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Hodgson Needs to Look to Ferguson For Inspiration

Sir Alex Ferguson Manager with Liverpool's Manager Roy Hodgson Manchester United 2010/11 Manchester United V Liverpool (3-2) 19/09/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Regarding Roy Hodgson and the job he’s done at Liverpool thus far, let’s get all of the criticisms out on the table. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard complaints that “small club” managers, such as Hodgson from Fulham, don’t do well at “big clubs,” Hodgson is hopeless tactically, he hasn’t won any major trophies, the players he’s signed have been awful, if Hodgson was a foreigner he would have been sacked by now, he can’t handle the pressure, Benitez was able to finish last season in seventh place with essentially the same side, he waits too long in matches to make tactical substitutions, and so on.

When results don’t go their way, club supporters are quick to examine every little detail to rip their manager apart. But if Liverpool went on an unbeaten run for the next several weeks, most of the doubts and concerns that supporters have would quickly vanish all because the team was winning again.

No one likes to see their team lose. And Hodgson is not the first to be in this situation. In fact if you look back to Manchester United’s 1989-90 season in the old First Division, here was their record after eight league matches compared to Liverpool’s record this season:

  • Manchester United, played 8 matches, W 2, D 2, L 4, 8 points
  • Liverpool, played 8 matches, W 1, D 3, L 4, 6 points

And you could easily argue that the top flight of English league football is significantly more competitive now than it was during the 89-90 season, thus making it easier to earn points then than now.

Not only did Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have 8 points after eight matches in the league, but they also suffered a demoralizing 5-1 loss against Manchester City that season. In fact things got so worse for Manchester United that Ferguson was one game away from getting sacked. A banner at Old Trafford read “Three years of excuses and it’s still crap. Ta ra Fergie.” Luckily for Ferguson Mark Robins scored the winner to beat Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup on January 7, 1990. And the solitary goal saved the Scot from getting the sack.

Times have changed significantly since the late 80s, and there’s no doubt that Liverpool is in serious trouble in the league, but it helps to get a little perspective and for Liverpool supporters to keep the faith at least for a little while longer. As another comparison, more recently, let’s take a look at the disastrous start to the 2008 season for Tottenham Hotspur under Juande Ramos. Here was their record after eight matches:

  • Tottenham Hotspur, played 8 matches, W 0, D 2, L 6, 2 points

After 8 matches, Ramos was sacked.

I believe that too many Liverpool supporters are living in the past. There are still too many Benitez sympathizers who are comparing everything Hodgson does to Rafa. Benitez is gone and won’t be coming back. And other managers such as Dalglish, Rijkaard, Pellegrini or O’Neill aren’t going to make a single piece of difference to this side unless Hodgson has lost the dressing room, and I don’t believe he has. At least not yet. You’ve got Liverpool’s two star footballers, Torres and Gerrard, both playing at their lowest ebb ever. That alone has had a major impact on the Liverpool side especially when both players, at different times, have carried the team on their shoulders in the past. And then you have the rest of the team that are playing well under par.

I still contend that Hodgson needs until the end of the year before a decision should be made on his future with the club. It’s too soon for trigger happy Liverpool supporters to be calling for Hodgson to be sacked. Anfield has long believed in getting behind its team. And in this Sunday’s game against Blackburn, Hodgson and his team will need Liverpool supporters to band together and drive their team to victory. The team, and its fans, just need to take this one game at a time.

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  1. Anthony

    October 24, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Nick, I agree 100%. Hodgson is the wrong man for Liverpool. Today’s win just glosses over his tactical deficiencies. I’d rather NESV look to the future and appoint a new manager now and let him assess the players so that he’ll know exactly what’s needed in the January transfer window. The last time Hodgson was given money to spend was at Blackburn when he outspent even Ferguson of Man united and he bought so poorly that Blackburn went bottom of the table within a couple of months and he was fired. I wouldn’t trust him with any money. This is the same man that bought Poulsen who was second string to a Liverpool reject, Momo Sissoko. I agree he has to go for the good of the club.

  2. nick

    October 24, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    “other managers such as Dalglish, Rijkaard, Pellegrini or O’Neill aren’t going to make a single piece of difference to this side unless Hodgson has lost the dressing room”.

    I actually can’t believe you’ve written that. It’s so wrong I’m not even sure where to start in rebutting it. For a start you’ve made the mistake the british media always makes of ignoring tactics and systems and getting overly focused on personalities and relationships (not that these aren’t important but they’re not the be all and end all). I know it’s easier to do that but you can’t understand why Liverpool’s season has gone so badly wrong without appreciatig that tactically Hodgson is 30 years out of date There’s no way that Rijkaard or Pellegrini would have us playing so deep, so narrow, so regressively and particularly without ever pressing the ball. (I agree that the massively over-rated O’Neill wouldn’t make a difference).

    It’s Roy’s appallingly outmoded tactics that have been causing Liverpool’s problems. Illustrated perfectly by today’s game. What a surprise – as soon as we go back to playing 4-2-3-1, pressing the ball high up the pitch and pushing the defence up, suddenly we look a lot better. And suddenly Torres is getting service again and scoring again. Although no doubt the usual halfwits in the media will put it down to “effort” or somesuch nonsense.

