I have written before on the subject of Roy Hodgson. I have written about the reasons I would miss him after he left Fulham. When he was fired by Liverpool, I wrote about how he was unfairly treated. More recently I wrote about why he should be the next England manager.
And now I’m going to write about him again. It’s possible I will cover old ground (a pitfall of obsession) but yesterday’s victory for West Brom against Liverpool is worthy of recognition. With the latest twist in the title battle dominating yesterday’s headlines, that Hodgson stood in the gaze of the Kop for the first time since Liverpool fans called for Kenny Dalglish to replace him and that upon his return he led the Baggies to victory, and the gloom at Anfield grew darker, feels overlooked.
Hodgson’s record in his six months at Anfield was poor, there’s no getting away from that. In his 34 games in charge, he won 13, drew 9 and lost 12. That’s a win percentage of 38.2 per cent. In the league, Hodgson took charge of 20 games – he won seven, drew four and lost nine – a win percentage of 35 per cent. ‘This is Liverpool’ we were told, ‘a club with a right to sit at the top table’ it was inferred – ‘this isn’t good enough’ the Anfield hierarchy declared, and with that he was sacked.
Dalglish came in and since taking over this is how he has fared: In the 76 games he has been in charge of since returning, he has won 34, drawn 17 and lost 22. That’s a win percentage of 44.7 per cent. In the league he’s played 52, won 22, drawn 13 and lost 17 – that’s a win percentage of 42 per cent.
Dalglish’s record is better, but not by much. It should be remembered that during Hodgson’s tenure of the Reds, he operated at first under the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett and all that came with that – the court battles, the uncertainty, the lack of cash, the offending of supporters etc. Dalglish in comparison has been granted the freedom of the Kop by Liverpool’s new owners Fenway Sports Group. They have handed him bucket loads of cash – £35m for Andy Carroll, £23m for Luis Suarez, £20m for Jordan Henderson and £20m for Stewart Downing. The new ownership has also brought purpose and stability to Anfield. Yet for all that, the win percentage has increased by just a few points. As Liverpool descend into mid-table mediocrity, each re-analysis of Hodgson’s Liverpool record leaves one forming less negative conclusions of his reign.
After steering West Brom away for the precarious precipice of relegation he found them in last season, this term Hodgson has enforced his methods on the club and seen them continue to excel. West Brom currently sit in the top-half of the table, free of any relegation concerns. In a season where the promoted trio have excelled, it would have been an educated prediction that the Baggies, the ‘yo-yo club’ of the top two divisions, would struggle. They haven’t. In fact, Hodgson has guided them to just one point behind his old club Liverpool (albeit having played a game more). Sandwiched between them is Fulham – the club he took on the most unlikely of journeys from relegation certainties to European Cup finalists.
Following the win at Anfield, Hodgson gave his usual honest and balanced reaction to the game, clearly happy with the result but aware his side had been fortunate to come away with the three points.
“It’s not often that West Brom win here and although I accept that Liverpool were the better team, I have to be very happy that we have won it and that we have done it such a determined manner and shown so much spirit.
“For teams like us coming to Anfield if we are going to get a result there will be an element of luck involved.
“We weren’t without our own efforts but on the balance of the game they had so many chances that Kenny and his team must be disappointed.”
Dalglish blamed Liverpool’s ninth defeat since the turn of the year on bad luck.
“It’s not the first time we’ve stood here and said exactly the same things,” he said.
“It has been the same theme, hitting the crossbar, people clearing it off the line, us missing chances or hitting our own players.”
Liverpool (who have hit the woodwork more than any other club this season) were indeed unlucky, but as Dalglish alluded to in his post match comments, that’s been his excuse for quite some time now. Surely such a vast outlay on expensive players is designed to eliminate ‘luck’. It’s called making your own.
That Hodgson returned to management so swiftly after being shown the door at Anfield was a risk. His reputation, built up over decades, across various continents and with teams from Inter Milan to Switzerland, was shredded in just 191 days on the Mersey. Yet return he did, and he has proved the doubters wrong – not through luck, but by proving himself the most gifted English manager currently plying his trade.
Hodgson’s acheivements may have been overlooked this weekend, eight goals at Old Trafford will do that. But the quiet Londoner and his persistent success deserve to be noticed, particularly by the four men charged with selecting England’s next manager.