I got up on Saturday morning to hear the unsurprising news that Roy Hodgson’s fragile grip on the Liverpool manager’s job had finally ended. The subsequent news that Kenny Dalglish had been placed in charge until the end of the season had me shaking my head at the madness of it all, but once more I was not that really surprised.
To me, this is an utterly ridiculous decision, a decision made by the fans, a decision ruled by the heart and not by the head, always a dangerous game to play when running a football club (or any business for that matter).
Phil Thompson said it will inspire the whole of the club- utter poppycock and just empty words- it doesn’t get you any more points – all that is important is winning games and all the sentiment in the world doesn’t help on that score. Yes it may energise some of the players in the short term, but Liverpool’s problems run much deeper than player lethargy.
In many ways Hodgson’s time was always going to be up soon as the fans had turned against him, and once that happens you have no chance. With that in mind, Liverpool should have been making enquiries about a permanent replacement. This may seem like unacceptable behaviour, but this is the real world, and that’s what happens. When a board decided to dismiss a manager, it makes sense to have a replacement lined up to maintain stability. Dalglish has not managed for ten years. His last two jobs were disastrous, his last success 15 years ago. He has done ambassadorial work for Liverpool since then. The respect of the players and a love of the club is not enough.
The timing too seems strange, with important games coming up. Clearly the board had decided Hodgson had no chance of inspiring his players against United or Everton, so took a gamble that a change would freshen things up. Maybe they saw his transfer targets and thought he was definitely not the man. But the board’s appointment means this transfer window is now pretty much a washout – you cannot see Dalglish being allowed to splash the cash in a caretaker capacity.
Thirteen months on and there are still friends of Mark Hughes in the media (yes you Oliver holt) bleating about the injustice of his dismissal at Manchester City, which let’s not forget came after a run of poor results and performances- will we see the media outcry at Hodgson’s dismissal, a man with a tenth of the resources at Hughes disposal and a third of the time to stamp his authority on the club? Many City fans never wanted Hughes afterall and were happy to see him go, so the parallels are there. I of course know the answer to this question.
On the flip side, the appointment is until the end of the season so in some respects can be seen as a no-lose situation- see how he does and appoint someone in the summer if it doesn’t work out- but Liverpool are not in the position to be taking risks and trying things out- the title challenge is long over, the chances of a top four finish virtually over, but there is still a fight for 5th place to keep their interest and ridiculous as this sounds, a run of poor form means a relegation fight is not an impossibility.
And there is another potential problem on the horizon. Let’s say Dalglish does an OK job. Nothing special, nothing disastrous (the most likely outcome in my opinion). Then what do the board do in the summer? They will be in a very awkward position indeed.
Inevitably the calls will be for a big name replacement in the summer, or before- but without massive investment by Liverpool’s new owners, the idea of a big name taking the job is nothing more than a pipe dream. Liverpool fans can go on all they want about League titles and European Cups, but those days are long gone. It’s time to cut their cloth accordingly and give their next permanent manager time, however unfashionable he might be, and like they used to do.