Grant not paving way for his 'fans'
Liverpool 3 West Ham Utd 0:ALEX FERGUSON blames the “X Factor generation” for condemning Premier League managers to weekly trial by public jury and, as one who could have been eliminated had the lines been left open at Manchester United in 1990, he will always be the riposte to short-termism. But the paying public are entitled to their voice and they do not always get it wrong.
Anfield hosted its latest excruciating audition of the season on Saturday but this time it was not the Kop calling for Kenny Dalglish to replace Roy Hodgson but West Ham pleading for Paolo Di Canio to succeed Avram Grant.
Their repertoire did not end there, with allegations about the visiting manager’s private life interspersed with the standard “sacked in the morning”. It was painful stuff, causing the co-owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, to shake their heads in the directors’ box, though not as distressing an experience as the one their supporters endured.
West Ham’s first-half display was abject. Havant and Waterlooville and Northampton Town displayed greater desire, adventure and, compared with Victor Obinna and Herita Ilunga, quality here than the Premier League’s joint-bottom club. Liverpool, on edge before kick-off following defeat at Stoke City and the absence of Steven Gerrard plus Lucas Leiva, mocked any suggestion of a contest containing two managers in the dock.
Hodgson spoke afterwards of the change in English football culture. “We have to learn to live with that these days, I’m afraid,” he said. “When I first went to Switzerland in the early 1990s we used to watch French football and I was astounded by how often a team was booed off at half-time if it was losing or the cat-calls that came at the end. I remember saying to my wife: ‘That wouldn’t happen in England.’ Here at Anfield I remember seeing away teams applauded off after winning, which may have been a one-off, but today all of that has gone out of the window.”
Yet while professing sympathy for his counterpart, Hodgson, along with everyone else inside the stadium, accepted the away end had a point. Hodgson added: “I’ve got to say I thought the West Ham fans were quite humorous in what they were singing.
“They travelled a long way to watch their team here. They came with high hopes and they’ve watched their team given very little hope of getting anything out of the game, so I suppose they found their comfort where they could.”
It was only eight months ago that Sullivan penned an open letter to West Ham supporters that castigated Gianfranco Zola’s team, and undermined his manager, following a 3-1 home defeat by Wolves. The sentiment from on high, at least from Gold, was markedly different on Saturday.
Gold said: “We came up against a Liverpool side back on form and we have to accept we are bottom of the league but there is no question of a change of manager. But we must do better.”
It is third-from-bottom Wigan Athletic at home on Saturday, and there will be no margin of error.
Grant’s assertion that there were positives to be gleaned from a resilient second-half display was futile in the extreme. Liverpool were three goals up inside 38 minutes and hard done by at that.
Glen Johnson opened the scoring after West Ham had failed to deal with a Raul Meireles corner. Dirk Kuyt took Gerrard’s advice to put a penalty against Robert Green straight down the middle following Danny Gabbidon’s handball and Maxi Rodriguez glanced home Paul Konchesky’s cross for the third. Hodgson finds himself only three points off fourth place. It may be a congested league but Grant is a long way from redemption.