Home > Chelsea, Football, gerrard, hodgson, Liverpool, Premiership, torres > A long winter still lies ahead for Hodgson and Liverpool

A long winter still lies ahead for Hodgson and Liverpool


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One month ago I was one of a chorus of angry Liverpool fans calling for Roy Hodgson to be dismissed as Liverpool manager after a dismal start to the season reached a new low with a spiritless, gutless 2-0 defeat at Merseyside rivals Everton.

Yesterday there was no doubt about the story of the weekend: Liverpool’s impressive 2-0 win over Chelsea at Anfield, where the team performed admirably to a man and players who have failed to impress in recent times including Maxi, Kuyt and most impressively Lucas, were outstanding in their first-half surge and then their second half defence of the two goal lead they had built up.

I was one of the fans who ‘real’ football fans love to hate. Managers need time, they say, look at Ferguson as a classic example. Look at Wenger. Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for years but they’re still challenging. Stability breeds success. Managers can’t perform miracles overnight.

However my point was, and is, that Hodgson inherited a team in disarray off the filed admittedly, but with enough class on the pitch to be guaranteed a top-four spot. A team with a spine of Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson, Gerrard and Torres with the likes of Kuyt, Lucas and new signings Meireles and Konchesky providing support should never have been in the relegation area after the first two months of competition ceased.

I also defended Benitez during his reign despite awful times and performances. I felt he had the right ideas and the tough of arrogance to believe his team would be up there with the best in time. I don’t see the same belief in Hodgson and I think it makes the players nervous as a result.

The problem with Hodgson finally being offered a ‘big club’ deal at the age of 63 was that perhaps there is a reason why the manager had failed to be offered the big ones in his interesting career progression. That he can inspire mid-level teams is not in question, but too many managers have attempted to take on big clubs in the past and lost. And too often it has been because of the clamour of fans for so-called ‘homegrown’ managers. Sounness and Evans failed to lift Liverpool post-Dalglish in the way that Houllier and Benitez did subsequently.

Hodgson is a good manager. The win yesterday was a very good performance but most importantly, Liverpool’s players showed the type of commitment that had been lacking in the derby defeat. That day even Gerrard, synonymous with crunching tackles and 100% derby day commitment whether his team was winning or losing, looked lost. Yesterday Gerrard sacrificed his penchant for the glorious through ball or rallying goal, instead he gave 100% commitment in a professional performance where everyone knew their job and how to execute it.

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That they caught Chelsea on an off day is not in question. Hodgson had spoken before the game of the hope that the opposition would fail to hit their customary heights. And herein lies the problem.

Hodgson has assumed the air of a defeated man. The spell of games that ended in dizzying disappointment seemed to take their toll. And while four wins on the trot have brought a smile back to his face, there is still a question over whether the manager has that inherent belief that his team can make it to the top. There was no question of that this year. Hodgson never believed his team could do it and he still seems unsure over whether they can challenge for a top four spot.

Too often he has made a direct comparison between the so-called first teamers and the lack of talent elsewhere in the squad. He said after the Chelsea game that the squad was looking thin due to injuries and illnesses. That can only be a comedown for the likes of Kelly after a great game at right back and the likes of Danny Wilson, signed from Rangers in pre-season and on the bench yesterday. Shelvey and Spearing are willing and able but don’t seem to hold Hodgson’s faith just yet.

This all points to what new owner John Henry spoke about recently when he said that Liverpool needed to start bringing through younger players to challenge for first team places. Shelve and Spearing are unlucky in that they are challenging for places in the overstocked Liverpool midfield but Kelly and Wilson should be pushing for first team places already and especially with three games to play in six days.

Belief starts at the top and filters down. Gerrard and Torres have shown on the pitch that the lack of belief off it affects their game. It is hard to raise your game when you are 18th and another league title challenge has gone for another year before November. Now though, there will be optimism in the side and rightly so. It is in attack and attempting to break down teams that Liverpool have struggled this year. Having Torres back in goalscoring form will help. Whether Hodgson lets this filter down to the players he has christened as perennial reserves remains to be seen.

I don’t believe Hodgson is the right man to inspire a return to glory for Liverpool, What John Henry and co are doing off the field will help though. The club needs to be run professionally off the field to allow it to blossom on the field. But no matter that Chelsea were put to the sword, away games at Wigan and Stoke look tricky this week. Hodgson’s belief seems to run from game-to-game. John Barnes claimed after Liverpool’s win yesterday that it proved Hodgson was the right man for the job. Let’s see how he fares in rallying the troops for a midweek visit to Wigan before he starts being cheered as Liverpool’s saviour in waiting.

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