Roy hits out
Hodgson claims ‘overstaffing’ by Benitez has damaged Liverpool
LIVERPOOL manager Roy Hodgson, who made no secret of his irritation with his predecessor Rafael Benitez's attempts to poach his assets this summer, has declared that the Spaniard gathered an "unbelievably overstaffed" squad of players – some of whom were never likely to further the club's progress.
Hodgson has registered only 21 players – four fewer than the permitted number – for the Premier League, which is the clearest sign yet of his frustration with the squad Benitez left.
“We were unbelievably overstaffed when I came to the club and, if the truth be known, we still are,” Hodgson said. “It was just as big a job making sure some of the players who never feature for the first team move on and that we limit our squad to players who are either in the frame to play firstteam football or who have a bright future and are still anxious to play academy and reserve-team football.
“We don't want that middle group who are too old for reserve football but are not serving any purpose for the first team because they never feature.”
Alberto Aquilani, Emiliano Insua, Albert Riera, Diego Cavalieri, Philipp Degen, Nabil el Zhar, Krisztian Nemeth and Damien Plessis have all been shipped out of Anfield – either permanently or on loan – along with Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun, whose departure Hodgson would have preferred to avoid.
The rationale behind this candid disclosure may be that Hodgson wants to demonstrate that a transfer window which failed to yield a much-needed second striker did include more work than some appreciate. Liverpool – a club carrying £273m debt – are hardly in a position to be pay unnecessary wages.
Hodgson certainly had a frustrating last week in the window, desperately trying to sign a striker but being forced to accept defeat after a £9m bid for West Ham's Carlton Cole came to nothing, even though Ryan Babel was thrown in. A more streamlined squad would have allowed him more money to throw at the pursuit of back-up for Fernando Torres.
Hodgson has already accused Benitez of reneging on a promise that he would not try to lure players away from Anfield by seeking to entice Dirk Kuyt.
“When Rafa left Liverpool, he signed an agreement that he would not poach any of our players and I think Dirk Kuyt falls into that category,” Hodgson said last month before the Dutchman suffered a shoulder injury on international duty. Maxi Rodriguez is likely to be called in to replace him at Birmingham on Sunday. Joe Cole returns from suspension at Old Trafford on Sunday week.
Liverpool's financial plight, with no sign of new owners, meant Hodgson had spent a mere £11m all summer before Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles' arrival for far less than the money cashed by Mascherano's departure to Barcelona. Hodgson also admitted that the £10.7m Meireles – a box-to-box player to whom the new manager will look to add some urgency and pace – might take some time to adapt to the Premier League.
“He has a pedigree which we researched. I followed him at my previous club (Fulham) so it was good when I heard he could be available and that we could do the business quickly,” Hodgson said.
“He has played a lot of international football so settling into the English game won't be a major problem. Our public are sensible people and they realise having played all of his career in Portugal, it may take a bit of time.
We have that time. He will adjust, but whether it's from the first moment we'll have to wait and see.” New left-back Paul Konchesky, like Meireles, is expected to be in the side at St Andrews, where Birmingham will be without Alexander Hleb.
“There aren't many quality leftbacks around in the world, never mind in England – so to find an English one who can go straight into the team is a big advantage,” Hodgson said. (© Independent News Service)