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Time for 'Pool fans to show some kop-on

FOR a group of supporters that once revelled in their manager pointing out "facts", Liverpool fans didn't like it too much when they had a few home truths spelled out to them last week.

Roy Hodgson's decision to question what happened to "the famous Anfield support" sparked fury among some of the game's most sensitive supporters, who then increased their vitriol which, in a way, proved Hodgson's point.

Admittedly, losing at home to the worst team in the league isn't the ideal time to wonder why supporters are turning against the team but, as he has been for most of his brief Anfield career, Hodgson is damned either way.

If he quotes Benjamin Disraeli, as he did last week, or tries to paper over the cracks of a poor performance, he's out of touch with reality; if he speaks his mind over the supporters and their exalted, unrealistic expectations, he is then not showing enough ambition.

It's the same story with players, as many of Hodgson's critics accuse him of pandering to Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres in an effort to keep them onside. If he dropped or sold either, the same critics would slaughter him for getting rid of the team's best players.

It was ironic against Wolves that Anfield chose to vent its spleen in criticising a full-back, having spent five years watching a manager whose scattergun approach to buying for that position meant that somebody like Paul Konchesky was a necessary purchase.

Under Rafael Benitez, Liverpool sold Steve Finnan and John Arne Riise and then spent millions trying to replace them with the likes of Fabio Aurelio, Alvaro Arbeloa, Emiliano Insua, Phillip Degen and Andrea Dossena before an £18m coup de grace on Glen Johnson, when Portsmouth, in the midst of a financial meltdown, managed to keep a straight face long enough to complete the deal.

Konchesky was always going to be the fall guy this season if things started to go wrong for his former Fulham boss because, in the eyes of those whose vision is sepia-tinted, he is "not a Liverpool player".

Such wisdom generally comes from people who pompously describe the team as "Liverpool Football Club" as if giving the club its full title adds a layer of gravitas or makes them special as they bang on about returning the club to its "rightful place". The fact, as Benitez might have put it, is that Liverpool haven't been special for a long time and the beauty of sport is that there's no such thing as a rightful place.

Yes, they fill the ground every week with loud and passionate supporters, but so do Newcastle. Until Manchester United win another one, Liverpool jointly hold the record for the number of league titles won, even if the last one came in a time when goalkeepers could pick up a backpass. Much of their aura was created in European competition under lights on Anfield nights yet, for the last two seasons, these games have taken place on a Thursday, which nobody really notices.


The truth is that a manager like Hodgson, players like Konchesky, Sotirios Kyrgiakos or Maxi Rodriguez and competitions like the Europa League, perfectly represent the modern Liverpool -- a decent, can-beat-anybody-on-their-day sort of team who might win the odd cup with a favourable draw.

A few weeks before Benitez left Anfield, there was a concerted campaign among a section of supporters who sent emails to newspapers, TV and radio stations demanding an end to what they described as a "media conspiracy" which attempted to undermine Benitez. Without the excuse of bad owners or bad players, Benitez then lasted only a few months at Inter Milan yet there is still a section of Liverpool's supporters who would welcome him back even if, as if to underline how much they feel the problem lay with the manager, Inter then appointed Leonardo to take over.

When Benitez left the club, Liverpool had just finished seventh in the Premier League, a position which they are now four points off with two games in hand. Hodgson's remit certainly wasn't to keep the club standing still, but once the new owners arrived, his position was always one or two bad results away from being vulnerable, particularly in the era of the faceless message board Mafiosi.

But even if those 9,000 who took time to make one click of a mouse -- "signed an online petition" -- to get rid of the manager got their way, it's deluded to think that the next man would be any better.

Those in the frame include Frank Rijkaard, who worked well with world-class players at Barcelona but will find very few at Anfield; Martin O'Neill, who has the Messiah qualities so desired but who may be burnt out, and Owen Coyle, who is taking a small, traditionally struggling Premier League club up the table while playing some attractive football -- which is pretty much what got Hodgson the job in the first place.

Unless the owners decide to put away their stats books and invest heavily, Liverpool's next good player will either have to be produced at Melwood or bought before anybody at Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham or Manchester United notices.

Without Champions League football there is no reason for prospective signings to choose Anfield over places that can offer them more.

A new manager, allegedly famous support or stories of past glories can't change that.

Irish Independent