    Trouble is though that Hodgson’s problems aren’t limited to performances and results – as terrible as those have been. Every time he opens his mouth he sounds less and less like a Liverpool manager – from kissing Ferguson’s backside on his appointment, refusing to defend Torres from diving accusations, slagging off a scandinavian journo for no reason, describing an unconvincing victory over Trabsonspor as “legendary” to launching a totally unnecesary attack on Rijkaard. I could go on! Looks like he’s not quite as nice a man as his friends in the press would have us believe eh? He’s way out of his depth and today’s result changes nothing. He has to go for the good of the club.

  3. Parker

    October 22, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I don’t think Hodgson is capable of getting inspiration from Ferguson or anyone else. He is spent. The best thing to happen to Spurs and Man City is Hodgson as manager of Liverpool. Now they don’t have to worry about Liverpool challenging them for a CL spot. Hodgson is too old to change and as a matter of fact never was one to change even when he was younger. Only a new manager with fresh ideas will reverse Liverpool’s fortunes.

  4. Byron

    October 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Just read this and while I think he is too pro Rafa I have to admit he is spot on about Hodgson.

    What do you Liverpool fans think?

  5. Steven P.

    October 22, 2010 at 8:17 am

    I remember the United of 1989 when they were struggling and only had 8 points after 8 matches. The thing about that team was that you could see that it was only a matter of time before things improved because even though they were not winning as much they weren’t playing too poorly. The Liverpool side of today cannot be compared to that United side because this Liverpool side is not playing well at all. Apart from one decent showing against Arsenal they have been rubbish. So the comparison isn’t fair.

    Those that believe that Liverpool were never that good under Benitez either have to recognize that his teams were never as bad as Hodgson’s team are right now. At no time did last season’s team only collect 6 points in 8 matches. Hodgson also brought in Cole, Konchesky, Poulsen and Meireless all four of which have been in the first team. If benitez had left a poor squad capable of getting better results than 6 points in 8 matches then surely adding 4 players that you feel are better than what Rafa left behind should have Liverpool doing better. However, there is no evidence of it.

    People should not be surprised by what Liverpool are doing under Roy. At Fulham he had a 39% winning rate. Many thought that he could do better because Liverpool had better players. Yes, those same players that Rafa left behind. How wrong everyone was. I feel sorry for Roy but this is a cruel business and if you cannot deliver you will be blamed. I think he is in over his head managing a club like Liverpool. When I watch this season’s Liverpool side I cannot see what it is they’re trying to do tactically. If the players are not performing as instructed then it is the manager’s job to do something about it. Staying with what’s not working is a recipe for disaster. Maybe he is too old to change his ways and if that is the case then it does not bode well for Liverpool’s future.

  6. Howard

    October 21, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Does this writer really believe that Hodgson can be as successful as Ferguson or even turn things around quickly in the short term? What utter nonsense. Ferguson was young and capable of changing his ways that had not been set then. Hodgson is older and very set in his ways.

    When Hodgson left Blackburn they were struggling just as Liverpool are doing now. Some of his players then said that he would never allow any input from his players and he was never one that changed his tactics or ways even when things were going badly. That’s why he was fired at Blackburn. I see the same things happening to him at Liverpool and it is only a matter of time before the new owners make a change.

  7. dominjon

    October 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Hodgson needs a miracle. My sources back on Meryside (twice removed for sure, but with a fine track record) tell me that Purslow quitting is well ahead of schedule. NESV wanted their own man in place as managing director for the january window to ensure their contract policies and negotation strategies were in place. The plan was for Purslow to remain and train his replacement, but there was no rush for him to step aside.
    However, NESV have now decided that there may be negotations far sooner than January, for a new manager, so they want their own man in place immediately (with Purslow remaining at the club short term to provide advice).
    Pellegrini’s agent has indicated there has already been an informal conversation. Rijkaard’s agent has denied there has been. Broughton indicated that Hodgson’s contract had a break-clause in it, in regards to new ownership. A new rumor suggests that clause is 28 days from new ownership taking control. That means financially it makes much more sense to get rid of Roy short term than long.
    Hodgson is not fired yet, but nothing short of immediate winning results and performances will do.

  8. SantaClaus

    October 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I stand corrected. Liverpool did put in a decent performance against Arsenal. Let’s not forget though that until Cole was sent off they were terrible. But apart from that game they have been terrible.

    Towards the end of Rafa’s reign Liverpool were just as awful with their performances and the string of poor results led to Rafa leaving. Yes, there were other off-field factors as well that led to Rafa’s departure but the poor results forced the board to let him leave. As bad as Rafa was, and I was no fan of his, I don’t think I can recall a time when the team collected only 6 points from 8 matches. Correct me if I’m wrong. In fact I believe that this is the worse start to any season in Liverpool’s history.

    As a Liverpool fan I would like nothing better than to see Roy succeed. Yet, I cannot ignore the results nor point to anything I see to be optimistic about.

