Calm Down Anfield! Hodgson Deserves Better!

Once upon a time, Liverpool used to enjoy a reputation, one their supporters would proudly boast about, for not being the sort of club to sack a manager – certainly not after a few months in the job. One or two incumbents in the last few years may have been eased in the direction of the exit door but only after several seasons, never as a knee-jerk reaction. Since Bill Shankly demonstrated the enormous benefits a simpatico manager could bring to the club if allowed to go about his business without interference, the Liverpool way has been to try to appoint the right man in the first place, then back him to the hilt.

Either we now live in less patient times or the above model of trust and reciprocity was based on Liverpool always being able to deliver a certain level of success. Six months into Roy Hodgson's tenure several Liverpool fan websites have joined forces to publish the news that in an online poll of more than 4,000 supporters 95% would like to see the manager sacked immediately. The reason? Hodgson is not considered to be "up to the task" of managing Liverpool.

There may be other reasons too. Hodgson was unwise enough recently to criticise websites for writing ridiculous things, which is a bit like moaning that the rain is wet, and unsurprisingly took a dim view of supporters chanting "Dalglish" during losing Liverpool performances. If Hodgson is rubbing his new public up the wrong way, the feeling is mutual – though that does not make him a bad manager or even a poor choice for the Anfield job. Hodgson's exploits with Fulham alone suggest the opposite, not to mention his travels around Europe.

Purists may have a point in saying he is trying to impose a regimented and overly direct style on the side but simplicity has never been a dirty word at Liverpool. It appears at least as likely that Hodgson finds himself a convenient scapegoat, an easy outlet for a whole set of terrace frustrations, from American ownership to dwindling interest in domestic titles and dropping out of the Champions League bracket.

Given that Kenny Dalglish has been out of management for more than a decade and was not taken seriously by the board when he put himself forward for the job in the summer, there is no guarantee the former hero could do anything to restore former glories more quickly. Indeed it is almost tempting to hope his supporters might get what they wish for, just to see whose name terrace loyalists would chant were Dalglish to take Liverpool into the bottom three, lose at home to Northampton or take a beating at Stoke.

But that would be unfair on Hodgson. Before running out of steam at Wigan, then losing at the Britannia, Liverpool had put together an impressive sequence of four straight wins, including results against Chelsea and Napoli. Most teams would be happy with that, even Chelsea these days, but it was clearly not enough to convince Liverpool fans that Hodgson has what it takes.

The feeling is growing that nothing short of leading Liverpool instantly back to the top of the league, which is not going to happen, is going to produce a happy ending for Hodgson here. At the moment he cannot do right for doing wrong. When he spoke bluntly about Glen Johnson, quite reasonably suggesting the full-back could do better, the player took offence and the manager was criticised for his handling of senior internationals, even though most people, including Johnson himself, eventually, could see he had a point.

Now Hodgson is attracting flak for failing to promote Dani Pacheco, a 19-year-old Spanish starlet, quickly enough. Not many people have seen enough of Pacheco to have an opinion on the matter: he has appeared in only a handful of games in three years since being lured from Barcelona and one of those was the dismal Carling Cup defeat against Northampton. Hodgson's view is that Pacheco is not quite ready but no sooner had a move back to Spain been mooted than the fans were complaining that all Rafa Benítez's good work was being undone.

Even though there was common consent at the start of the season that Liverpool had far too many players who were nowhere near the first team and the squad needed trimming, Hodgson's assessment of fringe players is being questioned. Hodgson says Pacheco had his chance against Northampton and failed to impress. His critics say the manager was naive to send out a raw teenager against a highly motivated lower-league side looking for an upset.

In the middle of all this, Hodgson cannot win. Liverpool are in the Europa League, as were Fulham last season, but there is not going to be another thrilling run to the final. Liverpool could easily reach the final but it will not be thrilling. The Europa League is a hollow consolation for a club of their stature. Liverpool would dearly love to be where today's opponents, Spurs, are: rampaging through the Champions League group stage, coming back from two goals down against Arsenal, keeping in touch with the league leaders and worrying their manager might leave for England.

They should, though, consider where Tottenham Hotspur have been these past 49 years: not winning the league; nowhere near the European Cup; not even an FA Cup final since Gazza was a lad. Spurs have had to be endlessly patient and for that reason it is hard to begrudge them their success. Exactly the opposite applies to Liverpool and their hard-to-please fans ought to realise it. Plenty of others have waited 20 years for a title too, without two European Cup finals, a Uefa Cup, three FA Cups, three League Cups and regular Champions League football in the meantime.

After almost half a century of feasting, Liverpool fans are having to put up with a small famine and everyone has to know about it. You do not have to be Hodgson to feel that a period of silence from them now would be appreciated.

Exclusively By Paul Wilson

Related Articles:
Fulham & Hodgson : Pride In Defeat
Roy Hodgson And Ultras Proved Their Point
The Kop Fans Should Be Careful Of Their Wish

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