Sunday, January 9, 2011

Was Roy Hodgson Destined To Fail At Liverpool?

Roy Hodgson's presentation
After Roy Hodgson left Liverpool, this question sprung immediately into my mind: was Roy Hodgson destined to fail at Liverpool? If you look at it, there are few other jobs which entail a bigger revival needed than Liverpool's. When Roy first joined the Liverpool project, there were fans burning American flags to spite the incompetent owners, there was a shattered group of players searching for a saviour, and there was Roy. Looking at Roy, he seemed out of place in the disaster setup that was going on. A calm and experienced manager, looking to do his best with what he could. Wasn't he exactly what Liverpool needed? So, like a sane man joining a group of lunatics, Roy soon found it difficult to cope with the multiple troubles which sprung up.

While last season the Liverpool train wreck was entertaining, this season I found it a little bit sad. I saw Roy, doing his best to permeate a sense of order throughout the club, even if the players weren't even of his choice. Roy Hodgson had to do his best with a group selected by the previous manager Rafa Benitez, with some of the key players like Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano gone. Roy tried to do the sensible thing: bring in the best players he could with the limited financial resources at his disposal. Hodgson signed the dependable defender Konchesky, swapped Yossi Benayoun for Joe Cole, and did his best with what he could, getting Poulsen and Raul Mereiles to strengthen the midfield, along with Jovanovic at no cost. Roy also managed to keep the two talismans (Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard), therefore having two players he could count on in times of trouble (but not really). I don't think I could've done a better job myself with the poor resources given, and the fact that Liverpool weren't in the Champions League made it even harder to attract top-quality players.

Throughout his career at Liverpool, it seems to me that Roy has always tried to do the sensible thing. He tried to make a disorganized group into a strong team, teaching them about "cooperation" and "working together". Roy tried to build from the bottom up, the foundations first, with the individuality and star-power of the players coming second. At Fulham it worked, so why wouldn't it work at Liverpool?

The darker times for Roy Hodgson

You could say that there is a difference in the expectations at Fulham and at Liverpool. Strangely enough, Liverpool fans seem to ignore the fact that the majority of their squad is made up of average players, with a couple of more notable ones littered around here and there. So while the fans should be expecting a season to rebuild, regroup, and refocus, they expected a season of glory and trophies. And while the high expectations of the fans weren't being met, the Liverpool ownership was like a pendulum sustained by a thin and frail string.

Ultimately a distraction came for Roy Hodgson. New England Sports Ventures (NESV) bought the club, giving Roy about a month in which the head honcho (John W. Henry) was being questioned by the media about his plans for Liverpool. The new owners seemed like a sensible bunch, and they realized that this shambles of what was once a great side couldn't be rebuilt overnight. Roy got the vote of confidence, and was allowed to continue his work with one less thing to worry about.

But Roy didn't realize that he had a stone wall, impeding his progress in managing Liverpool. While he did his best to get his players to work hard and execute his plans, the players didn't seem to understand Roy. My theory about managers is: a manager can tell, teach, and motivate all he wants, but in the end it's the players who will do what they want. Yet no matter what, the manager will always be blamed. This sad truth was the real reason behind Roy Hodgson's and Liverpool's "mutual consent". Maybe the players aren't completely to blame, but they certainly had their part in Roy's unemployment.

Liverpool's appointed caretaker manager, Kenny Dalglish

As things have become slightly steadier at Liverpool now, the owners (NESV) felt that there wasn't enough unpredictability among the club. So they got rid of the sensible Roy Hodgson, and they appointed the sprited fan favorite Kenny Dalglish. I can't say how things will go now for Liverpool; maybe Dalglish will get more out of this group of players, but in my humble opinion, Roy was best left alone. Roy Hodgson came in at the worst of times, took the abuse, and left when the good times looked ready to start. There's a man to admire.

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