Sunday, 9 January 2011

An Anfield Farce - Liverpool FC in Turmoil

I feel rather sorry for Roy Hodgson and rather less so for the fans of Liverpool FC.

For weeks now they have been calling for his dismissal. For weeks they have been calling for the return of 'The Messiah' Kenny Dalglish. For weeks, they have had their heads in the clouds, unwilling to acknowledge the fundamental problems facing their team and instead, seeking a scapegoat for the poor form that has seen these giants of English football languish in 12th place in the Premiership.

Roy Hodgson - A man of Integrity
Now, I'm an Aston Villa fan but I'm also a fan of football. You only have to read my blog posts about Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United recently to realise that I will give a fair assessment of a footballing situation as I see it.

For me, Liverpool made a very shrewd move back in the summer when they appointed Roy Hodgson as their manager. A decent, principled man, his manageriral record was one that had to be respected. Many would deride him for what could be pereived to be mediocre achievements but not me.

He won 5 league championships in Sweden, 2 with unfancied Halmstad and 3 with FC Malmo and 2 Swedish Cups. He won a Danish league title with FC Copenhagen, their first in 8 years, in 2001. He led Inter Milan to an upsurge in league form and to a UEFA Cup final.

At Fulham, he took a team that were heading for relegation to their highest ever top flight finish of 7th in 2009 before taking the unfancied Londoners to a European final of their own.

At an international level, he guided Switzerland to the last 16 of the 1994 World Cup and qualified them for Euro '96 - the first times that Switzerland had qualified for major tournaments since 1966. He also guided Finland to their highest ever FIFA World Ranking of 33 whilst he was in charge.

He speaks 5 languages fluently and is one of the most versatile managers in the world.

Rafa Benitez' Squad
The problem that Roy had was that he inherited a weak squad from his predecessor Rafa Benitez. Now Rafa had some good years at Anfield but many will legitimately argue that his Champions League victory in 2005 came from what was basically his predecessor Gerard Houllier's squad. Despite big investment, Benitez failed to win a league title and it was clear that Anfield was going stale under his leadership. His time was up and it was time for a new broom.

But Liverpool's board and fans did not give Hodgson the time to stamp his authority on the team. He was working with Rafa's squad and could not be expected to make a mediocre Premiership squad a world beating machine overnight. He needed time, but as is the way nowadays, the petulent response from the fans and the board dictated that he would not get it.

What would've happened had the board at Old Trafford made the same decision with Alex Ferguson before he finally landed his first piece of slilverware after nearly 4 years as a manager of Manchester United? Had Ferguson been given the same short shrift as Hodgson has been, the history of English football would've looked very different these past 20 years.

Indeed, it is to his credit that another Kop hero, BBC pundit Alan Hansen has gone on record to say that Hodgson deserved more time. Also, it must be said that not all Scousers are so short-sighted. An old school friend of mine, Sean Graham who is a Scouser, chatted to me on Facebook only a few days ago and he too said that Hodgson needed more time. He understood that this was a man with a fine pedigree who had inherited a poor squad from Benitez. Good on him for having such a decent attitude and I'm sure he's not the only one amongst Liverpool fans but they seem, sadly, to have been in the minority.

Kenny Dalglish - An Anfield Legend
Well, the fans have now got who they want. But it was a very odd and surreal sight to behold this afternoon. Seeing Kenny Dalglish in the dugout almost 20 years after he resigned suddenly as manager of Liverpool in the wake of a 4-4 FA Cup draw with bitter rivals Everton on health grounds on 22nd February 1991 is a really peculiar one.

Now it isn't unreasnable for the Kop and all of those associated with this great club to want to hark back to the last manager in their history who led them to league titles and constant glory.

Indeed, Kenny Dalglish's record at Anfield speaks for itself.

Dalglish's Liverpool record, as a player, a player-manager and a manager ended with: 515 appearances, 172 goals, 307 as manager, 8 League Championships, 2 FA Cup wins, 3 European Cup wins, 4 League Cup wins, 1 European Super Cup win, and 5 Charity Shield wins. He also managed Liverpool to their only league and FA Cup 'Double' in 1985-86.

Indeed, since he resigned as manager in February 1991, Liverpool have not won a league title since.

He has also of course taken unfancied Blackburn Rovers to a Premiership title in 1995.

Does Lightning Strike Twice?
But this is a fool-hardy decision and a knee-jerk one that will not serve Liverpool FC well.

To begin with, Dalglish has not been in day-to-day management for 10 years. Also, he has only been appointed until the end of the season. In which case, what's the point? If all he is expected to do is to stabilise the ship then remember, he's doing it with the same squad that Hodgson had - the one bequeathed to him by Benitez.

If he actually signs a longer-term contract, do Liverpool fans really believe that he can bring back the glory days??

History shows that lightening very rarely strikes twice when it comes to a returning hero taking over the reigns of a club for a second time. The one example to the contrary I could use is Walter Smith's performance with Rangers in Scotland but in all fairness, they do not posess the most competitive league in the world north of the border.

No, instead we must look more at the records of the likes of Graham Taylor and Kevin Keegan. The former of course was a fantastic manager of my own team Aston Villa in the late 1980's but his return at the start of this decade was a tepid one which did not re-ignite the fortunes of old. Kevin Keegan is possibly an even better example for Liverpool right now. He was feted as a returning Messiah when he went back to St James' Park but that all ended in tears and after he left, relegation for the Toon Army.

The Future?
It was incredibly ironic that Dalglish's first game back in charge would be away to the team that since he last managed at Anfield, have won 11 league titles to draw level with that of his own team. I must admit to being pleased to see the Red Devils beat the Reds today at Old Trafford. It will serve to remind the Liverpool fans that they will not get the quick turnaround in form and results that they want.

Good luck to Dalglish. He himself is a wise and respected man in his own right and deservedly so, but he shouldn't have been in the dugout today - it should've been Roy Hodgson.

Shame on Liverpool FC.

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