The chance to manage a club like Liverpool doesn’t come very often and for 62 year old Roy Hodgson it was always likely to be his last chance at a ‘big’ club. Nevertheless, I suspect he had to think long and hard about it.
He’d made good progress with Fulham, reached a European final and had good support from a relatively solid board. On the other side he must have known Liverpool were a club in trouble after a poor season, no Champions League football and with big problems with the ownership and finances. In the end the lure of Anfield was too much. The reputation and history of the club must have been a huge factor and the chance to work with established stars like Torres, Gerrard, Mascherano (oops), Carragher, Kuyt, Reina and so forth must have been tempting.
Yet beyond those few names the Liverpool team is fairly average. A clutch of overpaid, over-priced players brought in by Rafa Benitez who, despite the denials from many Liverpool fans, was as suspect as they come in the transfer market.
If Wednesday’s Carling Cup was to bring any hope that there was potential below the first team Hodgson was clearly disappointed. Speaking afterwards he said:
I am just bitterly disappointed that the team I had so much faith in did not repay that faith this evening with the exception of one or two performances.
As a new manager he has to be relatively considered when passing comment on his team but thaty’s about as damning as you can get. Not only did he inherit a first team lacking balance and quality, the youth and reserves aren’t up to much either. There’s nobody coming through to put pressure on the established first team squad.
Without the financial resources to make changes there’s the very real danger that it will lead to stagnation. Going out of the Carling Cup to a lower league side isn’t in itself the worst thing in the world. Cup shocks happen all the time. The most disheartening thing for Hodgson, and for Liverpool fans, must be the fact that a club which has always prided itself on producing good local talent is no longer doing so. It might well be another legacy of the Benitez era but it’s something the new man is going to have to address.
Unless Liverpool find themselves with a sugar daddy, a la Man City, money is going to be tight for the foreseeable future. Investment and focus on youth might mean Liverpool have to take another step backwards to go forwards. It might be unpalatable to fans who saw their team finish second just a couple of seasons ago but the reality is very different now.
Hodgson has to marry the twin tasks of keeping Liverpool relatively competitive in the Premier League and ensuring there’s a brighter future for the club. He must have known this was going to be the most difficult job of his managerial career. Calls for his head already are misplaced.
He’s got a job to do and should be given time to do it.