Roy Hodgson must raise the bar to win back Liverpool fans
Liverpool manager's attempts to lower expectations has turned supporters against him, writes Michael Owen
As he continues to prepare his side for Sunday’s clash against Blackpool, Roy Hodgson will be all too aware that his predecessor, Rafael BenÃƒÂtez, has returned to Merseyside as his Inter Milan future hangs in the balance.
It is not a sight that will worry Hodgson. BenÃƒÂtez’s time at Anfield has come to pass and it would be a considerable risk for Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, to bring the Spaniard back to Anfield.
The memories of last season’s torrid campaign are still fresh in the minds of Liverpool supporters, and if BenÃƒÂtez was to make a shock return to Anfield, it would leave fans as divided as when he left.
When his stock was at its lowest amongst Liverpool’s support at least BenÃƒÂtez could still claim to have a large percentage of the Anfield faithful backing him. Just sixth months into his tenure at Anfield Hodgson has managed to harmonise the Reds fan base – but unfortunately for the former Fulham boss they are united against him.
Supporters, whether they are in the stands or on the internet, appear to be in agreement that Hodgson is not the right man to take Liverpool forward.
In his defence, Hodgson did face considerable uncertainty at the start of the campaign. The club had once again used the transfer market as a way to make a profit and there was an ongoing battle over its ownership, with no resolution being found until John W Henry stepped out of a solicitor’s office to announce FSG, then New England Sports Ventures, had taken control of Liverpool.
But it is Hodgson’s attempts to seemingly lower the expectations of everyone at the club that has ultimately turned the supporters against him. When he arrived at Anfield the club had just ended what was considered to be a disastrous season. The Reds had finished seventh, thus failing to qualify for the Champions League.
Yet just last week Hodgson stated it was unlikely Liverpool would be returning to the competition any time soon, suggesting it will take more than just this season to fix the problems at Anfield.
“I would plead for patience really,” he said. “Of course we want Liverpool to be the Liverpool of old. We want to be up there every year competing in the Champions League.
“But we might have to accept that it will take us more than a few months. That would be a small price to pay if you get it right. You only have to look at teams who have tried to stay in the league or get into the top four.
“Clubs have virtually been destroyed by people making bad decisions. It’s not because the owners haven’t given money or supported the manager. It’s just that they have brought in the wrong people.”
Yet while Hodgson was dismissing Liverpool’s Champions League chances, goalkeeper Pepe Reina -the man often touted as a future club captain -suggested that Liverpool would, and should, be challenging for the league title next season.
“I hope within a year, or a couple of years, we can be up there again.” Reina said. “We want to be back competing with the top clubs again. That is how it should be.
“I am committed here and I want us to win titles. What else can I say or do? It is something the press talks about.
“All I want to talk about is Liverpool and hopefully finishing as high as we can. That is where Liverpool should be year in, year out.
“That is what we want and that is what we are all looking for. We will hope it can be that way again but, at the moment, it is not like that. ”
Liverpool’s principle owner Henry appears to agree with Reina. He has suggested that the Merseyside club should be aiming to challenge for major honours in both England and Europe again within “three to five years”.
Yet Hodgson’s comments do not seem to reflect the aspirations of Henry and Reina – and that raises doubts over how long everyone involved with the club can continue before the vast difference in ambition begins to have a negative impact on affairs both on and off the pitch.
Hodgson must change his mentality to match that of the owners, the players and the fans. Otherwise, his spell at Anfield is likely to continue on as unsuccessfully as it has begun.