Hodgson on brink after fan backlash
ROY HODGSON’S grip on his position as Liverpool manager appeared to be loosening last night after comments suggesting he had never enjoyed the full support of the fans prompted a furious backlash on Merseyside.
Hodgson’s remarks, made in the aftermath of Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat by Wolves, are also believed to have caused concern among the club's hierarchy, who fear his relationship with the Anfield public may now be stretched beyond repair.
Liverpool’s beleaguered manager stated after Wednesday’s match that he hoped the club’s “fans would become supporters” after failing to offer him their backing throughout his six-month reign. The comments were seen as a serious error of judgment by the club's owners, New England Sports Ventures (NESV).
Thousands of fans demanded his dismissal on websites and internet polls, with one survey finding that 97pc of supporters favoured his departure.
Though John W Henry and Tom Werner, the American group's principal backers, have shown nothing but support in public for Hodgson, in private they are believed to harbour concerns that the furore marks the end of any hope he had of winning over the fans, who offered ironic chants of “Hodgson for England” on Wednesday.
NESV had hoped to allow Hodgson to continue until the summer – when his position would be reviewed – but concerns are growing that, should results continue to prompt almost unprecedented insurrection in Anfield's stands, they may need to act far quicker.
Liverpool face Bolton at Anfield tomorrow before travelling to Blackburn on Wednesday. They follow that with an FA Cup fixture against Manchester United, with a programme of five games in 15 days rounded off by a Premier League fixture with Blackpool, rearranged from St Stephen’s Day, and the Merseyside derby with Everton.
There remains little appetite for a change of manager mid-season – especially with such an intimidating schedule looming – but, with the club hovering just three points above the relegation zone, NESV know poor results might force their hand.
The sound of the Anfield faithful voicing its displeasure will not, at least, have come as a surprise. Henry and Werner are well aware that Kenny Dalglish's name has been chanted several times this season, while the pair's appearance on a phone-in on the club's official television channel this month triggered a string of calls demanding Hodgson's dismissal.
And, given the nature of Liverpool's capitulation against Wolves, the club hierarchy are now concerned that Hodgson may not retain the faith of the club's senior players, despite his statements to the contrary.
The fans, too, made it clear on Wednesday that they would like Dalglish installed immediately, at least until the end of the season. NESV, though, are not thought to favour appointing an interim manager, should they dispense with Hodgson, preferring instead to rebuild the club around a young coach. (© Daily Telegraph, London)