Monday 19 March 2018

Hodgson hits back at Ferguson's Torres jibes

Chris Brereton

Roy Hodgson yesterday launched an impassioned, albeit belated, defence of Fernando Torres and suggested that Alex Ferguson attacked the player in order to gloss over the misbehaviour of his own squad.

Following United's 3-2 victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford last weekend, Ferguson publicly castigated Torres for supposedly trying to con referee Howard Webb into awarding the successful penalty and the later free-kick which ensured Liverpool got back to level terms before Dimitar Berbatov's late winner.

However, Hodgson has cast aside those remarks as "inflammatory" and while he might consider Ferguson a close friend and a fellow member of the managerial old-guard, his first priority remains protecting Torres's reputation.

He also suggested Ferguson should look closer to home if he wants to identify a player who really attempted to sway Webb's judgement during the brilliantly tumultuous encounter.

"Alex is a good friend of mine and knows how to use the mass media and he's used it very well there," Hodgson said. "And he might have used it to deflect (attention) from Nani who, certainly on one or two occasions, was playing for fouls in our opinion, so I'm not concerned about that at all.

"Fernando Torres is not a cheat, he has proved that time and time again.

"He is a very respected player, he is strong and takes players on and is not easy to stop and he is going to get fouls like he did for their equalising goals.

"There is no danger of us cheating. The players here have had years and years of criticism and crisis management every time they have not won a game or things have not gone their way and I think Torres will shrug those suggestions off just as I shrug them off."

Hodgson claimed he did not move to defend Torres last weekend following the game, because he felt he had no cause to do so. He has since changed that opinion.

"Well, possibly I'm learning as I go along," he added."I didn't think it was necessary to say it, because it was insulting people's intelligence.

"For me, it was one of Alex's inflammatory little digs to make his victory even sweeter and our defeat even harder and that's part of the game."

Of the 11 who started that game against United, none took the field for the ultimately disastrous Carling Cup penalty shoot-out loss to Northampton Town on Wednesday.

Hindsight confirms what a grave error that was by Hodgson, but he is also honest enough to know that the pressure now on his shoulders has been partly created by himself and has told his players as much.

"Games like Wednesday night are real banana skins and we were foolish enough to skid on it and as a result you skid yourself into a lot of trouble and a lot of criticism," Hodgson said.

After this afternoon's encounter, a sit down protest by the 'Spirit of Shankly' fans group will take place as they continue to register their dismay at the ongoing ownership of the club by American duo George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

"The protest doesn't help, but is something I've had to live with since I came to the club," Hodgson added.

"I knew the situation existed and it (the protest) doesn't help, but it is often the case that when things are conspiring against you there is always an extra thing to come in and make it that little bit worse."

Liverpool v Sunderland,

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Irish Independent

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