why is that?

    • I was careful, Cathal, not to state that it was my opinion Hodgson should go. I merely said I expect he will, unless he pulls off something amazing between now and the end of the season. I say this because nothing he has done, particularly in the transfer market, tallies with the business model the owners have espoused and this, in my opinion, is why Comolli was brought in.

      I am certainly not defending Benitez’s record in the transfer market, either. The names you have listed were all mistakes in one way or another, though in his defence with regards to Alonso, he brought him to the club in the first place and sold him at a massive profit after falling out with him. Selling players for a profit was one of the few ways Benitez had of generating transfer funds over the latter years of his tenure because the owners were not providing the cash.

      Benitez made this abundantly clear but he was repeatedly torn apart by the media for his ‘rants’. Yet, when Hodgson arrived the focus turned to the impossible job he faced while Hicks and Gillett were in charge. This was rarely afforded to Benitez when he was being criticised for his failings.

      On the left-back issue, Emiliano Insua may be have been young but he made 31 appearances for Liverpool last season and 10 the season before, so he was by no means inexperienced. Why he was let go is beyond me but I will concede that it appeared to be on the cards before Hodgson’s arrival.

      Meireles, an excellent signing, may have been bought with the money made from Mascherano but he is in no way a replacement. The two are very different players and Poulsen is the only one in the squad now that could be described as similar to the Argentine. That he arrived before he left is only proof that Hodgson knew Mascherano was going.

      In short, I have no problem seeing Hodgson do well and the whole point of the blog was that I think he can still surprise people if, like you say, a few key areas are addressed in January.

      However, people should remember Benitez, though undoubtedly flawed, was given time because he won the European Cup, got to another final and, as orieldude pointed out, ran United very closely after a season in which he lost only twice, just 18 months ago.

      Had a weaker character been in charge while the Americans were dragging the club into the ground, Liverpool FC would almost certainly not be enjoying the financial security and boardroom harmony it is now.

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