Belfast Telegraph

Hodgson leads the sack race

By Jim Gracey

Another extraordinary round of Premier League upsets today leaves four managers staring down the barrel of a gun.

Pressure is mounting on Carlo Ancelotti, Gerard Houllier and Avram Grant. But it is Liverpool's Roy Hodgson who is hanging on to his job by the thinnest margin.

Though Chelsea's 1-0 defeat at Wolves was the biggest surprise, leaving Ancelotti effectively conceding that the title is lost, Liverpool's 3-1 loss to Blackburn at Ewood Park is the most likely to bring the axe down on Hodgson.

He is now favourite at 4-7 on to become the next manager to be dismissed, and though he insisted today he would fight on into Sunday's FA Cup third round tie at Old Trafford, the club's American owners are actively considering a caretaker to see them through to May.

The sack race may be the only one he wins but Sam Allardyce, the man who Blackburn dismissed last month, could find himself in demand. West Ham, or even Villa, may ultimately value an individual with a track record of keeping clubs up.

Avram Grant’s Hammers were abject in their 5-0 defeat at Newcastle, making it a toss-up with Hodgson as to who goes first.

Houllier believes he retains the support of Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner despite his side slipping into the bottom three after being beaten 1-0 at home by Sunderland. But the American’s patience must be stretched.

Liverpool officials curtailed Hodgson's press conference to a minute and 57 seconds last night, enough for the 63-year-old to admit: “I am depressed enough with the performance and result.”

Ancelotti declared on Tuesday that he was “lucky” Chelsea had not sacked him but he said today he would be surprised if Roman Abramovich removed him now.

“I don't have that fear,” he said. “But it's not my decision. I hope I can continue in the job. I have a good relationship with the players and they have the skill and character to move on. They are working hard, with a good spirit. But they could have done better with the little details in our last games.”

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