Listening to Liverpool fans and reading their comments on the various fan sites, its clear that for many Roy Hodgson presents some serious credibility issues – and the club’s worst league start since the 1950s is doing little to alleviate their concerns.
Hodgson’s credibility problems seem to work on two levels. First, there’s his decidedly moderate career to date, spanning over 30 years. Second, there’s the fact that he was hired by the club’s despised owners, replacing a man who was still revered (rightly or wrongly) by large swathes of the club’s support.
Let’s take the first issue. Hodgson may have picked up a small bagful of league titles in Scandinavia, but he has done nothing of serious note in any of Europe’s major leagues. His supporters often point to his time at Inter as evidence of his ability to manage a big club, and while club officials there do talk warmly about his tenure, their affection did not stretch to putting their faith in the man for the long term.
Supporters also highlight his time at Fulham as proof of his abilities, with the Cottagers’ run to the Europa League final as the defining highlight. But since when, say detractors, has stabilising a club in mid table recommended a manager as a serious candidate for a club of Liverpool’s stature? And enjoyable as Fulham’s European odyssey was, it should be put in context given that it is a competition that tends not to be a priority for any of the big clubs who find themselves tied up in it and has seen giants of the European game like Middlesbrough and Glasgow Rangers in recent finals.
Ultimately, there is precious little in his CV to suggest that he has the wherewithal to make an impression with Liverpool. Even his employers seem to share the view – spinning him as a man to steady the ship, rather than one who could reverse the club’s fortunes. It all sounds rather temporary. The club is in limbo, so hire someone to plug the gap. Not a billing that is likely to inspire disappointed fans, not matter how sensible it may seem.
His past record aside, it is possibly more debilitating in the eyes of many supporters that he was employed by the club’s hated owners and replaced the still widely popular Rafael Benitez. There is little doubt Hodgson’s predecessor played a major part in his own downfall – becoming consumed by his battle to force the club’s American owners to live up to the promises made and thereby losing focus on his primary task of managing the team.
But part of Benitez’s enduring popularity relates to that fact that for many fans, he seemed to be battling for them and their club against proprietors who saw Liverpool as nothing more than an opportunity. Opinions are divided about the ultimate impact of the Spaniard on the club, but it should not be forgotten that for several years, Benitez made Liverpool a force to be reckoned with both domestically and in Europe. He had made people proud of their club again – gave them belief.
It is for these reasons that so many were prepared to give him another chance after last season’s misery. But for the club’s owners, Benitez was trouble – a constant reminder of their broken promises. Liverpool’s seventh place finish last term was the excuse they needed to push him out the door.
So for many, Hodgson is a cut-price replacement – a man who had long dreamed of managing one of Europe’s great clubs and one who would be happy to accept the position regardless of the uncertainty and unhappiness that surrounded the club. They view him a man who is never going to jeopardise his job by seriously questioning those above him. Where they are right or wrong, their views are entrenched – and Hodgson will have a very difficult time inspiring their loyalty.
Of course, a run of decent results would alter perceptions greatly. But then there is little evidence thus far this season, but more importantly in his long career to date, to suggest that Hodgson will suddenly hit upon the secret of managing in the higher echelons of the game.
But then he may have very little time in which to try. With the club looking almost certain to change hands in the coming months, it is seem highly unlikely that any new owners would put their faith in the current incumbent. Long-term, he’s simply not a credible option.
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