Blackburn was Roy Hodgson’s biggest failure before he left Liverpool. The season Rovers were relegated (well, before this one), Hodgson left the team in last place after being sacked by then-owner Jack Walker.
Apparently that transgression isn’t as onerous as stumbling for a few months at Anfield. Now, the subtext of most Roy Hodsgon stories is “oh, that Liverpool guy.”
From the moment he was lured away from Fulham, people debated whether he was a good fit for Liverpool. Examinations of his Craven Cottage successes told stories of the perpetual drilling of basic tactical tenants – facets which, when mastered, would distinguish his team from the pile of similarly talented sides that occupy mid-table Premier League through the upper reaches of the Championship. Though those methods took Fulham to a Europe League final, some thought Liverpools self-styled cosmopolitans would balk.
And they did. Hodgson barely made it to Jan. 2011 (having been hired the previous summer). After his departure, the debate twisted by persisted: Was the coach the problem? Or was it the players? Either way, it was a bad fit.
That Kenny Dalglish came in and turned the Reds’ fortunes indicted Hodgson, even after the man saved West Brom from a relegation fight. But now, just over a year later, Liverpool’s in danger of slipping into the table’s bottom half despite having bolstered their squad with a series of big buys Hodgson never had at his disposal.
Thus, the debate still seems relevant. Is the heart of a Liverpool team that had already started to descend under Rafa Benítez the core of the problem? Or will Roy Hodgson’s methods never meld with a team of more cultured talents?
Perhaps inadvertently, England’s Football Association cast a vote today. In hiring Hodgson to guide the Three Lions at Euro 2012, they basically discarded the Liverpool experience. That it is Hodgson’s most recent experience with a squad whose talents compare to England’s was ultimately overshadowed by the greater record. The implication: Non-Hodgson factors were at fault with Liverpool.
Perhaps there were other reasons. Maybe the specter of Tom Hicks and George Gillett was still hanging over the club. Maybe the organization was still in shock from the coming so close to being owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland. And perhaps the players needed one more jolt – the Hodgson firing – to realize all the noise off the field is no excuse for their performance on.
One year later, with Liverpool now even on points with Fulham for eighth, The FA’s willingness to overlook Hodgson’s red era looks entirely justified. Since Sunday most have been forced to review Hodgson’s record. What do you know – it’s pretty darn good. For those whose egos aren’t too hurt from the backfire of Team `Arry’s failure, the appointment is actually … acceptable?
For some of Liverpool’s players, however, answers will need to be had.
Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson are Euro 2012 hopefuls. Now, the coach that departed 16 months ago will decide if they depart for Ukraine. While it’s unlikely that a coach of Hodgson’s experience will let the Liverpool days define whether either are in the team, the players still carry with them the reasons we Hodgson left Anfield. If they carry those traits into the national team, expect benchings. Or exclusions.
And if that happens, expect the moans from Fleet Street to billow: Harry would never do that to our Stevie.
Implicitly, The FA has already said Hodgson’s way is right. At least, it’s the right way for them and where they want to take the Three Lions. Now it’s up to the Liverpool duo to adjust.