Hodgson dampens down 'wild hopes'
WITH the signing of Joe Cole, the seemingly imminent takeover at Anfield and Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres' respective commitments to the cause, expectations among Liverpool's fans have soared this summer and are reaching a peak ahead of tomorrow's encounter with Arsenal.
Yet, although Tom Hicks and George Gillett may soon be going after three debt-riddled and controversial years as Liverpool's owners and although Roy Hodgson has done exactly what he was employed for -- stabilised the club -- the good news is likely to stop there, according to the manager.
As far as he is concerned, it is time for some realism. He has dampened any wild hopes relating to the season ahead and accepted that he has not had enough time to impose his ideas on the squad -- with depressing results.
"After seven training sessions with what I regard as the key players, it is pretty obvious to all that we are a long, long way from being a team like Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea," he said yesterday at the unveiling of midfielder Christian Poulsen.
"I don't even pretend that the team after six or seven training sessions are going to be anything like the team we want to be. It would be ridiculous to suggest that we can be at the top of our game now in terms of how I want the team to play."
He may not have Liverpool playing in the manner he wants but he certainly knows whom he wants -- and that list includes Javier Mascherano, despite the Argentinean midfielder publicly stating that he wants to leave the club.
A reunion with Rafa Benitez at Inter Milan has been widely suspected for the last month but Hodgson believes the Argentina captain is not going anywhere -- at least for the time being.
"At the moment I can quite categorically state there has been no offer from any club for Javier Mascherano," he said.
"I don't want to let Javier Mascherano go and he has shown no signs of going, so it's not a question of replacing him.
#"I believe Javier is going to play for us and I believe Christian (Poulsen) is going to play for us. I am happy to have both players.
"This is a big club, a club with hopefully a lot of games to play this year and we're going to need a lot of players.
"We made it clear to him that if the offer he wanted came along, we probably would not stand in his way. But that offer has not come along and he's working hard to play for Liverpool."
"I think the fans will judge him by what he does on the field of play," the manager added when asked what kind of reception he will get after announcing he wants to leave.
The player himself has also played the diplomacy card, insisting that if he does leave it is because he is tired of Liverpool as a place not Liverpool as a club.
"I know that if I can go to another country maybe it will be better for my life and when I say my life it's not just me, it's also my family and everything else," Mascherano outlined.
"But I have to say that everyone has treated me fantastically well at Liverpool from the very first day that I arrived.
Fernando Torres could feature against Arsenal following a swifter than expected recovery from injury.
"He's made a remarkable effort to get himself fit and ready," Hodgson said. "He's worked extremely hard in the two and a half weeks he's been back and I haven't ruled him out -- but I haven't ruled him in either." (© Independent News Service)
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