Wednesday 13 December 2017

Hodgson defiant as fans call for Dalglish

Stoke 2
Liverpool 0

Lucas Leiva was sent off yesterday after sending Matthew Etherington flying. Photo: Getty Images
Lucas Leiva was sent off yesterday after sending Matthew Etherington flying. Photo: Getty Images

That word again. That word which seems destined to haunt Roy Hodgson's reign as Liverpool manager, however long it lasts. That word which has come to sum up all of the fears and furies of the club's supporters, that word which will greet each of the club's defeats this season. "Dalglish."

To the Liverpool fans who cried for the return of their king as they watched their side fall to a limp, lifeless defeat at Stoke, in his name lies salvation. Dalglish used to be a paean. Now he is their prayer. In reality, though, the problem facing their club's new owners, New England Sports Ventures, is not as simple as a mere coronation. They face an election. They must decide whether to stick or twist.

Hodgson appeared to acknowledge as much in his comments in the aftermath of what was not simply Liverpool's fifth league defeat of the season, but an unacceptably meek surrender to Tony Pulis' buoyant, bullish side.

"The fans can chant for whoever they want," the 63-year-old said. "And it will be up to the club to decide what they want to do. There is nothing I can do about it. If the club decide they want to give the job to somebody else, then I'll have to accept it.


"I can't get upset every time the fans chant someone's name and furthermore we have got a lot of fans -- we have got millions and millions of fans.

"Maybe the travelling fans are just showing their frustration because they have lost and they are entitled to do that."

There are no indications that NESV are ready to remove Hodgson from the post he accepted in July, but there is mounting concern at Anfield about Liverpool's struggle to steer clear of the lower reaches of the Premier League, particularly now that they are back within three points of the relegation zone.

Hodgson claimed not to have heard the chants for Dalglish, who is employed as club ambassador by Liverpool, and he vowed to continue doing the manager's job to the best of his ability until and unless he is removed from the position.

It is a statement almost as obvious as it is stark. Yet it encapsulates neatly the decision John W Henry and his colleagues at NESV find laid at their door less than a month after they completed their £300m takeover.

The club, as Hodgson says, can do what they want. There would be no great outcry if the former Fulham manager was handed his gold watch. After all, Liverpool's fate, without change, seems clear.

"Fans make their frustrations felt every time we lose a game," Hodgson said. "Unfortunately they may have to do that a few more times this season, because I can't see us going through a season winning every single game."

Stick with Hodgson, and Liverpool will endure a season of toil, each victory offering only fleeting respite and each defeat punctuated by that word again, not so much for the results as the performances. Mid-table anonymity awaits a club that has never accepted mediocrity.

The Britannia provided the perfect paradigm. Liverpool's squad is not as poor as accepted wisdom maintains, but what is most glaringly lacking is any sort of plan. Whereas, in the victory over Chelsea last week, the most deceptive of false dawns, they attacked with width and verve, here they appeared to attempt to mimic their hosts.

Stoke, though, are rather better at being Stoke than any impostor. They harried and hustled, dominated aerially and earned their reward, Ricardo Fuller prodded home the scrappiest of openers, the imperious Kenwyne Jones stroked home a rather more refined injury-time clincher. Liverpool, in contrast, offered nothing, their imitation flattering but failing.

Yet for all his troubles, dispensing with Hodgson may be unappealing to NESV.

Attracting a manager mid-season is hardly ideal. His replacement may fare no better, and there is little appetite for creating problems when already NESV must deal with concerns over the futures of Fernando Torres Pepe Reina and now Glen Johnson, reportedly unsettled by Hodgson's comments on his poor form.

It would be apt should Hodgson keep his job more for what he is not -- risk, uncertainty, doubt -- than what he is.

Similar criteria earned him his position. He was always an interim appointment, designed to steer a course through problematic times, never likely to build a dynasty. The question NESV must answer is how long that interim lasts.

Torres suffered an ankle ligament strain in Saturday's defeat that restricted his involvement in the final quarter of the match.

But the forward has been allowed to join the Spain squad and he will undergo further medical assessment before a decision is made regarding his availability for the world champions' friendly against Portugal in Lisbon on Wednesday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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