independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Hodgson still putting on a brave face

Liverpool boss remains positive despite his side's dismal form, writes Carl Markham

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson believes the club's struggles this season will make them a stronger unit over time. The 63-year-old faces former club Blackburn today knowing his side have to put in a performance after just one victory in eight Premier League matches.

Liverpool's position in the relegation zone is unfamiliar territory for a club which is used to regularly finishing in the top four and excelling in Europe. At the moment, just qualifying for next season's Europa League would be an achievement but Hodgson remains confident his team will rise to the challenge and prove their -- and his own -- critics wrong.

"I think we are getting stronger as a team and a squad and we are becoming more organised in the sense of how I would like to see us organised," he said. "As far as I am concerned it is still a work in progress and we have an awful lot of rebuilding to do.

"But having gone to Naples after a derby defeat and getting a good goalless draw with a team no-one expected to get that is positive going into the game on Sunday. What we need is a bit of luck. When you are down there and you are not getting the victories the pressure builds up and confidence takes a battering and everyone starts to question things.

"There is lots of speculation and negative things being said but we understand that. It is par for the course and that is what football is. But the only way you can get out of it is keep working hard, keep trying to get those results and then hopefully, when you have done it, it will make you stronger for it.

"Most of the players and myself are more accustomed to pats on the back than kicks in the teeth but we also know that in football kicks in the teeth are part of the game. What you do is try to keep as many teeth as you can and try to get on with it."

Two seasons ago when Liverpool played Blackburn at home former manager Rafael Benitez angered counterpart Sam Allardyce when he made what was interpreted as a "game over" signal -- denied by the Spaniard -- with his arms after taking a comfortable lead early in the match.

The acrimony between the two managers continued last season but now Hodgson is at the helm there is likely to be a thawing of relations.

Certainly the Reds boss was in no mood to join in the current debate -- intensified by Danny Murphy, his captain at former club Fulham -- about Rovers' over-physical style of play.

However, he knows his side will have to produce similar resilience that was shown in Naples during the week to keep Rovers at bay.

"My assessment of them is that they are a good team who are very hard to beat, who know very well what they set out to do and achieve very often what they set out to do," he said. "I have no comments to make on other people's judgments on their style. I think every manager has the right to choose the style which suits him and his team and to play that way. "We understand what we are going to be up against and we have to prepare for that and make certain we are good enough to deal with it. More importantly, we have to ensure that our football causes them problems. But I certainly don't want to get into any discussion on what is the right way to play football.

"I've been in football long enough to know there is no right or wrong way to play, there are just different ways of playing and you as a coach have to choose the right way for your team to get the results your club needs.

"Of course, not many of the players who played on Thursday will get that chance to show that determination against Blackburn but what we did against Napoli we have done in periods in games in the Premier League.

"But that result in Naples will not only inspire the players who featured there but the players who were left at home."

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