    • The Gaffer

      October 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm

      Santa, that’s my point. People are talking about how wonderful Benitez is, but I believe this Liverpool team has been crap for a long time. They were rotting under Benitez (even though they still managed to secure 7th position) and they’ve been on a downward spiral before Hodgson even took over. It’s time for the players on the Liverpool side to step up and start playing as a team.

      The Gaffer

  9. jd

    October 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Does anyone honestly believe that Roy was intended to be anything but a warm body in the managers seat until the ownership situation was sorted out? Specifically one that unlike Benitez wasn’t going to fight with the Board members trying to sell the club and is someone who gets along well with the British press. His days were numbered, evidenced by the apparent clause in his contact that allows new ownership to remove him at relatively little expense.

    He never was expected to be “good enough” to reclaim the glory days, and has lived up to those expectations. He is the last remnant of the Hicks and Gillette era and will be removed shortly. A Sacrificial lamb on the altar of the Kop.

    Whether he is actually good enough to manage Liverpool is another question. Evidence suggests no. Comparing him to a relatively young and hungry-for-victory Ferguson is apples and oranges.

  10. Stephen

    October 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I don’t think one can compare the state of the game in 1989 to today. Anyway, the biggest reason to sack Roy is that he has not been able to get a single player to play well. Can you point to one player that is playing well or improving? The mark of an effective manager is that he is able to get the best out of his players by using tactics and motivation. Whatever he is doing clearly it is not working. The team has been absolutely horrible to watch as they seem just as clueless as the manager.

    Yes, I’m one of those that believe that Roy has had a pass because he is British. A foreign manager at a top club with the least number of points in the league after 8 games would have been sacked by now. Can you point to any foreign manager in recent years at a team that finished in the top 10 the year before that wasn’t sacked with this type of record?

  11. SantaClaus

    October 21, 2010 at 8:35 am

    After 8 matches Ramos was sacked and Spurs went on to bigger and better things. That’s reason to be optimistic that sacking Hodgson will move Liverpool in the right direction.

    As Chris McQuade has mentioned Ferguson was a lot younger than Hodgson is. Ferguson was able to change his ways to get the team improving. Hodgson is much older and has a track record in recent years of not changing his ways. Hodgson’s age is beginning to show by his expressions on the sidelines. He seems clueless about what to do in matches when the team is chasing the game.

    For me, it’s not that Liverpool are not getting results that is bothersome but the fact that they haven’t put in a single decent performance all season long. If there’s no progress being seen on the field then it’s time to change managers. Players should take the blame as well but it ultimately falls on the manager to get the most out of his squad. That Hodgson hasn’t been able to do so is reason enough to replace him. I hope the team get get back to winning ways but I see no evidence that it is likely to happen under the present regime.

    • The Gaffer

      October 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

      I’d argue that Liverpool’s 1-1 result against Arsenal was a decent performance. But before that one, when was the last time that Benitez’s Liverpool side had a good performance in the Premier League? March 15 in their 4-1 against Portsmouth, but that was Pompey. Or January 20th when they beat Spurs 2-0 at home?? That was a long time ago.

      The Gaffer

  12. Chris McQuade

    October 21, 2010 at 6:37 am

    One caveat I can think of, Ferguson was 45 upon taking the manchester hot-seat. Hodgson is 63.

    United were initially 21st when Ferguson took over. Liverpool had just finished 7th. Liverpool are currently 19th in the Premier League, i’m not sure where United were at the point of sacking Ferguson but I imagine if it was that close to be one game to save his tenure then a couple of positions further below they may well have sacked him.

  13. Ferault frolm Lyon France

    October 21, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Frankly speaking, it’s a fact that Gerrard is playing with the wrong mindframe. I don’t blame him perceiving lthings negatively. In his head, he must be saying endlessly : “Shit!!! I won’t be lifting the Premiership silverware in my lifetime.” That’s an awful reality! At 30+, it’s not a motivational but a draining force. It drags you down the spiral even if you feel like being positive and optimistic. If he was 25, he would have been a different Gerrard. At that age, he won the all-coveted Champions League trophy, a year later, on his own, he lifted the FA cup, another year later, he was runner-up in the Champions League, another year later, he almost won that one-missing trophy. With our best Premier League season,we were just 4 points away. Too many match drawn. In fact, we were oh-so-close, just 2 goals away. If we should score a single goal in just two of those drawn matches… it would have been History or His Story (Gerrard’s). I still remember we drew at Anfield against Stoke when we dominated the match from start to finish. One clear goal was refused. We beat Chelsea and Man Utd home & away. Not to forget that same year, Gerrard’s court case didn’t help in those drawn fixtures. Anyway, so many ifs & buts… Right now, even if I’m sticking with the team through thick and thin, I am so sad for LFC and I don’t know when things are going to get better. Hopefully soon with the arrival of NESV at the helm.

  14. che

    October 21, 2010 at 4:09 am

    Please leave our club immediately, anyone can do better job than Hodgson, his tactic is awful, late substitutes kills whole game.

  15. Football Souvenirs

    October 21, 2010 at 3:44 am

    Hodgson deserves a season to show what he can do at the least, if they remain in teh relegation places after Christmas though something will have to be done as they can’t afford the risk of Champinoship football

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